Massachusetts is the USA’s seventh smallest state and one of the six states of New England. Colloquially known as ‘The Bay State’, there are many beaches in Massachusetts to explore, from beaches near Boston, the state’s capital, to spectacular Cape Cod beaches. Massachusetts has a spectacular 192 miles (309km) coastline with charmingly quaint seaside towns and villages.
When looking at a map, you’ll notice the distinctive Cape Cod peninsular resembles a slightly undefined flexed bicep. Massachusetts is bejewelled with spectacular beaches, from the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard to Cape Cod, Essex County and the Boston Harbor.
If you’re planning to visit a few Massachusetts beaches, a top tip is to purchase the $60 Cape Cod National Seashore pass or an $80 National Park Pass. As most beaches charge around $20 for parking, if you visit more than three, then paying for the pass will be worth your while.
- Beaches in Massachusetts
- Massachusetts Beaches – Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard
- Best Cape Cod Beaches
- 6- Race Point Beach, Provincetown
- 7- Ballston Beach, Truro
- 8- Lighthouse Beach, Chatham, Cape Cod
- 9- Marconi Beach, Wellfleet, Cape Cod
- 10- Bound Brook Island Beach, Wellfleet, Cape Cod
- 11- Coast Guard Beach, Eastham, Cape Cod
- 12- Mayflower Beach, Dennis, Cape Cod
- 13- Sandy Neck Beach, Barnstable, Cape Cod
- 14- Duxbury Beach, Duxbury
- Gloucester Beaches
- Boston Beaches
Beaches in Massachusetts
Massachusetts Beaches – Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard
1- Cisco Beach, Nantucket
On the tiny island of Nantucket to the south of the Massachusetts mainland and below Cape Cod, Nantucket is a cobble street lined island with spectacular sand dune beaches.
Cisco Beach is on the island’s south side and has some of the best waves for surfers to enjoy.
The Nantucket Island Surf School is on the beach, so if you fancy giving the sport a try, you’re in the right place.
Enthusiastic surfers flock to this beach to enjoy the best waves after a storm. But if surfing is not for you, then you can stroll along the beach’s four miles (6.4 km) of golden sand or relax with a picnic for the day.
2- Madaket Beach, Nantucket
Located on the far west coast of Nantucket, Madaket Beach is an effortlessly attractive sand dune-backed beach.
Enjoy a swim in the blue waters during summer, lounge on the soft sand beach and round off the day watching an incredible sunset.
Head to Madaket Beach for surfing, where the Atlantic Ocean provides big waves and smaller crowds.
You can also cycle to Madaket Beach from Madaket by renting bikes from Young’s Bicycle Shop, riding through the neighbourhood and down the Madaket Road path for around six miles (9.6 km) to the beach.
Nantucket also has a bus service called ‘The Wave’, so after watching the sunset, you can head back on the bus to your accommodation if you do not wish to ride the bike back.
Buses come along every half an hour and cost $3 one way.
3- Aquinnah Public Beach, Martha’s Vineyard
Martha’s Vineyard is another of the Massachusetts islands southwest of Cape Cod and close to Nantucket.
Martha’s Vineyard is a popular destination for millionaires and celebrities to visit during the summer months, often many owning holiday cottages on the island.
Aquinnah Public Beach is on the southwest coast of Martha’s Vineyard, below the Gay Head Cliffs.
Head along gentle trails through shrubs and down the 430 ft (130 m) cliffs to the beach.
Once you’ve walked along this tranquil beach, head back up the cliffs and walk along the coastal paths to the historic Gay Head Lighthouse, which opened in 1799.
4- Lighthouse Beach, Edgartown
Not to be confused with Lighthouse Beach in Chatham, Cape Cod, Edgartown’s Lighthouse Beach is on Martha’s Vineyard.
Less than a mile’s walk (1.6km) from the town centre, Lighthouse Beach looks out over the harbour and towards Chappaquiddick Island.
Lighthouse Beach has pleasant sands to stroll along and the intrigue of island boats bobbing and moving about in the harbour.
5- Horseneck Beach, Westport
Horseneck Beach is in the south of Massachusetts near Rhode Island.
Located in the Horseneck Beach State Reservation, this sandy beach is at the end of Buzzard’s Bay.
As its name suggests, this Massachusetts beach is a popular spot for bird watching, with the rare piping plover frequently nesting on the beach.
Unlike some beaches in Massachusetts, there are several facilities at Horseneck, including picnic spots, showers, boat ramps, camping facilities and even dishwashing stations.
It’s perfect for a whole day or camping trip.
Once again, be prepared to pay for parking as local authorities charge Massachusetts residents $13 and non-residents $40.
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Best Cape Cod Beaches
6- Race Point Beach, Provincetown
Provincetown is a town in the northernmost tip of the not so bulging bicep of Cape Cod.
Race Point Beach was named one of the top five best beaches in New England last year by the American Automobile Association because of its long stretch of sand and seacoast to explore.
You can access Race Point Lighthouse with a 4WD vehicle and a permit, or you can walk.
The 1.75-mile (2.8 km) walk takes about an hour each way from the Race Point Beach car park because the road is covered in deep sand.
Be sure to plan your trip well because the lighthouse is only open between 10 am and 2 pm.
7- Ballston Beach, Truro
Ballston Beach, on the east side of the arm of Cape Cod, is another prime example of one of Massachusetts’ best beaches.
Ballston Beach is a popular spot among surfers and bodyboarders, and the beach has ample space for long walks, frisbee throwing and playing games.
Look out for the precariously placed beach house, which teeters on the edge of the sand dune overlooking the water.
Storms and waves have impacted the dunes over the years, causing this beach house to be a bit of an insurance nightmare.
8- Lighthouse Beach, Chatham, Cape Cod
New England is known for its pastel, picturesque lighthouses and Massachusetts is no exception.
Of the 200 active lighthouses in New England, Massachusetts is home to 47 of them.
Lighthouse Beach is in Chatham, the elbow of Cape Cod.
The Chatham Lighthouse opened in 1808, and though you cannot enter the lighthouse regularly, there is sometimes the opportunity to see inside during the summer months.
You must purchase a beach pass for $20 and are advised to do so in advance due to the somewhat questionable signal at the beach.
9- Marconi Beach, Wellfleet, Cape Cod
Marconi Beach is in the Cape Cod National Seashore and is a must-see beach in Cape Cod and Massachusetts.
A steep sandy cliff sits behind the beach with scenic walking paths and bike trails along the top and views of the pearly white sand.
Marconi Beach has several sand bars that are perfect for walking along, especially if you have a dog.
Marconi Beach is a popular spot for catching striped bass if you fancy a dabble at sea fishing.
To fish, you must purchase a Massachusetts saltwater fishing license for around $10.
Marconi Beach has ample parking spaces and washroom facilities unlike some spots along the Cape Cod coastline.
10- Bound Brook Island Beach, Wellfleet, Cape Cod
Bound Beach is one of the more uninhabited beaches in Cape Cod and one of the best secretive beaches in Massachusetts.
Apart from a few dwellings spread apart along the coastline, Bound Brook Island Beach appears to be in the middle of nowhere.
It’s exactly where you would want to spend the day, in a tranquil no man’s land.
When the tide goes out, a magical sand bar appears, as do several fascinating tidal pools filled with the tiny jewels of the ocean.
To get to Bound Brook Island Beach, you will need to go to Atwood Higgins House, a small dwelling with places to park.
Once there, walk along Bound Brook Island Road for one mile (1.6 km) until you reach the beach.
11- Coast Guard Beach, Eastham, Cape Cod
Another of Cape Cod’s beaches is Coast Guard Beach in Eastham.
In 1620 the famous English ship, the Mayflower, set sail from Plymouth, England, briefly touched down at Coast Guard Beach.
After a tricky landing in shoal waters, the captain was forced to anchor in Provincetown Harbor instead.
The Mayflower transported the Pilgrims from England to Massachusetts, who established the first New England colony.
Coast Guard Beach represents the start of the so-called “Great Beach”, an incredible part of Cape Cod coastline which stretches for more than 20 miles (32 km).
This Massachusetts beach is a prime swimming spot, with clear and safe waters during the summer months.
The beach is named after the old white coastguard building, situated at the top of the looming dunes above the beach.
Wildlife is plentiful on the beach, with migrating birds, seals and even the occasional shark in the waters offshore.
12- Mayflower Beach, Dennis, Cape Cod
On the shores of Cape Cod Bay, Mayflower Beach will leave you questioning whether you have ever seen a beach as perfectly white as this one.
Thousands of visitors flock to Mayflower each year to soak up the sun and the pristine beach.
Mayflower Beach represents only a fraction of the incredible shoreline near Dennis.
Chapin and Bayview Beach are Mayflower’s neighbouring beaches, which you can also explore.
The beach has a variety of boardwalks and picnic, public restrooms, and parking facilities.
13- Sandy Neck Beach, Barnstable, Cape Cod
Sandy Neck Beach has six miles (9.6 km) of sandy shoreline and is an excellent place for a long beach walk.
The beach extends along the bay and around the headland to Beach Point and Sandy Neck Lighthouse.
This quaint New England style lighthouse is an excellent reward after the six-mile (9.6 km) sandy walk.
Lounge in the emerald waters during summer, beach comb and enjoy a trip to the lighthouse.
This is another shining example of one of Massachusetts’ spectacular coastline beaches.
14- Duxbury Beach, Duxbury
Duxbury Beach is, first and foremost, a fascinating geographical landscape.
Duxbury is a 7.5-mile (12 km) barrier beach. A barrier beach runs parallel to a coastline and is formed by waves and tidal movements.
As Duxbury Beach is part-owned by the Duxbury Beach Reservation, there are a few more stringent rules and regulations to abide by on this beach.
Restrictions include no alcohol, no horses, no dogs and fires.
On the 19th March 2022, the beach will hold its annual ‘Duxbury Beach Spring Sweep’, a beach clean-up.
15- Crane Beach, Ipswich
Crane Beach is in the beautiful serenity that is Ipswich and its surrounding countryside.
Located 32 miles (51 km) northeast of Boston, Crane Beach is a stunning place to escape the city and immerse yourself in nature.
With over 1,200 acres (485 ha) of beach, sand dunes, boardwalks and forest to enjoy, Crane is one of the best beaches in Massachusetts.
The landscape is quintessentially New England, and the noise of the wind whooshing through the grass is one of the most relaxing sounds.
After enjoying the sands of Crane Beach, head to Castle Hill on the Crane Estate, a 1928 Tudor revival mansion.
The Crane Estate is set in incredible surroundings with an undulating lawn that stretches right to the ocean. Admission to the estate is $10 for adults and $5 for children aged 6 to 14.
16- Wingaersheek Beach, Gloucester
Close to Ipswich’s Crane Beach, Wingaersheek is best known for its soft white sand, views of Annisquam Lighthouse and tranquil waters.
Wingaersheek is at the Annisquam River estuary.
Although the beach is only around half a mile long, the waters are crystal clear, and at low tide, impressive sandbars emerge.
Now, all this incredible beach scenery does, unfortunately, come at a price.
The beach’s small car park charges a whopping $30 to park during the week and $35 on weekends.
Once you get over the initial shock, it is an incredible beach, and you’ll be surprised at how many visitors are prepared to pay the price for a day out at Wingaersheek.
17- Gold Harbor Beach, Gloucester
Gold Harbor Beach is one of the best beaches for swimming.
With shallow, clear and calm waters, this is a popular swim spot for families during the summer months.
Located just a 45-minute drive northeast of Boston and close to Wingaersheek Beach, Gold Harbor is popular among Bay Staters and tourists alike.
At low tide, it’s a pleasant walk across the sand all the way out to Salt Island.
Head onto the beach and you will reach the estuary where the Annisquam River reaches the sea.
There are plenty of amenities, including showers and toilets, so it’s an excellent place to pack a picnic and spend the day.
18- Half Moon Beach, Gloucester
Tiny Half Moon Beach sits in the Stage Fort Park, looking into the Gloucester Harbor.
The beach is named because of its half-moon shape and feels different to many of the other Massachusetts beaches on this list.
Half Moon Beach is protected by rocks on either side and surrounded by luscious green trees that appear to almost grow out of the rocks.
If you are visiting in summer, there are outdoor concerts, firework displays and children’s storytellers.
Get active and join in on a game of volleyball, basketball or tennis.
19- Spectacle Island, Boston Harbor
Boston Harbor’s Spectacle Island is a unique place to visit in Boston that gives you almost instant access to a beach without travelling too far from the city.
The island provides visitors with unique views of Boston Harbor, and the island is now a public park ready for people to wander around and explore.
The beach is next to the pier and has a lifeguard during the peak season from June to September.
Ferries depart from Boston Long Wharf at 10 am and 12.30 pm and depart Spectacle Island at 1.30 pm and 3.30 pm, with the journey taking just 30 minutes.
Tickets for the short ride to the island are rather pricey. A return adult ticket is $24.95 and $17.95 for children.
20- Lovells Island, Boston Harbor
Lovells Island is 7.2 miles (11.5 km) off the coast from Boston.
Lovells Island was previously used for timber harvesting and fishing and has been the site of many a shipwreck.
Many also claim that Lovells Island was one of the proposed locations for the Statue of Liberty, gifted by the French people during the American Revolution.
There are so many spectacular beaches in Massachusetts, from Cape Cod beaches to the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard and beaches in Essex County. Explore just a few of them or take a beach road trip; Massachusetts is the go-to place for sand, sea, and quaint seaside settlements, oh and of course lighthouses!