When it comes to summer in New England, a beach getaway can’t be beat. And oh man, does New England have some pretty amazing beaches to explore! One of the great things about this region is that 5 out of the 6 New England states offer Atlantic shoreline to enjoy, so there are tons of options when it comes to finding a great beach town.
That, however, can seem a bit overwhelming, right? Good news – I’m here to help. Over the last 10 years or so, it’s kind of been my life’s mission to explore as many coastal towns in this region as possible, and I’ve narrowed down the most amazing options when it comes to the best beach towns in New England to plan the perfect getaway. So, let’s start planning!
What New England State Has The Best Beaches?
Honestly, most do, but I’m particularly partial to the beaches on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. If you’re looking to visit some of the most stunning beaches in New England, I always recommend that you head straight for Cape Cod, and specifically, the Cape Cod National Seashore. This is where you’ll find those dramatic sand dunes, and postcard-worthy beaches.
Massachusetts is also home to two stunning islands with even more stunning beaches: Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. And these two islands can easily be combined with a trip to Cape Cod for the perfect summer getaway.
However, I also think that Rhode Island and Connecticut have some pretty amazing beaches. The only downside is that I find these two states to be a bit more exclusive and expensive. Overall, there are still some amazing beach towns in these two states, but you’ll likely need a bigger budget. These are great for more luxury getaways (although, luxury can pretty much be found all over New England, too!).
Lastly, Maine and New Hampshire also have awesome beaches. In Maine, Ogunquit and Kennebunkport are very close to one another, making it easy to see both beach towns in a long weekend. And if you get up to Acadia, Sand Beach is absolutely gorgeous. But Maine has a lot more dramatic, rocky coastline to explore, and in fact, that’s one of the things it’s known for.
In New Hampshire, there’s a very small amount of Atlantic coastline, but you’ll see later in the post, it’s most definitely worth visiting!
Vermont is the only state in New England that doesn’t border the Atlantic Ocean, so the only beaches you’ll find here are lake beaches. They’re lovely, of course, but probably not the type of beach vacation you’ve likely come to this article for. So, Vermont won’t be included on this particular list.
In a nutshell, my vote goes to Massachusetts.
What Are The Prettiest Beaches In New England?
You guys, it’s really hard to pick which beaches in New England are the prettiest! But okay, if you twist my arm, these are the ones I would single out:
- Coast Guard Beach in Eastham, MA (Cape Cod)
- Race Point Beach in Provincetown, MA (Cape Cod)
- Cahoon Hollow Beach in Wellfleet (Cape Cod)
- Madaket Beach on Nantucket, MA
- Surfside Beach on Nantucket, MA
- South/Katama Beach in Edgartown, MA (Martha’s Vineyard)
- Ogunquit Beach in Maine
- Sand Beach in Acadia National Park
- Watch Hill Beach in Westerly, RI
Best Beach Towns In Massachusetts
In no particular order, these are the best beach towns in Massachusetts for the perfect summer beach getaway in New England.
Between charming towns with cute Main Streets, fishing villages and dramatic sand dunes, Massachusetts really has it all when it comes to an amazing coastal getaway.
Provincetown is not only one of the best beach towns in New England, but it’s also one of the easiest ones to visit from Boston if you don’t have a car. In fact, it’s home to one of my all-time favorite beaches – Race Point.
From Boston, you can hop on this ferry at Long Wharf, and be at MacMillan Pier in downtown Ptown in 90 minutes. From there, you can easily walk to lots of places and hotels, or grab a taxi or Uber to get to your hotel. In the summer season, they have an awesome shuttle service that brings you to and from Race Point and Herring Cove beaches, so you can have an amazing beach vacation without ever needing a car.
But on top of the ease of getting around without a car, Provincetown really has some stunning beaches, as mentioned. Both Race Point and Herring Cove are part of the National Seashore park system, and are absolutely amazing for day time, as well as sunset. In fact, Race Point Beach is one of my all-time favorite beach sunset locations on the Cape.
Ptown is also just an incredible little town to explore. When you’re not at the beach, you can spend your time walking up and down Commercial Street, visiting the amazing art galleries, dining at fantastic restaurants and enjoying the fun nightlife. It really is such a unique place, is packed with charm, and has a little something for everyone.
Where To Stay In Provincetown:
Also on Cape Cod is Wellfleet, which is an awesome beach town to consider staying in when visiting. One of the most famous beaches here is Cahoon Hollow, which is also home to The Beachcomber, a fun beach bar and restaurant that sits right on the beach.
While The Beachcomber is one of the reasons so many people visit, the natural beauty of the beach should be why you visit (but, The Beachcomber is pretty fun, too). With sand dunes that tower over 70 feet high, and stunning Atlantic coastline, this beach really lives up to its type.
But there are lots of other beaches in Wellfleet, some of which are on the Cape Cod Bay side, which offer calmer and warmer water – so really, there’s a beach for everyone.
Wellfleet is also a quieter town on the Cape to stay, but still has some great restaurants, and even a cute (but very small) Main Street for shopping. It’s also only about 30 minutes to Provincetown, so you can have the best of both worlds in the Outer Cape region.
Where to Stay In Wellfleet:
One of the more family-friendly beach towns in New England on this list is Dennis, which is also on (surprise, surprise!) Cape Cod. Located in the centrally-located mid-Cape region, Dennis has gorgeous beaches along Cape Cod Bay that have shallow, warm water, and also amazing tidal pools for kids (and adults!) to explore.
Dennis is also home to some pretty great restaurants, including my favorite lobster roll, Sesuit Harbor Café. Additionally, there’s some beautiful salt marsh kayaking to be had, and this town generally has reasonable vacation rental prices.
Where To Stay In Dennis:
The last of the Cape Cod towns I’ll mention in this post is Eastham, and while it may be a slightly more unusual choice because there’s not a ton to do in the actual town, it’s absolutely worth mentioning because it’s home to probably the most gorgeous beach in the region – Coast Guard Beach.
Coast Guard is my personal favorite beach on Cape Cod. It stretches for miles, and the further you walk from the lifeguarded area, the more beautiful it becomes. Seals are also easy to spot here.
In addition to Coast Guard Beach, some other great beaches in Eastham to check out are Nauset Lighthouse Beach, First Encounter Beach and Cooks Brook Beach. Those last two are especially great for sunset.
Lastly, Eastham is home to Nauset Lighthouse, which you may recognize from the Cape Cod Potato Chips Bag. To visit the lighthouse, you’ll have to pay to park at Nauset Lighthouse Beach (but the beach is worth visiting, anyway!), and the lighthouse makes for such a fun photo since it’s famous.
Pro Tip: In the summer season, parking directly at Coast Guard Beach is reserved for town residents and handicap placard holders. But fear not! There’s a free shuttle from the Little Creek parking lot, about a mile down the road. Look for the signs as you near the beach – it’s very easy to figure out. And the open-air shuttle is fun to ride 🙂
And while I mentioned that there isn’t a ton to do in Eastham, that’s also a bit debatable. There’s no real “downtown” in Eastham, but you’ll still find plenty of restaurants to choose from, and of course, beaches and nature to enjoy. If you’d like to stay nearby Eastham, but would rather have a downtown area to explore at night, Orleans is the closest option, and Chatham is another excellent choice.
Where To Stay In Eastham:
Editor’s Note: While I’ve listed off some towns on Cape Cod that are especially great for beaches, the truth is, pretty much all the towns on Cape Cod are great beach towns. This is really one area of New England where you can stay anywhere, and you’ll have access to wonderful beaches. If it’s the most picturesque ones you’re after, the Outer Cape region is for you! But each town has something to offer.
Click here for my detailed guide on where to stay on Cape Cod for more info.
You may find these Cape Cod posts helpful while you plan your trip:
- Best Things To Do In Provincetown, MA
- Best Things To Do In Wellfleet, MA
- Things To Know Before Visiting Cahoon Hollow Beach In Wellfleet
- Best Time To Visit Cape Cod
On Martha’s Vineyard, Edgartown gets my vote for best beach town on the island, and that’s because of South/Katama Beach. It’s referred to by both names, but I usually refer to it as South Beach. This is widely-regarded as the most beautiful beach on Martha’s Vineyard, and you’ll see why when you visit.
Known as a barrier beach, South Beach has stunning coastline along the Atlantic Ocean, and also has some calmer salt pond waters. Parking for this beach is free along the road, but you’ll want to get there early to snag a spot in the summer season – it fills up fast. This is also a great sunset beach!
Also located in Edgartown is East Beach, which can be found on Chappaquiddick Island. In fact, you’ll have to cross the famous Dike Bridge, the scene of the Kennedy accident, to access the beach. And once you arrive, you’ll be greeted with a gorgeous stretch of coastline that won’t ever feel super crowded, even in the summer.
Not only are the beaches in Edgartown incredible, the actual town is one of the best on the island, too. Downtown Edgartown has awesome shops and restaurants, the ferry to Chappaquiddick, Edgartown Lighthouse, and lots of New England charm (so definitely have your camera ready!).
Where To Stay In Edgartown:
Ah, Nantucket. This might be my most favorite beach town in the area. Heck, it might be my all-time favorite destination in New England! There’s something very special and magical about Nantucket because when you step off the ferry, you somehow feel like you’ve gone back in time to a quaint fishing village, but it also feels new and modern. I don’t think there’s a place in the Northeast with prettier scenery around every corner.
That said, Nantucket might be one of the most expensive beach towns to visit, too, so keep that in mind as you plan your summer vacation. But, if it works with your budget, it’s more than worth it. If it doesn’t, I highly recommend a day trip!
Most of the beaches on Nantucket are stunning, but my favorites are Madaket and Surfside beaches. Step’s Beach is closer to town, and provides calmer water, and an amazing view from the top of the staircase that leads down to the shoreline.
Nantucket’s downtown is also a place you don’t want to miss. When you’re not exploring the beaches, visit the inspiring shops along the cobblestone streets, walk around to see the historic houses, tour the island’s lighthouses, do the Bluff Walk in ‘Sconset, and if you have time, drive out to Great Point. Click the links below for more information on creating the perfect Nantucket itinerary!
Where To Stay On Nantucket:
You may find these Nantucket & Martha’s Vineyard posts helpful while planning your trip :
- Is Nantucket Or Martha’s Vineyard Better For A Day Trip?
- Nantucket Day Trip Guide, Including Ferry Info
- How To See Nantucket’s 3 Lighthouses
- Martha’s Vineyard Day Trip Guide
- How To See Martha’s Vineyard Without A Car
- Best Things To Do On Martha’s Vineyard
7. Gloucester & Rockport
Heading further north into Massachusetts, we have Gloucester, which is home to some of the best beaches along the North Shore region. Even though it’s a city, it still has a lot of charm, too, and offers lots to do besides the beach.
But first, let’s talk about the beaches because that’s why we’re all here, right? 😉 Two of the most popular beaches in Gloucester are Wingaersheek Beach and Good Harbor Beach, both of which are lovely! They have very soft sand, snack shacks and bathrooms, making it very easy to spend the day here.
A more secluded, lesser-known beach in Gloucester is Half Moon Beach, which is in Stage Fort Park. This beach is really beautiful, and usually less crowded than the previous two.
In addition to beaches, there are some fun things to do, including whale watching, visiting lighthouses and exploring the city. In fact, Gloucester is known for being one of the top destinations for whale watching in the U.S.!
While Gloucester is wonderful in its own right, you’ll also want to consider staying in nearby Rocport, which borders Gloucester. It will entirely depend on the vibe you’re going for, but between the two, Rockport is smaller and more unique, whereas Gloucester will offer more options for hotels and dining.
That said, I personally prefer Rockport because I tend to gravitate toward smaller towns. I also think Rockport is incredibly unique and has scenery you’re not likely to find elsewhere. If you stay right in Rockport, there are some smaller beaches to explore in town, but you’re also only about 10-20 minutes at most from the beaches in Gloucester.
Where To Stay In Gloucester & Rockport:
Gloucester Beach Parking Note: Recently, 3 beaches in Gloucester have switched to a mandatory online reservation system for non-residents, and they include: Wingaersheek Beach, Good Harbor Beach and Half Moon Beach at Stage Fort Park. To park and enter these beaches, you must make a reservation online in advance.
8. Newburyport & Plum Island
Newburyport is a very under-rated city in Massachusetts that’s home to the beautiful Plum Island. On Plum Island, you’ll find beaches, nature trails, restaurants and even a lighthouse to visit.
And what I love about Newburyport as a beach destination is that you can get the best of both worlds: a charming little city with a small-town feel, incredible shopping and dining AND a super beachy, casual coastal destination on Plum Island.
On Plum Island, you’ll want to spend some time at the beaches, and the best ones to check out are Plum Island Beach, and Newbury Beach. There are also some more secluded beaches inside the Parker River Wildlife Refuge, which is where you’ll find scenic boardwalk trails and incredible bird and wildlife watching (highly recommend this place!).
Pro Tip: Newburyport and Plum Island are only about 10 minutes from Salisbury, which has the very beautiful Salisbury Beach that’s totally worth checking out if you’re in the region.
Where To Stay In Newburyport:
Ipswich is home to my personal favorite beach on the North Shore – Crane Beach. And what I love about Ipswich as a beach destination is that is has a really great mix of shoreline to explore, and also gorgeous farms and nature trails.
But first, let’s talk about the beach. Crane Beach is part of the amazing Crane Estate (more on that in a sec), so it requires a bit more planning to visit because it’s owned by the Trustees. To park and visit the beach, you just need to purchase a day pass online by clicking here. Passes can only be purchased two weeks in advance at most.
This stunning 4-mile long beach has beautifully soft sand and scenic dunes, and also direct access to over 5 miles of hiking trails to explore, so it’s absolutely worth the effort.
For another great beach option, Sandy Point State Park in Ipswich is also perfect!
While in Ipswich, visiting the Crane Estate is also a must. This requires a separate entrance fee to visit, but the grounds include the Tudor Revival mansion, which was built in the 1920s, as well as the gardens and trails to explore. It’s honestly quite impressive, and worth visiting.
Around Ipswich, you’ll also want to make time to visit the local farms, breweries and plan a kayak through Ipswich River. Russell Orchards and Northern Lights Farm Stand are amazing for picking up fresh produce, local goods and flowers in the summer. Appleton Farms is a historic rural area with scenic trails to explore.
Overall, Ipswich is a very underrated beach destination in Massachusetts. While it may not have the miles of coastline that Cape Cod does, it really has so much to offer on its own right.
Where To Stay In Ipswich:
Along Gloucester’s border, you’ll find the cute little town of Manchester-By-The-Sea in the Cape Ann region of the North Shore. While this destination is a bit smaller than Gloucester and Ipswich, it really makes for a wonderful, lesser-known beach getaway in New England.
Manchester-By-The-Sea has a charming little downtown area with some shops and eateries, beautiful parks to explore, and of course, gorgeous beaches.
The most popular beach here is Singing Beach, and it’s also become a bit famous because the sand actually, well … sings! Kind of. If you scuff your feet just right along the sand on this beach, it makes a specific sound that most other sand won’t. It’s something you have to just test out for yourself.
But that aside, the beach here is truly impressive. When I first visited, I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was, and ended up spending a lot more time there than I planned because I loved it so much.
In addition to Singing Beach, you’ll also be able to explore White Beach and Black Beach, as well as the Coolidge Reservation for scenic coastal landscapes.
These Cape Ann & North Shore posts may be helpful as your plan your trip:
- Things To Do On Cape Ann, MA
- Awesome Things To Do In Marblehead, MA
- Best Things To Do In Rockport, MA
- Best Things To Do In Newburyport & Plum Island
Best Beach Towns In Maine
Ogunquit gets my vote for best beach in Maine, and the town is incredibly fun to visit, too, making this one of the best beach towns in New England to plan a getaway.
Located in southern Maine, Ogunquit is actually most known for its gorgeous 3-mile long Ogunquit Beach along the Atlantic Ocean. With soft, sandy shoreline and plenty of room to spread out, it’s a wonderful destination for a beach day in the summer.
About a mile away, you can also visit the lesser-known Footbridge Beach, which is equally as gorgeous.
While visiting Ogunquit, you don’t want to miss Marginal Way, which is a breathtaking pedestrian path along the coastline, with hidden beaches and cliffs you can walk out on to enjoy the views. This path connects Ogunquit’s downtown, with the cute harbor at Perkins Cove, which has restaurants and shops to visit.
Ogunquit’s downtown is also so charming, and it’s very walkable. If you stay right in downtown Ogunquit, you likely won’t need your car at all for your entire vacation. You’ll find lots of cute little shops, art galleries and restaurants to visit when you’re not at the beach.
Where To Stay In Ogunquit:
Less than 30 minutes from Ogunquit is the adorable town of Kennebunkport, which most people know as the Bush family summer vacation destination. Here, you’ll find the cutest little downtown area called Dock Square which is filled with shops and great restaurants, gorgeous beaches, and wonderful opportunities for boat tours along the coast.
For beaches in Kennebunkport, you’ll want to have Gooch’s, Mother’s and Colony Beaches on your itinerary. All are beautiful and worth visiting!
In addition to the beaches and exploring Dock Square, definitely allow some time for a boat tour. Lobster Boat tours with Rugosa are awesome, and this Luxury Catamaran Tour is perfect for a special celebration.
Where To Stay In Kennebunkport:
13. Old Orchard Beach
About 30 minutes north of Kennebunkport is Old Orchard Beach, which is home to a 7-mile long sandy beach that’s perfect for long walks and lounging in the sand all day.
Old Orchard is also famous for its very nostalgic pier that has some eateries and shops, and the entire town actually has a bit more of a Jersey Shore vibe than traditional New England. You’ll see amusement park rides, and kitschy shops on the pier that transport you a bit back in time.
The shops and restaurants in downtown Old Orchard are really fun to explore, too, and I typically suggest Old Orchard Beach as a day trip from nearby Ogunquit and Kennebunkport if you’re looking for a more quintessential New England atmosphere.
However, if you’re looking for an awesome party scene, this is a great place to go! And it’s hard to deny how gorgeous the beach itself is.
Where To Stay In Old Orchard Beach:
14. Mount Desert Island/Bar Harbor
And when I say Mount Desert Island, I mean Acadia National Park 😉 Inside Acadia is one of Maine’s most stunning beaches, appropriately named Sand Beach.
This beach has its own parking lot inside the park, and is also at the start of the Great Head Trail, which offers amazing views of the beach from above (and is one of my favorite hikes in the park).
While Sand Beach is pretty small compared to some of the others on this list, the soft sand and gorgeous mountain scenery make it more than worth visiting, especially if you’re already planning to visit Acadia. It’s backdropped by the mountains, has views of the dramatic rocky coastline, and the water is this beautiful green-blue color that’s a treat to see in person.
The best place to stay nearby is Bar Harbor, which is where most people stay when visiting the park. Bar Harbor is an awesome, picturesque coastal town with wonderful shops and restaurants, and also offers opportunities for boat and whale watch tours.
Where To Stay In Bar Harbor:
Heading back down to southern Maine, Wells is another one of the best beach towns in New England. It actually has a few beautiful beaches to enjoy during your visit, and is conveniently located between Kennebunkport and Ogunquit.
There are 4 beaches in Wells, and they include Wells Beach (the most popular), Moody Beach, Drakes Island Beach, and Crescent Beach. Wells Beach is definitely a must, as it’s the largest, stretching about 7 miles across the shoreline. But really, all the beaches in Wells are beautiful.
Wells is also known for its antique shopping! Driving through town, you’ll see countless antique shops to choose from, and you might be able to find the perfect piece for your home.
Where To Stay In Wells:
Known for its beautiful beaches, Phippsburg, Maine is a wonderful getaway in Maine for those looking for a quieter vacation, away from the crowds. While it won’t feel super secluded, it’s definitely less popular than places like Cape Cod or Ogunquit, but has some gorgeous beaches and a cute little town to explore.
The best and most popular beach in Phippsburg to visit is Popham Beach inside Popham Beach State Park. This beach stretches about 3-miles, and has a soft, sandy shoreline that’s perfect for walking and lounging and playing in.
A great thing about Phippsburg, too, is that it’s perfectly situated between Harpswell and Georgetown, two beautiful coastal areas in Maine with postcard-worthy moments everywhere.
Pro Tip: Popham Beach State Park charges by the person, not by the car, so this is something to keep in mind if coming with a big family or a group.
Where To Stay In Phippsburg:
Here are some Maine posts that you may find helpful:
- Best Things To Do In Ogunquit, Maine
- Incredible Stops To Make Driving From Portland To Acadia National Park
- The Perfect Acadia National Park Itinerary
Best Beach Towns In Rhode Island
The beaches and coastline in Rhode Island are truly beautiful, and should absolutely be on your radar. In fact, Rhode Island’s nickname is the Ocean State, and has over 400 miles of coastline to see!
One thing I like to note about planning a summer trip to Rhode Island is that prices tend to be a bit higher than beach towns in Massachusetts and Maine. So, this is something to keep in mind. A few of these destinations also make for awesome beach day trips, too.
17. Block Island/New Shoreham
My personal favorite beach town in New England is Block Island, and while it’s an island (obviously) that requires a ferry to get there, it’s so worth it. There are simply stunning beaches here, and all of them are free. Yes, free. Even if you’re an out-of-state visitor.
I think Mansion Beach on Block Island is the best and prettiest to visit, but Fred Benson Beach is also wonderful (and has facilities like bathrooms). There’s also a really cute little downtown area, which is where the ferry drops you off, lighthouses, breathtaking bluffs and awesome restaurants to explore during your visit.
To get to Block Island, the most popular ferry departs from Point Judith in Narragansett, and ferries are 30-60 minutes long, depending on which one you take. There are also ferries that depart from Newport and New London, CT.
Pro Tip: The only downside to Block Island is that parking can sometimes be an issue in the summer season, as there’s more limited parking at some of the beaches. Some beaches can only be accessed by dirt roads, and mopeds are now allowed these, so keep that in mind while visiting if you’re renting a moped to use.
Where To Stay On Block Island:
I have a whole post on Block Island that includes day trip guides, ferry info and things to do, so be sure to click the link at the end of the Rhode Island section below!
Newport is a famous city in New England, and for really good reason. Between the history, charming atmosphere, waterfront scenery, great shopping and dining and beautiful coastline, it offers so much as a year-round destination. Including beaches!
While Newport is a city and can feel like it sometimes on a busy summer day, it mostly feels like a small town packed with character. It offers the best of both worlds if you’re looking for a bit of everything, including an insanely good culinary scene, lots of things to do, boat tours, festivals and beaches.
Easton’s Beach and Gooseberry Beach are the best in Newport proper. But you may have noticed that I also included Middletown in the headline, and that’s because you can get to some even more stunning beaches there that are only about 5-10 minutes down the road from Easton’s Beach. Of all the beaches in the Newport area, I think Middletown has the best ones.
Where To Stay In Newport:
I also have a dedicated post on things to do in Newport, including day trip guides, so be sure to click that link at the end of the Rhode Island section below for more information on visiting!
There’s no way around it, I think Westerly might have some of the prettiest beaches in Rhode Island. The biggest downside, however, is that Westerly, and Watch Hill (a village in the town of Westerly), is very small and difficult to visit if you’re not a town resident, or staying at a hotel in town. For this reason, even a day trip will require some planning. That said, it’s so worth it.
Westerly is also one of the priciest beach towns on this entire list, and could be cost-prohibitive for some people. However, for a luxury getaway on some of the state’s best beaches, it’s really hard to beat!
The best way to visit Westerly, as mentioned, is to stay right in Westerly or Watch Hill, and Watch Hill is famous for the iconic Ocean House Resort. A luxury hotel that has everything you could want in a summer vacation, includes private beach access, beach cabanas, incredible dining options, stunning grounds and rooms, lawn games, golf, a spa … the list goes on and on from there!
If Ocean House doesn’t fit the bill or budget, there are some other small bouquet hotels in the area to check out, which I’ll list below. When deciding on where to stay, this is a place that’s worth paying a bit extra to be beachfront, or within walking distance to a beach.
During your visit, be sure to check out Westerly Town Beach, Misquamicut State Beach & Beach, Watch Hill Lighthouse, visit Grey Sail Brewery, and visit the cute downtown areas in both Westerly and Watch Hill.
Where To Stay In Westerly:
Fun Fact: Taylor Swift owns a mansion in Watch Hill!
Lastly in Rhode Island, we have Narragansett, where the wavier beaches are popular with surfers, and tons of gorgeous coastline views are to be had. This is also where you can take the ferry to Block Island for the perfect Rhode Island beach getaway in two gorgeous locations.
Narragansett has a beautiful coastal walkway right at the 19th century Towers, which are a local landmark. There, you’ll also find Narragansett Beach where you can watch surfers ride the waves, go for a walk on the sandy shoreline, or enjoy the walkway along the rocky coast.
A bit further from Narragansett Beach, and you’ll find Scarborough State Beach, which is where you’ll find another beautiful, sandy beach, but also some really fun things to do like ruins to explore, a boardwalk, and an observation tower.
When you’re not at the beach, Narragansett has a really charming little town area, great restaurants and awesome ice cream to be enjoyed on a summer night!
Where To Stay In Narragansett:
Here are some Rhode Island posts you may find helpful:
- Best Things To Do On A Block Island Day Trip (Including Beach Info!)
- Best Things To Do In Newport, RI
Best Beach Towns In Connecticut
Moving on to Connecticut! This beautiful state is home to over 300 miles of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean and Long Island Sound, and there are some really beautiful and fun beach towns to visit. Here are my suggestions if you’re looking to explore the Connecticut coast.
One of the best beach towns in New England is in Madison, CT, and that’s largely because of Hammonasset Beach State Park, which is the largest shoreline park in Connecticut. At over 2 miles long, Hammonasset Beach is really one of the best in the state, and also offers nature trails, biking opportunities, and picnic tables at the park for the perfect summer day.
On top of that, Madison is also a very cute little town with great shops and restaurants, Chatfield Hollow State Park, Meigs Nature Preserve, and East Wharf Beach Park.
Where To Stay In Madison:
22. New London
New London in Connecticut is best known for Ocean Beach Park, which is an awesome destination for families with young kids. The super soft, sandy beach is perfect for children to play in, and the water here in generally pretty calm.
But the best part, though? There’s an awesome beachfront amusement park and carousel here, too, so you definitely won’t get bored. You’ll also find an in-ground pool with lifeguards, walking and biking paths, restaurants and more. It’s really a one-stop shop when it comes to New England summertime fun.
When you’re not at the beach, you’ll also enjoy the city’s awesome cultural scene, lighthouses, restaurants and boating tours.
There actually aren’t a lot of great places to stay right in New London, so I recommend staying in nearby Mystic or Norwich.
Lastly for Connecticut, Westport makes the list as an amazing beach town that’s also great for shopping and dining. So, when you’re looking for the best of both worlds, this is a great option.
While Westport has beaches that are more rocky than most others on this list, Compo Beach is one of the best for soft sand. Sherwood Island State Park is another beautiful option, which has some perfectly soft, sandy shoreline, and also some rocky parts (but really gorgeous views that make it worth visiting!).
And while there are lots of things to do in Westport besides the beach, I’m particularly fond of the shopping in this town. Along Main Street in downtown Westport, you’ll find an awesome shopping district. This town is also home to one of the few Terrain stores in the country.
If shopping isn’t your thing, you’ll find activities available like kayaking and paddle boarding, cultural and arts centers, an awesome farmers market that was started by Paul Newman (yep, that Paul Newman!), and a nature preserve.
Where To Stay In Westport:
Best Beach Towns In New Hampshire
The last state on this list with the best beach towns in New England is the small but mighty New Hampshire! When most people think of New Hampshire, usually breathtaking mountain ranges come to mind. But, it’s also home to the shortest coastline in the entire U.S. at just 18 miles long. Even with fewer beaches, and a reputation for mountain getaways, it has some awesome shoreline to explore for a summer vacation.
Slightly lesser-known to tourists than Hampton Beach (which is next!), Rye is such a wonderful beach destination in New England. Rye is pretty small and mostly residential, but it has a really great small-town atmosphere to it that’s perfect for a relaxing getaway.
There are two great, sandy beaches open to the public in Rye: Wallis Sands State Beach and Jenness State Beach. And with awesome seafood restaurants and a more quiet and chill vibe, this is a really nice place to consider for summer beach time fun.
In addition to the beaches, you can also enjoy more coastline views at Odiorne Point State Park, head out on a whale watch, and visit the Seacoast Science Center.
Where To Stay In Rye:
25. Hampton Beach
With the shoreline being over a mile long, Hampton Beach is the more popular beach town in New Hampshire. It’s also one of the more lively beach towns in New England because of the active boardwalk area. In fact, this is another destination that has more of an Atlantic City vibe to it, while still feeling like a New England town.
Ocean Boulevard runs parallel to the beach, and here you’ll find arcades, restaurants, souvenir shops, ice cream stands, bars and restaurants, so you won’t have to stray far from the beach to have some more fun. What more can you ask for in the summer season?
When you’re not at the beach or livin’ it up on Ocean Boulevard, you can visit an oceanarium, head out on a lobster boat tour, go parasailing, or explore the Blue Ocean Discovery Center.
Best New England Beach Towns For Families?
All of the beach towns on this list will appeal to the kiddos in one way or another, but definitely some more than others. Of the beaches on this list, these are the ones I particularly recommend for families with children:
Dennis, MA – Calm, shallow water is perfect for young kids, and nearby kid’s activities in towns like Yarmouth and Hyannis.
Westerly, RI – Kids will love the Atlantic Beach Park that’s right on the beach!
Gloucester, MA – Great beaches for kids because of calm water, and has whale watching nearby.
Nantucket, MA – While many of the beaches are pretty wavy, there are some beaches closer to downtown that aren’t (Step’s Beach and the perfectly-named Children’s Beach). And The Nantucket Hotel & Resort has a great kid’s program to keep them entertained while parents can have a few afternoon moments to themselves.
Ogunquit, ME – While the Atlantic beach can be wavy, there are lots of tidal pools near the beach for kids, and the town has some awesome kid-friendly toy and candy stores.
New London, CT – As mentioned, Ocean Beach is amazing for kids, and is home to calm water, an amusement park, carousel and on-site eateries.
Best New England Beach Towns For Nightlife
If it’s a bit of a party scene you’re after, or just some great bars and places to hang out after sunset, here are the beaches and beach towns from this list that I recommend for nightlife:
- Ballard Beach on Block Island
- Provincetown, MA
- Hampton Beach, NH
- Old Orchard Beach, ME
- Cahoon Hollow Beach in Wellfleet, MA (Cape Cod)
Best Time Of Year To Visit New England Beach Towns
The best time of year for a beach vacation in New England is most definitely summer, with July and August providing the best and warmest weather, with the fewest days of rain. This is also peak season for beach towns in New England, and when hotels will be the most expensive, and when you’ll encounter the biggest crowds. However, I think it’s worth it.
Want to know why it’s worth it? I did a whole post on the best time to visit Cape Cod and the Islands, which will apply to all coastal destinations in New England. Click here to check that out!
Some other posts you may enjoy reading:
- The Most Incredible New England Resorts & Spas
- Fun New England Day Trips
- Ultimate Summer In New England Guide: Where To Go & What To Do!
- Summer In Connecticut: The Best Things To Do!
- The Most Amazing Things To Do In New England
- The Perfect 7 Day New England Road Trip (w/ 5 & 10 Day Options)
- The Most Incredible New England Lighthouses To See
- Cape Cod vs. Nantucket: Which Is Best For You?
That’s A Wrap On The Best Beach Towns In New England
And there you have it! All of my years of exploring beaches in this region have paid off, and that’s my official list of the best beach towns in New England. Hopefully, you now feel ready to book your own beach vacation in the Northeast. Whether you need a quick getaway from Boston, and Provincetown fits the bill perfectly, or you’re looking for a fun adventure on an island, like Block Island or Nantucket, one thing’s guaranteed – it’ll be one that will most definitely take your breath away.