Another in a series of New England getaways on public transportation.
Where: Singing Beach,
Manchester-by-the-Sea Of the six beaches in this North Shore town,
only this one is world famous. It is one of a few dozen beaches around the world where the dry sand “squeaks” as you shuffle through it. “Singing” or not, it’s a lovely crescent of soft sand and gentle waves between two rocky headlands.
The Ride: Rockport branch of the MBTA Newburyport/Rockport commuter rail
On a Friday morning, it was hard not to pity the office workers scurrying off the commuter rail with their briefcases and computer bags, destined to spend the day in fluorescent-lighted cubicles. They dashed off across the plaza to the Green Line as those of us with beach bags and folding chairs headed the other way. The leather-covered bench seats of commuter rail cars may lack some of the comforts of regular Amtrak service, but they are more spacious and comfortable than T trains. Grab a seat on the right side outbound, and you can get in a beachy frame of mind with glimpses of marinas, small harbors, and waterways through the window.
It’s about a one-hour ride from North Station. The best trains on weekdays depart at 8:35 a.m. and 10:20 a.m., about 5 minutes earlier on the weekends. The commuter rail station in Manchester-by-the-Sea is at 40 Beach St., right at the south edge of downtown. North of the tracks is a compact shopping area filled with boutiques, restaurants, and cafes. Singing Beach is about a half-mile walk down Beach Street past Masconomo Park, a 10-minute casual stroll when toting beach gear and wearing flip-flops. The town charges a $5 fee for walk-ons to the beach. (That includes cyclists, in case you brought your bike.) Beachgoers 65 and older or under 12 are free, and a seasonal walk-on pass is $12.50.
What to do
Singing Beach offers the basics of a day at the beach. The long crescent of sand has room for everyone, though it can get crowded on weekends, and the water is refreshing but not cold. Water temperatures in early July hovered in the low 60s. Singing Beach Canteen sells pizza slices, hot dogs, and a variety of sandwiches ($2.75-$7.45). If you would like something fancier to eat, like a grilled zucchini, roasted tomato, and goat cheese sandwich or some good pastry, stop first in town at Essen (4c Summer St., 978-526-9995, www.essen-eat.com, sandwiches $7.50-$8.95). Beachgoers with heartier appetites might prefer an Italian sub from Beach Street Cafe (35 Beach St., 978-526-8049, www.bscafeonline.com, subs $5.95-$6.95, cash only).
Once you have eaten, remember your mother’s advice to wait an hour before going in the water. Intervals of lying on the sand should be followed by interludes of swimming. Repeat the cycle until you’re done. The bathhouse is equipped with changing stalls and showers so you can freshen up before leaving.
Trains back to Boston are spread out every few hours in the afternoons and evenings, with a few more trains on weekdays than weekends. As you’re walking back to town, you might want to stop for homemade ice cream at Captain Dusty’s Ice Cream (60 Beach St., 978-526-1663, cones and dishes $2.80-$5) if you have any kids in tow. Adults might prefer a Singing Beach Martini ($9) of rum, sweet liqueurs, and fresh juices at Cala’s (7 Beach St., 978-525-3304, www.calasres
taurant.com), a “flip-flop friendly” restaurant and bar just up the street from the train station.
If you plan your visit for a Tuesday through Aug. 14, you can catch a free concert 6-8 p.m. at Masconomo Park. You should leave a few minutes early to catch the 8:05 train back, even though the park is just across Beach Street from the station.
Manchester-by-the-Sea is zone 6 on the commuter rail, making the fare each way $8.75. Be sure to buy tickets both ways from the ticket window or fare machines at North Station, as there’s a $3 surcharge for buying tickets on the train and Manchester-by-the-Sea does not have ticket vending. For more information, visit www.mbta.com.
We think of Singing Beach as the reverse commute, remembering that even a bad day at the beach is better than a good day at the office.