New England weather is moody and unpredictable, inspiring worn-out cliches (don’t worry, we won’t repeat them here), and playing coquettish games with meteorologists.
This year, though, there was absolutely no doubt about it: On the Solstice, right on time, summer made an indisputable and diva-like entrance, strangling the region in oppressive heat that neared 100 degrees.
But if you haven’t made your way to the beach just yet, you’re probably going to want to be water-side at some point between now and when the young ones go back to school. And south of Boston, you’ve got lots of options -- almost too many -- from salty escapes to freshwater getaways.
Can’t decide? Here’s a variety of spots to cool off, water down, or do some serious basking.
The picturesque: Fire Station Beach, Quincy
Location: At the end of Doane Street.
How to get there: From Route 3A, follow Sea Street to Palmer Street; at the rotary, take the Yardarm Lane exit; then take a right on Quarterdeck Road, and a right on Doane. Beach is straight ahead.
Parking: At the fire station.
This wide strip of sand, nestled between the Fore River and Rock Island Cove, is what its owner, the Quincy Housing Authority, calls “little-known” and a “hidden environmental jewel.” Follow a new boardwalk over dunes with wispy grass down to the wide expanse of sand, where you can go for a stroll, collect shells, and bird watch — visitors have reported herons, warblers, and egrets, among many others — and, of course, swim. Or just enjoy the extensive view — of Houghs Neck with its clutter of houses; and farther out, Hingham Bay and its islands; Kings Cove across the way; the Fore River; bits of the Boston skyline; and the procession of barges and yachts steaming by on the waves. This idyllic, tucked-away beach is off Doane Street, and gets its name from the Germantown fire station you pass by to get to it.
If you have little ones, the Snug Harbor Playground, with fields, basketball courts, and “tot-lots” is nearby (off Palmer Street).
But with all the options here, you shouldn’t have a problem keeping everybody in your group (whatever age) occupied.
The social spot: Hingham Bathing Beach
Location: 96 Otis St. (Route 3A).
How to get there: Follow Route 3A into Hingham.
You can’t miss it. Parking: Public parking on-site.
No surprise given its name, this charming sandy beach off Otis Street (Route 3A) is a local favorite for swimming (and, perhaps even more so, for socializing).
The fluctuating high tides dictate the peak times for a dip, so — unless of course you already keep close track — you’ll want to check first before you head out, beach blanket and cooler in-hand. (You can find a convenient tide chart here: boatma.com/tides/Boston-Harbor.html.)
It has all amenities you’ll want for a long day out — parking, lifeguards, a bathhouse -- and a good dose of friendliness, to boot. Stick around long enough, and you might be greeted by a group of regulars who fittingly call themselves “beach bums.” (Or seek them out and introduce yourself.)
And when you’re not enjoying the cool salty waters? Simply take in the view of the islands and the opposite shoreline, or the fleet of anchored sailboats bobbing in the waves nearby. Or, since the beach is swathed in ample green space, there’s plenty of room to play ball, throw Frisbees, or picnic in the grass. There’s also a popular farmer’s market, which runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays through Nov. 17, according to its website.
The classic: Onset Beach in Wareham
Location: Onset Avenue.
How to get there: Take exit 2 from Route 25; follow Onset Avenue to beach.
Parking: Pay parking on-site.
It’s just about the closest you can get to the Cape without actually making the dreaded trip over the Bourne or Sagamore bridges. This wide swath of beach is snug in the Onset section on the tip of Wareham, just before the Cape begins to stretch out its flexed bicep. A beloved spot for sunbathers, swimmers, and sandcastle-makers who want a traditional beach, but without the teeming crowds.
And if you’ve had enough sun for a while, mosey on over to nearby shops and restaurants, including Marc Anthony’s Pizzeria or Kenny’s Salt Water Taffy. If you’re a music fan, meanwhile, you definitely won’t want to miss the celebrated Onset Beach Jazz Festival, held this year on July 21.
But maybe you’re more of a freshwater fish, preferring hidden-away glens to open strips of seashore. Well, we’ve got you covered there, too.
Long Pond, Lakeville and East Freetown
Location: Town beach off Long Pond Road in Freetown; public boat ramp off Route 18 in Lakeville.
How to get to the beach: Take exit 8 from Route 140; take a left on Chace Road, then a left on Country Road, and a right on Long Pond Road.
How to get to the boat ramp: Exit 5 off Interstate 495; follow Route 18.
Parking: Limited on-site parking (More information: www.longpondassociation.org)
A classic, shallow pond — with plenty of room for recreation. “T”-shaped, 1,721 acres, and straddling both Lakeville and East Freetown, it’s one of the largest natural ponds in the state, according to the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (although its average depth is only about 6 feet).
There’s a town beach nestled on the East Freetown side (off Long Pond Road), and a public boat launch located on the south end of the lake, off Route 18, according to the Long Pond Association, a volunteer group that stewards the water body.
It’s a favorite for fishing, particularly largemouth bass and white and yellow perch, according to the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. Many cruise along its wide, rippling surface in party boats, sailboats, motorboats, canoes, and kayaks — and there’s ample room for waterskiing, kneeboarding, tubing, or just dropping anchor and going for a dip.
Little Sandy Bottom Pond, Pembroke
Location: Town beach on Woodbine Avenue off Route 27.
How to get there: Exit 11 off Route 3; follow Route 14; take left on Franklin Street; follow to Route 27; Woodbine Avenue will be on the right.
Parking: Limited on-site parking.
Another traditional rural pond, with a small town beach on Woodbine Avenue off Route 27. Lifeguards are on duty from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., according to the town website. As well as swimmers and sun-catchers, it attracts fishermen (and women) looking to snag largemouth bass, yellow perch, and bullhead, according to popular fishing websites. And if you’re up for exploring, you’ll find all manner of flora, fauna, and freshwater creatures along its well-developed banks.
Of course, no list can be completely comprehensive – south of Boston, there are dozens of other places to enjoy, from the well-known, honkytonk tourist magnets to the bucolic, stashed-away coves. Here are some others to check out once you load the family (and the goods) up in the car. Check for available parking hereor with individual towns.
- Rexhame Beach, Standish Street, Marshfield
- Mattapoisett town beach, Water Street
- Plymouth Long Beach / White Horse Beach, Plymouth
- Humarock Beach, Scituate
- Johns Pond, Carver
- Burrage Pond Wildlife Management Area, Hanson/Halifax (Access by Hawks Avenue in Hanson and/or 149 Elm St. in Halifax.)
- Norton Reservoir, Norton
- Studleys Pond, Rockland
- Lake Massapoag, Sharon