If Cape Cod is the strong arm of the Massachusetts tourism industry, then the Southcoast would be that misspelled rib cage tattoo that you often forget about. Even the geographical name can be confusing. Doesn’t Massachusetts already have a South Shore?
Confusion aside, Southcoast not only shares an area code with the Cape, it also shares the distinction of having some of the finest beaches in the Commonwealth. Sadly, these beaches get overlooked by tourists eager to cross the Sagamore Bridge every summer.
The three can’t-miss Southcoast beaches — I grew up there so I can say this with authority — are West Island in Fairhaven, Horseneck Beach in Westport, and Scusset Beach in Sandwich, which isn’t technically on the southern coast itself, but is still part of the region. I took a trip back home to grade each of these beaches in the important categories of parking, people watching, cleanliness, scenery, amenities, and the beach itself. Perhaps you’ll be enticed to skip the Route 3 traffic.
Parking: The parking lot may be huge, but to park for the day, you’re going to have to shell out $14, or $16 if your vehicle has out-of-state plates. Grade: B
People watching: Not only are the locals happy to be at the beach, they’re dedicated to it. There was a strong breeze rolling through for about an hour, but that didn’t scare anyone off. The girls trying to get some sun rolled themselves up into a blanket cocoon. There was no quitting for them. Grade: A
Cleanliness: There wasn’t any litter, which also meant there weren’t any ocean birds harassing beachgoers. Grade: A
Scenery: Not only are there dunes that create a cliff-like façade, there’s also the boardwalk from the bath house that gives you a post card scene before you even see the water. Grade: A
Amenities: Well, there’s that bath house. There’s also tons of camping spots for tent or RV campers. To be honest though, the thing that sells this as an A is the counter service food shack. Grade: A
The beach: It’s about a mile and a half long, but it is mainly pebbles. Grade: B
Parking: The lot is very tiny and all dirt. It’s not easy on any car and you have to get yourself boxed in if you’re parking on the unmarked outskirts. Not to mention it’s $20 to park and $10 to walk in if you’re not a Fairhaven resident. Grade: C
People: As memory serves, it gets easily overcrowded, but on this day, there was nobody. Grade: B
Cleanliness: There are plenty of trash cans, so you won’t be finding much trash on the beach. The rusty green cans themselves could definitely use some sprucing up or replacing. Grade: B
Scenery: What’s great about West Island is that while it may be small, a good amount of it is undeveloped woods. It really gives that “Lost” feeling that keeps you from going to the other side of the island. If you do venture out, the island looks different from every point as you peruse its perimeter. Grade: A
Amenities: Remember the trash cans? That’s it. Grade: C
The beach: As you walk on the decrepit boardwalk to the left of the parking lot, the first thing you’ll encounter in the sand is a large cement cube, bigger than its accompanying trash can. Beyond this pretty pairing is seaweed and shells, the main makeup of the beach. Grade: C
Parking: While you do have to pay $13 (in-state) or $15 (out-of-state) to park, that’s the cheapest of the three. There are also plenty of spots just a short walk from the beach. Grade: A
People: The people at Horse neck are definitely the liveliest — and the loudest. I didn’t mind it, though, especially after I heard a young woman yell, “They should all [expletive] die” in reference to the seagulls. I liked this woman. Grade: A
Cleanliness: Ugh, those seagulls. The beach is filled with these dirty birds picking at the trash that sits at the bottom of the lifeguard stands. One was seen carrying off a Tupperware container of food. He actually got pretty far with it before tipping its contents all over the sand. Grade: C
Scenery: The boardwalk here creates a scene much like Scusset, and the view from the sand can’t be beat. Grade: B
Amenities: They have everything: food bar, bath houses, and plenty of lifeguard towers. Grade: A
The beach: It’s very fine sand, as opposed to the pebbly landscape of the other beaches. Grade: A
Scusset gets an A-, West Island gets a B-, and Horseneck gets an A-. Don’t count West Island out, though. What it lacks in amenities and trash can removal, it makes up for in small town charm. There’s a reason everyone in town spreads rumors about celebrities are buying property there.John Stapleton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.