What are the best beaches in New England?
Love tide pools? Hate crowds? Looking for pirate treasure? There’s a beach for that.
BEST FOR SURFING
The sandbar between the southern tip of Reid State Park in Georgetown, Maine, and the mouth of the Sheepscot River creates left and right breaks and — with a west wind at mid-tide — fast, hollow waves with good tube rides. The Reid river mouth bar, as surfers call it, is about a mile walk south from the main parking lot. 207-371-2303; maine.gov/dacf/parks
BEST FOR RAIL TRAVELERS
Beachgoers have ridden the rails on and off to Old Orchard Beach in southern Maine since the Gilded Age, and Amtrak’s April through October Downeaster service from Boston remains one of the least stressful ways to get to the 7-mile-long strand. If swimming and sunning start to pale, there are always the thrills of the beachfront Palace Playland rides or the food and amusements of The Pier. 800-872-7245; traintomaine.com
BEST FOR SURFCASTING
On Martha’s Vineyard, local anglers head to Wasque, the appendage to Chappaquiddick overseen by the Trustees of Reservations, to fish in the big surf. Take the Edgartown-Chappaquiddick Ferry and head southeast to Wasque Point. There’s parking at the end of Wasque Road. 508-627-3599; thetrustees.org
BEST FOR A QUICK ESCAPE
Short on leisure time? There’s no need to face Cape traffic. Houghton’s Pond in the Blue Hills Reservation in Milton is just over 12 miles from downtown Boston. The pretty kettle pond has a lifeguard-supervised sandy beach, changing rooms, and plentiful free parking. Water within the roped-off swimming area isn’t too deep, so it’s great for kids. 617-698-1802; mass.gov/massparks
08/27/2014 MILTON, MA L-R RJ Remmy (cq) 2, Christopher Phillips (cq) 12 and his mother Kim Diggs-Phillips (cq) of Boston, enjoy a warm day at Houghton's Pond (cq) in Milton. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)
BEST FOR SUNSETS
Located at the western tip of Nantucket, Madaket Beach enjoys some of New England’s most Technicolor sunsets, and it’s far enough offshore that no land clutters the view of the horizon. Google “Nantucket and sunset” to best time your adventure (or check the local Inquirer and Mirror), and hope for clouds in the distance that will light up in the afterglow once the sun goes down. 508-228-0925; nantucketchamber.org/beaches.html
BEST FOR BOAT WATCHING
The western tip of Town Neck Beach in Sandwich is a perfect vantage to survey the conga line of runabouts, cargo vessels, tugboats, and fishing boats traversing the 17.5-mile Cape Cod Canal every day. For some history on the canal, stop at the Cape Cod Canal Visitor Center, a short walk down a service road from the beach. 508-888-4361; facebook.com/townneckbeach
BEST FOR WINDSURFING
Kalmus Park Beach in Hyannis combines steady breezes to propel your board and relatively warm summer sea temperatures (averages are in the mid-60s), once you inevitably fall in. Changing rooms, good parking, and a summer concession stand are nice amenities. Wear water shoes, as the shallow bottom is covered with broken shells. 508-790-6345; town.barnstable.ma.us/recreation
BEST FOR WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBILITY
At Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester, there are 16 spaces in the parking lot reserved for vehicles with handicapped parking permits, and two beach wheelchairs are available to help with access. The beach is also good for small children, as the gradual slope means shallow warm water at high tide and long, hard-packed flats for playing when the tide goes out. 978-281-9785; gloucesterma.com/wingaersheek-beach.cfm
BEST FOR TREASURE HUNTERS
Silver Sands State Park in Milford, Connecticut, is ideal for sunbathing, swimming, or jetty fishing in Long Island Sound. When low tide exposes the sandbar leading to Charles Island, you can walk the quarter mile over; legend has it that Captain Kidd buried treasure there in 1699. The inland part of the island is a protected heron and egret rookery, so stick to the shore. You’ll also want to watch the clock. You’re not allowed to cross the bar if there’s water on it because it’s such a hazard. The safe window is about three hours, but you should always check with the ranger on duty, as times can vary. 203-735-4311; www.ct.gov/deep/silversands
BEST FOR LITTLE KIDS
Vintage flyer rides painted like bumblebees and miniature cars are among the old-time amusements at Ocean Beach Park in New London, Connecticut. But the biggest draw is the sugar-white sand of the half-mile beach lapped by gentle waves from Long Island Sound. 860-447-3031; ocean-beach-park.com
BEST FOR LAKESIDE CAMPING
Bald-topped Mount Chocorua on the northern horizon leaves no doubt that White Lake State Park in Tamworth, New Hampshire, sits in high country. More than half the 202 woodsy no-hookup sites (book at newhampshirestateparks.reserveamerica.com) are reserved for tents or pop-ups, making White Lake’s sandy beach and pristine waters a modest family destination, complete with the nighttime percussion of rustling white pines backing up the mad clarinet hooting of loons. 603-323-7350; nhstateparks.org
BEST FOR WATER SLIDE LOVERS
If bodysurfing in the rollers at Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly, Rhode Island, seems a little too tame, cross Atlantic Avenue to Water Wizz (401-322-0520; waterwizzri.com) for the twisting and turning giant water slides, the straight-pipe super speed slides, or the Little Dipper for kids too small to think they are immortal. (Children must be at least 43 inches tall for most rides.) 401-596-9097; riparks.com
BEST FOR WALKING
There’s lots to see on the two-hour round-trip walk down the long, thin peninsula of Napatree Point, which starts just west of the Flying Horses Carousel in Westerly, Rhode Island. Inside the curve of the beach, humans swim, sunbathe, and generally frolic. In the dunes, seabirds tend to their young. Look up to see the osprey nests mounted on poles. Sailboats glide offshore, breezing past Watch Hill Light. thewatchhillconservancy.org
BEST FOR BIRD-WATCHING
The combination of ocean beach, high dunes, and marshland makes Horseneck Beach State Reservation in Westport a kind of heaven for shorebirds, seabirds, and songbirds alike. Warblers funnel through the reservation on their spring and fall migrations, while resident egrets and herons nest in the marshes. Throughout the main beach and out on rocky Gooseberry Neck, the shores positively explode with plovers and sandpipers from early spring through midsummer. 508-636-8816; mass.gov/dcr
BEST FOR SEARCHING TIDE POOLS
When the tide recedes from the boulder-strewn southern shore of Odiorne Point State Park in Rye, New Hampshire, it leaves crystal-clear pools among the barnacle-crusted rocks. The waters teem with ocean life, from scurrying crabs to bristling sea urchins and undulating comb jellies. nhstateparks.org
Rye, NH - Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014: McKenna Dionne, 3, of Easton, MA, explores a tidal pool at Odiorne Point State Park. Odiorne Point State Park is known for its beautiful tidal pools. CREDIT: Cheryl Senter for The Boston Globe
BEST FOR SEAFOOD SHACK LOVERS
The soft sands of Mayo Beach in Wellfleet are literally steps from Mac’s on the Pier, where it’s a ritual of summer to sit at a picnic table and enjoy a bowl of steamers or a basket of fried oysters. Time it right and sunset over the beach augments the glow. 508-349-9611; macsseafood.com
BEST FOR SOLITUDE
There’s nothing like an hour or so on busy Commercial Street in Provincetown to make a desert island sound appealing. The next best thing is Long Point, the sandy curled tip of Cape Cod. The long hike out from town discourages casual sun seekers. Those in the know take Flyer’s Long Point Shuttle from Flyer’s Dock and MacMillan Pier to the point’s peace and quiet. 508-487-0898; flyersboats.com
BEST FOR KAYAKING
A 5-mile-long lake between the impressive mountains of Hor and Pisgah, Lake Willoughby in Westmore, Vermont, has one sandy beach on the south end and another on the north for a breather from paddling and watching for “Willy,” the resident elusive lake monster. Spring-fed waters keep kayakers cool on the hottest days. travelthekingdom.com
BEST FOR KITE FLYING
The steady Nantucket Sound crosswinds at West Dennis Beach would make it a favorite with kite flyers even if the Town of Dennis hadn’t designated the west end of the beach specifically for this summer rite. Head toward Bass River from the parking lot, and stay off the dunes (and away from the piping plover nests). 508-398-3568; dennischamber.com
BEST FOR YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT
Toss the beach chairs and cooler into your electric car and wheel silently down to Salty Brine State Beach in Narragansett, Rhode Island. You can plug in for up to four hours for a wind-fueled recharge and take a solar-heated shower after your swim, so you don’t get any of the superfine sand on the seats. 401-789-8374; riparks.com
SHAKE UP YOUR ROUTINE WITH A NEW GO-TO BEACH
> If you like Walden Pond in Concord, try Hopkinton State Park in Hopkinton, where two swimming beaches with lifeguards and 10 miles of trails give you similar habitat and landscape, just minus the disapproving spirit of grumpy old hermit Hank Thoreau. 508-435-4303; mass.gov/dcr
> If you like Hampton Beach in New Hampshire, try going a few miles up the road to Wallis Sands State Beach in Rye, where the breakers are just as big, the Isles of Shoals just as visible, and the beach less crowded and boardwalk-free. 603-436-9404; nhstateparks.com
> If you like Crane Beach in Ipswich, try Sandy Point State Reservation, also in Ipswich, at the southern tip of Plum Island. Situated across a narrow strait of water from Crane, it’s limited to just 50 cars plus walk-ons. 978-462-4481; mass.gov/dcr
> If you like Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Connecticut, try Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme — another powdery white sand beach sandwiched between a tidal river and a salt marsh. 860-739-5471; www.ct.gov/deep/rockyneck
Patricia Harris and David Lyon are frequent contributors to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
AFTER SUCH A SNOWY WINTER, SHOULD WE BE BRACING FOR MORE EXTREME WEATHER?
By Elizabeth Gehrman
If just the idea of a weather report gives you flashbacks to this winter, take heart. The record-breaking is over — at least for the next six months or so. “Anybody who’s having nightmares about the polar vortex,” says Judah Cohen, director of seasonal forecasting at the Lexington consulting firm Atmospheric and Environmental Research, “they have a few months before they have to get concerned again.”
When summer weather starts to arrive, he says, “it’s like a reset button.” Different factors apply. This year, one factor weather scientists will be watching closely is El Nino, a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean that can help decrease the frequency of hurricanes in the Atlantic. One point for the “good” column. Does that mean you should plan to leave the board games at home when it’s time to pack the beach towels?
Right now “we have what we call equal chances,” says Mike Halpert, deputy director for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center. “There just isn’t anything to help us decide whether it will be a cold or warm or wet or dry summer.” The Farmers’ Almanac is predicting summer in the Northeast will be hotter than usual, while WSI, a sister company to the Weather Channel, expects “cooler than normal” temperatures.
“Seasonal forecasting,” Cohen admits, “is a lot of art and less science.” Stock up on sunscreen just in case, but stay tuned to the forecasts. With such different predictions, we know at least one of them will be right.