With 192 miles of coastline (1,519 miles according to the NOAA), it’s not shocking that Massachusetts is home to some of the East Coast’s best and most well-known beach towns. Whether you’re looking for a new homestead by the sea or a vacation spot to stuff yourself with fresh seafood, the Old Bay State has you covered.
Cape Cod is famous all over the world for its beautiful beaches, lighthouses, and views of the sea. Many of the state’s top coastal towns can be found right in this area, or the island gem, Martha’s Vineyard. If you’re planning a vacation to Boston, many of these getaways are accessible within an hour or two.
Tourists in town looking for a new home will have plenty to choose from for life near the beach. Massachusetts’ premier oceanside communities welcome tourists year-round, though, like all New England spots, summer is the peak season.
Here’s a look at the top beach towns in Massachusets to live and visit, in no particular order:
Provincetown, a vibrant, colorful, and one-of-a-kind community, may be found at the tip of Cape Cod, perched majestically on a little cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Cod Bay. Everyone who steps foot on the town’s sandy coastline raves about the amenities and the year-round activities that take place there.
Provincetown, which is the longest-running art colony in the country, also has a long history of art. Tourists flock to this area known as “P-Town” because of its stunning beaches, kind hospitality, restaurants, museums, boutiques, and inns. As of the 2020 Census, 3,664 people were living in the town, making it a quiet and pleasant place to retire or raise a family near the water.
Race Point Beach is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore and is a favorite spot for many in this lovely town. It’s widely regarded as one of Provincetown’s finest stretches of sand. While its isolated position implies dangerous currents and waves, there are still plenty of safe, shallow spots for kids and anyone less comfortable in the sea.
Besides the downtown beaches, check out Long Point Beach, Herring Cove Beach, and Harbor Beach, all of which are within a short drive of the city center.
Wellfleet is a quaint, remote community known for its beautiful shores and hiking paths. It’s situated on the farthest tip of the peninsula, between Truro and Eastham.
The town’s unique eateries are recognized for serving delicious seafood. Wellfleet has many shops where you can get amazing, locally made souvenirs, unusual finds, and the extensive Wellfleet Drive-In Flea Market. The region is also a beautiful base from which to visit nearby attractions or settle down permanently. The city’s 2020 census population was 3,566, however, that number more than doubles during the summer due to visitors.
Wellfleet, located on the eastern part of Cape Cod, is renowned for its vast stretches of beach that run parallel to the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Cod Bay. Duck Harbour Beach, Cahoon Hollow Beach, and Mayo Beach are some of the best places to see the sun go down.
Cape Cod National Seashore owns and maintains another stretch of shoreline, Marconi Beach, which is just as stunning. From the third weekend in June to Labor Day, visitors to the beaches managed by the municipality must have permits issued by the town or pay a parking charge.
Yarmouth, which comprises West Yarmouth, Yarmouth Port, and South Yarmouth, is another fantastic place to find lovely beaches. The city of 25,023 (2020 Census) has a long history and is an excellent spot to plant temporary or permanent roots for a visit or a lifetime.
The Wampanoag people lived in Yarmouth before the Plymouth Colony established itself in 1639. Yarmouth is home to some of the best Cape Cod beaches and kid-friendly attractions, such as the Cape Cod Inflatable Park, the Whydah Pirate Museum, and miniature golf.
Yarmouth also has excellent restaurants and fresh ice cream. Retirees who value a tranquil environment close to popular activities like beaches, golf, and shopping flock to this community.
Any beach you can imagine may be found in the Yarmouth region, from little bay beaches to wide, open ocean stretches of sand. Smuggler’s Beach and Seagull Beach, both located on Nantucket Sound, are two of Yarmouth’s most popular beaches. North of town, at Gray’s Beach, the sea is usually calmer, and there is a boardwalk for strolling. Shell collectors and beachcombers like the serenity of Englewood Beach.
Marblehead is like a living museum because it has many vital pieces of national history and well-kept 18th-century homes and buildings. This amazing and modest New England town has everything a visitor or potential new resident could want in a coastal community.
Marblehead was founded in 1629. During the American Revolution, it was an important fishing port, and you can learn a lot about its history by walking through the narrow, colorful streets of Old Town.
The town’s 20,441 (Census 2020) residents and guests can easily walk to its many galleries, studios, stores, boutiques, specialty shops, cafes, and restaurants. In terms of education, safety, conveniences, economic opportunities, and quality of life, it has been recognized as one of Massachusetts’s top places to live.
Devereux Beach is Marblehead’s most frequented, and it features amenities like picnic tables, playgrounds, and on-site restrooms, as well as the delicious fare at Neckrun Cafe, perfect for a midday snack. Preston Beach, Stramski’s Beach, Back Beach, and Grace Oliver Beach are just a few other notable beaches in the area.
Sandwich, a tiny but classy community near Cape Cod’s westernmost point, is often considered the peninsula’s “front door” It spans both sides of the canal, although the southern side is where you’ll find the bulk of the city and its inhabitants.
It has a rich history and is the first settlement on Cape Cod to be incorporated. The town of 20,259 (2020 Census) is mostly a residential village, so the number of people living there in the winter is much less than in the summer. As a bonus, the area is steeped in history and culture. People can walk around the streets and visit museums like the Sandwich Glass Museum and the Hoxie House Museum, as well as other historic sites.
During the warmer months, beachgoers pick up a wide variety of picturesque stretches of coastline. It’s popular for long-distance swimmers, kayakers, and tourists because the water is calm and the same.
You’ll need a sticker to park at any of Sandwich’s beaches, and locals get in for less than what visitors pay. Town Neck Beach, East Sandwich Beach, and Sandy Neck Beach are the most frequented places to take in the ocean air and sand.
Eastham is a small town in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, approximately 23 miles south of Provincetown. It’s a popular destination for tourists and locals alike due to its abundance of beautiful beaches (both ocean and bay), peaceful atmosphere, and proximity to nature.
Native Americans from the Nauset tribe first settled here, but Pilgrims officially formed the town in 1651. Nauset Light, a 24-mile bike path, and many kid-friendly eateries are just a few attractions in this charming New England town.
Things to do in this part of Cape Cod include seeing the Cape’s oldest windmill, watching the sunset over Cape Cod Bay, eating fried clams at Arnold’s, or getting a lobster roll at The Friendly Fisherman. There is a large diversity among the 5,752 residents in Eastham (as of the 2020 Census).
Eastham, nestled between Cape Cod Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, is home to some of the region’s fantastic beaches. Surfing at Coast Guard and Nauset Light Beaches is ideal because of the cold, clean water and the aggressive surf with massive waves.
There are several beaches on the western side of Cape Cod Bay, where the water is family-friendly and warmer than at the beaches on the eastern side of town. Except for Great Pond Beach and Wiley Park, none of Eastham’s beaches receive seasonal lifeguard coverage, unlike those in the National Seashore.
Martha’s Vineyard, MA
Just 7 miles off the coast of Massachusetts, Martha’s Vineyard is a picture-perfect island paradise that seems like a world apart from the rest of the state. Tisbury, Oak Bluffs, Chilmark, Edgartown, Aquinnah, West Tisbury, Menemsha, Vinyard Haven, and Harthaven are just a few of the communities that make up the island.
In 1602, British explorer Bartholomew Gosnold sailed across the Atlantic to a location he dubbed Cape Cod due to the abundance of fish there. He later named the adjacent island Martha’s Vineyard in honor of his daughter.
Vacationers go to Martha’s Vineyard all year long to take advantage of the island’s renowned beaches, cultural events, seafood, waterfront accommodations, fresh vegetables, and an easygoing atmosphere. About 16,535 people call the island home permanently (as of the 2010 Census), and it’s an excellent option for anybody looking to get away from it all.
The Vineyard has become more popular as a vacation spot because it has beautiful seashores and mild summers. The average high temperature in July and August rarely goes above 90 °F. There are beaches for every sort of traveler, from those who like the calmer seas of the north to those who want the booming surf of the south.
Martha’s Vineyard is home to both public and exclusive beaches. Menemsha Beach, Katama Beach, and Long Point Beach are three of the most accessible and popular places to swim, kayak, and watch the sun go down in the area.
Gloucester & Rockport, MA
Gloucester is the oldest seaport in the United States. It’s known for its nautical history, tasty seafood caught locally, busy working waterfront, and attractive coasts. Experience the finest of New England’s coastal natural splendor while participating in land and marine activities.
According to estimates from the 2020 Census, the population of Gloucester was around 29,729. Until 1840, the neighboring village of Rockport was included in Glouchester, and known as “Sandy Bay”. With a population in 2020 of 6,992 residents, consider Rockport too as a top beach town beside Glouchester.
Nearly everyone in the city has their own house, giving the area a densely suburban atmosphere. A popular summer vacation spot, Gloucester is known as one of the top fishing ports in the U.S. and offers a wealth of attractions for visitors.
The beaches of Gloucester, are perfect for sunbathing, swimming, reading, body surfing, and exploring. With its seven pristine beaches, it’s an ideal place to spend a day basking in the sun. Good Harbor Beach, Half Moon Beach, and Wingaersheek Beach are some of the most excellent shores in the vicinity. Some are gated and charge a daily fee, but they have changing rooms, showers, and lifeguards during the summer.
Nantucket, an island 30 miles south of Cape Cod, is a bustling summer vacation spot and the site of many happy childhood memories for generations of locals and visitors alike. It’s a lively area to live in thanks to its modest year-round population of 14,255 (2020 Census) and its booming summer population of nearly 80,000.
Historically, Nantucket is significant because it was the world’s center for whaling activity between 1690 and 1800. Also, the island has more carefully restored homes from before the Civil War than any other place in the United States. It has over 800 of these homes. The island is also home to stunning beaches, quaint boutiques and eateries, and a rich history of marine life.
The island is home to ten public beaches, most of which are staffed by lifeguards and have some infrastructure. On Nantucket, you can find the perfect spot for any beach day activity, from hanging out with your family to surfing.
Nantucket Sound shields the north coast, thus, the beaches up there are calmer than those on the south. There are powerful waves and currents along the south shore’s beaches, making them better for surfing.
Falmouth, located in the Upper Cape section of Cape Cod, is a beautiful small city with a wide range of exciting activities, attractions, day trip opportunities, dining establishments, and a beautiful downtown area. The 2020 Census estimated its population was 32,517, making it the second-largest city on Cape Cod behind Barnstable.
The first English immigrants arrived around 1660, and the town of Falmouth was founded in 1686. As time has passed, it has grown into a desirable location for families, retirees, and anyone who enjoys being close to the water.
Falmouth is a terrific place to spend a day or weekend since it has a vibrant Main Street. It’s lined with excellent shops and cafés, a stunning lighthouse, an incredible bike route, a vineyard, and a plethora of beaches.
The shores in Falmouth are some of the best in all of Upper Cape Cod. Given its pristine waters and fine, white sand, Old Silver Beach is the most visited of Falmouth’s destinations.
Chapoquoit’s beach is long and somewhat narrow, but it has a fantastic panorama of the bay and is a top choice among many locals. Falmouth Heights Beach, on Nantucket Sound, is another choice among many others due to its proximity to restaurants and vendors and its park benches and grassy space that faces the beach.
Ipswich is a residential area with a thriving tourist business home to Sandy Point State Reservation and Willowdale State Forest. If you’re familiar with East Coast seafood, you’re probably familiar with the “Ipswich clam”, a city symbol.
John Winthrop the Younger, a descendant of the 1630 Massachusetts Bay Colony founder, established the town of Ipswich in 1633. According to the 2000 census, 12,987 people call this town home throughout the year because of its great schools, excellent facilities, and proximity to Boston.
Ipswich is a classic New England town, with its urban core surrounded by suburban and rural areas. Aside from exploring the beaches, there are many intriguing things to do in Ipswich, such as visiting numerous craft breweries, farms, orchards, and historic places like the old Whipple House.
Popular seaside destinations include Clark Beach and Pavilion Beach, but locals may also go to Crane Beach for fun in the sun. These sands are among the best spots for sunbathing and other outdoor activities in the Ipswich region. Crane has also been a frequented destination for those who like the ocean due to its clear water, four miles of unspoiled beachfront, and breathtaking scenery.
The annual Ipswich Chowderfest is just one more event that makes it worthwhile to set down roots in this charming community.
Located on the South Shore, about 45 minutes from Boston, the historic beach town of Duxbury is a popular suburb. The beach and downtown area’s unique shops and restaurants are top destinations for locals and tourists.
As far back as 12,000 to 9,000 BCE, humans lived in what is now Duxbury. Wampanoags called this area home long before European settlers came, and they referred to it as Mattakeesett, which means “place of many fish”.
According to the 2020 census, the town’s population had about 16,090 people. Duxbury is an excellent choice for those who want to live near the coast, away from the hustle and bustle of a major city like Boston, but still within easy commuting distance.
One of the most attractive and easy-to-reach beaches in Massachusetts is located at Duxbury Beach Park. The Gurnet Point and Saquish communities in Plymouth are at the end of a 6-mile stretch of this family-friendly beach that begins in Marshfield.
Relax on one of the best beaches in the Bay State and spend the day swimming, paddling, and basking in the sun. The public may use the parking spaces and guarded swimming area or grab a bite at Blakeman’s Restaurant.
Whenever you’re ready to experience authentic New England culture and beaches, you can do no better than to visit one of these top beach towns and coastal cities in Massachusetts. These destinations will surely please any traveler searching for seafood or some time in the sun.