There’s swimming, sure. But there’s also wading, strolling, sunbathing, and building the biggest sand castle you possibly can before the tide rolls in to sweep it away. Done right, beach season never gets boring. To make the most of your summer by the sea, we’ve assembled a comprehensive guide to the 15 of the best beaches on the North Shore.
Good Harbor Beach
On the eastern edge of Gloucester, this sprawling beach is a perennial favorite for a reason—actually, for many reasons, including gorgeous views, soft white sand, rolling dunes, and a tidal creek that creates a perfect area for little ones to explore.
Something special: At low tide, beach visitors can walk out to Salt Island, an uninhabited rocky hill that got its name in 1623 when an English ship stored a load of salt there, only to find it stolen upon their return.
Amenities: A concession stand sells snacks, sandwiches, ice cream, and slush, as well as beach basics and toys. Bathrooms, changing rooms, and showers are available.
Parking: Advanced parking reservations, made through the Yodel app, are required and cash is no longer accepted at the gate. Without a resident sticker, parking is $30 per vehicle on weekdays and $35 on weekends and holidays. There is no legal street parking in easy reach. A concession stand, bathrooms, and showers are available.
Want to spend the whole weekend in Gloucester? We’ve got some ideas.
Situated where the Annisquam River meets Ipswich Bay, this family-friendly beach offers sprawling expanses of sand for relaxing, towering rocks for climbing, and ever-shifting configurations of tide pools for exploring.
Something special: Low tide reveals a long sandbar that makes for pleasant strolling, wading, and splashing.
Amenities: Concession stand offers sandwiches, snacks, and ice cream, and a cart selling slush often works the beach. Beach necessities from sunglasses to sand toys are also on sale adjacent to the food stand. Restrooms, showers, and changing rooms available.
Parking: As at Good Harbor, advanced parking reservations, made through the Yodel app, are required and cash is no longer accepted at the gate. Without a resident sticker, parking is $30 per vehicle on weekdays and $35 on weekends and holidays. No legal street parking is easily available.
Salisbury Beach State Reservation
Though beaches run along roughly four miles of Salisbury shoreline, this stretch at the juncture of the Merrimack River and the Atlantic Ocean lets visitors experience the relaxation of the beach without the bustle of the town.
Something special: The reservation is home to 484 campsites, making it one of the only places in the state you can camp almost directly on the beach.
Amenities: Restrooms and showers are available, and there’s plenty of room for picnicking. A playground offers plenty of off-the-sand fun for the kids.
Parking: Daily parking fee of $14 for Massachusetts residents and $40 for out-of-staters; parking can be paid for in advance through the Yodel app. Check the state parks website for parking status updates so you can be sure you’ll get a spot.
Newburyport and Ipswich
It is spoken of as a single destination, but Plum Island includes miles of beaches, private property, the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, and the Sandy Point State Reservation (the very southern point even dips into Ipswich).
Something special: Birders should pay special attention – the island is known as a prime place to view all manner of feathered friends.
Amenities: The parker River visitors center offers educational exhibits and bathrooms. Restrooms are also available at parking lot #1 in the refuge and at Sandy Point.
Parking: Small private parking lots can be found around the island. Both the refuge and the reservation offer parking. The fee for admission to the refuge is $5 per car or $2 for bicycles or pedestrians.
Front Beach and Back Beach
A pair of public beaches separated by just a few plots of private land, these two beaches sit just on the outskirts of bustling downtown Rockport. These beaches distinguish themselves by offering an unusual combination of views: a sweep of ocean edged by charming and historic buildings.
Something special: A rocky stream cascades down the north end of Front Beach, creating a perfect spot for kids to splash around and exercise their imaginations.
Amenities: Public bathrooms available. No concessions, but a variety of restaurants and cafés are a very short walk away. A playground in the park across the street offers kid-friendly entertainment.
Parking: Metered street parking is available near the beach, or visitors can park free at the Blue Gate lot on the outskirts of town and take a $1 shuttle to the beach.
Named for the melodic noises its sand sometimes makes underfoot, Singing Beach is a modest but stunning spot, easily accessible, but secluded enough to feel like a true escape.
Something special: Singing Beach is one of the only places on the North Shore to access a beach via train—the town’s commuter rail station is just a half-mile away.
Amenities: The 1920s bathhouse features a small but above-average snack stand, bathrooms, changing rooms, and showers.
Parking: From June 20 to Labor Day (with the exception of July 4), the beach-adjacent parking lot is open to non-residents for $30, if space allows. Some metered public parking is available in the town center. The Local Boy Scout troop also sells parking downtown for $25 per vehicle. For walk-ons, beach admission is $10 per person between the ages of 12 and 65 (or score a season pass for $35).
One of the region’s most iconic beaches, Crane Beach features acres of pristine white sand, enchanting seaside habitats, and sweeping views across Ipswich Bay into the open ocean.
Something special: Beyond the beach, visitors can stroll miles of trails through dunes, forests, and marsh, exploring diverse natural habitats and maybe even catching a glimpse of a deer or fox.
Amenities: Bathrooms, changing areas, and showers are available. A refreshment stand sells snacks and drinks, and the beach store offers up everything from sunscreen to handcrafted gift items.
Parking: Timed reservations are required to park at Crane Beach. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, parking is $40 per vehicle on weekdays and $45 on weekends and holidays, with discounted rates after 4 p.m. Prices are lower in the off-season and for members of The Trustees of Reservations.
Lynn Shore & Nahant Beach Reservation
Lynn and Nahant
Two abutting reservations connect to create miles of shoreline access along Nahant Bay, including Nahant’s Long Beach and King’s Beach in Lynn. A boulevard runs the length of the reservations for jogging, biking, or strolling.
Something special: If you’re feeling adventurous, check out the local kiteboarding companies that offer lessons along Nahant Beach.
Amenities: Recently refurbished bathhouses offer clean, updated bathrooms, changing rooms, and showers.
Parking: Free street parking is available along Lynn Shore Drive for King’s Beach; a lot for Nahant Beach charges $10 per vehicle from Massachusetts and $40 for out-of-state vehicles. Mobile payments can be made using the Yodel app. Check the state parks website for parking status updates to ensure availability.
On the causeway connecting Marblehead Neck to the mainland, Devereux Beach offers 5.5 acres of sandy shore with sweeping views of the open ocean.
Something special: For a quintessentially New England view, stroll the sidewalk along Ocean Ave. and check out dozens of sailboats anchored in the picturesque, tree-lined cove across the street.
Amenities: Bathrooms and picnic pavilions available, as well as a concession stand and playground.
Parking: Limited non-resident parking is $15 Monday through Thursday, $20 Friday through Sunday.
Home to two beaches, this beautiful historic park offers easily accessible waterfront variety: Spend time swimming, sunning, or exploring tide pools in the rockier stretches. An adjacent rose garden adds even more to the experience.
Something special: When the ocean isn’t enough, kids can frolic in the fountains and sprinklers of the park’s splash pad.
Amenities: Bathrooms, concession stand, and lots of grassy lawn for picnics or kicking a ball around.
Parking: Onsite parking is free for Beverly residents. Non-residents pay $15 on weekdays and $25 on weekends and holidays, and only cash is accepted.
Dane Street Beach
The beach at Lyons Park in Beverly—generally known as Dane Street Beach—is a kid-friendly destination. It’s small enough that children can’t wander too far away, while at low tide the water goes out far enough for some impressive tidal explorations.
Something special: The park’s green-and-purple playground includes monkey bars, slides, an adventurous climbing structure, and even a unique swing that allows a baby and parent to swing together.
Amenities: A public bathhouse includes bathrooms and changing areas.
Parking: Free street parking.
Dead Horse Beach
The name may be a bit dark, but this beach adjacent to the Salem Willows Park offers a lighthearted, family-friendly outing.
Something special: Stroll up to Salem Willows arcade to play classic games, let the kids take a spin on the bumper cars, or snack on the spot’s iconic popcorn.
Amenities: Public restrooms are available. Food available at several establishments in the park.
Parking: Free parking available in Salem Willows Park.
Winter Island/Waikiki Beach
It may not be quite the same as that other Waikiki Beach, but this small beach in Salem combines seaside charm and local history for a respite from the downtown crowds.
Something special: Winter Island has a fishing heritage stretching back to before Europeans settled the area; when Captain John Smith first explored the region, the Naumkeag tribe was using it as a fishing ground.
Amenities: A playground, boat ramp, and restrooms are all available in the park.
Nuts and bolts: Parking at the park is $15 on weekends, $10 on weekdays.
North Shore Beaches: Charter Excursions
Lounging on the sand is all well and good, but this summer, consider trying a different point of view with a charter boat excursion lets you see the beach from out on the waves. From intimate sails to party cruises, the North shore offers a wealth of options to those who want to try out their sea legs.
Built by a traditional Essex shipbuilder, the schooner offers public trips and is available for private charters, allowing glimpses of the historic Cape Ann coastline from its wooden decks.
Frayed Knot Sailing Charters
With three cabins and a spacious salon, Frayed Knot offers overnight excursions and day sails.
Mahi Mahi Harbor Cruises
When you want to go big, Mahi Mahi can host catered private parties—Wedding? Family reunion? Blowout birthday bash?—for up to 150 people. Public cruises are also available.