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Swimming and sand are pretty much synonymous with summer, especially in an area as blessed with beaches as the North Shore. Indeed, we have more than our fair share of iconic beaches in the region: There are the breathtaking views at Crane Beach in Ipswich, the tide pools and vast expanses of sand at Wingaersheek in Gloucester, and the easy accessibility of Revere Beach. 

These beaches are popular for a reason, but sometimes you need a little more seclusion and serenity in your beach trip. Or perhaps you want a place that’s easy to visit for just an hour or two, without packing a day’s worth of supplies to lug across a car-crammed parking lot. 

If so, you’re in luck. We’ve rounded up four of our favorite, lesser-known North Shore spots for sand and swimming, to help you find the right beach experience every time. (And if you don't find what you're looking for here, we've got plenty more options for you to consider.)

Dane Street Beach just outside downtown Beverly | Photograph by Elise Sinagra

Dane Street Beach, Beverly

This beach isn’t tucked away or remote like some of the other choices on this list, but its lack of crowds and convenient parking make it ideal for families with young kids or people looking for a quicker visit to the beach. Located on the edge of Lyons Park, just outside downtown Beverly, the beach offers easy access and lots of nearby options for grabbing food before or after a visit. 

Families with small children will appreciate the wonderful playground in the adjacent park, and the beach’s small size and shallow water. Everyone can take advantage of the park’s trees to snag a shady spot to enjoy the ocean views, and the wide, grassy field makes a great spot for a sand-free picnic or kicking a soccer ball.

Parking: A small, free public lot serves the park, and street parking is generally available.

Facilities: A public bathhouse includes bathrooms and changing areas. 

Cape Hedge Beach, Rockport

Perhaps the most secluded beach on the list, Cape Hedge is tucked away off quiet residential roads on the south side of Rockport. From some angles, in fact, it’s almost impossible to spot the beach, which is tucked away behind a cascading wall of pebbles. And we’ll be honest: Parking can be a challenge. 

Cape Hedge Beach in Rockport | Photograph by Sarah Peck

Once you find your way there, however, you are rewarded with a stretch of sand and beautiful sea-polished stones that feels almost like a private beach. Guarded on either side by rocky outcroppings, the beach offers views of Milk Island and the twin lighthouses on Thacher Island. If you visit at the right time of year, you may even spot right whales feeding just offshore. 

Should the peace and quiet become too peaceful and quiet, cross the footbridge at the far end of the beach to access Long Beach, a more popular, bustling Rockport spot. 

Parking: Small lots on South St. and Seaview St. are for residents only or those who invest in a $300 nonresident beach sticker. Street parking opens up about a quarter-mile up South Street, or you can park further afield and bike in. 

Facilities: None

Half Moon Beach in Gloucester | Photograph by Sarah Peck

Half Moon Beach, Gloucester

This small crescent beach is located within Gloucester’s popular Stage Fort Park, which may not sound particularly out-of-the-way. But by the time you cross the park, descend the ramp, and settle in between the rocky, tree-topped bluffs that flank the sand, you’ll forget all about the bustle above. 

The rocks for climbing and the playground in the park make it a great destination for families with children. And its location just a mile and half from downtown Gloucester means there are plenty of easily accessible options for drinks or dinner after the beach. 

Parking: The park includes a large lot. This summer nonresidents will be required to make a reservation for parking ahead of time on the Yodel app. 

Facilities: Bathrooms are available in the park’s visitor center, and a private concession stand offers sandwiches, fried seafood, and ice cream on the other side of the park.

Sandy Point, Plum Island | Photograph by Norman Tabor/shutterstock

Sandy Point State Reservation, Ipswich

At the far end of Plum Island, this often-overlooked 77-acre park offers spectacular views, lush white sand, and a chance to catch your breath away from the crowds. True to its name, the beach wraps around the southernmost point of the island, while trees line the inland side of the sand, conjuring a feeling of private-island isolation. As the tide goes out, it leaves behind a rippled expanse of sand perfect for strolling, beachcombing, and building sandcastles.

Parker River Wildlife Refuge | Photograph by Nancy Kennedy/shutterstock

The adjacent Parker River National Wildlife Refuge is crisscrossed with trails for visitors who want to add some exploration to their beach day. Bird lovers will enjoy the chance to spot sandpipers, herons, and perhaps even rare piping plovers, which have been known to frequent the area. 

Parking: Available, but limited

Facilities: Bathrooms are available.