Boston is a city, but fortunately for locals and visitors, it's a coastal city, which means there are plenty of options for hitting the beach, both in and slightly outside of the city. The beaches below are either accessible by Boston's public transportation, either the MBTA or Commuter Rail, or around an hour (in some instances a tiny bit more) driving distance from the city.
Revere Beach is America's oldest public beach and is ideal for Boston day trips, especially since you can take the MBTA Blue Line right to Revere Beach Station. Established in 1896, Revere Beach was the first public beach in America and boasts a rich history. Be sure to stop by Kelly’s Roast Beef for some of the most famous sandwiches and fried clams in town. Revere Beach is also home to the annual International Sand Sculpting Festival, which takes place in July.
One of Massachusetts's most scenic beaches is actually easily accessible via the Commuter Rail train, a bonus since the limited parking at the beach is for Manchester-by-the-Sea residents only, and the nearby public parking lot is apt to fill up rather quickly during summer days. The gorgeous, rocky landscape at Singing Beach can often make you feel as if you traveled hours for a beach vacation, yet the train awaits you just steps away. The beach gets its name because the sand makes a noise that sounds like music when you walk on it.
To get there, take the Commuter Rain from North Station to the Manchester stop. From there, it's about a half-mile walk to the beach. There is a walk-on fee per person each day.
Carson Beach, located in South Boston, may not be the most serene or secluded seashore spot in New England, but it is a fine place for a respite from a mid-summer day in the city. There are clean bathhouses here, fantastic views of the Boston Harbor, and walkways for pedestrians and bikers. You'll also see groups of locals playing volleyball, and there's a beach hut serving up lunch and ice cream.
To get there, take the Red Line to the JFK/UMass station. The beach is a short walk across Morrissey Blvd. There is a very small parking lot available, but it is typically full, and street parking also tends to get packed during the summer months.
M Street Beach
If you're heading toward Castle Island in South Boston, M Street Beach is just a few blocks over from Carson Beach, just past the Curley Community Center, known to many as the L Street Bathhouse. There tends to be more of Millennial crowd at this part of the beach, though the experience is pretty similar to Carson.
Take either the same directions as Carson and walk over to M Street Beach or opt for the bus. The #10 bus will drop you off at East Broadway and M Street, and from there it's a 0.4-mile walk to the beach. Another option is to take the #11 bus to East 8th St at M Street, which will drop you off just a two-minute walk from the beach. If you prefer to drive, there is on-street parking available, though it fills up fast.
Castle Island Beach
Castle Island is home to Sullivan’s, the famous lobster roll take-out spot, and Fort Independence, the imposing and impressive Fort Independence, the oldest, continuously fortified site of English origin in the United States. But Castle Island also boasts its own beach that provides unparalleled views of the downtown skyline as well as the historic Boston Harbor. It’s a favorite location for locals, yet one that doesn’t seem to make the tourist map all too much.
Castle Island is just a bit past M Street Beach, though in addition to street parking, there is an actual parking lot by Sullivan's. Keep in mind that like most beach parking lots, this one gets crowded. You can also access Castle Island via the 5, 7, 9, 10 or 11 MBTA busses, depending on where you are coming from.
Plum Island Beach
Just under an hour north of Boston on I-95 is the coastal town of Newburyport, which has a waterfront downtown area filled with brownstones, shops, and restaurants. Those who live in or visit Newburyport are typically big fans of Plum Island, and one of the best things to do there is visit the beach.
From Boston, take I-93 North to Exit 37A to get onto I-95 North. Then you'll take Exit 57 for Route 113 East, which will take you through Newburyport and Newbury. Details on exact directions once you're in the area can be found here. Once you're there, you'll find several parking lots on the Parker River Wildlife Refuge, but unfortunately most are small. Try to get into Parking Lot #1 on the left, but keep in mind that there can be a wait to get into any of the lots during the summer. There is a much bigger parking lot that you can get to by turning left onto Norther Boulevard and following it to the North Point of Plum Island.
Good Harbor Beach
About the same distance from Boston as Newburyport, but in a slightly different direction, is Gloucester. This is another beautiful beach town and home to one of the best beaches in Massachusetts, Good Harbor Beach. Here you'll take in views of the Twin Lighthouses on Thatcher Island and Salt Island as you relax on the white sand beach. At low tide, you can even walk out to them. Keep in mind that this beach has a "Carry In-Carry Out" policy, so plan to bring a trash bag.
Given Good Harbor Beach's popularity, it's recommended that you get there nice and early—the gates open at 8 a.m. Parking is $30 during the week and $35 on weekends and holidays. Good Harbor Beach is located on Thatcher Road/Route 127A. Driving from Boston, you'll take Route 128 North into Gloucester.
If you're staying in Gloucester, another great beach option is Wingaersheek Beach, which is particularly beautiful and good for families at low tide.
Crane Beach is located on the Crane Estate in Ipswich. Here you'll find clean water, gorgeous views, and a nice family beach complete with sand dunes and a salt marsh. Something that makes this beach special is that it is a nesting site for a threatened bird called the piping plover. The beach has been recognized for its shorebird protection efforts.
Crane Beach is located off of Route 128 North's Exit 20A. After that, take Route 1A for eight miles to Ipswich, turn right on Route 133 East and follow for a mile and a half. Then turn left on Northgate Road, right on Argilla Road and follow for 2.5 miles until you reach the beach parking. Parking is $30 for non-members.
If you continue up a couple more exits on I-95 North, you'll wind up in Southern New Hampshire, where you'll find the Hampton Beach boardwalk, beach and lots of restaurants and bars. Many Massachusetts families find themselves spending a weekend or week on Hampton Beach because there is plenty of things to do with a family. Also, you can catch a concert or show at the Hampton Casino Ballroom, located right on the strip.
If you keep driving North along the beach, you'll find several other less crowded beaches that are ideal for families and surfing and sunbathing in the towns of North Hampton and Rye.
If you're heading south of the city, try Wollaston Beach along Quincy Shore Drive in Quincy, about 20 minutes south of Boston, depending on the traffic and time of day. This is toward the beginning of what Bostonians consider the "South Shore."
Parking is available along the beach, but as with all of the area's beaches, get there early to get your spot reserved. To get there, take I-93 South to Quincy Shore Drive.
As you continue south, you'll reach many other beautiful beaches. One popular beach is Duxbury Beach, part of a 7.5-mile stretch of beach that stretches from Marshfield to Saquish. Duxbury Beach is the four-mile section in the town of Duxbury. Here you'll see locals driving their Jeeps out onto the sandy beach, as you're allowed to do so with a permit.
To get to Duxbury Beach, you won't want to rely on plugging that in verbatim into your GPS, as it isn't typically recognized. Instead, use 260 Gurnet Road in Duxbury as your destination. This will take you down Route 3 to Exit 11 to MA-14 toward Duxbury/Pembroke. Parking will cost you $20 per car.