I grew up with the beach in the summers on the Baltic Sea and I am glad to have the Atlantic Ocean easily accessible from where we live now. For fifteen years the beach was a five minute drive from my house, now it is half an hour – but still less than many people.
The North Shore of Boston boasts a myriad of lovely beaches for every taste, we happen to have visited almost every one of them and here are our favorites, in no particular order.
1.Plum Island (Newburyport): While the horse flies can be unpredictable here, it is still worth the trip (some Badger Anti-Bug Sunscreen would help). Large waves, steep beach with large sand granules, watch your kids carefully. There is a lot to do in the surrounding area and Newburyport, events, fine dining, lodging, and shopping. I don’t even remember where we found parking, but I think we had a free street spot.
2.Lynch Park (Beverly): I grew up at these two tiny beaches (learned to swim here!), which are not so much an attraction as the park itself. The waters are shallow enough for toddlers without large waves, though you may need to keep their feet in sandals because of sharp shells and gravel. Parking is free for residents, a fee for those out of town (about $10-15). There is a beautiful rose garden, plenty of lawn for pic nics, and a children’s playground. The outdoor shower is a little walk away from the actual beach. There are kayak rentals usually available through the summer.
3.Crane Beach (Ipswich): Pricey parking but definitely a favorite, great after hours when it is free (but before sundown, before the little biting flies come out). The waves can get pretty big, so watch for your infants and toddlers. The sand is light and fine and the beach is level, the facilities are some of the best with bathrooms and outdoor showers, and there is a concession stand if you forgot your cooler.
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4.Good Harbor Beach (Gloucester): Fine sand, large waves (on most days), huge paid [expensive] parking lot, facilities, life guards. This beach has a lot to offer but deters many by the parking price (sometimes $25). It can get pretty crowded on a hot day, so you’ll have to keep a close eye on tots that can get lost, it is best on a weeknight or the evening. Gorgeous sunsets!
5.Salisbury Beach (Salisbury): I do not like the boardwalk/town part of Salisbury beach at all, but the beach itself is nice if that’s all you want to come for. About $10 for parking or you can actually drive around and find a free spot when it isn’t particularly busy. With kids, your best bet is driving straight into the Salisbury Beach State Reservation and bypassing the slot machine town. There you’ll find $9 parking, showers, bathrooms, picnic pavilion, and a playground.
6.Singing Beach (Manchester-by-the-Sea): The parking lot near the beach is for residents only, but don’t let that stop you from visiting. It is worth the walk from downtown, grab a stroller. Clean white sand (that actually does ‘sing’ under your feet), clear waters, playful waves, not very big – but big enough. $5 fee per person on top of parking! But most people say it is worth it. You can take the commuter rail in and avoid any parking fees. Not the most convenient or cheapest, but worth checking out.
7.Nahant/Lynn Beach (Nahant/Lynn/Swamscott): This long stretch of beach attracts the large suburban population at its shores. It is usually clean but you need to be familiar with the tide schedule because high tide leaves very little of the Lynn beach to be enjoyed. At the Nahant end you’ll find Long Beach with an inexpensive paid parking lot. Other than that there is plenty of parking all along the entire beach that slivers through three towns.
8.Wingaersheek Beach (Gloucester): A great kid friendly beach which I still remember from the first time I visited it with my sixth grade class. Parking is not cheap. Fine white sand, rather shallow in both high and low tide, tide pools to explore for the kids, a great place to be on a hot summer day.
Photo: My daughter at Crane Beach, 2010