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Northeast Beaches

It’s time to go to the beach! One of the best things about East Coast beaches is experiencing the stunning views at sunrise. Another interesting aspect of East Coast beaches is the cultural and maritime history. The Wampanoag and other Algonquian-speaking nations thrived within this landscape long before any township required a beach badge to enjoy its shores or before jingling ice cream trucks played their enticing soundtrack. The historical monuments, ships and ports and Colonial to Victorian to Modern architecture aptly tell our nation’s story.

Enjoy our list of seven best beaches in the northeast along with the nearby federal lands you'll enjoy exploring. A little beach time, a little exploration and your visit to the northeast beaches will create lifetime memories.

Search by State: Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island


(Rachel Carson/USFWS)

Perhaps one of the most attractive qualities of Maine beaches is their general lack of commercialism, traffic and crowds, in comparison to the more easily accessible beaches (with warmer water) in the lower northeast states. Beaches around Kennebunkport, like Goose Rocks Beach, not only provide miles of fun on the sand, but they also offer some of the most scenic glimpses of the Pine Tree State.

To enjoy birding, shell fishing, wildlife photography, canoeing or kayaking, try any of Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge’s 50 miles of coastline, salt marshes and estuaries.

Sand Beach
Sand Beach (NPS)
Sand Beach, Acadia National Park

It’s not news that Acadia National Park is home to some of the most magical and untouched coastline in the lower 48, and also some of the rockiest. Acadia’s granite laden shores make for some majestic scenery and rugged exploration opportunities. If you don’t mind the chilly water, Sand Beach offers 290 yards of gorgeous, sandy beach nestled between granite hills and acres of pine-covered woodland at the eastern edge of the park.


Biking on the Nauset
Bike Trail (NPS)

Cape Cod and Islands

It’s hard to nail down the best beach in Massachusetts, with destinations like Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Along Cape Cod National Seashore visitors will experience miles and miles of gorgeous shoreline and the typical New England scenes you might have seen in movies, with tons to do for families, nature lovers, hikers and adventurists. Recreation opportunities are also abundant along Cape Cod Canal.

And when you’re not sitting in the sand on an umbrella-lined beach, venture out to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, the birthplace of East Coast whale watching. Stellwagen, one of the world's premiere sites to view humpback, finback and endangered right whales, sits at the mouth of Massachusetts Bay. For a great daylong activity, book a spot on a whale watching tour.

New Hampshire

Rye Beach (USFWS)
Rye Beach

Located in the affluent yet bucolic town of Rye—New Hampshire’s first settlement—Rye Beach is a popular destination for New Englanders. Though most people don’t typically think of New Hampshire when one uses the phrase "beach town," Rye Beach has all the qualities you could ever want of a typical New England beach— scenery, history, and long stretches of sand.

And when you’ve had enough sun and salt water, explore some more of New Hampshire’s beauty at Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Newington, or in the fun, artsy town of Portsmouth.

New Jersey

Jersey Shore Sunrise
The Jersey Shore

Despite super storm Sandy’s visit to New Jersey and surrounding mid-Atlantic area, New Jersey’s coasts have bounced back to welcome visitors for a classic summertime experience. Think saltwater taffy, ice cream and some of the best pizza in the country. Here you’ll find the quintessential boardwalk atmosphere located on long, narrow barrier islands (or try boardwalk-less Island Beach State Park, a nature lover’s delight at the southern end of Long Beach Island).

The Jersey Shore also provides great crabbing, fishing, swimming, surfing, boating and anything else you and your family love to do at the beach. NOTE: While most of the beaches were fully ready for travelers by Memorial Day 2013, it’s still a good idea to check locally before you plan your trip.

Jacques Cousteau National
Estuarine Reserve (NOAA)
Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve

Visit the 115,000-acre Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve, by boat, explore the reserve by land or visit the Life on the Edge exhibit about the reserve at the Tuckerton Seaport Museum.

Sandy Hook (NPS)
Gateway National Recreation Area, Sandy Hook

Be sure to check the listing under New York for Gateway National Recreation Area, which includes a unit at Sandy Hook.

New York

Shorecasting in
Gateway National Recreation Area (NPS)
Gateway National Recreation Area

Gateway offers overnight camping in and around New York City on Staten Island, at Jamaica Bay in Brooklyn and at Sandy Hook, New Jersey. At Gateway, you can spend a day relaxing on the beach, biking, fishing, kayaking, birding (over 325 bird species come to Gateway) or exploring forts that go back to the American Revolution (Fort Wadsworth was a British post) through more recent times (see historic aircraft at Floyd Bennett field). In the evening, you can gaze across the water at the Manhattan skyline or visit for dinner and a Broadway show (public transportation to and from Manhattan is available seasonally).

Montauk Point
Lighthouse (KL Hiett)
Montauk Point

Montauk is one of several classic Hamptons locations. Aside from the popular beach resort atmosphere, glamor and Americana, the area has plenty of wild, open space to explore.

Be sure to visit the Montauk Point Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in the state of New York. This lighthouse was authorized in 1702 by the Second Congress under President George Washington, and was completed in November 1796. It is a National Historic Landmark and still serves as an active aid to navigation.

You might also consider a trip to nearby Amagansett National Wildlife Refuge, a 36-acre refuge and home to an incredible number of rare plants and an even more impressive number of bird species.

Rhode Island

Block Island (USFWS)
Block Island

13 miles off of Rhode Island and 13 miles east of Montauk Point, Block Island sits in the middle of the Outer Lands archipelago (made up of Martha’s Vineyard, the Elizabeth Islands, Nantucket, Block Island (including Block Island National Wildlife Refuge), Long Island and their surrounding islets). Take a ferry and arrive at this truly New England destination.