7 Hidden Gem Beaches for Families Around Boston
With the Cape, North Shore, and South Shore a drive away, a day trip to a great Boston-area beach is always possible. The only drawback to the most popular beaches is, of course, crowds,—which can make parking, swimming, and watching after little kids somewhat stressful. If a quieter space to stretch out on the sand is what you're after—and many families, especially in 2020, are—check out these less-crowded beaches, which can all be reached in about an hour or less from the city.
Editor's note for 2020: Note that even these "secret" beaches can draw large groups of beach lovers, especially on weekend days. While the public beaches themselves are open to all, some beach parking lots are temporarily closed to non-residents or may reach capacity at any time in the summer of 2020, so be sure to check the links we provide (or town recreation departments, generally) for updated information before heading out. For any beach trip this year, bring your face masks and be sure to maintain at least 6 feet of social distance between your family and others.
1. Half Moon Beach—Gloucester
2020 update: Half Moon Beach is open to non-residents but Gloucester periodically closes certain beach parking lots to non-residents when capacity is reached or volume is expected to exceed capacity on any given day or weekend. Check the City of Gloucester Facebook page to see parking regulations for the dates you plan to visit.
45 minutes from Boston
What this crescent-shaped spot lacks in size it makes up for in beauty, with rocky bluffs on either side and lovely views. Its hemmed-in shape helps parents keep track of little ones, and there's a lifeguard, too. A paved path allows for stroller access.
2. Dane Street Beach—Beverly
2020 update: Non-residents of Beverly are asked to use the paid parking areas near Dane Beach in the summer of 2020, as the lot directly next to the beach is temporarily closed (at press time) to prevent overcrowding. More Beverly beach policy updates can be found here. Winfrey's Beverly location is temporarily closed (at press time).
40 minutes from Boston
For North Shore ease with minimal fuss and crowds, simple Dane Street Beach is the ticket. There's free parking right at the beach, a new playground, bathrooms, and shops and restaurants of downtown Beverly in easy walking distance. Bring beach toys and money for fudge at Winfrey's.
3. Yirrell Beach—Winthrop
2020 update: A town ordinance was recently made to restrict parking at Point Shirley to residents only through September 7, 2020. See a list of Winthrop municipal parking lots here. Lifeguarded Winthrop Beach, just north of Yirrell, is another great alternative for families.
20 minutes from Boston
Near Revere but smaller and less crowded, Yirrell offers a simple, no-frills day at the beach for families. The beach is spacious and rarely crowded, the water is shallow and usually warm, and the planes flying to and from Logan overhead add to the excitement for kids. There are no amenities at this beach (part of why it's less busy than others), so be sure to pack a cooler with lunch and snacks. There is parking off of Shirley Street.
Lovells is a boat ride and world away. Photo courtesy of Boston Harbor Islands
4. Lovells Island—Boston Harbor Islands
2020 update: Lovells is accessible by recreational boat only this summer. Visit Spectacle Island if you want to reach a Boston Harbor Island by ferry.
1 hour from Boston
This 62-acre island is less touristy than Spectacle and Georges, but has arguably the best sandy beach and swimming of all the Harbor Islands. Kids can tour the historic gun batteries and bunkers of Fort Standish, make sandcastles and swim on the island's sandy side, and hike the coastline on the rocky one. Catch the ferry from Long Wharf in Boston ($20 for adults, $13 for kids over 3).
Hit Humarock at low tide for tide pool exploring. Photo courtesy of Ali Crehan/cc 2.0
5. Humarock Beach—Scituate
2020 update: Check with the Town of Scituate; stickers to park in the beach lot in Marshfield are limited in 2020 (and sold out at press time). As noted by the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, there are paid parking spots along Marshfield Avenue leading up to the beach, but be prepared to walk or bike.
50 minutes from Boston
Nestled between ocean and river, this lifeguarded and relatively quiet and spacious stretch of South Shore sand is a premier spot for beachcombing and sandcastle building. If you're lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of seals and their pups, which come ashore during the summer. There's a small restaurant and gift shop there, too. Note: It's technically in Scituate but accessible only by Ferry Street in Marshfield.
6. GoodSpeed Island Beach—Mattapoisett
1 hour, 10 minutes from Boston
Six miles east of New Bedford, Mattapoisett is closer to Boston and less crowded than a lot of other pretty beach towns in the area. GoodSpeed Island is one of the quietest beaches here, since visitors need to park and walk a bit out to the sandy spit stretching out from the mainland. The reward: great views and lots of room to settle in for the day.
Shell Point has calm waters and lots of space to play. Photo courtesy of the Buzzards Bay Coalition
7. Shell Point Beach—Wareham
1 hour, 10 minutes from Boston
Families don't need to drive deep into the Cape to find Shell Point, a quiet and prettier alternative to the nearby town beach in quaint Onset Village. Look for hermit crabs and rent kayaks on a calm day, then stop by Nana's to fill a beach bucket with candy before heading home.
Editor's note: A previous version of this post listed Steep Hill Beach in Ipswich as an option for families, but it has been removed at the request of the Trustees of the Reservations, which is asking the public to use Crane Beach, also adjacent to the Crane Estate, instead this summer.