This is our fourth summer living in Boston! Every year summer rolls around and the question arises: “which beach should we go to?”
Lucas and I have differences of opinion; Lucas has two priorities: location and parking. He never wants to go very far. Firstly because we usually go in the afternoon, and secondly because we don’t know how the kids are going to behave that day which means if they’re not in the mood for the beach it’s a waste of time to drive for an hour just to leave an hour later. Lucas is from Denver which means that it still irks him that we have to pay for parking everywhere and doesn’t like having to walk very far from a parking spot to our destination (although, I think this is true for all people). He’s a very practical person. I am less practical, especially when it comes to beaches. My opinion is that I’d rather drive a little longer if that means the beach is much nicer! I also care less about parking, but maybe that’s because I am not the one who’s stuck carrying everything (sorry, Lucas).
With that in mind, here are some universal truths about all the beaches I have thus encountered in Boston.
- The water is cold. Even in August.
- You’re not finding a beach that makes you feel like you’re in Key West, sorry.
- If you have a toddler between the ages of 6 months – 2 years you will change at least two sandy 💩 diapers per child.
Disclaimer: I am not a beach expert, just a mom living in Boston who has spent a lot of time thinking about which beach to go to!
Here are some of our most frequently visited beaches along with their pros and cons.
Nantasket is a 30 minute drive from Boston and about 45 minutes from Eastie where we live! I’m gonna be honest: I do not like driving to the south shore. Not because there’s anything wrong with it, but because I dislike driving through the tunnel and the city when there are plenty of beaches on this side of Boston. However, if you’re already on that side of the tunnel – this is a worthwhile trip!
Pros: It is a good, family beach. It’s pretty clean, has ample parking (although depending on how busy it is, you may need to pay for parking – going on Memorial Day weekend meant it was packed and we had to splurge $20 to park in a grassy lot) and the water is clean! The sand is also pretty soft and fine.
This beach is located in a great beach town – there are quite a few bars, restaurants and ice cream shops in beachfront locations or walking distance from the beach. This is something a lot of beaches are lacking in and around Boston and something I don’t take for granted.
Also – and this could be a fluke, since we have only been here a few times – this beach has some serious waves! We saw a dozen or so surfers this weekend, while most beaches in Boston don’t get that kind of action.
Depending on where on the beach you park your fam, you can also go fishing – which is something my husband considers important.
It’s a good beach and people know it – so it’s packed. Like, really packed. More than once one of the kids wandered into someone else’s space and you really need to stay on top of them – no wandering at this beach!
Another con – the tide! High tide reaches almost to the rocks, which pushed people out of the beach and squeezed them even closer together.
Bucket or Fuckit?
I think Winthrop Beach is a hidden gem. Located in Winthrop, MA, this beach is tucked away from tourists and city dwellers, thanks to a lack of T stops near this beach. It’s mostly all locals and I don’t think they want to share.
This is another clean, pretty beach, with fine sand and a vast beach – you’re not getting pushed off the beach from the tide at any time of the day. It’s quiet and family-oriented, and pretty empty during the week. Next to no waves makes this beach safe for your littles to hop into the water, which you can do with peace of mind; Winthrop Beach had one of the highest water cleanliness ratings in 2019, with a perfect score of 100%.
Nearby Deer Island has great fishing, with lots of striper bass; my husband and a friend caught two a few days ago.
Parking is a big problem over here, especially if you plan on coming on the weekend. This is a big pain in the 🍑.
There’s also no shops or restaurants close enough to walk to, so pack a lunch or bring snacks!
Bucket or Fuckit?
If you only have access to public transportation or are going on the weekend, fuckit. But if you’re a mom looking for a quiet beach? Bucket.
Constitution Beach is a year-round favorite of ours thanks to a really awesome playground that they have (it frequents my stories). It isn’t the *best* beach but it’s a few minutes away from us and right next to the Wood Island T stop. Other bonus features? A concession stand, tennis, handball and basketball courts, and an ice skating rink.
Everything I mentioned above, plus tons of free parking! This is a good all-around, family-centered beach. Plus, this is another beach that had great water cleanliness scores this year, with a 95% cleanliness rating.
This beach is not a place for conversation, thanks to its location. You can see and hear planes landing and taking off at Boston Logan, which sits right across from the beach. Here’s a picture from the winter where you can see the planes pretty clearly.
The sand here isn’t the greatest, but the beach itself is clean.
Overall though? This is such a good place for a family outing!
If you’re local – bucket.
Revere Beach, Revere MA.
Revere Beach has a bad rep. I think anyone from Boston (or who has lived in Boston for a few years) turns their nose up at Revere Beach, which is kind of the Coney Island of Boston. The oldest public beach in the states (est. 1896), this beach is probably the most busy beach closest to the city.
Lucas and I feel very differently about this beach.
Pros: it’s close to the city, and it’s a huge stretch of land, over three miles long. It’s accessible by two T stops on the blue line (Revere Beach and Wonderland) and there is parking all down the three miles of beach. There’s also a bandstand and a sprinkle of restaurants and ice cream shops. The beach itself is pretty wide and you won’t have a problem finding a spot to pitch your (beach) tent.
Cons: it’s not the cleanest beach, the sand is gritty and the crowd there isn’t the most family centric; meaning – while weed might be legal here now, I don’t want it around my kids. #isaidwhatisaid
But! Really, the city has done a great job trying to clean this place up. The water rating was 98% this year, pretty damn close to perfect, so even if you find some empty cans in the sand, know that the water quality is actually outstanding.
Revere Beach also hosts a Sand Sculpting Festival every July, and that brings out musicians, tons of food trucks and other fun activities for the whole family. In 2018 there were approximately 1 MILLION attendees, which is both amazing and claustrophobic, depending on how you view things. The sculptures are always really impressive.
Bucket or Fuckit?
There are better beaches. But the Sand Sculpture Festival is one for the Bucket list.
Nahant is about 30 minutes north of the city, but this long strip at the end of a peninsula is one of my favorites close to Boston.
The sand is soft and light, the water is clean, and there’s a fresh breeze that drifts back and forth over the sand. Another beach that received a perfect score on the water quality report, this one tends to be populated but not overcrowded. This beach feels more like a vacation beach and less like a city one because it’s placed away from anything else.
It’s isolated. I like this, but this also means there’s nothing besides beach, not even a lone ice cream shop. Parking also cost $10 for MA residents and $20 for non-residents after Memorial Day, making it the only one on this list without any free parking. My husband thinks this one is overrated, but I appreciate that it’s secluded and that the clientele tend to be less rambunctious than those at Nantasket or Revere.
Bucket or Fuckit?
Toss up. I think it’s worth the parking cost; Lucas does not.