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The Best New England Beaches for Families

Those laps through the neighbor’s sprinkler aren’t going to cut it for much longer — when the kids’ energy is running as high as the mercury, you know it’s time for a family trip to the beach. Luckily, here in New England, a waterfront playplace is never too far away. Our favorite New England beaches for families have gentle waves, soft sand, lifeguards on duty, convenient facilities, and are easy for the whole family to access, even with sandcastle-building equipment in tow.

Family beach on Cape Cod
Photo: Red Jacket Beach Resort, Yarmouth, MA

Ogunquit Beach and the Maine Coast

With three miles of white sand and two public access points, Maine’s Ogunquit Beach has plenty of room for the kids to run wild. Low tide reveals even more: shallow pools and marsh area emerge around the mouth of the Ogunquit River. That long stretch of sand makes for safe swimming, too. Its gradual recession into the ocean lowers the risk of a dangerous undertow compared to a beach with a steep dropoff. The town’s top-notch team of lifeguards keeps swimmers at ease, and on-site public restrooms and snack bars help make the most of a family day at the beach. For an extra treat, check out the annual Ogunquit Kite Festival. Here are some of our favorite beachside places to stay in Ogunquit.

Ogunquit Beach Kite Festival
Photo: The Dunes on the Waterfront

You’ll find plenty more gorgeous Maine beaches along the state’s 228 miles of Atlantic coastline. Mother’s Beach in Kennebunk is another family favorite, with tide pools, lifeguards, and even a seaside jungle gym. A little further north in Cape Elizabeth, Crescent Beach also has calm waters and lush sand dunes. To the south, York Harbor’s sandy Harbor Beach is bounded by sea-washed boulders with fishing boats going by in the distance. You'll find an abundance of distinct and pleasant hotels, inns and resorts up and down the coast of Maine.

Family Beaches on Cape Cod

Race Point Beach
Photo: Provincetown Hotel at Gabriel's

Cape Cod’s world-class golf courses and classic villages are an added bonus to its biggest draw: this arm-shaped land mass is essentially one giant beach. On the north shore, you’ll find small waves and warm water. To the south and east, stunning ocean views, rare protected wildlife and historic lighthouses. A family can’t go wrong on Cape Cod, but we do have a couple of tips. Resorts with their own private beaches, like Red Jacket Beach Resort, make it easy to avoid crowds in the middle of the summer. At the very tip of the peninsula, Race Point Beach is a family favorite, too: it’s pet-friendly, and visitors have been known to spot humpback whales and gray seals from shore. More Massachusetts beachfront hotels

Lakefront Beaches in New Hampshire and Vermont

Not every day by the water requires an ocean — further inland, lakefront beaches are a blast for adventurous families. Flat water makes canoeing, kayaking, or rowing easy and safe at any skill level, and a number of resorts have other lakefront activities available for guests. New Hampshire’s Indian Head Resort has a private lake with paddle boats, and guests are allowed to fish for stocked trout without a license. Further east, Purity Spring Resort has sandy beaches and even offers waterskiing and knee boarding in the summertime.

Paddle Boats in New Hampshire
Photo: Indian Head Resort

At Basin Harbor Club on the shore of Vermont’s Lake Champlain, aspiring sailors can rent a boat with an instructor or test their balance on a stand-up paddleboard. The dock area also has a floating trampoline for kids and plenty of comfortable spots for parents to relax and watch. We also recommend these lodging options near beaches in New Hampshire and Vermont.

Southern New England Family Beaches: Rhode Island and Connecticut

For the warmest water, head south. Rhode Island and Connecticut might have fewer miles of coastline than their ocean-lined neighbors to the north, but their beaches are just as attractive.

credit: Discover Newport (RI)
credit: Discover Newport (RI)

In Rhode Island, Roger W. Wheeler State Beach is a go-to for families, with gentle waves and convenient on-site facilities. If you’re craving bigger waves, head to Narragansett beach — it’s the top surf spot in the state. According to Yankee Magazine, Silver Sands State Park in Milford, Connecticut, has the warmest water in New England. There’s a marsh between the parking lot and the beach, and though the boardwalk can be a bit of a hike for small children, smaller crowds on the beach itself make the distance worthwhile. After a day of fun in the sun and sand, there's nothing quite like knowing you don't have to travel far to rinse off and relax. Luckily, these favorite spots are easily accessible from a variety of nearby inns and resorts near beaches.

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