People will travel to the ends of the Earth to find the perfect beach, one where they can de-stress and get excited about life at the same time. But did you know that there were beaches like that just around the corner? Forget rising gas prices, you can get to these beaches without even having to fill up once. —Andrew Kaufman
Coopers Beach, Southampton
When it comes to nearby beaches, it’s hard to top the Hamptons for visual beauty. Pristine white sand and blue water abound — the Long Island shoreline contains over 115 miles of sand — and elegant mansions loom in the distance.
Coopers Beach, located in well-to-do Southampton, fits right in. The beach, which was rated the fourth best in the country by Stephen “Dr. Beach” Leatherman, offers vacationers dazzling views and endless sand.
That endless sand is one of this beach’s unique traits. Unlike most beaches — which include cliffs or other rocky areas that break up the shoreline — at Coopers Beach will not present you with pesky interruptions when you want to take a sandy stroll.
Coopers Beach offers many of the typical beach amenities — lifeguards on duty during business hours, clean restrooms, and a pavilion area in which lunch and snacks are served. The beach is also home to a series of “concerts in the park” which feature various local bands.
The only downside is that, for a public beach, parking can get a bit pricey. It costs $30 a day during the week, and $35 per day on the weekends to leave your car in one of the few spaces the beach has to offer.
Hampton Main Beach,
The Hamptons were well-represented on Dr. Beach’s list this year, as Main Beach joined Coopers Beach in the top ten, coming in as the sixth-best beach in the country. Located in East Hampton, Main Beach is even more of a playground for the rich and famous than its Southampton counterpart.
At Main Beach you can get the same wonderful views as offered by Coopers Beach — white sand and clear blue water on one side, magnificent homes on the other — and you even get them at a Hamptons-style discount. Here, parking costs only $20 per day.
One of the biggest drawbacks of Main Beach is the sheer number of people who go there — as one of the biggest shoreline draws in the Hamptons, it is often packed with beachgoers and socialites alike. Luckily, there are several neighboring beaches you can run off to if Main Beach gets a bit too loud. Nearby Georgica Beach is another local favorite: There you can experience all the beauty of the Hamptons for a fraction of the hassle.
Point Pleasant Beach,
Located in Northern New Jersey, Point Pleasant Beach is the finest of the many fantastic beaches the shore has to offer. Point Pleasant offers all kinds of typical beach activities, from surfing and scuba diving to the more Northeastern-exclusive seafood festivals and fishing.
It is in this last pursuit that Point Pleasant manages to distinguish itself. Shore fishing opportunities are everywhere, including at the famed Manasquan Inlet, known by locals and visitors as “The Wall.”
There are rides, too. Jenkinson’s Boardwalk features a variety of attractions, including an aquarium, a funhouse, and all types of arcades, games and rides. Frank Sinatra tunes can be heard from people’s homes throughout the day. At night, the boardwalk morphs into well-lit, populated hangout. Stick around for a drink at Martell’s Tiki bar or Jenkinson’s Nightclub.
Parking is cheaper here, but not quite free — it will cost you anywhere from $4 to $12 — and entering the public access beach will cost you a nominal fee as well.
Narragansett Town Beach, Rhode Island
If surfing is your passion, look no further. This Rhode Island beach is quickly becoming the place to go if you want to ride waves in the Northeast.
The beach is a huge attraction from mid-July to mid-September, when the aftereffects of hurricane season cause waves to rise to heights as great as 10 feet. But even in the winter, waves get as high as three or four feet.
Narragansett Town Beach offers surfing options for people of all skill levels, from the most experienced competitor to someone who has never touched a board. The beach plays host to the Narragansett Surf League as well as a variety of Eastern Surfing Association contests, usually around once a month. Beginners can take private lessons for as low as $35 per hour. Female surfers-to-be can partake in the Shred Betties program, where they will learn the basics of the sport. The program begins July 19 and runs for four consecutive Thursdays.
If you plan on traveling to Narragansett for a day of surfing, get the family up at the crack of dawn. The best waves are usually found in the early-morning hours.
Old Orchard Beach, Maine
At a distance of just over 300 miles from the City, this is the one beach that requires some pretty good gas mileage to reach without having to fill up the tank again. But this hokey New England staple is well worth the trip.
Unlike most of the other beaches on this list, which attract visitors due to their pristine sand, cool breezes, and clear blue water, Old Orchard’s biggest draw is that it offers fun for the whole family. Within the area immediately surrounding the beach are several amusement parks and miniature golf courses, combing to create an atmosphere that resembles that of a carnival.
Various waterfront activities are available, including canoe and kayak trips, lobster boat tours, deep sea fishing and whale watching, which is always a popular New England excursion.
Old Orchard beach offers plenty at night, too. Enjoy a warm bowl of clam chowder after a day in the cool sea, then sit down to a two-pound lobster at one of the area’s 40-plus restaurants. Cap the day by listening to some live jazz, and then rev the engine for the journey back. You’ll be glad you made the trip.