Best of Lists

Top 10 East Coast Northern Beaches

Readers Choice Top Beach Destinations

By
Doug
Simmons

Beaches may not be the first thing that come to mind when daydreaming about northern ports. But you better believe that when temperatures rise and those warm summer breezes start to blow, residents and visitors alike make tracks for sandy Atlantic Ocean curves. These 10 favorites, chosen by our Marinalife readers, provide a contrast to their palm-fringed and reef-studded southern siblings. Instead, showing off naturally diverse and sometimes-rugged shores, along with a treasure trove of historic and modern attractions.

1. CRESCENT BEACH - BLOCK ISLAND, R.I.

Several sections make up this beautiful, 2.5-mile stretch on the east coast of Block Island and everyone has their favorite. The easiest to visit is Surf Beach, just steps from the Old Harbor ferry dock, where small waves lap a tawny blanket dotted with rocks. Baby Beach, to the south, attracts families to its shallow tide pools and mild surf. Town Beach has a pavilion with concessions; Scotch Beach is broad and roomy, with a volleyball game usually under way. Whatever your taste, you can't miss with this varied, wonderful slice of heaven.

Where to dock: Champlin's Hotel, Marina & Resort (401-466-7777)

2. GEORGICA BEACH - EAST HAMPTON, N.Y.

You don't have to be rich and famous to frequent this public beach in Long Island's East Hampton. In fact, it's better that way. A bite-size 300 feet long, Georgica is one of the quieter strands in the area, popular with surfers and kayakers who like to leisurely paddle around neighboring Georgica Cove. There are lifeguards on duty during the summer and restrooms are available, but expect no other amenities here. Plan to bring a fully stocked cooler with you. However, magnificent views of the horizon-swallowing Atlantic Ocean are free and available year-round.

Where to Dock: Sag Harbor Yacht Club (631-725-0567)

3. SAND BEACH - MOUNT DESERT ISLAND, ME

Down Park Loop Road on the east side of Mount Desert Island in Acadia National Park, Sand Beach lies hidden between mountains and rocky coasts on both sides. But the discovery is so worth it. The gorgeous, 290-yard swath is comprised mainly of tiny shell fragments that have been beaten into sand by the rough shores and surf. A lifeguard is on duty from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Changing rooms and restrooms are located next to the parking area. One caveat: the water is bone-chilling cold, even in July and August, so enter at your own risk.

Where to Dock: Harborside Hotel, Spa & Marina (207-288-5033)

4. CAROLINA BEACH - PLEASURE ISLAND, N.C.

Being located in a place called Pleasure Island sets a high standard, but Carolina Beach is up to the task. The 1950s-era motels and rental cottages flanked today by upscale condos and hotels evoke a vintage coastal feel. So does the boardwalk, which is a must-see (voted one of the 10 best in the country by Food & Wine magazine). Take a stroll there and peruse the amusements and boutique shops. Drop a line from the fishing pier, or visit the docks to watch the trawlers unloading the day's catch. You can bet there's some great, fresh seafood being served at the eateries right off the beachfront.

Where to Dock: Southport Marina (910-457-9900)

5. MOSHUP BEACH - MARTHA'S VINEYARD, MASS.

Perhaps the most picturesque pick on an island known for its magnificent beaches. The soft white sand, transparent water and good surf would put it at the top of many lists already but then there's the backdrop. The multi-colored clay cliffs in Aquinnah are spectacular, enhanced by small stone cairns built by previous visitors. A lookout area above the cliffs offers a few small restaurants that serve sandwiches, burgers and such. The beach is on the western-most part of Martha's Vineyard, often overlooked by tourists, which probably explains the clothing optional area. You have been warned.

Where to Dock: Vineyard Haven Marina (508-693-0720)

6. COLIGNY BEACH - HILTON HEAD, S.C.

Looking for that Key West vibe without having to travel to, well, Key West? This is it. Coligny is Hilton Head's most lively beach, with sand volleyball courts and a giant outdoor bar just yards from the waist-deep ocean water. Here you'll find Hawaiian shirt-wearing musicians, all sorts of beach rentals, lifeguards, outdoor showers, changing rooms, even WiFi. Just a short jaunt north, Coligny Plaza feeds your need for touristy souvenirs, food and frosty beverages. Though this beach can become crowded in season, you have only to walk a few hundred yards north or south to get some elbowroom.

Where to Dock: Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina (866-400-7894); Harbour Town Yacht Basin (843-363-8335)

7. RACE POINT BEACH - PROVINCETOWN, MASS.

Watch Coast Guard ships come and go from the station around the point as you bask in the all-day glow of this khaki-colored gem. Dunes extend back from the wide cut of sand, with bike trails leading to the parking lot and, further, to Seashore Beach and Herring Cove. Stop by Province Lands Visitor Center before or after your sunning session to check out the short educational films and bookstore. Pilgrim Monument, also nearby, has exhibits about local plants and animals, as well as the Pilgrims' landing in Provincetown.

Where to Dock: Provincetown Marina (508-487-0571)

8. SANDBRIDGE BEACH - VIRGINIA BEACH, VA.

Sometimes you just want a little quiet time. So, after spending a day in Virginia Beach's bustling resort district, head 15 miles south to relax and recharge on Sandbridge Beach, five miles of golden sand along the Atlantic coast. Along with the blissful serenity of the ocean, those craving outdoor adventure can visit the marshes and open waters of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park for great kayaking, hiking and fishing.

Where to Dock: Marina Shores Marina (757-496-7000)

9. WILDWOOD CREST BEACH - WILDWOOD, N.J.

Let's get something straight right off the bat, this is not Wildwood, the noisier, newsmaking neighbor to the north. No, this is Wildwood Crest, a town known for its family appeal and historic architecture steeped in doowop culture. The beach is soft, white sand, with trained lifeguards and no alcohol, dogs or fires are permitted. Surfers have a designated area called Rambler Road Beach, where they can shred without disturbing swimmers. In the summer, outdoor concerts, fitness events and massive markets enliven this close-knit town.

Where to Dock: Schooner Island Marina (609-729-0900)

10. REHOBOTH BEACH - REHOBOTH BEACH, DEL.

Rehoboth Beach is Delaware's largest beach resort, yet still spans only one square mile. But, oh, what a mile. The downtown boardwalk is where most of the action is. It's dotted with artsy boutiques and small, funky restaurants, along with a bevy of activities like video games, rides, go-karts and miniature golf. The vanilla-colored shoreline offers up surfing and skimboard lessons, as well as deepsea fishing expeditions. Back from the shore, Rehoboth consists of shady, tree-lined streets dotted with colorful cottages and tranquil parks.

Where to Dock: Indian River Inlet Marina (302-227-3071)

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Back to School Bucket List
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The days are growing shorter, and the final weeks of summer are upon us. So, before the school bell rings, Marinalife is wondering if you’ve checked off everything on your must-do list this season. If you’re looking for ways to wrap up summer, consider the following ideas for last-dash, fun activities.

- Learn how to do a back dive, canon ball or jump off the back of the boat into the water.  Rope swings are also an invigorating option.

- Have a tiki party on a boat and serve your guests tropical blender drinks. Bonus points for Hawaiian shirts and grilled pineapple or savory Polynesian snacks.

- Pick a dozen crabs on your boat or at a waterfront dock bar, along with all the classic fixins’ of corn on the cob, hushpuppies, coleslaw and a cold brew.  If crabs aren’t your preference, a lobster, clam or crawfish boil will do just fine.

- Ride down a giant slide, roller coaster or death-defying ride at a waterpark while letting out a mighty yell.

- Body surf in the Atlantic waves or build a sandcastle strong enough to withstand the tide.

- Explore a hidden cove or a dream destination that you’ve never visited before on your boat.

- Go fishing and catch something big enough for dinner.

- Get pulled on a raft or inflatable behind a boat or learn how to waterski.

- Catch lightening bugs in a jar to make a glowing lantern.  But be sure to poke holes in the lid and release them when the fun is done.

- Under the stars, go to an outdoor movie, music festival or seafood feast.

- Learn how to shuck an oyster, clean a fish or pick a crab, then invite friends over to taste dishes made from the fruits of your labor.

- Invent a nautical cocktail to commemorate the summer of 2022.

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Nauti Shopper: Identify your new discoveries with these apps and guides
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RESOURCEFUL APPS


FISHVERIFY

Available on Google Play, the Apple App Store and Galaxy Store

This fish finder app lets anglers discover saltwater and freshwater catches with the snap of a picture. Take a live shot or import photos and the AI technology works its magic. Learn about marine habitats and check weather conditions including winds, tides, water temperature and barometric pressure. (Free download; premium subscription is $29.99/year) fishverify.com

SHELL MUSEUM: IDENTIFY SHELLS

Available on Google Play and the Apple App Store
Take photos of your shoreline discoveries and this innovative app helps you figure out what they are and the sea creature that built it. Thanks to the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum in Sanibel, FL, beachcombers can now identify most common shells found across Florida beaches in seconds. ($1.99 download) shellmuseum.org

ARGO: BOATING NAVIGATION

Available on Google Play and the Apple App Store

This navigation and social boating app offers satellite, terrain and NOAA map features, depth and contours, trip planning, voyage tracking and a captain’s log for itineraries. Find points of interest such as fuel docks, anchorages, marinas and restaurants. The social boating features helps you connect with the boating community (Free download) argonav.io

SPECIES GUIDEBOOKS

REEF FISH IDENTIFICATION — FLORIDA, CARIBBEAN, BAHAMAS

By Paul Humann and Ned Deloach

Whether you’re a southern angler or marine wildlife documenter, you’ll love combing through 1,000 photographs of more than 683 species in this book. Designed as a reference guide, this new 4th edition identifies fish and aquatic creatures throughout the waterways of Florida, the Caribbean and Bahamas. ($44.95) reef.org/products/reef-fish-identification-florida-caribbean-and-bahamas-4th-edition

KAUFMAN FIELD GUIDE TO BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA

by Kenn Kaufman Kaufman Field Guides

This guide has been a leading birdlife guidebook for decades. Vibrant photos, detailed descriptions and range maps illustrate a lively key for bird-watching excursions. The book is compact, easily portable and studies most species in North America. (Prices vary)
kaufmanfieldguides.com/birds.html

THE TRACKER’S HANDBOOK: HOW TO IDENTIFY AND TRAIL ANY ANIMAL

By Len McDougall

Whether you’re hunting for dinner, hiking or being an avid nature lover, this guide makes animal tracking easy. Discover North American species such as the American Elk and Whitetail Deer. Identify footprints, habitats and range. This book isn’t just for hunters; it’s for explorers of all kinds. ($34.56)

barnesandnoble.com/w/the-trackers-handbook-len-mcdougall/1118940778

JUNIOR EXPLORER

SKY GUIDE APP

Available on Google Play and the Apple App Store

Point a smartphone to the sky and suddenly you appear in your own planetarium with this stargazing app. Sky Guide locates your position and follows the stars in real time while superimposing constellations and figures interactively. Find planets in rotation, discover where Pisces is currently rising or catch the next meteor shower.($1.99 download) apps.apple.com/us/app/sky-guide/id576588894

OCEAN ANIMALS COLLECTION SERIES

National Geographic Kids
Children will become overnight marine biologists with this fun learning series. Young readers can spot sea otters, manatees, turtles and much more. Teach your kids about aquatic habitats with photography and unique fun facts on each species. ($17.99)

barnesandnoble.com/w/ocean-animals-collection-national-geographic-kids/1123056379

OUTDOOR SCIENCE LAB

SmartLab Toys

This outdoor set brings out kids’ inner scientific explorer. Examining bugs, plants, dirt, weather and more. Activities include testing various samples and tracking findings in a science log. Kids can enjoy after-dark exploration with the UV night scope. ($45)

shopsweetthreads.com/products/smartlab-toys-outdoor-science-lab-bugs-dirt-plants

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Top 10 New England Sailing Regattas
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What do a media mogul, movie maker and American President have in common? Taking part in yacht racing, one of our nation's oldest sports, and New England, the cradle of this sport in America. Ted Turner won the 1977 America's Cup in Newport. Roy Disney sailed from Newport to Bermuda with record-breaking speed in 2002. And in 1936, JFK earned a winner's cup racing Stars in the Hyannis Port Yacht Club race to Edgartown.

With more than 6,000 miles of shoreline, survival built on the sea from olden days of fishing and trading to today's seasonal tourist dollars, it's a natural that racing sailboats is a time-honored tradition and rite of passion for most New Englanders. Many sailors here boast blood as blue as the surrounding seas, yet everyone can find a home to race. Here's a sampling of some of the region's best-known regattas.

MAINE

Camden Classics Cup - new england regattas - marinalife
Camden Classics Cup | Alison Langle

Camden Classics Cup

July 28-30

Competition and camaraderie combine in this relative newcomer event sailed in Penobscot Bay and celebrated shoreside in downtown Camden. Over 100 sailboats, everything from vintage yachts to very fast one-designs like J/46s and J/42s, race. Classes are available for day sailors and cruising yachts, too. Dockage at Lyman-Morse is included in the race fee, so the party starts ashore when the racing ends, says organizer Mackenzie Lyman, who adds the marina operator and boat-builders have rebuilt the waterfront after a fire in 2020. Spectators can have just as much fun. Maine's Wind- jammers offer two-hour tours to view the racing, while landlubber's best bet is watching the parade of sail as dressed yachts with costumed crew parade through Camden harbor on the morning of July 30.

Boothbay Harbor Yacht Club Annual Regatta & Shipyard Cup Classics Challenge

July 23-24

A trend toward classic yacht racing and a nod to the area's deep sailing roots combined for the first time last year at the Shipyard Cup. This new addition to the nearly 50-year-old annual regatta put lots of eye-candy on the water. The 1926-built NY-40, Marilee and 1937-constructed 12-meter America's Cup contender, Gleam, plus classic Boothbay Harbor one-designs like the 21-foot, Geerd Hendel-designed, 1938-launched sloops, are expected back this year along with contemporary race yachts. We invited several America's Cup contenders to join Gleam this year on the start line, says co-chair Bob Scribner. Spectators can observe from Spruce Point, McKeown Point or Southport. A narrated parade of participants in the inner harbor starts at 10:00 a.m. on July 24.

MASSACHUSETTS

Marblehead Regatta - new england regattas - marinalife
NOOD Marblehead Regatta 2021 | Bruce

Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series - Marblehead

July 28-31

The 1889-founded Marblehead Race Week joined with National Offshore One-Design concept a few years back, and the result is close to 200 boats racing. We now have all our regular classes like J/70s, Rhodes 19s and Viper 640, plus there are usually one or two guest classes like RS21s, Skuds, 2.4's and J/24s, that hold regional championships as part of the week, says Leslie Rousseau, race committee chair for the host Boston Yacht Club. We expect to see the return of Jud Smith, two-time Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and local J-70 favorite. Spectators on land can get a bird's eye view of the racing from Chandler Hovey Park on Marblehead Neck. Those with a fast center console can watch the boats line up to start off Turkey Point in Middle River or set their chutes at the windward mark in Middle River.

Edgartown Race Weekend

June 23-25

Since 1938, celebrity-studded Martha's Vineyard is home to this week of combo coastal, offshore and round-the-island racing hosted by Edgartown Yacht Club. The history, charm and summer activity on Martha's Vineyard is a meaningful draw, in addition to fantastic wind and ideal sailing conditions, says Alex Nugent, one of the event's co-chairs. Plus, we typically host a big welcome party that's sponsored by Mount Gay Rum. New is the ‘Round-the-Sound series of races, which features 20-some nautical mile coastal sprints around Vineyard Sound and Nantucket Sound and replaces the around-the-buoy series. There's monohull and multihull, racing and cruising, double-handed and many-handed entrants including teams from state and federal service and maritime academies.

Nantucket Race Week

August 13-21

Nine days of racing, parties and awards ceremonies take the concept of race week to the extreme. There's something afloat for everyone: kids in Optis and 420s, women in Rhodes 19s, kiteboarders, radio-controlled model boats and some of the country's top sailors competing in high-performance big boats and classic wooden yachts. This year we celebrate the 50th Opera House Cup Regatta, the grand dame of classic wooden boat regattas. The Cup, named after a legendary Nantucket restaurant, attracts some of the finest wooden boats on the East Coast and Europe. There is a big awards party on the beach after the race, says Diana Brown, chief executive of Nantucket Community Sailing. The Parade of Wooden Boats offers a brochure that describes each participating boat. The public can watch the parade from Brant Point Beach.

RHODE ISLAND

Annual Regatta

June 10-12

Hosted by the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) out of its facilities in Newport, this is North America's oldest continuously held sailing event going on its 168th year. The format features two days of buoy racing, prefaced by a race around Conanicut Island. The sight of 100-plus spinnakers running north in the West Passage of Narragansett Bay from Fort Adams, Castle Hill or Beavertail Light is breathtaking. Entries are invited to one-design classes, and boats more than 24 feet race under a variety of handicaps. The Annual Regatta is one of my perennial favorites, says Paul Zabetakis, NYYC commodore and a regular participant on his Swan 42, Impetuous. The race management is impeccable with multiple course configurations. Few other venues offer the perfect combination of offshore racing in Rhode Island Sound and inshore racing on Narragansett Bay. The Saturday night regatta party is one of the biggest occasions of the Newport regatta season with sailors converging on Harbour Court for cocktails and dinner.

Edgartown Race Weekend - new england regattas - marinalife
Edgartown Race Weekend | Daniel Fors

Newport to Bermuda Race

June 17

The lawn at Castle Hill Inn in Newport and Fort Wetherill in Jamestown are ringside seats to watch nearly 200 vessels start in the East Passage on a 635-mile passage south to Bermuda. Fort Adams State Park also provides close-up views of many of the boats as they depart from Newport Harbor. The fleet then sails past Brenton State Park as it clears Brenton Reef and turns to the southeast. Charter boats and private yachts assemble to watch the start from the water as well, says John Burnham. It's one of the oldest regularly scheduled ocean races, happening biennially since 1906. This year, three high-speed multihulls -- two MOD 70s, Argo and Snowflake, and the 78' trimaran Ultim'Emotion 2 -- are entered, and each has a good chance of breaking the elapsed time race record of 34h:42m:53s set in 2016 by the 100' maxi yacht, Comanche.

Ida Lewis Distance Race

August 18-20

The fleet goes where the wind blows. The Ida Lewis Distance Race is like no other in that the Race Committee chooses from among four different courses, based on the weather. Each course incorporates some of the most storied cruising grounds in New England and is just long enough for the fleet to be offshore overnight, yet not so long to prohibit inviting family and friends to join for a first-time adventure, says Anselm Richards, event chair. The goal: get about 60-some teams to compete on race boats 28-foot and longer in double-handed, youth, collegiate and different handicap classes back to the dock in under 24 hours. The start happens off Fort Adams and ends inside Newport Harbor, where each team is handed a congratulatory bottle of Prosecco.

CONNECTICUT

Block Island Race

May 27

Stamford is the start of this Memorial Day weekend regatta that for many sailors kicks New England's offshore racing season. The 186-nautical mile course down Long Island Sound and around Block Island and back also acts as a ‘warm up' for many teams that are racing some two weeks later in the Newport to Bermuda Race, says Kate Wilson Somers, who handles media for the event. The race marks its 75th anniversary this year and is organized by the Storm Trysail Club, based in Larchmont, NY.

Cedar Point One Design Regatta

June 4-5

A 20-year+ tradition on the first weekend in June, this one-design keelboat event hosted out of the Cedar Point Yacht Club in Westport, CT, can draw as many as 800 competitors on over 100 boats. The key is that all the boats in a class are the same; no handicap scoring is needed. This makes it easy to watch, as first over the finish line is the winner. Currently, the event is open to J70, J88, J105 and J109, and Beneteau 36.7 fleets, but other fleets are welcome if they meet the requirements, says Joyce Oberdorf, who handles the club's communications.

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