Running on a beach is one of life’s great pleasures. For runners, there’s nothing like the feeling of firm sand underfoot, the splash of water kicking back, and that open, free feeling with a seemingly unlimited horizon.
In honor of Memorial Day and the official start of summer, we’ve put together this admittedly subjective guide to the best beaches for running in New England. From a running perspective, not all beaches are created equal. Here are the criteria that make for a great beach for running:
- Firm Sand. This is the most important element. Running on soft sand is really challenging and not very pleasant. But finding that perfect texture of hard packed happens only on some beaches and in certain conditions. If you think you could almost bike on it, the sand is firm enough. Generally, the best firm sand occurs as the tide is going out, from mid to low tide. To check tides, visit tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov, or download an app such as Tides Near Me or Tide Table.
- Fairly flat. It’s a real challenge to run on a sloped beach. So, firm sand and fairly flat are the ideals.
- Seamless. To meet our criteria, there must be at least 1 mile of continuous running.
My two favorite running beaches in New England are Crane’s Beach in Ipswich (Boston’s north shore), and Ogunquit Beach in Maine. In the right conditions, these beaches hit the “beach running trifecta”: firm, flat, and at least 2.5 miles of seamless glory.
Our guide below, organized by state: Massachusetts (north shore, Cape Cod), New Hampshire, Maine, and Rhode Island.
Near Boston: Revere Beach
1.5 miles one-way. Boardwalk option. MAP
Access: Blue Line to Revere Beach or Wonderland
Along with Swampscott-Nahant, this is the best seamless beach run within proximity to Boston and accessible via public transport. The beach and facilities have been restored in recent years. It’s a great, flat run of about 1.5 miles. There is also a paved walkway along most of the stretch. It’s great people watching, there are famous snack joints such as Kelly’s Road Beef, and a famous sandcastle competition in summer.
Near Boston: Nahant-Swampscott: Kings Beach, Nahant Beach, Lynn Shore Dr.
3 miles one-way. Boardwalk option. MAP
Access: Parking along the beach; Commuter Rail stop at Swampscott
This is a great beach/boardwalk run 1/2 hr. north of Boston and 20 minutes from Logan Airport. There is a wide paved boardwalk paralleling Nahant Rd. and Lynn Shore Drive, for nearly 3 miles. Nahant Beach and Kings Beach are wide and feature great firm, packed sand perfect for running at most times. Red Rock Park juts out above Kings Beach. I love this area because of the combination of beach and boardwalk. There are a couple of beach breaks where one has to hop up on the sidewalk. There are wonderful, open views the whole way, and facilities in season. At the Nahant end, Tides Restaurant is a New England classic. At the northern end, Swampscott Center is lovely, with good restaurant and shopping options.
South Shore: Nantasket Beach
3.5 miles one-way. MAP
Parking is managed by DCR. Can fill up on busy days.
Nantasket is sort of the south shore cousin of Revere Beach. An oceanfront playground dating back more than a century, Nantasket offers a nearly seamless, 3.5 mile run, starting from near the intersection of Nantasket Ave. and Atlantic Ave. (Beachfire restaurant), all the way out to Point Allerton. There are some fun spots and sights along here, including the old-fashioned Fascination arcade, and the Paragon Carousel. A nice-add-on option is to combine with a run/walk in nearby World’s End reservation, or a meal and some shopping in lovely Hingham Center.
North Shore: Crane’s Beach
2.5–3.0 miles, one-way
Access: Big Parking Lot (expensive). Commuter Rail to Ipswich.
Crane’s Beach in Ipswich is one of the most popular beaches within proximity to Boston. Watch out on a hot weekend day: crowds and expensive parking. BUT, this is one of the great New England Beaches for running. So great, in fact, that there’s an annual Sand Stride 5-mile beach race in August. The running here is wonderful, particularly as the tide goes out. There are great views out to Plum Island to the north and Rockport to the southeast. It’s possible to do about 3 miles from one far end to the other, though this can vary due to tides and other conditions. During a two-week period, usually toward the end of July, Crane’s is bombarded by greenheads, a particularly nasty form of biting insect. The positive side: they don’t bother you while you’re running…just don’t stop.
Cape Cod: Bay Side Beaches
5 miles, one-way from Breakwater Beach to Boat Meadow Landing. MAP
Parking: Permit only in season, in sections. Public Parking at Skaket Beach.
The best beach running on the Cape tends to be on the Bay side. While the ocean side is more rugged and scenic, the beaches there tend to be sloped, and firm sand for running is not predictable. The Bay side is marked by long, flat stretches of beach with big tides, revealing tide pools and mud flats at low tide. When the tide is out, it can be 1/2 mile just to run from the beach to the water!
There are miles of Bay side beaches on the Cape, but one of my favorites is in the Brewster area, near Nickerson State Park and Skaket Beach. One can do about 5 miles, one way, between Breakwater Beach to the north, past Rock Harbor, all the way to Boat Meadow Landing in the south. In good conditions, this is beach running heaven. Two caution points: the running is VERY DEPENDENT on the tides. Near Skaket Beach and Rock Harbor, there are breaks where the water fills in and you can get caught (or have to swim across the break). The beach is not nearly as runnable at high tide. So study your tide charts carefully. Also, when it’s windy on the Bay side, the sand can “ripple”, which can make it a bit challenging or unpleasant to run, especially in bare feet.
Cape Cod: Great Island
Great Island is one of the most wonderful places to run on Cape Cod. The beach at Great Island is fantastic for running at low tides. The area is a popular walking/hiking trail, combining pine forest, mud flats, marshes, and a beautiful beach. It is a challenge to ‘run’ the full ~7 mile Great Island Trail, as the sections of the trail not on the beach are mainly soft sand. There is a trail from the parking lot that leads directly to the beach, where it’s possible to run as much as 3-miles to the end at Jeremy Point — but the amount you can run depends on the tides. From the parking lot, take the main trail, and after about 0.2 miles, you can decide to go left on the main walking trail or right to go to the beach. Please study a tide chart! Our map includes the full walk/hike trail.
Cape Cod: National Seashore Beaches
The signature ocean side beaches on Cape Cod are along Cape Code National Seashore, which stretches from Eastham to Provincetown. These are some of the most beautiful and rugged beaches on the eastern seaboard, with their gorgeous dunes, cliffs, and crashing surf. They have been protected from development since the early 1960s.
The beach is almost continuous from Nauset Beach in Orleans to Race Point Beach in Provincetown, and around the bend to Herring Cove Beach on the Bay side. As a result, it’s difficult to proscribe a particular “run” or distance. The principal beaches, in terms of parking, facilities, and so on are: Nauset Light Beach, Coast Guard Beach, and Marconi Beach in the Eastham/Wellfleet area, and Race Point Beach and Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown. In the summer months, the biggest parking lots are at Nauset Light, Marconi, and Race Point.
If you’re closer to Provincetown, running out Race Point Light in the right conditions is exhilarating. Herring Cove Beach, on the Bay side, is a little calmer. You can run ‘around the bend’, but it might be affected by the tides.
Running on the National Seashore beaches can be fantastic but it is also situational. Storms and erosion are constantly changing the landscape and the geography from one season to the next. This means that the beach might be sloped, and some spots have less “beach” — the geography is constantly changing. But it’s also possible to get wonderful stretches of firm, flat sand at mid to low tide. One other note: there are seasonal closures on some parts of the beach due to bird nesting. See here for more information, or call (508) 771–2144 to find out current conditions.
Hampton Beach, along with Seabrook Beach directly to the south, are the two best beaches for running in New Hampshire. The place is a scene, with big crowds, waves, and bikers on a typical summer weekend. The beach runs nearly 1.5 miles from the southern end at Hampton State Park to the Salt Marsh Conservation Area, at the intersection of Rt. 1A and Rt. 101. Good info on Hampton Beach.
As an aside, there is some nice ocean side road running, heading north from Hampton Beach all the way to Odiorne Point State Park, 12.5 miles one-way, following Rt. 1A/Ocean Ave. There’s a sidewalk or decent shoulder most of the way, and other beaches that are good for running. To the south of Hampton Beach, one can also run, seamlessly along Seabrook Beach and Salisbury Beach, straddling the MA/NH border, some 5 miles.
Ogunquit Beach/Wells Beach
2.4 miles one-way. MAP
Parking: Paid, next to beach. On crowded days, parking off Beach St. just before the bridge over River Rd. Can also access the beach from Wells.
Ogunquit is one one of my favorite beaches for running in New England. It’s long, wide, flat, open, and has consistently good “beach running” conditions. Ogunquit Beach is in southern Maine, about a 1.5 hour drive north of Boston and 1/2 hour south of Portland. The beach is almost always runnable, except for at high tide. As soon as the water starts slipping back, go for it. The run is about 2.4 miles one-way, from just south of Beach Rd., heading north toward Wells. North of Furbish Rd., the beach gets a little rocky. There are numerous access points to the beach, between Ogunquit and Wells.
There are bathrooms and beach facilities right off the beach, and some traditionally “beach-y” places for food. About 1/2 mile inland from the beach, in the small town of Ogunquit, there’s a wonderful old candy store, making for a nice post-run reward. A nice extra run, while not a beach run, is to take the Marginal Way path, from just off Shore Rd. to Perkins Cove, about 1 mile.
There’s a great 5-mile “Lobster Dash” beach race in September. All finishers get a lobster role! More info.
Old Orchard Beach
Old Orchard Beach is a fantastic beach for running. It’s nearly 7 miles from the southern end at Camp Ellis to the northern end at Pine Point, with great views of Saco Bay and Prouts Beck. The signature spot of Old Orchard Beach is the 500-foot pier. Like Ogunquit, Old Orchard Beach is flat and wide, with consistently excellent running conditions. The full 7 miles includes Saco, Old Orchard, and Scarborough Beaches. At the southern end, if you want to go all the way to Camp Ellis/Ferry Beach State Park, there’s a break at Goosefare Brook where depending on the tides you might have to wade across or head up to the road briefly. From the break heading north, it’s 1.3 miles to the Pier, and 3 miles from the Pier north to the end at Pine Point Beach, with views to Prouts Neck. From the break heading south, it’s 2.4 miles to the end near Fairhaven St.
The Downeaster Amtrak train runs several times a day from Boston, 1.5 hours and is inexpensive.
There are several running events annually, listed here.
There are all sorts of attractions at Old Orchard Beach, including shops, restaurants, and the only amusement park on a beach in New England. Nearby there are other great areas for running and walking, including Goosefare Brook Memorial Park, Ferry Beach State Park, and Pine Point.
1 mile, one-way. MAP
Narragansett Beach is one of the best beaches for running in Rhode Island. The beach is flat and quite pretty, and famous for some of the better wave beaches in New England. There’s even a surf school. Narragansett just qualifies as a running beach, since it’s barely 1 mile from end-to-end. The beach can get crowded in summer, and at high tide on a busy day you might find it challenging to find room to run. But I have had some lovely runs along this beach.
To make this a slightly longer run, at the southern end of the beach, hop onto the sidewalk off Ocean Rd., and continue along the road, heading south, past the Narragansett Chamber of Commerce, which is a historic building that bridges over the road. There are great ocean views, and nice running for 0.7 miles, before the road turns inland. Coast Guard House is a well-known place for a beer or a bite post-run, and the town nearby features all sorts of shops and restaurants.
As a fun sort of event, bring or rent a kayak and enjoy the “narrows’ at the northern end of the beach.
Further south, toward Point Judith, is Scarborough Beach, which is not quite as pretty as ‘Gansett, but also has about 1 mile of on the beach running.
Misquamicut State Beach
2.5 miles from Winnapaug Rd. to the Weekapaug Breachway. MAP
Misquamicut is a gorgeous beach on the Rhode Island/Connecticut border, near the tony towns of Westerly and Watch Hill. It’s possible to do a lovely run on packed sand on the 2.5 mile main section of the beach. The beach can get a little narrow and crowded at high tide. There are the usual beach-y shops and restaurants along Atlantic Ave., including some rides and a water park.