Summer Travel: Beaches
Near and dear Massachusetts: Lucky Boston: Cape Cod and the Islands are a hop, skip, and puddle-jumping plane away. Just half an hour past the Sagamore Bridge, South Cape Beach State Park has a little bit of everything: a white sand beach, warm water – it’s between the Nantucket and Vineyard sounds – and a hiking trail that loops through marshes and ponds, with guided walks organized by the Waquoit
Ocean, and Then Some Rhode Island: A visit to Fort Wetherill State Park (Fort Wetherill Road, Jamestown, 401-423-1771, http://riparks.com/fortweth.htm) starts at the top of the 100-foot-high granite cliffs overlooking Newport Harbor. Grab one of the dozen newly donated memorial benches for a picnic with a view or to rest from a game of catch. For swimming and snorkeling, follow the scuba divers down to the crescent-shaped beach in the cove, where rocky terrain protects visitors from the wind and even offers some shade. Don’t forget to bring a flashlight and sturdy shoes so you can explore the park’s huge abandoned military fort.
For the Birds Connecticut: Yes, you’re off to the beach at Rocky Neck State Park, but the entrance to the Connecticut park, with its velvety foliage and reedy wetlands, gives off more of a jungle vibe. The 710-acre park has a mile-long crescent-shaped beach of fine white sand. Avian life – osprey, cranes, and herons – is plentiful, thanks to a tidal river to the west and a salt marsh to the east. There are also hiking trails and ample campgrounds. Route 156, East Lyme, 860-739-5471, http://ct.gov/dep
Surprise! Sand Maine: A sandy beach is rare in rocky Maine, which is probably why the parking lot at Popham Beach State Park in Phippsburg fills up so early on summer days. That’s not to say the place is rock-free. But rather than pebbles underfoot, there are large outcroppings along the coast, creating tide pools for kids to explore. At low tide, walk along a sand bar out to the rocky Fox Islands for views of the Morse and Kennebec rivers as they empty into the Atlantic. If you want to stick around for a few days (with a guaranteed parking spot, to boot), consider the Popham Beach Bed and Breakfast, which sits right on the sand, as it used to be a Coast Guard station. Popham Beach State Park, Maine Route 209, Phippsburg, 207-389-1335, http://maine.gov/doc/parks; Popham Beach Bed and Breakfast, 4 Riverview Avenue, Phippsburg, 207-389-2409, http://pophambeachbandb.com
Enchanted Forest Vermont: If you’ve had enough saltwater, head inland to Grout Pond, smack in the middle of the Green Mountain National Forest. The Vermont pond, which is reached from a remote road, has a small swimming beach, some grassy areas, a few picnic tables, and a canoe launch. Manchester District ranger Alex Sienkiewicz recommends the canoe camping here: Paddle your gear across the pond to one of the 12 rustic campsites (they’re accessible by foot, too, but plan to hump your stuff the whole way). You can swim off the campsites and fish for brook trout, too. Forest Road 262, Stratton, 802-362-2307
A Perfect Day trip Massachusetts: The North Shore’s Crane Beach, best visited in early or late summer to avoid greenhead-fly season, has all the beach basics – refreshments, restrooms, changing facilities, lifeguards, and ample parking – with anything-but-basic beauty. Even the trip there, through quaint towns and past more than a few farmers’ markets, is picturesque. From the parking areas, take a boardwalk over grassy dunes down to the 5-mile-long sandy beach that seems to stretch forever in both directions. A huge sand bar forms to the right of the main entrance, providing shallow wading pools for kids (and grown-ups who prefer bath-like water temperatures), and roped-off hiking trails wind through the dunes and along the shore. If you plan to visit more than once, become a member of The Trustees of the Reservations for a greatly reduced entrance and parking rate. The Crane Estate, Argilla Road, Ipswich, 978-356-4354, http://thetrustees.org