Your perfect beach
Take the scenic Rockport commuter rail line and then hoof the few short blocks to Front Beach in Rockport, which has shallow water that's ideal for kids, but no parking whatsoever. In town, visit art galleries and gift shops, and pick up some just-caught lobsters for dinner.
Avoid the $22 parking fee -- and a full lot after noon -- at Ipswich's popular Crane Beach by taking the Newburyport commuter rail line to Ipswich Station. Catch the Ipswich-Essex Explorer shuttle bus, which runs on weekends and holidays in the summer between 10:20 a.m. and 5 p.m. Once you're there, enjoy lunch from the best snack shack on the North Shore.
A day at Revere Beach in Revere means close quarters with buff bodies and blaring boom boxes. But it doesn't have to mean sitting in traffic on Route 16. Hop the T's Blue Line to Revere Beach Station, cross the street, and enjoy the scene.