If you have a boat, you can access at least a dozen sandy spots in Buzzards Bay where it’s possible to go ashore, play, picnic, swim or relax—without a town permit or permission from a landowner. And while the following strands might not compare to the sugar sand beaches of the tropics, we’ll take ‘em as uniquely New England!
Perhaps the best known and most heavily used public boater’s destination in the Bay, Bassets remains a wonderful place to hang out. Much of the island’s southern shore is ringed by sand, with relatively deep, rock-free water nearby, so there’s plenty of room to spread out or get away from the noisier groups. The large, shallow sand flat off the southern tip of the island is a great place for kids to splash around, and there’s a wide, deep area for tubing off the western shore. If you get hungry or thirsty, the renowned Chart Room restaurant at Kingman Yachting Center has you covered.
A note of caution: Poison ivy thrives in the interior of the island, so take care if you or your children get the urge to explore. Also, there are no public restrooms on the island, so plan accordingly.
At the mouth of the Wareham River, Long Beach Point is a long sandbar that’s all but covered at high tide. It’s popular among Upper Bay boaters, as it provides shelter from the prevailing summer southwesterlies and is bordered by relatively deep water with good holding ground on its northern side.
On sunny days, the point is crowded with families and picnickers, many of whom also dig for clams at low tide (check local shellfishing rules and closures before digging in). The waters here warm fast in June and stay that way well into fall, making it a good spot for swimming late into the season. As a bonus, the shallow sand flats extending to the south are ideal for kids to explore.
The village of Onset, near the west entrance to the Cape Cod Canal, boasts one of the longest and nicest natural-sand beaches in the Bay. And talk about protected! You can easily beach a kayak or dinghy along the shore and enjoy the calm, warm waters, or explore upstream into adjoining Sunset Cove or Broad Cove.
There are several restaurants within walking distance of the waterfront, including Stash’s on the Pier, Quahog Republic and Marc Anthony’s Pizzeria. Ice cream and other treats can be purchased at Nana’s, on Onset Ave.
When it comes to kid-friendly spots, this beach at the mouth of Great Sippewisset Creek in West Falmouth fills the bill. The warm, clear water and hard-sand bottom along much of the beach is ideal for swimming, but it’s the creek itself that makes the place extra special. On a high tide, you can explore deep into the marshes with a kayak or paddleboard. As the tide drops, ride the current as the water flows into the Bay. Low tide is a great time to hunt for blue crabs, which are abundant starting in midsummer.
Newbie boaters should approach the beach carefully, as there are some nasty rocks that lurk between the shore and Great Sippewisset Rock (marked by a small daymarker). Also, be mindful of the depth as the tide drops. Small skiffs can usually anchor within wading distance of shore, but may have to re-anchor due to tide changes or a wind shift.
Meadow Island (really a sand bar) is private, but its owner graciously allows the public to bring their kayaks, dinghies, Sunfish, Hobie Cats, and other small craft there and enjoy the course-sand beach and warm surrounding waters. The low-lying island is best approached from Marion’s Inner Harbor, especially in southerly winds.
Here’s a gem for small-boaters near the mouth of the Cape Cod Canal and easily accessible from Monument Beach and Onset Bay. The bowl-shaped Phinneys Harbor is bordered by beach along the isthmus to Mashnee Island. The surrounding depths here make this spot best suited to shallow-draft boats. In late summer and fall, the harbor and nearby Back River can yield excellent fishing for bass, blues, and false albacore.
Few folks beyond the locals know about this “micro beach” tucked deep inside Megansett Harbor. You’ll find it along the shore of the narrow but navigable tidal creek leading to cozy Squeteague Harbor in the village of Cataumet.
The best spot for a picnic is the small, sandy “knoll” where the river makes a sharp bend. Here you’ll find a neat little bathing bowl for small kids to splash about in, and deeper water in the channel for swimming.
The Weepeckets are a trio of islets in the southern portion of the bay, just off Naushaun Island. The largest island features a fine-sand beach and steep drop-off on its southern shore. Depending on the size and draft of your vessel, you can either nose your bow onto the sand or anchor just offshore and dinghy or swim ashore. If hailing from the upper bay, try to arrive before noon, so you can surf your way home in relative comfort when the southwesterlies begin to blow.
Kettle Cove, on the north side of Naushon Island, is one of the few spots in the privately owned Elizabeths chain where the public is allowed to go ashore. The beach that skirts the cove is small, but features fine, white sand and clear water that invites snorkeling and swimming. Small craft can pull right up to the beach as long as they keep clear of the scattered but clearly visible rocks. Larger vessels will need to anchor just offshore.
Kettle Cove is well protected from southerly winds, which makes it a great spot to hang out during the summer. Just be sure to heed the signage and do not wander inland. No public restrooms.
West Island features a series of micro beaches along the eastern shore of West Island State Reservation in Fairhaven. These small beaches are well protected from the southwest wind, and offer an easy down-sea run back to the ramp or mooring for boaters launching from Wareham, Marion, and Mattapoisett.
The major drawback to this spot is an abundance of rocks, so you’ll need to pick your way toward shore carefully. Once ashore, kids can have a blast exploring the shallows, which are home to crabs, periwinkles, and other items of interest to curious minds. There’s good clamming and fishing here, as well, but make sure you have a license. And if you want to stretch your legs, you can wander the winding shoreline or hike the trails that lead through the wooded reservation.
While this long beach is technically reserved for town residents, the extreme southern end, where a small tidal creek empties into the Bay, is fair game to those arriving by water. The area is protected from the southwest wind by Mishaum Point. The aforementioned creek invites exploration on the upper stages of the tide, and there is often good fishing nearby, especially late in the season. After your day at the beach, a good dock-and-dine option is the Sail Loft, at South Wharf Marina in nearby Padanaram Harbor. Padanaram also boasts a good launch ramp with ample parking.
Like Kettle Cove, West Beach is another section of the Naushon shore that can be accessed by the boating public. The beach rivals those found in southern climes in terms of sand quality and water clarity, but swimmers (especially children) should heed the strong currents flowing through nearby Robinsons Hole. Due to the clear water, this is a good spot for snorkeling, and the fishing in nearby Vineyard Sound can be outstanding.