Beach trips from the Capital Region

rhode island beach waves

Sometimes nothing short of the ocean will do.

By Lauren Hittinger

August is here and it's time to get out there and do all of those summer activities on your list. One of my favorites is a trip to the beach. And while Grafton Lakes or Lake George are nice, they don't really compare to the Atlantic Ocean.

The good news is that the Capital Region is close to some wonderful destinations for a day trip or overnight getaway to the beach.

Here are my top picks for ocean beach spots nearby...

The Closest: Silver Sands State Park in Milford, Connecticut
2.5 hours southeast - map

Google Map of 41.19783,-73.064908

If you are craving some beach time and you just can't wait to get there, Silver Sands State Park is the place for you. It's located on the Long Island Sound, so you'll get peace and tranquility -- but you'll miss out on the waves.

Entrance to the beach is free, but be prepared for a long walk from the parking area to the sand. There are lots of shells on the beachfront, so bring your water shoes and a bucket to collect your treasures in. Silver Sands also gets bonus points because nearby Charles Island is rumored to be a location of Captain Kidd buried treasure.

Best Jersey Shore: Point Pleasant, New Jersey
3+ hours south - map

pt_pleasant_beach_nj.jpg

I checked in with my New Jersey contingent and they all recommended Point Pleasant as a close destination on the Jersey Shore. Here you'll find a long boardwalk that has loads of activities, including rides, an aquarium, shopping, food, and a tiki bar. The beach is clean, and has adequate restrooms, but be prepared to pay a fee for the beach ($8.50 weekday / $9.50 weekend for adults, kids 5-11 $2.50, under 5 free) and for local parking.

Bonus points for Point Pleasant: You could get there by train, if you're so inclined. Amtrak to Penn Station, then the New Jersey Transit North Jersey Coast line to Point Pleasant -- the stations is about four blocks from the beach.

Most Nostalgic: Coney Island, New York
3 hours south - map

If you're looking to revisit a little bit of history, Coney Island is the place to go. From 1880 to the 1930s, Coney Island attracted millions of visitors each year as the largest amusement area in the US. It also has the oldest continually operating aquarium in the United States, New York Aquarium.

Located on the southwestern edge of Brooklyn, this spot has a whole day's worth of fun activities and people watching. The beach is free to go on, but pick your spot carefully to avoid litter. While you're there, you can also walk the boardwalk to ride a carousel, catch a minor league baseball game, or eat a Nathan's Famous hotdog. Just embrace the kookiness of an old New York landmark.

As with Point Pleasant, you could also get here by train -- Amtrak to Penn Station, then on the NYC subway.

My Top Pick: Narragansett, Rhode Island
3+ hours southeast - map

narragansett_beach_rhode_island.jpg

Growing up in Rhode Island, Narragansett Beach has always been my favorite summertime spot. At least once a year I make my annual pilgrimage to this long stretch of beach with nice sand and ocean waves. Cool off by grabbing a Del's frozen lemonade, and finish your day with clam cakes or clam chowder from Aunt Carrie's or Iggy's. Just be prepared to pay for admission onto the beach ($8 per person, kids under 11 free), and likely for parking.

While you're in town, you can visit other local beaches like Scarborough and Wheeler Beach, or see how the other half used in live in historic Newport.

Best Mini Beach Vacation: Cape Cod
3.5-4 hours east - map

boat_on_beach_provincetown_cape_cod.jpg

If you have more than a day or two to spend at the beach, you should think about heading out to the Cape. It's the perfect mix of authentic New England charm and touristy beach land. My favorite spot on the Cape is Harwich Port, but you really can't go wrong with any of the quant little towns. Because of the geography, you're never far from a beach where you can lay out, splash around, or climb dunes. Cape Cod is also great for bicycling, since there's miles of converted rail trails that connect many of the villages.

Some general beach day trip tips...

If you're heading out for a day on the beach, there are some things to keep in mind:
+ Bring sunscreen, and please, for your skin's sake, reapply throughout the day.
+ Do not bring glass containers. Most beaches don't allow glass bottles, and will make you pitch any glass to help protect everyone's toes from broken glass.
+ Stay hydrated throughout the day or risk getting heat stroke. Especially if you're consuming alcoholic beverages, you'll need a lot of water on a hot day. I like to freeze a bottle or two the night before a beach outing so it melts into cold water during the day.
+ Bring those beach toys! Even if it's just your grown-up selves going to the beach, it doesn't mean to can't play around. Wave surf on a boogie board, build a moat around a sand castle, or just play catch. A day at the beach is always more fun with extra things to keep you occupied.

Lauren writes about shopping, crafting, and living well on a small budget at The Thrifty Ginger.

Comments

Wellfleet and Truro beaches on Cape Cod - the water is cold and the waves are killer!

We just came back form a week at Wellfleet and I agree with Harold. The upshot is that there are 5 bay beaches as well as 2 freshwater kettle ponds located between the bay and ocean. All are accessible via foot/bike or car without having to touch the dreaded Route 6.

pleasantly (no pun intended) surprised to see Point Pleasant recommended as a beach trip. having grown up in that area, I have to agree...

While Narragansett is lovely, it is by no means my favorite RI beach. It's just too busy! That said, I wouldn't be sharing my favorite ones publicly because then they'd GET busy, which might be why everyone recommends Narragansett.

To avoid the crazy traffic on Cape Cod, we head to Cape Ann -- Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester is great, and if you're so inclined you can see the sights from "A Perfect Storm."

I understand the yearning for salt water, but this post overlooks the massive Great Lakes in our state. Lake Ontario beaches are as close as RI or Cape Cod (3 to 4 hours) and have sand, waves, and parks. Fair Haven and Sodus Bay State Parks on the eastern end of Lake Ontario's southern shore, are among the many beaches that offer sand, waves, and water as far as you can see. Plus, one can find beautiful lighthouses all along Lake Ontario.

I enjoyed Newport, RI when I lived in the northeast. It's a heck of a drive though.

I never understood why Lake Erie wasn't more popular as a summer destination. It's the closest big body of water to the Capital Region, is relatively uncrowded, etc. Maybe the pollution scares people away?

The photo from Provincetown is a picture of my Father-in Laws dingy pretty cool. Just got back from the cape the National Seashore beaches are pretty cool to except the water was super cold last week.

What, no love for the southern coast of Maine?!

And as someone who spent summer growing up in Fair Haven, NY I must concur with Erin. When I moved to the Capital District the lack of knowledge/familiarity with Lake Ontario boggled my mind. People would ask "oh don't they speak French there?" Or "now that's out by Buffalo, right?" Er...um..it's almost the entire northwest border of New York State, people! (And even closer than Lake Erie, yeggie T)

Gansett is nice - but URI Bay Campus in Bonnett Shores is the place to go. It's free. Amazing view of Jamestown Bridge, peaceful and if you're lucky the URI Research Ship will be docked right next door.

Yeggie T, the ocean is closer than Lake Erie. I think that you mean Lake Ontario.

A lot of the Long Island beaches are lovely, and are only in the 3-3.5 hour range for driving. Jones Beach is, of course, the most famous, and the Hamptons are way ritzy, however if you go further east there is Robert Moses, which is lovely. Also, if you can get a group together to go in on a house, Fire Island is surprisingly affordable.

And, if you decide to take an extended trip there, take a day trip to the North Fork wineries. :)

Thanks AOA and Lauren for this piece. I have never known there are nice ocean beach so close to home. We went to the Silver Sands beach this past weekend, and it was so nice. Not much wave, fine sand, and the shallow water which were really good for little ones. There were a lot of people but plenty of space still, and plenty of parking spots. There are no changing space (or not that we can find easily). There are only a few porta potty.

Thanks again!

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