Life's a Beach

New England's best family beaches
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Whether you crave the shallow waters of the Long Island Sound, the rolling dunes of the Cape Cod National Seashore, or the jagged granite shores of Maine's long inlets, the New England coast is a multi-faceted mecca for sun worshippers. The only problem is finding some pristine speck of sand that has yet to be covered with a towel. Heading from warm water to cold water (south to north), here's our guide to eight coveted beaches where in-the-know families venture when summer crowds become too hot to handle.

Main Beach, East Hampton, New York
Consistently rated one of the top ten beaches in the world by Dr. Beach, the guru of all things sand, Main Beach is a favorite for many celebs who have houses in the Hamptons. Yet, for some reason this gorgeous stretch of golden sand never seems overrun, even if you do bump into Spielberg or Scorsese. Later, take a drive to the old whaling village of Greenport, where you can go for a sail on the Mary E, leaving from Preston's Dock ($38 per person for a sunset cruise; 516.381.1825, www.schoonermarye.com).

Compo Beach, Westport, Connecticut
Yes, the weekend price might be prohibitive at $30 a car ($15 on weekdays), but the whites sands of Westport, Connecticut's Compo Beach are by far the best slice of paradise within an hour's drive of Manhattan. The long sweeping beach has its fair share of seashells as you stroll down to the warm waters of the Sound. There's also a wooden playground with small turrets and tunnels for kids to roam in.

Watch Hill Town Beach, Rhode Island
Smack-dab on the westernmost point of Rhode Island lies the spit of land known as Watch Hill Town Beach. Far more subdued and less populated than honky-tonk Misquamicut State Beach, a mere two miles away, Watch Hill is a favorite for families who spend their summers in this Victorian town. The highlight here is a ride on the Flying Horse Carousel. Built in 1867, this is the oldest merry-go-round in the country and features horses that fly out above a dirt floor.

South Beach, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
Take the four-mile bike trail from Edgartown to South Beach and you'll be ready to go for a dip. Sloping down to the sea, South Beach, a local favorite, exudes a wild, blustery feel. And it's easy to carve your own spot out of this three-mile-long stretch of sand. Afterwards, venture to nearby Katama Airfield and have lunch at Mel's Diner. The children will enjoy watching the biplanes take flight overhead.

Published: 27 Jun 2006 | Last Updated: 20 Apr 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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