One of the great American public beaches is at Manchester-by-the-sea, MA. Not because of its Coney Island-style amusement park, casino strip, t-shirt stands and wax museums, but because it has none of those things.
It is because for $7 round trip on the train , you can leave Boston, beach bag and magazine in hand, and arrive in manchester 45 minutes later. Stop at the grocery store right on the train platform and buy a sandwich, a quart of water, some fresh fruit, and hike up Beach St to the water. Don’t stop at Capt Dusty’s homemade ice cream just yet – that is for the trip back , just reward for enduring the day in the sun. Change at the beachhouse after giving up a dollar for the privilege of beaching. On weekdays it is free, and the local library will lend you a fat paperback. Then stake your spot and enjoy: families to the right, singles to the left.
Clean, quiet, calm seas and soft sand. Sometimes in the evenings there will be a concert on the town green. This may interfere with your train schedule, but can also become a spontaneous evening out. If you can get there by car, you can set out even earlier in the day, take beach chairs, and umbrella, a full cooler. No dogs in the summer, and ball playing restricted, but that is all for the common good. You’ll wish you lived there. I know I do.