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Massachusetts Beaches InformationMassachusetts offers the finest beaches in New England and has over 1500 miles of coastline stretching from Buzzards Bay to Cape Cod to Plymouth and the South Shore, to Boston Harbor, and up to the North Shore. The beaches here vary greatly in terrain, surf, water depth, and water temperature.
Buzzards Bay offers large flat sandy beaches such as Horseneck Beach. Cape Cod and the Islands offer the best beaches. Vinyard Sound and Nantucket Sound on the south side of The Cape have warm waters and calm to moderate surf. Popular ones are Craigville Beach and West Dennis Beach. Some beaches on the Islands are very calm and very warm. The beaches on the east side of The Cape are mostly part of the National Seashore. The waters from Chatham to Provincetown can be very cold and dangerous with high surf and powerful currents, yet many swimmers and surfers frequent the National Seashore here. The Bay side of The Cape offers very calm waters that are usually quite warm in the summer. The South Shore beaches from Bourne to Plymouth up to Boston are very cold and often rocky. Boston harbor contains 34 islands and peninsulas managed by the National Park Service and the Mass DCR. The North Shore offers Crane Beach in Ipswich, Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester, Salisbury Beach in Salisbury. Just over the border in New Hampshire is Hampton Beach
Weather and Tides
For weather forecasts check the National Weather Service or The Weather Channel. For tide predictions go to boatma.com or CyberAngler or NOAA.
Whenever at a beach for swimming be especially aware of rip currents (sometimes incorrectly called rip tides or undertoe). These are powerful water currents that can pull even an experienced swimmer out to sea and possibly cause drowning. It is estimated that there are over 100 fatalities each year due to rip currents. The National Weather Service has excellent information about rip currents here. Rip currents can occur at any beach, but are more prevalent at beaches facing the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean, such as the eastern side of Cape Cod and north of Boston Harbor. Another danger to beware of is rip tides or tidal jets. These are caused by the inrush or outflow of water through the inlets and the mouths of estuaries, bays and harbors during changing tides. Finally, people, especially children, wading into the wave break zone should be careful of run-up, breaking, and backwash which can knock people down and pull them under the water. The United States Lifesaving Association has more information regarding dangerous currents.
Insects and sea creatures can be a hazard to humans. Many beaches have biting insects including horseflies, deerflies, greenflies, mosquitos, bees and hornets (especially yellow jackets), sand fleas, deer ticks, and gnats. These insects become especially bothersome at night, early morning, evening, and on overcast days. The greenflies on parts of Cape Cod are vicious. Always bring insect repellant to the beach. A common danger is jellyfish. Many people are stung each year by jellyfish. In 2006 there were even many sightings of Portugese-Man-Of-War on Rhode Island and Massachusetts beaches. These dangerous jellyfish normally reside in warmer southern waters. There stinging tentacles can extend many feet under the water.
Underwater hazards can include rocks, broken shells, broken glass, crabs, sea anemones, and sea urchins. Shark attacks have become more prevalent in recent years. Sharks sometimes mistake swimmers for food when the water is murky or churned up.
The water itself may become polluted or toxic due to sewage runoff, man-made waste/dumping, and naturally ocurring phenomena such as algae bloom or red tide. These problems close several beaches each year because they can cause skin rashes, infections, and sickness (if the water is swallowed).
Finally, everyone must remember to bring sunblock. Sunburns are the most common hazard of the beach. Skin cancer is a rising epidemic in the USA. People who fall asleep in the sun or overexert themselves can also get sun poisoning or sunstroke.