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CZ-Tip - Explore the Coastal Outdoors
With more than 1,500 miles of coastline, the Bay State boasts a variety of beaches, trails, shipyards, and shoreline spaces where you can fish, surf, sail, kayak, swim, picnic, whale watch, or just watch the world go by while feeling an ocean breeze. So leave the online "surfing" for the colder months and get out there and take advantage of the "bay" in Bay State.
Public Access Places for All!
From soft sand to craggy cliffs, the Massachusetts coast has a wide variety of places for swimming, picnicking, launching boats, collecting shells, fishing, and more. These area-specific links have descriptions that can help you find your favorite spots.
Sadly, the Beaches Do Not Clean Themselves!
Since 1987, the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management has been part of the International Coastal Clean Up.
Each fall, volunteers remove and catalogue trash found along the shores, around marshes and riverbanks, and even on the seafloor. During the course of the 2010 cleanup, nearly 3,000 Massachusetts volunteers collected 10 tons of trash from more than 130 miles of coastline—that's a lot of cigarette butts! Check out the Urban Harbors Institute's COASTSWEEP site to get more information and find out how you can get involved.
Boston and the North Shore - For maps and more of beaches and other public access points from Beverly to Winthrop, see the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management's (CZM) online version of Coast Guide. The guide has descriptions for nearly 400 coastal spots, photos of a variety of sites, transportation information, and more.
Hiking (Picnicking and Sightseeing Optional)
Happy coastal trails to you—CZM has compiled an extensive list of Coastal Trails in Massachusetts, which includes information on and links to a variety of sites. From the bike trails of Essex National Heritage Area to Halibut Point State Park's incredible views (on a clear day, you can see Mount Agamenticus in Maine!) to Ellisville Harbor State Park's 18th century farmstead, there are trails for all levels of hikers.
Got kids in strollers? No problem—The Trustees of Reservations Stroller-Friendly Trails page includes coastal trails where you can navigate your baby-in-a-Bugaboo.
Need handicapped-accessible sites? Livestrong's Handicapped Accessible Parks & Trails in Massachusetts page has you covered.
The Cape Cod Rail Trail can accommodate all of the above—including strollers, wheelchairs, cyclists, walkers, runners, and even horseback riders. The relatively flat trail follows a former railroad right-of-way for 22 miles through the towns of Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham, and Wellfleet and provides both a paved surface and a wide unpaved shoulder, with well-marked automobile crossings.
While some may maintain that homo sapiens evolved from cave men to be able to sleep indoors, for those of you who delight in having nothing more than a nylon membrane between you and the great outdoors, see the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation's MassParks Campgrounds for a complete list of state-owned camp sites (coastal and inland). And for an interactive map of private campgrounds, see Camping in Massachusetts. If you already know the name of the camp site you would like to reserve, or would like to search for a site within a particular part of the state, you can do so through Reserve America.
Want to see whales? There are a number of whale watching operations in Massachusetts, departing from the North Shore, Boston, South Shore, and Cape Cod. While every trip is different, it's not uncommon to see whales (humpback, finback, minke, and more), along with other ocean dwellers, such as seals and porpoises. See the MassVacation.com whale watching page to search for the right trip for you or check out one of the following links.
The Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game's Division of Marine Fisheries website can help you enjoy the Commonwealth's recreational fishing experience. Their site provides information on fish species profiles, where to buy bait, regulation and permit requirements, and more. You can also access their Massachusetts Saltwater Recreational Fishing Guide to find specific information about marine finfish regulations, an extensive listing of the state's public boat ramps (see Access Sites), bait and tackle shops, charterboat and headboat operations, lobster and crabbing information and regulations, and the best time of year for catching specific species of fish (see Massachusetts Recreational Saltwater Fishing Calendar). The guide also includes information about how to handle your catch and encourages use of responsible fishing practices. If you don't have a boat, there are opportunities for saltwater fishing from the shore—see Marine Fisheries Access Properties for details.
Starting in 2011, all saltwater anglers aged 16 and older who wish to fish in Massachusetts (i.e., visitors and residents) are required to register. Registration links can be found at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Marine Recreational Information Program. (If you are part of a chartered fishing trip, you don't need to register.)
BoatMa.com is the all-purpose boating site of the Massachusetts Marine Trades Association (MMTA) and includes extensive information on getting out on the water and owning and operating a boat. For a list of marinas in Massachusetts, you can browse Marinas.com—each site has a photo you can click to get the map location and a rundown of the amenities the marina offers. To properly dispose of boat sewage, see CZM's Massachusetts Pumpout Facilities. And for specific boating options, see:
Sailing - Boston Harborwalk's Go Boating page has links to Boston, East Boston, Dorchester, and Charlestown boating centers, including sailing spots. Boston Community Boating offers Friday Night Sails through Labor Day weekend. See their events calendar for specifics. They also offer sailing lessons for juniors and adults. For other spots for sailing instruction, see the Massachusetts section of SailingStop.com's Learn How to Sail page. To navigate "one of the most challenging and satisfying bodies of water . . . on the East Coast," see CoastalBoating.net's Buzzards Bay page.
Looking for more ideas? How about finding a rare Piping Plover? Or seeing a life-sized whale sculpted from sand? And there's always parasailing at sunset or visiting a historic lighthouse. See the links below for these and other options.
Looking for Local Events and Outdoor Adventure Ideas?
Look no further than the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Commonwealth Conversations Great Outdoors Blog. Updated weekly, the blog highlights events around the state. From urban birding to family fishing to coastal gardening, there's sure to be something to pique your interest.
Birdwatching - The Massachusetts shoreline offers some of the best birding opportunities in the world. CZM's Bird Watching on the Coast can familiarize you with some shoreline species in Massachusetts and direct you to web sites with information on birding hot spots, events, and clubs.
Sand Sculpting - To see the best sand castles of the summer, check out Revere's National Sand Sculpting Festival in July (see the Revere Beach Partnership for details) and the annual Sandblast in August, which is held at Crane Beach on the Crane Estate.
More Water Sports - From parasailing to jet skiing, see the MassVacation.com water sports page to search for exciting outdoor activities.
Coastal Culture - For those looking for cultural enrichment along the shore, see Massachusetts Cultural Coast to discover more about the history, traditions, culture, arts and crafts, lore, theater and music, recreation, and economies of six coastal regions in the Commonwealth.