Massachusetts's more than 1,500 miles of coastline varies from the rocky bluffs of the North Shore to the sandy beaches of the Cape and Islands. To help enjoy this beauty (and variety), below is a list of trails close to the coast.
- Coolidge Reservation (Manchester-by-the-Sea) - Part of historic Coolidge Point, the Coolidge Reservation is named for the prominent family who came to own the peninsula. The diverse woodland features a mix of oak and pine with numerous wildflowers and ferns and is home to an array of birds and other wildlife, including fishers and fox. Formed by rocky outcrops, Bungalow Hill offers views of Magnolia Harbor.
- Crane Beach (Ipswich) - The white sands of Crane Beach stretch for miles along both sides of Castle Neck, forming one of the most picturesque swimming beaches in all of New England. Crane Beach also provides important wildlife habitat and acts as a natural barrier, protecting the Essex River Estuary and its inland communities.
- Essex National Heritage Area (North Shore) - The Essex National Heritage Area covers the 500 square miles of eastern Massachusetts that lie north of Boston. It contains miles of coastal landscape--beaches, parks, and wildlife areas; biking, walking, and hiking trails; and thousands of historic sites.
- Halibut Point State Park (Rockport) - Halibut Point is a uniquely beautiful coastal seascape. Looking seaward on a clear day, the view stretches from Crane Beach in Ipswich to Mount Agamenticus in Maine and the Isles of Shoals off the coast of New Hampshire.
- Misery Islands (Salem) - The Misery Islands offer coastal views, rolling rocky terrain, diverse wildlife habitats, and interesting ruins that recall the islands' past as an exclusive resort and summer colony. A system of trails provides access to most parts of Great Misery Island, including spectacular overlooks, stony beaches, and grassy fields.
- Parker River National Wildlife Refuge (Plum Island) - Located on Plum Island, this refuge is famous as a birders' paradise. During the summer, the parking lots fill quickly. Winter is the perfect time to spot waterfowl and raptors and to walk one or all of the four nature trails.
- Ravenswood Park (Gloucester) - Long treasured by residents of Gloucester and neighboring towns, Ravenswood Park offers a tranquil wooded setting for walking, cross-country skiing, or snowshoeing along almost ten miles of trails and carriage paths. Visitors may enjoy the overlook to Gloucester Harbor and traverse a boardwalk through the Great Magnolia Swamp, home to native sweetbay magnolias.
- Salisbury Beach State Reservation (Salisbury) - Salisbury Beach is one of the state's most popular ocean beaches stretching for 3.8 miles along the Atlantic Ocean. This 521-acre park offers swimming, boating, fishing, and camping.
- Sandy Point State Reservation (Ipswich) - Sandy Point is at the very southern tip of Plum Island, a classic Atlantic Ocean barrier island. The 77-acre park is among the state's most beautiful and popular coastal beaches. It is also an important nesting area for the piping plover, a federally endangered species, and the least tern, a species of special concern in Massachusetts. Passive recreational activities include walking, beachcombing, fishing, and birding. Access is through the abutting Parker River National Wildlife Refuge.
- Boston Harbor Islands National Park (Boston Harbor) - These 34 islands rich in natural and cultural resources make for a great day trip or camping expedition.
- Boston Harborwalk (Boston) - This walkway along Boston's waterfront links the water's edge to the city's open space system, complete with interpretive signage and access to water transportation facilities. Enjoy area parks, public art, seating areas, cafes, and exhibit areas, as well as observation points where you can view the operations of a working industrial port.
- Webb Memorial State Park (Weymouth) - Located on Boston Harbor, Webb State Park offers quiet enjoyment and vistas of the harbor and Boston skyline. The park is a scenic peninsula that extends nearly half a mile into Hingham Bay. Recreational activities include fishing, picnicking, and walking.
- Ellisville Harbor State Park (Plymouth) - Ellisville Harbor is a unique coastal property, including an 18th century farmstead, beachfront, salt marsh, rolling meadows, and red pine forest. Recreation activities include walking, bird watching, beach combing, and sightseeing. In fall and winter, harbor seals can often be seen just off shore.
- North River Wildlife Sanctuary (Marshfield) - This site includes a half-mile boardwalk that leads through a red maple swamp and small cattail marsh to a salt marsh overlooking the North River, as well a Woodland Loop. Harbor seals are visible in the river as they occasionally swim past the platform at the end of the boardwalk.
- Pilgrim Memorial State Park (Plymouth) - Pilgrim Memorial State Park attractions include Plymouth Rock where, tradition tells us, the passengers on the Mayflower first set foot in the New World. This simple glacial boulder on the shore of Plymouth Harbor has become a world famous symbol of the courage and faith of the men and women who founded the first New England colony.
- World's End (Hingham) - World's End, owned by The Trustees of Reservations and now part of the Boston Harbor Islands National Park Area, has been used by humans since pre-historic times. Walk, ski, or snowshoe along several miles of paths and carriageways designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and enjoy the 360-degree view from the top of Planter's Hill.
Cape and Islands
- Cape Cod National Seashore, Self-Guiding Nature Trails (Cape Cod) - This online brochure from the National Park Service highlights 11 trails found throughout the Cape Cod National Seashore.
- Cape Cod Rail Trail (Dennis to Wellfleet) - This trail follows a former railroad right-of-way for 25 miles through the towns of Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham, and Wellfleet. Its smoothly paved surface, few hills, and well-marked automobile crossings make it ideal for cyclists. In addition, the trail’s design creates perfect conditions for horseback riding, walking, and running.
- Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge (Chappaquiddick Island) - Chappaquiddick Island's eastern edge is a barrier beach formed thousands of years ago by offshore currents that deposited tons of sand. Today this beach extends for seven miles from Wasque Point past the Cape Poge Lighthouse to the Gut.
- Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge (Nantucket) - While Coskata-Coatue ("co-skate-uh co-too") Wildlife Refuge may be best known for its historic lighthouse, miles of white-sand beaches, and world-class fishing, the refuge is a complex ecosystem that features rare habitats, plants, and birds.
- Directory of Cape Cod Walking Trails (Cape Cod) - The Barnstable County Commissioners and the Cape Cod Commission are working with citizens and organizations from across Cape Cod to create a Capewide network of walking trails. This network is called Cape Cod Pathways. When complete, Cape Cod Pathways will extend from Provincetown to Falmouth and Bourne.
- Long Point Wildlife Refuge (Martha's Vineyard) - This refuge is a remnant of a broad sandplain prairie with scattered woods that was formed over many years by natural and man-made fires, intensive agriculture, and periodic hurricanes. The area supports plants and wildlife uniquely adapted to this dry, acidic landscape, coastal salt ponds, and sandy beach. A two-mile trail leads through oak forest and savanna bordered by Middle Point, Long Cove, and Tisbury Great Ponds.
- Scusset Beach State Reservation (Sandwich) - Located on Cape Cod Bay at the east end of the Cape Cod Canal, this popular swimming and camping area is also perfect for salt water anglers with its fish pier, 3,000-foot breakwater, and 1.5 miles of frontage along the canal. In addition, the reservation is a popular spot for watching the variety of boats and ships passing through the canal.
- South Cape Beach State Park (Mashpee) - South Cape Beach, located between Waquoit Bay and Vineyard Sound, contains a wide variety of coastal environments, including barrier beach and dunes, salt marsh, scrub oak/pitch pine woodland, and "kettle" ponds. A magnificent white sand beach stretches for over a mile. Interpretive programs are offered during the summer months.
- Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (Falmouth) - Located on the south shore of Cape Cod, in the towns of Falmouth and Mashpee, this reserve encompasses some 2,700 acres of open waters, barrier beaches, marshlands, and uplands.
- Wellfleet Bay's Wildlife Sanctuary (Wellfleet) - Wellfleet Bay's 1,000 acres of woodlands, wetlands, and grasslands attract an exciting variety of wildlife, especially songbirds and shorebirds. Five miles of scenic trails wind through these habitats and provide a lovely view of Cape Cod Bay.
- Demarest Lloyd State Park (Dartmouth) - This park is one of the best kept secrets in the Massachusetts forest and park system. Here, an 1,800-foot saltwater beach is backed by rambling hills of beach grass and shaded, grassy picnic sites. A broad, scenic marsh lines the Slocum River on the park's eastern edge.
- Fort Phoenix State Reservation (Fairhaven) - One of the smaller parks in Massachusetts, Fort Phoenix State Reservation combines historic features, scenic views, and a variety of recreational facilities. Minutes from downtown New Bedford, the park contains a half-mile of Buzzards Bay beachfront. Adjacent to the park (and managed by the Town of Fairhaven) is Fort Phoenix, a national landmark Fort that gives the park its name.
- Horseneck Beach State Reservation (Westport Point) - Spread across nearly 600 acres of barrier beach and salt marsh, Horseneck Beach is one of the most popular facilities in the Massachusetts State Forests and Parks system. Located at the western end of Buzzards Bay, the sandy, southwest-facing, 2-mile long beach is breezy all year round, providing excellent wind surfing and a dependable respite from sweltering inland temperatures every summer. The combination of ocean beach and estuary habitat makes Horseneck one of the premier birding locations in New England.
- Lloyd Center for the Environment Walking Trails (South Dartmouth) - Five trails wander over 55 acres of maritime forest on the edge of an estuary in South Dartmouth. The Osprey Point Trail takes you past two of the largest hollies in the state, which are spectacular to witness in winter.