BEACH HO! Where to find your summer sand

The coming of the summer season means boaters will be looking for places to take the family on day trips in and around Onset Bay, Buzzards Bay and the Cape.

One of the more popular things to do is to find a nice beach, gently nose onto shore and let the kids explore, searching for clams, crabs and other critters of the sea; swim and snorkel in clear warm water and maybe enjoy a picnic lunch.

The good news is that our part of the world has a number of lovely and isolated islands and beaches you can visit by boat and enjoy with friends and family.  Here are some of our favorites.

Onset Beach, Wareham

Firstly, let us brag about our very own great beach. Onset Beach looks out over Onset Bay and the protected surroundings and calm waters make this a family favorite.

And the beach is just around the corner – less than two minutes walk– from our marina and the Stonebridge Bar and Grill, just past the bridge on the East River. You are welcome to come spend a day with us, visit the beach and end the day with the good food and drink served at the Stonebridge. Can’t be beat!

Wickets Island, Onset Bay

This little round jewel in the middle of Onset Bay has long been popular with kayakers, small sailboats and shallow draft power boats. The Save Buzzards Bay organization has been involved for several years in renovation efforts on the island, removing overgrown brush and poison ivy so visitors can safely explore this island, named for Jabez Wicket, a Wampanoag who is said to have lived on the island in the 18th century. 

Smaller boats can nose onto the sandy shore on the southern edge of the island, and there is a stone pier on the west side for larger boats to tie up. Swimming and snorkeling are great off the island’s shores and when the stone staircase that cuts up the 40-foot cliffs is cleared of brush and ivy (hopefully by the beginning of summer), visitors will enjoy great views back across the bay.

Gooseberry Island, Westport

This elongated spit of land extends out from the Horseneck Beach State Reservation in Westport, on the western edge of Buzzards Bay. There is a narrow causeway that connects the island to the mainland, ending at an unimproved public boat launch.

If you have a good local chart, you can nose your boat onto the sandy beach on the west shore of the island. Once landed, there are hiking and biking trails, some of which wander past the World War II concrete observation towers, great fishing from the rocks on the western shore, birdwatching and swimming.  A great destination for a family day trip.

If you visit Gooseberry Island, leave time to stop in at The Bayside on Horseneck Road. Great fish ‘n’ chips, fish tacos, oysters and a full-service cocktail bar. (508) 636-5882.

Demarest Lloyd State Park, Dartmouth

The beaches at this park are one of the area’s better-kept secrets.  Located in a protected inlet where Slocum’s River empties into Buzzards Bay, the waters here are shallow and clear and the white sandy beach perfect for small kids.

You can anchor just offshore–the bottom is sandy–and enjoy a picnic ashore or hike one of the nature trails that explore the tidal salt marshes nearby. Another trail explores the coastal dunes around George’s Pond, a salt pond fed by the Slocums River.

Bassetts Island, Bourne

Tucked in between Wings Neck and Scraggy Neck at the entrance to Pocasset and Red Hook harbors in Bourne, this propellor-shaped island is one of the most popular boating spots on the Cape. In the summer, you’ll find rafts of boaters partying in the sun just off the long sandy beach on the west shore. The bottom is sandy and the water is shallow, so tossing the hook over is easy. 

In addition to the lovely beach, Bassetts offers great fishing, hiking, views of the Bay, and is a mecca for kayakers.  Note: the northern shores of the island are privately owned, so please respect the boundary.

After a busy afternoon on the beach, you’ll want to head for the Chart Room in Cataumet at Kingman Yacht Center. This place has been around since 1966 and is an Upper Cape landmark, known for some of the best seafood around, a unique dining experience and outdoor seating on the harbor. If you stop by, make sure to stay for the sunset and one of the Chart Room’s famous frozen mudslides. (508) 563-5350.

Kettle Cove Beach, Naushon Island

The picture-perfect crescent beach in Kettle Cove is a favorite for boaters on day trips out to the Elizabeth Islands at the southeastern edge of Buzzards Bay.  While the island is privately owned, visitors are allowed to anchor off the beach and come ashore to splash in the shallow warm waters and explore the dunes and rocky crags nearby.  

Keep an eye on the wind: when it’s out of the west and north, conditions can get a little choppy inside the cove.  But on calm days, it’s a wonderful place to visit for a few hours.

There’s no place to eat on Nauson, but a quick reach over to Wood’s Hole will take you to the Quicks Hole Tavern at 29 Railroad Avenue, just across from the Steamship Authority ferry dock.  Park yourself in this comfortable spot and enjoy some cool drinks, along with chowder, crab cakes, fish ‘n’ chips and some great steaks. (508) 495-0048.

Barges Beach, Cuttyhunk

Barges Beach, also known as Church’s Beach,  is another wonderful crescent of sandy beach on the south-facing shore of Cuttyhunk Island.

Boaters can find a mooring or tie up to a slip inside Cuttyhunk Pond, just past the ferry dock that services the New Bedford to Cuttyhunk ferry.  From the Pond, it’s a short walk over to the beach.

In addition to the beach, Cuttyhunk is a wonderful place to explore. Hiking and nature trails, bike paths and a pretty little village are all found on this 580-acre island at the end of Buzzards Bay. Just be warned: cash is still king on Cuttyhunk as few of the places accept credit or debit cards.

Finding a place to eat is a challenge on Cuttyhunk! There’s a taco truck, Isla Tacos, located on the fish dock next to the flagpole … but only on weekends and if they feel like it!  The local market often has sandwiches made for lunch, and sells fresh bread and other groceries for do-it-yourselfers. You can also get a takeaway cooked lobster at the Fish Market on the town dock. Order your dinner in the afternoon and pick up your boiled lobsters at 6 p.m.