Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts

Having moved back to Boston this spring, we’ve been exploring the North Shore of Massachusetts on weekends.

Many of the coastal places we saw were quite nice, even though we weren’t always super consistent at taking a sufficient number of photos for a blog post. For instance, Gloucester (“The Perfect Storm” movie) was a quite pretty visit, and Salem (witch trials) is interesting for its history. We’ve also noticed that some other beaches are hard to visit this summer – e.g. Manchester explicitly closed “Singing Beach” to non-residents, while Crane Beach required online reservations (plus a $45 parking fee – maybe this helps thin out the crowds?).

Here, we write up our beach visit at Massachusetts’ northern-most town, Salisbury.

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Getting There

To get to Salisbury Beach from Boston, take Highway 95 North to 110 East, and then follow the signs to Salisbury Beach State Reservation. It will take about an hour, depending on your starting point.

There are two main beach areas in Salisbury. The one we wanted to go to was Salisbury Beach State Reservation (mostly since we have a DCR Parking Pass that is good for most Massachusetts State Parks), but there is also a public entrance with a lot of parking options at the Salisbury Beach Boardwalk. We had experiences at both, so keep reading to see which area you prefer to visit.

Parking at Salisbury Beach State Reservation is currently $14 for MA plates, and $40 for out-of-state plates (perhaps the higher rate is for covid crowd-control purposes?). Alternatively, you can buy an annual DCR Parking Pass for $60/$120. You can find up-to-date prices on the Salisbury Beach State Reservation page.

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Parking lots by the Salisbury Beach Boardwalk vary from $2/hour, up to $20+/day.

In normal times, Salisbury Beach is not supposed to be very crowded, but with Covid-19, many beaches are closed to out-of-town residents, so until this changes, try to get there early and be prepared for more crowds than ideal and for parking lots to close early.

Salisbury Beach Boardwalk

The first time we tried to visit this beach was on a Sunday afternoon, and we only had plans to walk the beach since we were expecting there to be more people in the water than we would be comfortable. That said, the State Beach parking lot was full, so we decided to head to the downtown area and try to find parking close to the boardwalk. To our delight, there were still spaces in the lot that charged $2/hour.

If you like funnel cakes, and a lively beach atmosphere, during normal times, this is the place for you. That said, with Covid-19 restrictions, a lot of it was shut down, which is probably a good thing.

As soon as we got to the beach, we knew we had made a mistake. While groups were probably 6 feet away from each other, that was all they were away from each other. There was a huge sea of people. We walked behind the crowds for a few minutes, then Jeremy and I looked at each other and both of us knew it was time to leave. Instead, we decided to do a scouting driving tour of Hampton Beach, Newburyport, and a few other areas.

Salisbury Beach State Reservation

Since the beach really did look lovely, I decided to take the boys back to the beach mid-week. This time around, we arrived just before noon, and had no trouble parking. The beach was still more crowded than I would have liked, particularly closer to the parking lots, but we were able to find a spot that wasn’t too bad both on the sand, and in the water, although there were definitely people coming and going through our area.

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I got set up while the boys ran down to the water. It came as no surprise that they found the water on the cold side, but after they spent a few minutes in the water, they seemed to be fine.

On the other hand, I quickly got way too warm sitting under my umbrella and decided to join them.

After a while, John decided to try out his boogie board, noting that the waves were much smaller than in California (winter is the high-wave season in MA). But, he seemed to make it work.

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When both boys decided they were really cold, they decided to build a big sand castle, more of a sand mountain, that they could watch the waves destroy.

At one point they turned it into a platform for a live statue.

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Eventually, we decided that it was time to pack up. We had a lot of fun, but is was a little more crowded than we would have liked.

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