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By Mary Lhowe
It is ok to miss the summer, but remember: in addition to missing the warm weather and crowds, you also are missing restrictions on taking your dog to many public beaches. Yes, lots of public beaches in and around Boston allow dog visitors between mid-September and May, in some cases even off leash. Find a few of our favorites in the Boston area below:
Castle Island, let’s begin by noting, is not an island. It’s a peninsula with a great park at the end, directly east of South Boston and Telegraph Hill, and easily accessible by you and your dog by foot, car, or MBTA. The beautiful urban park includes three miles of parks and beaches along Dorchester Bay. There is a waterfront walkway linking Carson Beach (part of the property) to the Kennedy Library. Walks include an easy stroll around Fort Independence or a longer one around the Pleasure Bay Loop. Metered parking is along the entire beachfront street. Open year-round, with dogs allowed from mid-September to May 1. (Dogs are allowed in MBTA trains outside of peak hours, defined as 7-10 a.m. and 4-7 p.m.) 617-727-5290. Map for Castle Island.
Nantasket Beach, in the town of Hull, south of Boston, on an ocean-facing curved finger of land is on that curls northward, spearing itself between Hingham Bay and Massachusetts Bay. Operated by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation. Nantasket Beach, with a full mile of shoreline, is very popular for all types of visitors. Dogs are allowed on the beach from September 15 through May 1. At low tide, people and their pets love to explore the sea life in acres of tide pools. The beach is open from dawn to dusk, and parking fees apply only from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Drive from Boston is 22 miles and 45 minutes on I-93. Restrooms are closed at present. 781-925-1777. Map to Nantasket Beach. Side trip: the beautiful waterfront World’s End property is at the base of the peninsula on the way to Nantasket Beach. If you want to visit World’s End, look at its website and plan ahead; parking lot is small and it fills early.
Salisbury Beach State Reservation faces both the Atlantic Ocean and the Merrimack River just a little north of Newburyport and a little south of the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border. The four-mile stretch of beach is busy with lots of warm-weather activities in summer, but the off season also is a spectacular time to walk the beach, in the company of your dog, from mid-September to May 1. A combination at this beach of salt marsh, sandy dunes, and river estuary makes this a rich place to observe maritime life, including many types of birds, along with harbor seals that sun themselves on jetties on both sides of the Merrimack during the winter. You may see loons, gulls, herons, snowy owls and hawks. The pines along the marsh edge are home to songbirds. 978-462-4481. Map to Salisbury Beach. Dining tip: The Park Lunch in Newburyport.
Wingaersheek Beach, at the end of Atlantic Street in Gloucester and located in a cozy nook overlooking the Annisquam River, is among the most beautiful beaches in Massachusetts. This is especially true for people (and dogs) who love exploring tide pools at low tide along this beach’s vast exposed sandbar. Leashed dogs are allowed on the beach September 30 to May 1. In addition, unleashed dogs are allowed on Wingaersheek Beach from October 1 to April 30, only on odd-numbered days. This is a sheltered area so it’s good for people not including to be buffeted by onshore winds. The beach is handicapped accessible and a beach wheelchair is available. Parking space is limited, so arrive early. The gates are open 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Parking costs $30 per vehicle but may be lower after Labor Day. Map to Wingaersheek Beach. Dining tip: Lobsta Land at 84 Causeway Street, Gloucester.
Quincy Shore Reservation, a state-run, waterfront park on Quincy Bay, welcomes dogs on leash between September 15 and May 1. The 4.8-mile shoreline, out-and-back walk is buffed with sea breezes and it entertains walkers with glorious views of the Boston skyline and Boston Harbor Islands. The north end of this easy walk is Moswetuset Hummock, an ancient summer campsite for Native Americans. The setting is a combination of woodland trails, marshland, and beach trails. By car, Quincy Shore Reservations is nine miles and 15 minutes’ drive on I-93 from Boston. There is free parking. Quincy also is served by the Red Line of the MBTA. Dogs are allowed in MBTA trains outside of peak hours, defined as 7-10 a.m. and 4-7 p.m. The park is open dawn to dark. 617-727-5290. Map of Quincy Shore Reservation. Dining tip: The Clam Box at 789 Quincy Shore Drive.