Atlantic and Gulf Coasts Recreation Area Survey
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Undeveloped Seashore Areas of Massachusetts (Vicinity Map) (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

Plum Island

Location: An island running nearly parallel to the mainland, about 5 miles east of Newburyport.
Accessibility: By car, off U. S. Highway 1.
Description of Area: Plum Island is one of three outstanding areas along the Massachusetts coast, easily accessible by car and extensive enough to include natural, scenic and biological features that can be preserved for public use without severe modification. There are six miles of gently sloping beach, and clean, white sand; dunes are up to 50 feet in height and generally stable. Some of the best beach vegetation is to be found along the coast, such as beach grass, beach heath, beach plum and bayberry; there are small trees of red maple, pitch pine, and wild cherry. It is an excellent habitat for migratory waterfowl.
Present Use: Under the jurisdiction of the Fish and Wildlife Service as a migratory bird refuge.
Analysis: The quality of its beaches, picturesque dunes, unusual beach vegetation, and its ease of access make it very desirable for public recreation use. A compatible use arrangement with the Fish and Wildlife Service would be most advantageous.
Plum Island

Duxbury Beach

Location: A slender peninsula lying about 2 miles directly east of Duxbury.
Accessibility: By hard-surfaced road from Green Harbor, and by bridge from Powder Point.
Description of Area: Duxbury Beach is a 5-1/2 mile long barrier beach of sufficient size to accommodate adequately an active recreation program without destroying its natural features. Its biological and beach values are not as superior as those of Plum Island. The beaches are wide and gently sloping but contain extensive gravel deposits. The dunes are low and irregular, subject to blowouts from storm tides. The tree and shrub communities which appear only in the middle and southern portions of the area are sparse and not well developed.
Present Use: The northern portion is used as a public beach by the Town of Duxbury. In the southern portions, Gurnet Point and Saquish Head are being developed as summer colonies.
Analysis: The area's size, ease of access, proximity to large centers of population, and undeveloped status make it of prime importance in the plan for preserving certain seashore areas for public recreation use. The State has included Duxbury in its long-range plan of acquisition of seashore recreation areas.

Duxbury Beach

Great Beach

Location: The eastern shore of the outer arm of Cape Cod.
Accessibility: By road, train, boat, airline.
Description of Area: Great Beach has the longest unbroken and undeveloped sweep of beach in New England, combined with a picturesque and fascinating hinterland. It is one of the two most outstanding areas reviewed on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and is believed to be of national significance. The section under consideration should include a maximum of 33-1/2 miles of seashore, in addition to the Province Lands, and a minimum of 15 miles, with an average width of three-quarters of a mile. The beach is excellent in places, quite variable, and backed by cliffs 150 feet high in some sections. The dunes are spectacular, some more than 50 feet high; the vegetative cover is seminatural but varied. The geology of the area is interesting and the history outstanding.
Present Use: There are numerous private ownerships, and it is a very important summer resort area.
Analysis: The area is outstanding and deserves every consideration as a public seashore recreation area. Careful study should be given, however, to the possible boundaries of this area in order to determine if acquisition of its natural features without excessive cost is possible.
Great Beach

Sandy Neck

Location: A peninsula along Cape Cod. Bay, 10 miles southeast of the Cape Cod Canal and directly north of Barnstable.
Accessibility: By car, paved road off State Highway 6A.
Description of Area: Sandy Neck is a superior undeveloped area, second only to the outer arm, of those areas accessible by car along the Massachusetts coast. There are 7 miles of wide beach, gently sloping, sometimes gravelly in texture but generally clean, white and fine. The vegetation is among the most varied and interesting to be found along the coast, with "sunken forests" of pitch pine. There are areas of shrub and heath types of vegetation with such plants as blueberry, bay berry, beach plum, beach heath, barberry and cranberry. There is an extensive salt marsh and the dunes are high, stable and spectacular.
Present Use: The western end of Sandy Neck is used by the Town of Barnstable as a recreation area. An occasional cottage or shack is spotted along the shore at the easterly end of the peninsula, where there is a summer colony of about 20 cottages.
Analysis: This is one of the best undeveloped recreation areas seen along the Atlantic coast; it is near large centers of population, and is accessible by car. The area is desired by the State and is included in its long-range plan of acquisition of seashore recreation areas.
Sandy Neck

"Sunken Forest", Sandy Neck

Monomoy Island

Location: An island running directly south into Nantucket Sound from Chatham, at the "elbow" of Cape Cod.
Accessibility: By boat or plane.
Description of Area: Monomoy Island is a 10-mile stretch of sandy beach without the spectacular dunes or unusual vegetation of Plum Island and Sandy Neck, but extensive enough to support recreation activities without destroying its natural features. The beach and foreshore are gently sloping, with white, clean sand. Dunes, some as high as 15 feet, exist in the northern and southern portions of the island. There is an oak-pine forested area in the northern portion while the remainder of the island is almost barren of vegetation. The biological importance of the island is primarily that of a migratory bird refuge.
Present Use: The island is under the jurisdiction of the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Analysis: This is an excellent beach adjacent to a popular resort area. The State is negotiating with the Fish and Wildlife Service for its acquisition for public recreation.

Monomoy Island

Nantucket Island

Location: An island about 30 miles south of Cape Cod, and 12 miles east of Marthas Vineyard.
Accessibility: By boat and plane.
Description of Area: Nantucket Island is one of the most interesting and unusual islands inspected on the survey. Cobblestone streets, old shops, homes, and museums in quaint villages, bring to mind a sense of the past when the town of Nantucket was a great whaling port. The island is about 14 miles long with an average width of 3-1/2 miles. It is smoothly rolling with practically no forest but extensive shrub cover. Good sandy beaches extend around the island, the south shore being rather steep while the north shore is gentle. The beaches range in color from yellow to blinding white.
Present Use: It is understood that the county of Nantucket owns the beaches around the island to high water line, by a recent act of the State legislature. Land above high water line is owned by private individuals. The island is principally a summer vacation center.
Analysis: The antipathy of the residents of the island toward public ownership of lands and the recent legislation that makes the beaches available to the public, preclude the possibility of recommending sites for public recreation areas.
Long Pond Beach, Nantucket Island

Great Point, Nantucket Island

Marthas Vineyard

Location: Off mainland 5 miles south of Cape Cod and 12 miles west of Nantucket Island.
Accessibility: By boat only.
Description of Area: Marthas Vineyard is a land of serene old houses, summer cottages, small farms, interesting villages and picturesque boat harbors. The island is about 20 miles long and 10 miles wide with lands that are hilly and broken by rocky outcroppings and tree-filled ravines. Spectacular multicolored cliffs appear at the southwestern end of the island. The beaches are generally sandy along the south shore but the foreshores are rather steep. There are no extensive stretches of land along the seashore that do not contain improvements of some sort. The system of well-constructed roads around the island receives considerable use.
Present Use: The island is principally a summer vacation center. It receives much heavier use than Nantucket Island, as it is closer to the main land.
Analysis: There are at present three public beaches--one State and two town--located on the island. In addition, it is believed, recent legislation provides that the beaches are the responsibility of Dukes County, and the public has right of access to them.
Gay Head Cliffs, Marthas Vineyard

Washburn Island

Location: Situated in Town of Falmouth at mouth of Waquoit Bay and adjacent to South Cape Beach.
Accessibility: By car, off State Highway 28.
Description of Area: The primary significance of this area is the public beach recreation opportunities it offers in a heavily populated, highly developed resort area. There is nearly a mile of beach on the ocean side and about one-half mile on the bay. The beaches are fairly wide, some gravel, gently sloping, and comparatively clean. There are no dunes or shrub or tree communities of significance in the area.
Present Use: It is held in private ownership and is not now being used.
Analysis: The beach area is highly desirable for public recreation. Its undeveloped status in this section of Cape Cod is quite unusual. The State is now negotiating for its use as a public recreation area.

Naushon Island

Location: Largest of the Elizabeth Islands, lying between Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound.
Accessibility: By boat only.
Description of Area: The largest in this chain of islands, Naushon Island is about 6 miles long and possesses a rugged shoreline, dotted with occasional gravel beaches. Rolling topography and good cover add to the charm of the area. There remain on the island remnants of the type of oak-beech forest that once covered most of the Cape Cod area. Exotic plants have been introduced in great numbers. Private residences and outbuildings of the owners are located on the north end of the island.
Present Use: It is used as a private summer residence of the heirs of the Forbes estate and their guests. Large numbers of sheep are grazed on the island.
Analysis: The island does not possess good beaches but should be preserved because it contains the only proved climax oak-beech forest surviving in New England. Authorities contend that the forest at the northern end of the island has never been cut in historic times and that the southern end has not been cut since 1820.

Naushon Island


Location: Near Massachusetts-Rhode Island line, southeast of Westport Point.
Accessibility: By car, off State Highway 6.
Description of Area: Horseneck is considered by the Division of Public Beaches to be the best undeveloped beach remaining in the State. The beach extends for about 3 miles, a portion of which was well-developed prior to Hurricane Hazel in 1954. The hurricane cleared many sections of beach developments. There are no dunes or biological life of significance in the area. The beach is wide, gently sloping, with some gravel and rocks.
Present Use: Prior to the hurricane, it was used as a private bathing beach for property owners and their guests.
Analysis: The Governor of Massachusetts has requested an appropriation from the Legislature (1955) to acquire and develop the 3 miles of beach. It will meet a definite need for public beach recreation in this section of the State.
Horseneck Beach

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Last Updated: 25-Jun-2007