As the summer temperatures climb, sun-seeking crowds have been swarming to area beaches for recreation, but amid the pandemic the choices can be vexing and the access hard to find.
Here’s a look at the regulations at some beaches along the coast:
Hampton Beach is open to the public every day, with people asked to maintain social distancing and to observe all safety guidelines recommended by officials.
Ocean Boulevard is closed to traffic this summer, giving people more space to walk freely and keep those distances intact while enjoying the stretch along the beach where restaurants and businesses open their doors safely to visitors. Updated traffic flow patterns are also in effect to help keep the numbers on the beach at safe levels.
Public parking lots are operating this summer at 50% capacity. Parking is also available by reservation at the New Hampshire state park lot over the bridge from Seabrook at a cost of $15 per day. Metered parking is also available along Route 1A. Visit nhstateparks.org.
The Hampton Beach Seashell Complex is open with various information available to visitors, as well as restrooms where 50% capacity is allowed and masks must be worn inside.
Several traditional activities have been canceled or postponed including the famed seafood festival. The annual sand-sculpting competition is rescheduled to Labor Day weekend at this time. Monday night movies are also now underway.
Many businesses and restaurants open with certain restrictions in place. For more visit hamptonbeach.org
Salisbury beaches are open to the public, but town officials have cut 100 parking spaces from the town’s 800-space municipal lot near the beach to help cap the number of out-of-town visitors.
“We’re trying to decrease the impact of so many people coming to the beach, but on nice days it’s still been very busy,” said Salisbury police Chief Thomas Fowler.
Parking in the Salisbury municipal lot costs $2 an hour and is enforced from 8 a.m. to midnight.
The beach at Salisbury State Reservation is open as usual to the public, daily from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The state has not cut any of the reservation’s approximately 1,700 parking spaces. No reservations are needed, with availability on a first-come, first-served basis.
Vehicles with Massachusetts license plates still pay the usual $14 per day to park, but out-of-state vehicles are now being charged $40 — twice the usual price — in an effort to discourage movement between states.
All of Salisbury State Reservation’s restrooms are open.
In Seabrook, beaches are technically open to residents only, though Town Manager Bill Manzi said the rule is being enforced through parking restrictions, and IDs are not being checked to get on the beach.
“I’d say the beaches are open to anyone that has access to it,” said Manzi.
Manzi said the originally imposed parking restrictions near the town’s beaches are still in effect, making parking only available to cars with resident stickers. The municipal lot on Route 1A is also open at 50% capacity. There are no particular parking or beach access hours.
The beach at Sandy Point Reservation, located on the southern tip of Plum Island, is open to the public with very limited parking, about 30 spaces. Sandy Point closes at sunset.
Parker River National Wildlife Refuge beaches — including the access point at Lot 1 — are all closed due to nesting birds, according to Matt Hillman, manager for Parker River.
Most beaches in Greater Newburyport are open to the public, but in many cases, local officials are trimming the number of parking spaces to limit crowds to encourage social distancing during the pandemic.
Plum Island’s beaches are open to the public, although no lifeguards are on duty at the island’s beaches in Newbury or Newburyport. Swimming is not allowed on the Merrimack River side of the island; swimmers may only use the ocean to the right of North Point.
The Newburyport parking lot on the north end of Plum Island is open daily to the public, with paid parking enforced between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekends. None of the lot’s approximately 150 spaces have been closed off.
“Our parking lot has been quite full on the nice days,” said Suellen Welch, supervisor for the city’s Harbormaster Department.
Day passes for the lot cost $10 for residents and $15 for non-residents during the week. On weekends, it’s $12 for residents and $20 for non-residents.
Newbury residents with a sticker may also park in the private lot at Plum Island Center or on the island’s streets.
Crane Beach in Ipswich, which is owned by the Trustees of Reservations, is open to the public 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., but the Trustees are attempting to control the numbers of visitors by limiting how many cars are allowed to park. This means that even those with Crane Beach permits must reserve parking in advance.
Through Labor Day, members of the Trustees can purchase full-day parking passes in advance, online, for $25 on weekdays and $30 on weekends. Non-members must pay $45 per weekday and $50 on weekends.
Passes are good for a vehicle containing up to six passengers; additional passengers can be added to the pass at $5 per person over 2 years of age. Passes will be released each Monday at noon for weekday slots and on Thursday at noon for weekend and Monday slots. Additional passes will be released each afternoon depending on how many vehicles have left. To purchase visit http://www.thetrustees.org.
Bathrooms will be open but capacity will be limited and monitored to enable social distancing. Changing rooms will be closed.
Also, greenhead flies are in season.
Overall, there are no changes to beach offerings in Salem given the COVID-19 pandemic. All beaches have visual aids depicting what a distance of 12 feet of space between groups looks like, according to Patricia O’Brien, Salem’s director of parks and recreation.
Winter Island is open while space is available for parking, at which point the gated entry to Winter Island Park will be opened and closed based on parking availability, O’Brien said. Parking is available on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. for $10, and on weekends and holidays from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. for $15. More information can be found at salem.com/winter-island-park.
Salem Willows and its associated Dead Horse Beach are fully open without restrictions, with parking available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The only COVID-related addition is duties for park staff, who will frequently “be walking the Willows and educating people and passing out masks,” O’Brien said.