​Classic Americana: Iconic Boardwalks of New England


Explore New England’s stunning rocky coastline, and you’ll find small sandy beaches with paths that lead to bays, boats and boardwalks. These boardwalks function as a playground for both residents and visitors, with scenic piers that extend over the water offering stunning views and local attractions.

New England’s boardwalks are full of delights. Visitors may encounter options ranging from penny arcades and taffy stands to oceanfront dining options and live entertainment. Instead of shoreline entertainment, other boardwalks offer breathtaking views of nearby mountains or Gilded Age homes.

Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Dating to 1863, Old Orchard Beach attracts people from around the country every summer. The beach itself is seven miles long, and the action centers around the 1,825-foot-long pier. A blizzard destroyed the old pier in 1978, and a fourth generation Old Orchard Beach family rebuilt it in 1980.

Just off the boardwalk pier, the Palace Playland offers plenty of entertainment for children and their parents. During the summer season, a fireworks display every Thursday night marks the early start of the weekend.

The only beachfront amusement park in New England, Palace Playland offers many rides, including a traditional carousel, the Cascade Falls Water Flume, bumper cars, and a Ferris wheel that glows merrily at night.

This will be the last year that their beloved roller coaster runs along the shore. During the off-season, the pier is expanding the shoreline experience, including a brand new coaster ride designed in Italy.

Nantasket Beach, Hull, Massachusetts

The coastal town of Hull is a peninsula on the southern edge of Boston Harbor. You can reach Hull by taking a 15-minute ferry ride from the Boston waterfront, and visitors flock there every summer to enjoy Nantasket Beach, a Massachusetts State Park.

Nantasket Beach offers dining, shops, and other attractions along its namesake street. The Paragon Carousel, the last feature of the long-gone Paragon Amusement Park, is open daily all summer. As one of the last 100 “Grand Carousels” left in the United States, the Paragon attracts thousands of tourists and regular visitors each year.

The series of islands that comprise the town connect by wooden boardwalk causeways and sandbars. Visitors can enjoy a walking tour that includes Fort Revere Park, overlooking Boston Harbor. There, you can see historic structures that are the remnants of Revolutionary and late-nineteenth century port defenses.

Just a short walk from the north end of Nantasket Beach, visitors can also explore the Life Saving Museum that celebrates the town’s maritime heritage and honors the lifesavers that help keep the shorelines safe every year.

Winnepesaukee Pier, Laconia, NH

The beautiful waterside town of Laconia, NH, sits beside the largest lake in the state. The current boardwalk dates back to the 1920’s and now runs the entire length of the beach.

There are quaint wooden benches that encourage visitors to sit and enjoy the view of the lake and the dramatic mountains that frame it. Along the way, guests can enjoy local restaurants, arcades, and boat rental shops. Plus, the boardwalk offers five different paths that lead directly to the beach.  

Cliff Walk, Newport, Rhode Island

The mansions of Newport are iconic examples of the Gilded Age during the 1920s and 1930s, when industrial magnates achieved staggering wealth in the new American economy. The Cliff Walk, a National Recreation Trail within a National Historic District, offers stunning views of the architectural marvels that sit regally on top of rugged cliffs with dramatic ocean views.

The path traverses a public right-of-way through private property, passing The Breakers, the Vanderbilt’s summer cottage and Miramar, owned by the Widener family. The walk also wanders through Salve Regina University. Cliff Walk may not offer any amusement parks or seafood shacks, but it offers a dramatic way for people to view these elegant homes.

Hampton Beach, New Hampshire

Less than an hour north of Boston, barring any traffic delays, Hampton Beach features a mile-long boardwalk and a wide beach offers plenty of room to swim and have fun in the sun. Ocean Boulevard, which parallels the boardwalk, provides ample opportunities for dining, lodging, arcade games, and waterslides.

The Hampton Beach Casino features entertainment for all ages, although it is very different than a traditional casino. Family-friendly and open to all ages, this casino takes its name and spirit from the Italian and Portuguese word “casino,” which translates into “summer house.”  

Inside the casino, you will find entertainment venues like The Casino Ballroom that features nationally-known performers throughout the summer and fall. There are also amusement arcades and limited gambling for charitable purposes.