Monday, May 06, 2013

Review of Horseneck Beach State Reservation, Westport, MA | Alternative to Crowded Cape Cod Beaches

With somewhere near 600 acres of beach and sand dunes, Horseneck Beach is a great place when you want to get to the beach without having to deal with Cape Cod traffic. It’s located in the very southern portion of Massachusetts on the western end of Buzzards Bay and is about an hour or so for Boston Metrowest residents, probably about 2 hours for Boston residents and about 45 minutes or so for Providence residents.

What’s there? 

You probably guessed there’s a beach! The park has about 2 miles of beaches that are open to swimming. The beach is the most crowded near the parking lots and with some effort (and a lot of walking) you can generally find less crowded and quieter areas to relax and enjoy the ocean. In addition to the beach itself, Horseneck offers facilities for the beachgoers that include changing rooms, showers, restrooms and a snack bar if the munchies get you while you’re out swimming. Except for the snack bar, the facilities are all free to use once you’ve paid the day use fee to get into the park. The snack bar is very pricey – it’s better to bring a cooler with some food then to try to buy yourself lunch. For my boyfriend and I, lunch ran us almost $20 and that was like 2 hamburgers, 2 sodas and fries and I think a dish of ice cream. 

There is a 100-site campground located behind the dunes of the park, but within earshot of the ocean. The campground is nothing to write home about – the sites are all fairly open with trees few and far between and the sites are quite closely spaced. Campers looking for a quiet, tranquil and peaceful experience probably won’t find it at Horseneck, but for those of us who are more interested in being close to the ocean and having easy access to the beach, the campground is great. The sites have water, but no electricity and dumping stations are available to empty out your camper. 

For people who enjoy watching birds, the mixture of beach, dunes and salt marshes at Horseneck Beach make it a good location to see various birds. Not being a big birding enthusiast, I couldn’t really tell you what birds you’ll see, but I have seen plenty and my friends of the birding persuasion tell me at times it’s quite the place to be. 

There are no trails in the park and the public is required to access the beach through marked “access points,” through the dunes to prevent further erosion of the dunes. 

How much does it cost? 

Horseneck Beach is one of the best bargains out there for people who are looking to spend an inexpensive day at the beach. The day-use fee for the beach and its facilities is only $7 per carload. 

The campground is slightly more expensive at $15 a night, but you are paying for the convenience of being next to the ocean, literally. Plus if you are staying at the campground, you don’t need to pay the day use fee, so think of it as you’re only paying $8 to spend the night at the park. 

How’s the beach? 

Horseneck is hardly the best beach in Massachusetts, but on the whole it’s clean, the water is usually warm enough to comfortably swim in, the facilities are nice, and the almost ever present breeze off the ocean keeps it a reasonable temperature when the rest of Massachusetts is sweltering. 

The beach slopes gently out to the ocean – so most swimmers can get quite far out before they’re unable to touch the bottom – which can be a comfort for people who don’t like to swim in the ocean, or for people who just want to stand in the water and not swim. 

While not quite open to the open ocean, the waves can vary quite a bit – from little waves that even a small child would be comfortable in, to really big waves with some serious rip currents. Swimming advisories are posted as you enter the park and if conditions deteriorate too much, the park will stop all swimming. 

With the constant wind, Horseneck is also a popular place with windsurfers and when you’re on the beach or in the water, you’ll often see them sailing around just off-shore. 


Everything is kept up and the facilities at the park are generally quite clean. There showers feature warm water (a nice change from those cold water rinse-off showers at some beaches) and changing rooms. 

The snack bar is expensive, but the food isn’t half bad and if you’ve forgotten suntan lotion or something else, they do offer a few items like that. 


You’ll need reservations to stay at this campground ( throughout most of its season (May through October). The rates aren’t bad and while the sites have something to be desired aesthetically, you are close to the ocean and close to the beach. You can roll out of your sleeping bag and in five minutes be on the beach. 

In addition to the public-use bathrooms and showers at the beach, the campground has its own showers and restrooms for campers to use. 


Yeah, some weekends or really hot days, traffic will back up for miles getting to Horseneck Beach. Your best bet is to either stay away on weekends and go during the week, or if you really want to go on a weekend – get there as early as possible to beat the crowds or go late and get in a little bit of sun and swimming. 

The beach, especially right by the access points can get very crowded, to the point where you have to climb over people to walk along. However if you travel away from the access trails through the dunes and move further down the beach, you’re likely to find a less crowded (and hectic) area to lay out and enjoy the day. 

No, nos 

There aren’t any pets allowed on the beach or in the campground, so Fido is going to have to stay at home. 

You have to stay on developed trails or the beach – just about everything is off-limits due to revegetation efforts on the dunes and in the marshes. 

Final Thoughts 

A quick trip for me, Horseneck Beach is a great escape when I want to go to the beach, but don’t want to have to go out to Cape Cod or to the beaches closer to Boston. I generally stay away on weekends because of the crowds, but even then getting to the park early or late generally helps with avoiding the crowds. 

What I do, when a great day comes along – I call into work and tell them I won’t be in – and I go and spend the day on the beach, enjoying the sun and intermittently swimming. There are still people on the beach, but the crowds are significantly smaller and the whole experience is much more pleasant. 

I’ve never purposely camped at the campground, but I have stayed with friends who stayed overnight and I’ve stayed at their site. It’s not my cup of tea when it comes to having people literally right next to you in the next campsite, but I did like having the ocean just on the other side of the dunes. 


If you’re anywhere from Boston west to Worcester and south into Southeastern Massachusetts, Horseneck Beach is a great day-trip when you want to enjoy the beach or an overnight location for those who enjoy camping on the beach. 

Think ahead to deal with crowds and you shouldn’t have too many problems getting to the park or finding a place to enjoy the beach. 

You’ll have a nice a beach, semi-warm water, reasonable waves, and clean and neat facilities to use when you’re visiting Horseneck Beach and at only $7 a carload, the park is steal!

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