1. Horseneck Beach State Reservation (Westport)
Buzzards Bay’s western coastline is sheltered by a barrier beach where southeastern New Englanders have flocked for generations: Horseneck Beach State Reservation. Here, the strong winds and breaking waves of the Atlantic Ocean are tempered by nearly 600 acres of protected sand dunes and salt marshes. For thrill-seeking swimmers, Horseneck Beach is the ultimate challenge.
One word of caution: Horseneck is well-known for rip currents, especially when a strong surf is running. Locals agree that anyone who plans to swim off Horseneck Beach should only do so when lifeguards are on duty because they’ll alert swimmers if rip currents have been detected.
2. Demarest Lloyd State Park (Dartmouth)
Tucked along the western shore of the Slocums River just east of Barney’s Joy lies Demarest Lloyd State Park. Widely known as a wildlife refuge, the park boasts an impressive 1,800-foot saltwater beach. The surf is often calm and the shallow waters are free from boat traffic. Whether you’re just learning to swim or training for our Swim, Demarest Lloyd is a great spot where you’ll have lots of fun.
Dartmouth resident and veteran Buzzards Bay Swim competitor Nancy Smith offers some sound advice for first-time swimmers and wetsuit wearers. “Get in the ocean as soon as possible to get used to the difference between the ocean versus the pool,” she says, because temperatures in the Bay are drastically different than the pool. A wetsuit will keep you warm, plus it’ll help keep you afloat. And, since salt water is denser than fresh, buoyancy is on your side! “It’ll help your confidence,” Smith says.
What else does Smith recommend before you get in the water? “Have everything ready the day before the race and check your goggles twice!”
3. Clarks Cove (Dartmouth/New Bedford)
Looking for a quick after-work swim that’s close to home? Try Clarks Cove. Start your swim at the put-in by the public boat ramp at West Rodney French Boulevard and Coral Street. Stay to the coast, along the bike path, and ride the incoming tide till you reach the beach at the intersection of Dudley Street and West Rodney French. This half-mile warmup will have you ready to leave the competition in your wake on June 20!
Past swimmer and New Bedford resident Jean Bennett shared some words of encouragement for those considering the Swim, which takes place in neighboring outer New Bedford Harbor. “If you can swim a half-mile in a pool, you can swim the Buzzards Bay Swim. It’s easy! We swim with the tide and the prevailing winds push you toward the finish.”
Bennett will be volunteering at the start line this year, and she’s a great cheerleader for would-be competitors. “The most exciting part – the one thing that gives you such a feeling of accomplishment – is when you cross the channel. A parallel swim [along the shoreline] would never be the same.” We agree, Jean!
4. Nasketucket Bay (Fairhaven/Mattapoisett)
Located on the shores of Fairhaven and Mattapoisett, Nasketucket Bay contains some of the cleanest water and best wildlife habitat in Buzzards Bay. The cool, clear salt water of Nasketucket Bay meets acres of protected forests just beyond the shoreline.
The best public access point to Nasketucket Bay is Nasketucket Bay State Reservation near the end of Brandt Island Road in Mattapoisett. West Island in Fairhaven is another great place to start your swim.
Nasketucket Bay truly has it all – from sheltered coves for young swimmers testing their limits to open harbors where seasoned competitors can chase a new challenge. If you decide to swim here, make sure you carry the contact information for the Mattapoisett and Fairhaven harbormasters as a precaution.
5. Planting Island Cove (Marion)
It’s easy to lose yourself on the drive to Planting Island. Tall pines and family farms hide the open waters of Sippican Harbor until all at once, you emerge from the quiet woodlands onto windswept Planting Island Causeway. Park along the road, get into your wetsuit, and wade out to Planting Island Beach.
At high tide, Planting Island Cove is a great, protected place to swim. The cove isn’t considered a bathing beach, so there are no lifeguards on duty. Watch the weather, as fog can move in unannounced, and remember that it’s never recommended to swim alone.
6. Little Harbor Beach (Wareham)
At the end of Little Harbor Road in Wareham, there’s a sandy beach known for its gentle surf and warm, shallow waters. Little Harbor Beach is a great spot to bring kids because it’s lifeguarded in the summer months. In fact, the Coalition holds lots of outdoor education programs here throughout the year! There are many sandbars just off the shore that serve as rest stops for swimmers who test their endurance during high tide.
When going out for a swim at Little Harbor Beach, stick to the Buzzards Bay side of the barrier beach. Make sure to check wind speeds before heading out, too, as winds here can pick up in the late afternoon.
7. Little Bay (Bourne)
Secluded Little Bay Conservation Area in Bourne is a unique and picturesque place where you can enjoy some solitude while you swim. But there are no lifeguards on duty at Little Bay, so remember to bring a friend. Swimming together is always twice as fun, anyway!
To get to Little Bay, head to the end of Valley Bars Road and stop in the parking area next to the old railroad bridge. From here, follow the trail to the sandy peninsula that reaches toward Tobys Island. At high tide, try swimming the gap with a safety kayaker in tow. At low tide, you might run into local shellfisherman wading out.
8. Chapoquoit Beach (Falmouth)
Chapoquoit Beach in West Falmouth attracts a regular crowd of swimmers throughout the warmer months of the year. Local swim enthusiast Patty Gaynor suggests that new swimmers stay to the harbor side of the barrier beach. Like most of Buzzards Bay, the water at Chapoquoit can be cold – so wear your wetsuit!
A steering committee member of the Cape Cod-based nonprofit Falmouth Aquatics, Gaynor has a great opportunity for locals to prep for the Buzzards Bay Swim. “We have a group that swims at Chapoquoit Beach all summer into late October. All ages and abilities are welcome. Our loop is one and a half miles commencing beach side or back harbor side.”
Gaynor also offers a good tip for new swimmers to follow: “Wear a bright bathing cap for safety and sighting purposes. Pink and yellow are good choices.”