- Parks & Recreation
- Surfside Beach
Current Driving Status: Open to oversand vehicle traffic from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Emergency Beach Access Number: 19
Current Beach Conditions: To be updated.
Rules & Regulations
- Fishing is permitted with a state license, which can be purchased here
- Dogs are allowed, providing they are leashed and licensed. Dogs and owners are not allowed in any dune vegetation, marsh grass, protected wildlife and other fenced areas at any time.
- Bonfires, campfires, and fireworks are not permitted.
- No kites (of any kind) or drones within 200 meters of any fenced shorebird habitat.
- Alcohol is not permitted on public property.
- Glass is not permitted on public beaches.
- Smoking is not permitted on public property.
- Please do not dig holes deeper than the waist. Fill in any holes before you leave the beach.
- Beachgoers must stay at least 150 feet away from any marine mammal.
Surfside is one of the most popular beaches on Nantucket, rivaled only by Jetties and 40th Pole. True to its name, Surfside is characterized by a wide, flat beach with rolling surf over sandbars. The surf is usually moderate, but can be heavy on windy days or days with a storm surge. Located on the south shore of the island near the airport, it is a beach popular with just about everybody. Surfside is a great place to set up beach games like volleyball, go surfing, or boogeyboarding for the younger kids. There is a large parking lot with handicap spaces and a concession stand. The beach is easily accessed from town but there is a long walk from the parking lot to the beach in soft sand.
Directions and Access Information
Heading from the rotary or town, make your way via Sparks Ave or Prospect St to the intersection by the high school of Atlantic Ave, Sparks Ave, and Prospect St. Turn onto Surfside Road and follow the road all the way to the very end, about 2.3 miles. You will reach a stop sign with a large paved parking lot on the left. Pull into the parking lot and you will have reached Surfside Beach. The concession stand is on the left of the beach entrance, with a seating area nearby behind the shack. Surfside can also be accessed by bicycle, and in the summer months, The Wave bus transportation offers service with pickup on Washington Street in Town and drop-off directly at Surfside beach.
Beach Driving Information
Surfside beach is open to beach driving in the winter months, however is restricted to night-time driving only during the summer due to the amount of people that visit the beach. Night-time driving hours are from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. There is no driving west of the Surfside access as the beach is private and badly eroded. The sand on this stretch of beach can be very soft, so please make sure you are well equipped with a tire gauge, shovel, tow rope, and jack with jack boards. The recommended tire pressure is between 12 and 15 PSI and please operate in the “4 HIGH” setting. Additionally, if your vehicle is equipped with a “traction control” setting, please turn it off to prevent interference with the 4WD system. A beach driving permit, which can be obtained from the Town of Nantucket Police Department by clicking here, is required in order to drive onto Surfside. There is a strict speed limit of 20mph when driving on the beach, which is reduced to 5mph when you are anywhere within 100 yards of a pedestrian. Surfside has been a productive area for nesting shorebirds and as such experiences seasonal vehicle restrictions during the breeding season. There may also be restrictions in place due to erosion. Please stay within existing established vehicle tracks; driving through dune vegetation or creating new trails is not permitted. You may stop and park anywhere along the beach, however make sure to pull off the main trackway so that traffic can get by. Pedestrian traffic is welcome after a vehicle restriction is in place, but pedestrians must obey fencing and signage and continue to stay out of restricted areas. Please respect boundaries and rules established by private property owners on private property.
Swimming and Recreation
Surfside is the ideal spot for both swimmers, surfers, fishermen, and people who just like to lay out in the sun. While it experiences heavy crowds, the beach is wide and flat and there is plenty of room for everyone. There are lifeguards on this beach during the summer, and seasonal restrooms are available. To the left of the beach entrance there is a small concession stand offering hot food, soft drinks, and a seating area nearby. There are changing rooms with showers to wash away the sand before you go home. This beach is extremely popular and is often very busy.
The beach conditions at Surfside are usually very favorable – there is rolling surf with a shallow sandbar at low tide, which makes it ideal for surfers. Since the water is shared by surfers and swimmers alike, be courteous and vigilant when sharing space with surfers. Intensity of the surf can vary depending on weather conditions and there may be dangerous conditions such as rip tides and currents. Please be aware of up-to-date beach conditions before entering the water. There may also be stinging jellyfish throughout the season. All are harmless, with exception of the Portugese Man O’ War which rarely washes up on the south shore. Surfside beach is also a popular fishing location. The area of deep water between the shore and the sandbar is a favorite habitat of Striped Bass. Grilling on the beach is allowed, preferably with a charcoal or propane grill (please do not leave charcoal briquettes on the beach). Small, enclosed cooking fires located away from any flammable material or dune vegetation are allowed without a permit – please click here for further regulations on fires. Keep this beautiful beach clean - all trash and items are “carry in, carry out”, there are no trash receptacles on the beach so please bring any trash you create with you when you leave to dispose of at home or at the bins provided at Surfside parking lot.
Shellfishing and Water Quality
To ensure the safety of Nantucket’s beaches during the busy summer season, the Town of Nantucket Department of Health and Human Services conducts weekly sea water testing. Done in conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the samples are collected weekly for analysis at the Barnstable County biolab, and coliform bacteria levels monitored to ensure safe swimming conditions. Should levels exceed safe margins for two consecutive weeks, the beach will be closed to swimming and monitored until it’s safe to return.
The recreational scallop season runs from October 1 – March 31 and is open to all who carry a recreational shellfish permit from the Town of Nantucket. Permits are $35 for residents and $125 for non-residents, and are available at the Public Safety Facility at 4 Fairgrounds Road. Scallops taken must have a legal raised growth ring a minimum of 10mm from the hinge or are larger than 2.5 inches (63.5 mm) from hinge to shell. Quahogs and oysters can be harvested year-round under a recreational shellfish permit. Soft-shell and razor clam shellfishing is prohibited from June 15th – September 15th. A comprehensive list of Town of Nantucket Shellfishing Policy and Regulations, including daily harvest limits and shellfish sizes, can be found here. A shellfish classification area map for the Surfside shore is available here. For questions about any shellfishing closures, please contact the Department of Marine Fisheries directly.
Nantucket’s wildlife take full advantage of this natural beach, especially during the winter months. Surfside is a great place to walk the dogs, when the beach is cold and quiet. Small songbirds like the Snow Bunting gather here in small flocks to forage on the beach, alongside Sanderlings and other Sandpipers. Herring and Great-black Backed Gulls loaf on the shore, and deer browse through the tall dunes and often come on the beach. Throughout the year the Northern Harrier – also known as “Marsh hawk”, “Hen harrier”, or even as “Grey ghost” can be spotted cruising low over the dune in search of rodents or birds to prey upon. Spring and summer bring nesting Piping Plovers and a variety of tern species, most notably the endangered Least and Common tern. The fall season brings an influx of migratory bird species like the Peregrine Falcon and its smaller relatives, the Merlin and American Kestrel. For a complete list of the bird life that can be found on Nantucket, click here. Seals can occasionally be spotted swimming offshore, but usually prefer other sites on the island like Great Point to haul out on the beach.
Important Phone Numbers & Web Addresses
Nantucket Police & Fire Department (emergency) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 911
Nantucket Police Department (non emergency) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(508) 228–1212
Nantucket Fire Department (non emergency) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(508) 228–2324
Beach Hotline/ Marine Dept . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(508) 228–7261
Natural Resources Department . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(508) 228–7230
Coast Guard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(508) 228–0388
Environmental Police . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(800) 632–8075
Marine Mammal Stranding Team (via Police) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(508) 228–1212