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Duxbury Beach Reservation

260 Gurnet Rd, Duxbury, MA 02332, USA

781-837-3112

https://www.duxburybeachreservation.org

Owned By: Duxbury Beach Reservation, Inc.

Duxbury Beach Reservation is the official name for the southern portion of Duxbury Beach. It’s a beautiful sandy beach, very popular in the summer. Access to Duxbury Bay is also available here for fishing, shellfishing, and paddling.

In season (Memorial Day to Labor Day), parking at Duxbury Beach Reservation, as well as driving over sand along designated beach roadways, requires a sticker or permit. Pedestrian access is free.

Off-season (after Labor Day), the Duxbury Beach Reservation parking lot is free and open to the public.

Note: right next door is Duxbury Beach Park which is open to the public in-season only, with a cash-pay parking lot. Or park in the very small (no fee) lot at the western end of the Powder Point Bridge.

Features

Duxbury Beach is a 7.5-mile long barrier beach that extends from Marshfield in the north to Gurnet Point and Saquish in the south. It is a clean, beautiful, family-friendly, and accessible place, nestled between Duxbury Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Seasonal shellfishing requires a permit from the Duxbury Police Department.

The Duxbury Beach Reservation, Inc., a 501(c)(3) charitable corporation, owns approximately 4 miles of Duxbury Beach. It leases most of the beach to the town of Duxbury for use by Duxbury residents and the general public.

Some history: This land is within the region of the Patuxet Wampanoag tribe, who for centuries have inhabited the area around the Jones River now known as Duxbury, Kingston and Plymouth. Numerous artifacts have been found on Clark’s Island, nearby. To learn more about local Native American tribes, we encourage you to interact with their members. The Mashpee Wampanoag and the Herring Pond Wampanoag share information on their websites.

After the advent of the automobile, over-sand vehicles became common on Duxbury Beach. Unfortunately they tore up and flattened the dunes. Hurricane Carol (1954) served as a wake-up call, and citizens became concerned with beach preservation. The dunes were rebuilt, snow fence was installed, and beach grass was planted to help prevent sand from washing away. Eventually a summer traffic patrol was approved.

Back then, the beach belonged to a group of private owners, known as the Duxbury Beach Association (DBA). (Fun fact: In 1964, a beach sticker was $1 for residents and $2 for non-residents.) In 1975, the beach’s management was reorganized as a nonprofit, becoming the Duxbury Beach Reservation (DBR). Its mission statement included the equally-rated points of restoring and preserving the beaches in their natural state, and maintaining access both for Duxbury residents and the general public. Like its predecessor, the DBR leased the beach to the town.

In 1978, the infamous blizzard caused 26 major wash-throughs, plus numerous partial breaches. Some dunes were flattened, and deep drifts of sand and stone covered the main parking area. The road to The Gurnet and Saquish was completely destroyed in some sections. After that, beach conservation efforts intensified. It took several years, but a right of way along the bay side of the beach was constructed, sharply delineated by post and cable fencing. Snow fence and grass planting efforts were stepped up, and over time the beach was significantly restored.

The No-Name Storm of 1991 was even more destructive. Again, there were breaches and numerous washovers; many dunes were obliterated, and the road to the Gurnet and Saquish sustained major damage. Grass planting and snow fencing proved once again to be effective remedies. And added to the mix this time was a crackdown on over-sand vehicles.

Prior to 1992, vehicles could drive almost anywhere on the beach, but beginning that year, the DBR began restricting traffic to a single lane, east of the dunes. Two crossovers provided access to the beach, and parking was permitted only in a single line in a designated area (this is on Duxbury Beach itself, not Duxbury Beach Park). The DBR measured the beach to see how many cars could fit. They set the limit at 500 at any one time, and divided this into 250 resident and 250 non-resident admissions.

You may ask, “Why so many non-residents?” The fact that Duxbury Beach has always been accessible to the public is one of the primary factors in its continued existence. In the 1950’s and 60’s there were a number of attempts by the state to take the beach by eminent domain. Because the DBA could prove that there was public access to the beach, it was able to maintain ownership. It’s worth noting here that it’s the parking and access fees that pay for beach maintenance – not property taxes. In addition, the town is obliged by the state to keep the right of way out to Saquish open at all times.

Readers may be surprised to learn that the shorebird monitoring program, which protects two threatened species — piping plovers and least terns – actually helps to keep the beach open to the public. Funded by the annual lease, this program ensures the protection of these birds as required by the Federal Endangered Species Act. Were it not for the presence of the town’s Endangered Species Officer, even more of the beach would be closed during nesting season. (There are often partial closures in June and July.)

Duxbury is bound by state law to keep the road open, and bound by federal law to protect the birds. All of this requires money, and the money is generated by parking and access fees. Without recreational access to the beach, there would be no money for ecological concerns. Without tireless efforts to preserve the beach, there would be no beach left to enjoy. It’s a delicate balance. Amazingly, the ecological damage from vehicles is negligible.

To learn more about Duxbury Beach, read the excellent Duxbury Beach Book by Margaret M. Kearney and Kay Foster (2007).

In 2022, over sand vehicle permits cost $190 for residents and $330 for non-residents. Parking in the town lot, which holds 440 cars, is $120 annually ($55 for seniors). Non-residents can park in an adjacent lot, at Duxbury Beach Park, for $20 per day. While only 500 vehicles can fit on the beach at any given time, permit sales are not subject to limits.

Trail Description

4 miles of sandy beach provide plenty of room to roam. Also consider walking on the unpaved road that runs south from Marshfield on the bay side of the property.

Habitats and Wildlife

Waters flowing from an extensive salt marsh in Green Harbor and along the Marshfield-Duxbury line, as well as from the Cut River and the Duck Hill River, join together form Duxbury’s Back River, which enters Duxbury Bay at the Powder Point Bridge, and empties into Cape Cod Bay. The Back River is visible from the “back” (as opposed to oceanfront) side of Duxbury Beach Reservation.

A 2018 survey indicates that the numbers of species observed on Duxbury Beach are as follows. Birds: 127, Mammals: 8, and Plants: 36. Some notable residents are the Snowy Owl, the Piping Plover, and the Least Tern. The latter two are considered to be threatened species by state and/or federal law. The Duxbury Beach Endangered Species Program, enacted by the Duxbury Police Department, offers protection during the spring and summer.

Like all barrier beaches, Duxbury Beach is dynamic. Sand arrives and departs at a slow pace. Here at Duxbury, the beach is moving westward toward the mainland. Unfortunately, due to heavy armoring of beaches to the north (sea walls), Duxbury Beach is not receiving its natural nourishment of sand.

There are seasonal dynamics as well. In the winter and spring, the beach is rocky, as northeasterly winds pull the sand out. In the summer and fall, the sand returns, carried in by gentle waves.

  • A photograph of a property sign and a parking lot, with a crosswalk.
  • A photograph of an owl on a post.
  • A photograph of a property sign with fence and dune grass.
  • A photograph of a parking area with scattered vehicles, with a bay in the background.
  • A photograph of wooden plank entrance walkway to a beach.
  • A photograph of a boulder / property sign, with dunes grass and fence.
  • A photograph of a snowy owl on a post.
  • A photograph of a wide dirt road through dunes and beach grass, with hazy sunshine.
  • A photograph of a large flock of birds flying close to the water.
  • A photograph of a large wooden access ramp to a beach.
  • A photograph of a small seal on ice.
  • A photograph of the entrance to a park, with fence and property signs.
  • A photograph of a small bird on dried grasses.
  • A photograph of a large wooden entrance walkway to a beach with a parking lot and a bay in the background.
  • A photograph of a sandy beach and shoreline.
  • A photograph of a sandy beach and shoreline, with dunes and fencing.
260 Gurnet Rd, Duxbury, MA 02332, USA

Historic Site: No

Park: No

Beach: Yes

Boat Launch: Yes

Lifeguards: Yes

Size: 4 miles of beach

Hours: 9am to 8pm daily (weather permitting), Memorial Day until Labor Day

Parking: Large on-site parking area requires resident sticker. Non-resident parking (for a fee) is available at Duxbury Beach Park, immediately adjacent.

Cost: Resident sticker required.

Trail Difficulty: Easy

Facilities:

Porta-potties in season. Handicap access ramp and mobility mats in season. In addition, a beach wheelchair is available by request from a guardhouse attendant at the Powder Point Bridge entrance.

Dogs: Dog walking requires a permit.

Boat Ramp: No

ADA Access: Year-round access to scenic vista and boardwalk. Seasonal access to beach.

Scenic Views: Yes

Waterbody/Watershed: Duxbury Bay/ Atlantic Ocean