Coronavirus has done a number on our summer plans. With travel cancellations happening left and right and surging infection rates at some of the more popular destinations, many of us have been looking for options a little closer to home.
Maybe you were dreaming of trip to the ocean this summer, spending the days stretched out on the sand and soaking up the sun as the ocean waves lap at the shore. Maybe you started having second thoughts when a trip to your favorite beach also meant a mandatory 14-day quarantine when you returned home. Or maybe you are simply not ready to be among the crowds that seem to gather wherever stretches of sand and ocean meet.
Take heart. If you temper your expectations a little, you’ll find a number of lovely local beaches in and around the Capital District that make a perfect little summer getaway. Sure, you might miss the briny tang of the sea air, but you won’t miss the squawking seagulls (mostly) or washed-up jellyfish.
Some things to remember when you are planning a beach outing during a pandemic:
- Be early. Some beaches and state parks have limits on the number of people allowed per day to promote adequate social distancing. Plan to get there early or be ready with a backup plan.
- Be patient. Indoor areas, such as changing rooms and restrooms, will have reduced capacity and may come with a wait.
- Be respectful. When you set up your towels and umbrellas, make sure you allow for 10 feet between your party and the others on the beach. Wear a mask when using the facilities or walking among people when you can’t be 6 feet apart.
- Be prepared. Bring your own hand sanitizer, snacks and beverages. Many concession stands are not open, and you don’t want to be caught out in the hot sun parched and with an empty belly. Hangry is not a good look at the beach.
The one that’s close to home
A quick drive up the Heldeberg escarpment will bring you to Thompson’s Lake, a campground and day use area within Thacher State Park. The swimming beach is compact and popular with locals. It also quickly reaches capacity on the weekends. In late summer, the water is pleasant to swim in, but most visitors over the age of 12 seem to be content just relaxing in the sun. A playground at the top of the beach is a great way for the younger set to burn of some energy, but keep an eye out for pandemic-related restrictions.
The one where you can stretch out a little
A short drive east will get you to Long Pond, which is a part of Grafton Lakes State Park. The expanse of sand is perfect for strolling and building sandcastles. Or just set up your beach chair, adjust your floppy hat and dive into a fast-paced beach read. (See right for some suggestions.) In summers past, this beach’s expansiveness made it a great choice for groups and activities like cornhole and can jam, but those are prohibited at this time. You’ll also find a number of picnic tables in the wooded area where the sand ends.
The one that feels like you’re on a vacation
In any given summer, Lake George’s 51-acre Million Dollar Beach is a bustling destination for travelers near and far. This year, the crowds aren’t as big, but it is still a busy place. At this time, hand sanitizing stations are located along the boardwalk, and social distancing and mask rules are in effect. Million Dollar Beach is perfect for those folks who prefer a beach that is right in the middle of the action. With more shops reopening, you can get your saltwater taffy and ice cream or shop for tchotchkes just steps from where you set up your beach chair. Keep in mind that while this public beach is free, parking will cost you around $10.
The one that almost seems like the ocean
It’s a little bit of a hike up the Northway, but if you’re really craving the big beach experience, head to Ausable Point State Park located on the shore of Lake Champlain just south of Plattsburgh. There is a designated swimming area, but beyond that, there is still so. much. beach. Driftwood that almost looks like it has been weathered by the sea dots the shore. And there are seagulls. Lots of them. The wind can be pretty robust here, which makes it a popular destination for windsurfers, and watching them glide by with their colorful sails is a pleasant way to spend a sunny afternoon.
The one where the journey is almost as nice as the destination
The beach at Glimmerglass State Park, which is about an hour’s drive west of Albany, is tucked at the end of Lake Otsego and framed by the rolling green hills of the Leatherstocking region. There is plenty of sand to claim as your own, and the water is brisk if you’re up for a swim. But one of the most enjoyable things about it is the pleasant drive along Route 20 to get there. Enjoy the pastoral vistas and quaint villages as you pass through unhurried on this historic New York highway. If you finish off your snacks and need to restock before heading home, just take a quick detour into Cooperstown, where you should have no trouble finding what you need.