Take the T to These Five Local Swimming Holes
Going for a dip is only a bus, train, or commuter rail ride away.
It’s hot. It’s humid. And sitting in hours of traffic to go to a crowded Cape beach is only going to make it worse.
Luckily, you don’t need to look any farther than the good ol’ MBTA to make an escape. Your best bet for a quick swim may lie away from the coast at these quiet but gorgeous swimming holes that are just a bus, train, or commuter rail ride away.
Upper Mystic Lake
Medford’s pair of tranquil lakes, called the Mystic Lakes, are hidden gems complete with swimming areas and picnic tables. Shannon Beach at Upper Mystic Lake (as opposed to its twin, Lower Mystic Lake) is staffed with a lifeguard for safe swimming and the beach is surrounded by wooded trails for cooling off and exploring. You can bring your boat if you want to venture out into the lakes’ bright blue waters—motorized boats are allowed in Lower Mystic Lake, and row and sail boats are okay in both.
If you’re just looking to catch some sun, skip the beach and head to the Tufts boathouse docks for a quieter view of the lake from its southern end. Bring a picnic (sans alcohol) and a blanket or two if you plan to stay to watch the sunset.
Directions: Take the Green Line north to Lechmere, then catch the 80 bus to Arlington Center. Hop off at High Street at Mystic Valley Parkway and walk about 15 minutes to the docks and 20 to the beach. You can also take the Lowell commuter rail from North Station and walk less than 10 minutes from the Wedgemere station.
Free, sunrise to sunset, 481 Mystic Valley Parkway, Medford, mass.gov.
It’s less than an hour away from downtown by public transit, but Crystal Lake in Newton feels like your typical all-American small-town watering hole. It’s lined mostly by private homes, so taking the T is ideal to avoid the search for street parking. Once you enter through the picture-perfect pink boathouse, you can rent canoes, stand-up paddleboards, and rowboats.
Make sure to stay inside the designated swimming area, as you can get slapped with a $500 fine if someone catches you wandering off to one of the coves. But with a long dock to jump off of and a floating dock to swim out to, swimming inside the lines shouldn’t be too hard.
Directions: Take the D Line outbound to Newton Highlands (you’ll catch a great view of the lake from the train) and walk down Lake Ave. less than 10 minutes to the entrance.
$6+ per day, 9:30 a.m. to dusk, June 11 to August 20, 30 Rogers St., Newton, newtonma.gov.
Reservoir Beach is the sweaty germophobe’s dream: a filtered and chlorinated swimming area just outside the city. Make a day of it by reserving one of two picnic areas and stop by the Trader Joe’s for provisions on your walk over. Lifeguards are on duty, bathrooms are clean and close, and the whole thing is tucked away in a secluded residential neighborhood.
Directions: Take the Red Line all the way north to Alewife, then catch the 62 bus headed for Bedford VA. Get off at Mass Ave. at Paul Revere Road and walk less than 10 minutes through the park to get to the beach.
$5+ per day, 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., June 11 to August 24, 250 Lowell St., Arlington, arlingtonrec.com.
Cochituate State Park is home to three connected lakes, with Wayland Town Beach sitting on the eastern shore of the northernmost one. You can enjoy swimming, boating, canoeing, fishing, and windsurfing out on the water. If land’s more your thing, post up at a picnic table or explore several miles of trails in the surrounding forest. The beach is accessible to all, with ramps to all areas, accessible bathrooms, and even beach wheelchairs.
Directions: Catch the commuter rail to Framingham/Worcester and take it to Natick Center. From there, ride the 10 bus from Moran Park to Bent Park, and walk about five minutes down Parkland Drive until you reach Wayland Town Beach.
Free, sunrise to sunset, 26 Parkland Dr., Wayland, mass.gov.
Breakheart Reservation’s rocky forested landscape looks more like northern Maine than the North Shore, but the freshwater swimming area at Pearce Lake is really only a bus ride away. You’ll walk through the trees (beware of coyotes!) on the reservation’s inner loop and come out at a wide beach on the northern shore of Pearce Lake’s blue waters.
There’s plenty of sun and shade to go around on the beach, and the shallow water by the shore is perfect for wading young ones. More adventurous swimmers can aim for the small island at the edge of the buoyed area.
Directions: Take the 428 bus north from Haymarket to Main St. at Lynn Fells Parkway. From there, it’s about a half hour walk to the beach and a little less to the shade of the reservation (Our advice? Wear a backpack).
Free, sunrise to sunset, Breakheart Reservation, 177 Forest St., Saugus, mass.gov.