Travel

Shake-Up Your Beach Hang by Finding A 'Singing Sand' Beach This Summer

Let's be honest: Most people hate the actual sand at a beach -- arguably 80% of the whole experience -- trying to keep it off their towels and out of their snacks and beer and hair, or complaining about finding sand for days afterwards. But what if the sand is the draw?

This is the case at a handful of beaches around the world, known charmingly as "singing beaches." Singing beaches are rare, but there are a handful of well-established locations around the world, on every continent except Antarctica. In the States, singing sand can be found in the dunes of various national parks, around Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, and on beaches along the Atlantic coast.

Singing sand emits an unmistakable sound like it’s, well, singing. Many present-participle verbs are used to describe the phenomenon besides singing -- whistling, rumbling, barking -- but in my experience, which consists of visiting exactly two of singing sand beaches, the most accurate sound would be squeaking.

The sand exists under certain very specific conditions, with individual grains containing silica. They have to be sufficiently round, neither too small nor too large, but just right. The sand has to be dry. These conditions aren’t just limited to beaches, but sand dunes, too. We don’t completely know yet how or why, but when something introduces friction, like wind or feet (not water, it’s still gotta be dry) the sand does its thing.

To activate it, so to speak, first find a dry patch -- some place where the tide can’t reach, preferably exposed to the sun. Then, and there’s really no other way to describe this, waddle forward like you’re a penguin. The trick is to not lift your foot up the way you would when walking normally, but keep them flat and shuffle, kind of quickly, against the sand.

The best-known and most beloved location is probably Singing Beach at Manchester-by-the-Sea, on Massachusetts' North Shore. The beach is public and does get crowded, so try to go early in the day if you can. Parking for non-residents is $25 in late summer and doesn’t exist in early summer, so plan on parking somewhere in town and walking for a few minutes. There’s a $7 entry fee for the beach itself. Dogs are allowed but alcohol is not. Another popular spot is on Prince Edwards Islands, in Canada, where people flock to give the the sands a good listen. 


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Kastalia Medrano is Thrillist's Travel Writer. You can send her travel tips at kmedrano@thrillist.com, and Venmo tips at @kastaliamedrano.