Canoe Beach is a pebble beach situated at the head of a small cove between two rocky points, with Castle Rock to the left (north) and Forty Steps beach beyond it. Although there’s a parking lot here, it’s for Nahant residents only and police enforce this rule vigorously. But, if you stop at the police station beforehand and ask, they may give you permission to use it. It all depends on the day, the time, and the weather. Northeastern University also operates its Marine Science Center here. Like the town, they allow no parking on their property.
Once underwater, the shallows immediately take on a pinkish hue, with nearly all of the small to medium-sized rocks encrusted with coralline algae. The bottom follows a gentle slope down to 30 or 35 feet. In the middle of the cove, a series of rock pinnacles rise straight up from the bottom — the chimneys — high enough to break the surface of the water at low tide. An assortment of medium-sized to large boulders encircle the chimneys, as does an array of marine life, If you move to the right point of the cove, the bottom becomes a series of deeply cut ledges in shallow water. The left point is much the same but with depths in the 25-foot range. This is a very nice site.
The walk from the road to the water is short and down a sloping pebble beach. Entry and exit are made over small rocks and are easy.
This site can become rough when the wind blows out of any easterly direction.
Compasses don't always perform well in the area, so navigating can be difficult if you're not familiar with the site. If the wind is high, surge can make it even more challenging potentially leading to long surface swims. Like many New England sites, visibility can be limited depending on the weather and time of year. If you are not familiar with the area, plan accordingly, and aim to dive when the wind is low and out of the west.
Parking at Nahant's dive sites can be a challenge. You must request permission to park in the area at the Nahant Police Department on your way to the site. The police will typically be accommodating for small groups, especially during off-hours — on summer weekends they are not likely going to offer access. They may offer a temporary permit for display on your dashboard, log plate numbers, or just wave you through.
The police usually direct you to park on Swallow Cave Road just after it splits off of Nahant Road next to the park which is close to the Canoe Beach entrance.
Jerry Shine provided much of the written dive site content on the shore diving sites around New England from his 2005 publication: A Shore Diving Guide to New England which is currently out-of-print. His 2017 publication A Year Underwater: Twelve Months of Diving, Fraternizing with Marine Life, and Just Having a Great Time, from the St. Lawrence River to West Palm Beach is available for purchase on Amazon.
If lobstering be sure that you are licensed, have a gauge for the area you are lobstering in, have your numbers on your cylinder and flag, and don’t land any shorts, longs, notches, or eggers. For more information please reference the mass.gov regulations site here.