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How to get out of town without wheels

WaterFire, a fire sculpture installation in Providence, takes place on Saturday evenings throughout the summer. Photo courtesy of WaterFire.

When the mercury hits the 80s, even the coolest parts of the city offer little relief. (The Swan Boats, while lovely, don’t move fast enough to catch a breeze.) At such times, the best solution is to get out of town. But without a car, where can a Bostonian in need go?

With a few bucks in hand, plenty of places. The MBTA does some of its finest work outside the city limits, offering commuter rail service to beaches and seaside towns up and down the coast. BU Today highlights four summertime destinations that can be reached by public transportation.

Singing Beach, Manchester-by-the-Sea
Singing Beach — named for the “singing” noise the sand makes beneath your feet — is arguably the best beach in the state: it is beautiful and clean, with plenty of space for both Frisbee-players and sunbathers. Plus, it boasts the ever-important amenities of restrooms and a concession stand. There is a walk-on entrance fee of $5, which is well worth it. To get there, take the Rockport-bound commuter rail (tickets are $5.25, one way) from North Station and get off at the Manchester stop. Singing Beach is about a half-mile walk from the station.

WaterFire, Providence, R.I.
On designated Saturday nights throughout the summer, the city of Providence sets its river on fire, and visitors come from all over New England to see the sight. WaterFire is a fire sculpture installation that began in 1994. Dozens of braziers are placed throughout the river, and close to 100 bonfires glow as the accompanying music reverberates off the city’s buildings. Vendors and performers complete the festival feel, and the fires, which start at sundown, often burn past midnight. WaterFires are scheduled for July 15, July 29, August 12, and August 26. Providence is an hour’s ride from South Station on either Amtrak ($11, one way) or by bus, Bonanza ($8, one way), and the river is a short walk from both the train and the Kennedy Plaza bus station.

Yankee Homecoming, Newburyport, Mass.
Newburyport is a historic seaport that’s been through an upgrade in recent years, now offering a mix of seaside history and suburban chic — visitors can move from art galleries to the maritime museum in a few short steps. The lively waterfront offers great people-watching, with cooling breezes at any time of the summer, but for a real sense of the town’s history, hit the Yankee Homecoming festival, which runs from July 29 to August 6. A celebration of the first settlers in the Newburyport area, Yankee Homecoming’s events include a bed race, an art show, and an annual parade and fireworks show. To get there, take the Newburyport commuter rail line from North Station ($6, one way).

Boston Harbor Islands, Boston, Mass.
The Harbor Islands aren’t actually out of town at all, but being there feels like an entirely different world. There are 34 islands in the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, and many of them offer hiking trails, tidal pools, and camping sites and are easily accessible by T and by ferry. Tour the Civil War–era site Fort Warren on Georges Island, or visit the country’s oldest continually used lighthouse on Little Brewster Island. Ferries leave from Long Wharf in Boston and the EDIC Pier in South Boston, both of which can be reached by T; ferries cost between $10 and $12 (round trip), depending on the day of travel. For more information go to the Harbor Islands visitors’ guide.