The northeast section of Massachusetts is commonly referred to as the "North Shore". Just a 20 minute drive or so outside of Boston, this area of the Bay State is dotted with beautiful beaches, quaint seaside towns and a plethora of cultural sights making it worth exploring. As a long-time local, I love where I live and I'm always trying to get people to visit. Below I've listed a number of reasons why you should check us out. I hope you do!
Things to Do/Sights to See by Town (in alphabetical order)
Essex--If antiquing is your thing, then head to Essex. There are a number of very interesting antique shops along Rte. 133. This small town rests between Gloucester and Ipswich. Take time for the Essex Shipbuilding Museum or hop in a kayak to see Essex from the water. One of the best places to get fried clams on the North Shore is Woodman's. People come from far and wide just for the taste of Woodman's fried seafood.
Gloucester--Gloucester is famous for being one of the largest fishing ports in America. The restaurants and bars are varied and good. Want some live music with that pinot? Franklin Cafe on Main St. books great local jazz bands. If beer is your thing, head down to the Cape Ann Brewing Company and taste what's on tap. The latest night spot is Latitude 43 and my personal favorite? Passports for their popovers. If you are visiting during Labor Day, Gloucester hosts a Schooner Festival. There are races, boat tours, great food and frivolity. Very fun weekend.
Hamilton--This wealthy hamlet is horse country and a great place to take a walk in the woods. In the summer you can head over to the usually private Myopia Hunt Club for their Sunday polo matches. Bradley Palmer State Park offers paved pathways for a leisurely stroll. If we've had a nice fresh layer of snow, Appleton Farms is a great place to try out snowshoeing. Head over to the Black Cow for lunch afterward to warm up your toes by the fire.
Ipswich--The Crane Estate and Crane's Beach are worth visiting, especially in the summer. Gorgeous miles of white sand make for a great day at the beach. The mansion and estate you see on your way to the beach entrance has been featured in a number of films for it's beautiful grounds. Worth paying the fee to explore. Stop by Russell Orchards on your way home for some freshly grown produce.
Manchester-by-the-Sea--Yes, that is the town's official name. Singing Beach is a popular spot if beaching is your goal for the day. Breakfast at the Beach St. Cafe is a great way to start out. Pop into some of the cute shops along Rte. 127 as you weave your way through town. In the mood for some more walking in the woods? Keep heading down Rte. 127 and you'll come upon Ravenswood Park on your way to Gloucester. Or check out Coolidge Reservation. After parking in the lot, head down the main trail and you eventually come out to a lawn that sprawls all the way down to a dramatic rocky coastline. Bring a picnic and make a day of it.
Marblehead--Fort Sewall is a great spot to check out the regattas happening on Salem Sound. Head over to Maddie's Sail Loft for a drink or check out some of the cute shops downtown. Ever wondered what happened to the original "Spirit of 1776" painting? Well, it's hanging in Marblehead's Abbott Hall. Cool, right? For good eats on the water, I recommend The Barnacle.
Newburyport--Lovely Newburyport offers great shopping along State St. You can't go wrong with any of the restaurants or bars. In the mood for an unknown indie film? Head down to the the Screening Room. This intimate movie theater is the closest thing to being on your couch at home.
Rockport--A very popular destination for its unique shops along Bearskin Neck. Park where you can and then walk downtown. Awesome ocean views at the end of the neck.
Salem--There are four MUST-Do's if you choose to visit Salem, MA: go sailing on the Schooner Fame, go to the Peabody Essex Museum, take the tour of the House of Seven Gables, and check out the tall ship Friendship (tickets available at the Center of Maritime History). Although popular for the witch hysteria of the late 17th century, the real history of Salem and what it should be known for is its' maritime history. The movie shown at the Armory is well worth the 30 minutes. It illustrates the history of this part of Massachusetts and could be a great jumping off point for your trip. When you get hungry, grab a burger at In a Pig's Eye on Derby St. across from the House of Seven Gables.
The best way to get around is by car. Part of the charm of the North Shore is taking the back roads to get somewhere. The directions might tell you to take Rte. 128 (a small highway), but don't. If you look at the map and it seems like you can get there by taking Rte. 1A or Rte. 133 or Rte. 127, do it! These roads offer very pretty drives along farms and coastline that are edifying in and of themselves. Many cyclists travel these roads as well, if that's your thing.
If you don't have access to a car, the Commuter Rail will get you as far north as Newburyport and Rockport. Many of the towns I mention above are stops along the way. Check out www.mbta.com for more on our railway system.
Where to Stay
Bed and Breakfasts are abundant in towns like Rockport, Salem, and Newburyport. Definitely consider this type of accommodation. If you need to go bigger, there is a Sheraton and a Marriott in Danvers, MA, a town that will also provide you with a large mall, movie theater, and big, commercial chain stores and restaurants.