The “North Shore” of Massachusetts, an area broadly defined as the stretch of sea coast from Boston to New Hampshire, is a prime summer destination boasting an endless amount of outdoor activities. Besides the beaches, waterfront restaurants and nature preserves, this historically significant area is also home to numerous towns and sites that played a key role in early American history. Here’s a quick guide of what to do in some of the North Shores most popular towns- - Gloucester, Ipswich, Salem and Marblehead.
The town of Gloucester is arguably America’s most famous fishing village, a title earned from its continuous maritime history since its founding in 1620. Over the years, Gloucester lost so many of its sons to the ravages of the sea that the town thought it fitting to set up a memorial to them. The Gloucester Fisherman (also known as "The Man at the Wheel") at Fishermen's Memorial is one of New England's most famous statues, with the legend "They That Go Down to the Sea in Ships, 1623-1923."
In East Gloucester you will find the Rocky Neck Art Colony. The winding streets offer interesting glimpses of the harbor, and every other house seems to be an artist's studio.
Today visitors come to explore its nearly four centuries of history, to enjoy a seafood dinner overlooking its harbor, or head out on a whale watch cruise.
Just outside of town is sight definitely worth seeing: the Hammond Castle. This European-style real life castle was built by the eccentric John Hays Hammond in the 1920’s and now operates as a museum.
MBTA: Take the commuter rail from North Station to Gloucester via the Newburyport/Rockport line. The trip takes about 30 minutes.
The town of Ipswich is famous for its seafood, most notably the clams (“steamers”) and lobsters. These delicacies are sought after by both locals and visitors, and are a must have for anybody who travels to the North Shore. The town is home to numerous 17th century residencies; most notably the Whipple House built in 1677. Other sites include the Crane Estate, a huge manor like Great House on Castle Hill, with the adjoining Crane Beach, one of the North Shores most serene beaches.
Other nature reserves in Ipswich include the beaches of the Sandy Point Reservation the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge at the southern tip of Plum Island; the Ipswich Wildlife Sanctuary; and the Willowdale State Forest, with 40 miles of hiking trails as well as fishing and boating opportunities.
MBTA: Take the commuter rail from North Station to Ipswich via the Newburyport/Rockport line. The trip takes about an hour.
Founded in 1626, by the late 1700s Salem had already grown and prospered. Its ships sailed the world, many dealing in trade from the Orient, especially spices, silks, and other luxury goods.
The wealth of the Indies brought great prosperity to the town, which enabled its citizens to build and decorate fine mansions and impressive museums. Salem is also infamously known as the site of the Salem Witch Trials, which took place in one year, 1692 but have haunted the town ever since. A memorial park in downtown Salem commemorates the suffering of the innocents who were falsely accused and murdered through superstition and abuse of power. There is a spacious town common and many of Salem’s old houses (dating back to the 1600s) and 19th century mansions remain intact and in good repair.
Part of the historic center has been restored and closed to traffic and is now the pedestrians-only Essex Street Mall, the Peabody Essex Museum and the Custom House (Salem Maritime National Historic Site) have brilliant displays of Salem's (and America's) maritime history.
MBTA: Take the commuter rail from North Station to Salem via the Newburyport/Rockport line. The trip takes about 30 minutes.
This is without doubt one of the prettiest and best-kept towns in the country, and people love to come from Boston on the weekend just to walk the streets and window-shop, or have a bowl of chowder in one of several good restaurants. Relax on one of the benches and admire the panoramic view of the harbor and the town. Bring or buy a sandwich, and have a picnic here. The view is unforgettable. It’s also one of the North Shore's more affluent communities, with lovely homes, both new and old, that are worth visiting.
The Jeremiah Lee Mansion, now owned by the Marblehead Historical Society, was built by a wealthy maritime merchant and furnished with the best things money could buy in 1768—just before the American Revolution.
The King-Hooper Mansion built in 1728, with a Georgian extension added in 1747, it is presently owned by the Marblehead Arts Association, which offers tours of four floors. Art exhibits change each month.
Another interesting site is Fort Sewall, an earthwork fortification built in the 1600s and "modernized" in the late 1700s to include barracks and half-buried buildings, which still remain.
MBTA: Take the commuter rail from North Station to Lynn via the Newburyport/Rockport line. Take bus 441 from Lynn. The trip takes about an hour.
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