What Massachusetts may lack in heat, it makes up for in classic beauty. No one can deny that the rich colors of the changing leaves perfectly compliment the deep blues and greens from the Atlantic. The harbor side villages seem to be frozen in time, reminiscent to a simpler time of horse-drawn carriages and sailors trying to not get scurvy… (ya, sorry, I was getting a little too Robert Frost-y). Anyway, back on track! I’m a born-and-raised Masshole and I grew up spending time in various coastal areas in northeastern Massachusetts. They’re mainly small towns but they are so worth checking out if you’re looking to step out of the city. For out-of-towners who would stay in Boston, I included driving time from the middle of the city. Without further ado, A Local’s Summer Pit Stop Guide Through Massachusetts’ Northern Coast:
♦ Salisbury Beach (55 minutes)– So many of my childhood summer memories stem from Salisbury beach. The center hasn’t changed much in the past decades but isn’t it better that way? The authenticity entices a warm, familiar feeling that’s invites in locals and first time visitors. The vibrant colors from the arcades mixed with the mustard yellows and browns from of the original establishments will bring you back to a time of Aqua Velva and Daisy Dukes. It’s kind of comforting that the Salisbury beach my parents experienced is more or less the beach I experienced and will be the beach that my children will get to the experience.
Salisbury Beach Story Time: My family and I saw two men yelling at each other because one man was flying a kite (at night for some reason) and the other guy walked up to him and cut the string. I do NOT condone kite string cutting but, come on, how hilariously ridiculous is that?! And while this was going on in front of us, we were hanging out… eating fried dough.
Other than watching men fight over a kite string, what’s there to do in the center?
Grab a slice at Tripoli’s
Tripoli’s, the best pizza of the 3 pizza stands in the center and my all-time favorite pizza. The pizza is square, in Sicilian tradition, and the sauce has a bit of sweetness to it. Real patrons only get cheese or pepperoni, anything else is unheard of. You’re either a Tripoli’s person or a Cristy’s person. Some people say that they like both, those people are liars.
Play a few rounds of skee-ball at Joe’s Playland
Here is one of the two Joe’s Playlands, it’s closer to the ocean. It has all of the classic arcade games, Skee-ball, Color-rama, various pinball games, etc. They even have an original black & white photo booth from the 50’s. There’s virtually no difference between the two but for some reason this one is my go-to. Or maybe because it’s next Tripoli’s…hmmmm
Start your morning at Groundswell’s Surf Cafe and admire the ocean
Groundswell Surf Cafe is not a long-standing spot in the center but it was a much-needed addition. Groundswell is a great place to get a quick breakfast with a front row view of the ocean. They’re known for their healthy and freshly made acai bowls. My sister swears by The Groundswell, a bowl with peanut butter, coconut oil, coconut flakes, cacao nibs, goji berries, and agave. My (not so healthy) recommendation is The Hangover, maple ham, a fried egg, and cheese pressed inside of a grilled glazed doughnut. It’s so delicious and rich that you’ll have a heart attack, be resuscitated, and ask for another!
♦ Newburyport (45 minutes)– Downtown Newburyport is one of my favorite places for summer night strolls and Sunday afternoon boutique window shopping. The cobblestone and brick side streets SCREAM New England and the marina is breathtakingly beautiful. Any Massachusetts resident knows that April to October is Newburyport constitutional (my favorite old-timey way of saying “a walk”) season. During the prime season there’s usually an open market or live music being held in the center. What else does this seaside town have to offer?
Take a leisurely stroll around the docks
Believe it or not, this picture of the Newburyport marina is completely unedited and was taken on an iPhone 4S (crazy throwback, right?). The marina has a long dock, well suited for slow, peaceful walks. When Randy and I visit the docks, we often sit and watch the boats go by, as we attempt to guess how many credit cards the owners spread their purchase upon.
Dine at Ceia
Ceia is an inviting little European restaurant in the downtown area. Ceia specializes in coastal European cuisine, mainly Portugal, Spain, France, and Italy. They’re known for their fresh ingredients, cured meats and cheese (two of my five love languages), and their award-winning wine list. The Salumi & Cheese platter transports Randy and I back to our favorite Mediterranean cities. Both the Duck Cassoulet and The Signature Burger are exceptionally appetizing. Manchego cheese and prosciutto on burgers should be compulsory… just saying. Ceia is a little pricey but it’s totally worth it for a nice dinner out. When our waiter found out that Randy and I had just finished taking our engagement photos that same evening, he brought us complimentary champagne. The beauty is in the details, my friends.
Explore Oldie’s Marketplace
Looking for that unique, funky talking piece for your mantle? Well, take a morning and look around Oldie’s by the marina. Oldie’s is an outdoor/indoor market open Friday-Sunday from 11am to 3pm. Every week there’s a wide display of various antique pieces and playful knick knacks.
Devour a scoop at Dolce Freddo Gelato
Show me a person who doesn’t love gelato and I’ll show you a mad man/woman. Dolce Freddo Gelato is my favorite gelateria in the area, and it doesn’t hurt that the owner is so friendly. Newburyport is one of three locations, along with Portsmouth, NH and the original in Methuen, Ma (my hometown, woohoo!). Dolce Freddo has grown to have a substantial following in the area, mainly because of its high standard of quality and authenticity (the owner learned how to make gelato in Italy). My go-to flavors are: Caramel Brownie, Tiramisu, and Blu Monster.
♦ Rockport (55 minutes)– There’s a romantic storybook-like quality to Rockport that attracts visitors all year round. In the winter, the snow transforms this fisherman’s village to a New England Christmas wonderland. In the summer, the flowers blossom and delicately blanket over the rocky coast. There are endless adorable shops, most are independently owned small businesses. I think that’s also what has helped the town in keeping its seaside village charm. What else does Rockport have to offer?
Climb out onto the rocks on Ship’s Mast Light
How much more convenient can Rockport get than to have this gorgeous sight right in front of the parking lot? It’s a lazy traveler’s dream! As you park your car, you’ll get out and immediately see the Ship’s Mast Light, a natural boardwalk made from rocks (get it, ROCKport!? Ha. ha.). It’s a beautiful site that would make any mermaid jealous.
Take pictures on Dock Square
While strolling alone, I peeked over and caught a glimpse of this striking waterfront landscape. The sky being so crystal clear and the water mirroring the azure sky, I couldn’t pass up this shot. A secret dock sounds a little hipster/pretentious, I know, but on Dock Square, next to Tuck’s Candy factory there is a small dock where you can capture this same scene.
Alright my New Englanders, what did you think of my guide? Have you been to any of these towns? Non-New Englanders, what did you think? Any of these spots catch your eye? Comment below 🙂