Boston’s North Shore

Full of historic homes and luxury beaches, northern Boston is the up-and-coming region of New England.

Geographic rivalries are not uncommon. In Boston, it’s two stretches along the coast radiating from the city — North Shore vs. South Shore. At first glance they seem similar, a chain of cities and towns hugging the coastline, but the differences (and maybe the rivalries) go back centuries. The Pilgrims landed in Plymouth on the south, and the Puritans landed on the north in Salem, founding two different colonies with diverse underpinnings.

On the North Shore, it’s hard to escape reminders of the region’s storied past. Here it’s possible to find quintessential New England in villages such as Essex, which has the most antique shops per square mile in the country. In the city of Newburyport, just south of the New Hampshire border, vestiges of the Colonial era mix with the 21st century. Once an important port and center for shipbuilding, Newburyport has the largest collection of Federalist architecture in the country. Here and in nearby towns such as Newbury, one finds prime examples of early Colonial homes, some of which remain private residences.

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Throughout the North Shore, there are dozens of historic homes and sites. The Peabody Essex Museum on East India Square in Salem highlights the history of the region, particularly the maritime connections, but it is also ranked one of the country’s top art museums.

The region includes more than 25 cities and towns extending along oceanfront, inlets and marshes north of Boston and into former farming villages farther inland. A number are considered enclaves for the affluent, but the diversity of housing and communities ranges from waterfront and marsh-view settings to urban condos, to residences on multi-acre sites a few miles inland in Boxford or Middletown.

Some of the best beaches in the state also dot this stretch of the coast and include Plum Island off of Newburyport, Crane’s Beach in Ipswich and Wingaersheek in Gloucester on Cape Ann.

Locals often refer to Cape Ann, a rocky spit of land reaching into the Atlantic, as “the other cape.” Admittedly, it is one of the prettiest stretches of coastline in the state (it’s been a setting for a number of movies), and one that still offers an authentic lifestyle that appeals to an eclectic group from fishermen to artists and writers. The seaside village of Rockport is an arts hub. On Cape Ann, one discovers Shingle-style homes often mixed among Contemporary-style residences built to capture ocean, marsh or pond views.

Not only does this area include gorgeous beaches, but also some of the region’s true estate settings in Manchester by the Sea and Annisquam. It is also home to America’s oldest fishing port, Gloucester, which is still a working fishing community.

Along with beaches, history, stunning homesites and towns that foster community, the region is noted for a cuisine inspired by the Italian and Portuguese heritage and the bounty of fresh seafood. In fact, instead of farm to table, Gloucester touts its “bait to plate” freshness. All this, only 30 miles from Logan Airport and Boston.

     

This editorial originally appeared in Unique Homes Winter 2020.