Best Things to Do in the North Shore, MA: 12 Must-See Attractions

by Flora Backup
Here's all the best attractions in the North Shore that you should know about.
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Are you thinking of going on a vacation in the North Shore of Massachusetts? Here are some of the most fun and unique things to do in the North Shore. If you’re a local or a tourist, these sights and attractions are sure to make for a memorable experience.

The North Shore of Massachusetts is a sensory experience. With its blend of historic charm, coastal beauty, and authentic New England spirit, it beckons travelers from near and far. From the bustling outskirts of Boston to the serene stretches near the New Hampshire border, every corner of the North Shore tells a story. Imagine sandy beaches perfect for leisurely afternoons, towns steeped in rich history, and a food scene that masterfully combines tradition with innovation. There’s a wealth of things to do in the North Shore that will impress every kind of traveler.

Whether you’re a history aficionado, an outdoor enthusiast, or a seeker of hidden gems, the North Shore has something special in store for you. As we delve into this guide, prepare to uncover the myriad adventures that await in the North Shore. From the lesser-known spots to the iconic landmarks, we’re about to embark on a journey of discovery. Here’s everything you need to know about these fun things to do in the North Shore.

The top places to visit in North Shore, MA right now
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Best Places to Visit in the North Shore, MA

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in the North Shore? As mentioned above, this popular vacation spot has something for everyone. Read on to discover all these unique North Shore places to visit.

Are you looking for well-known historical and cultural sites? Or maybe you’re into gastronomic adventures to try the local delicacies? Or perhaps you prefer a relaxing getaway in nature? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in the North Shore can satisfy your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in the North Shore that you should know about.

1. Salem Witch Museum, Salem

This is one of the most unique things to do in the North Shore, hands down! The Salem Witch Museum stands as a poignant testament to a dark chapter in American history. Located in the heart of Salem, this museum offers a deep dive into the haunting tales of the 1692 witch trials. Through a series of evocative exhibits, visitors are transported back to a time of fear, superstition, and mass hysteria.

A definite standout on the North Shore, the Salem Witch Museum reflects a poignant period in American history.
A definite standout on the North Shore, the Salem Witch Museum reflects a poignant period in American history.

Life-sized figures, dramatic lighting, and compelling narrations recreate the harrowing events that led to the wrongful persecution of many. As you navigate the museum’s dimly lit corridors, the weight of the past becomes palpable, serving as a chilling reminder of the dangers of prejudice and ignorance.

After your museum visit, the town beckons with its blend of history and modern charm. Wander the cobblestone streets, admire the historic homes, and feel the town’s unique energy. And if you’re pondering where to go in the North Shore as dusk approaches, Salem’s renowned ghost tours await. Offering a mix of history and spine-tingling tales, it’s an experience that’s both enlightening and thrilling.

2. Crane Beach, Ipswich

Golden sands stretch as far as the eye can see at Crane Beach in Ipswich, one of the best places in the North Shore for sun, surf, and relaxation. This pristine barrier beach is a haven for both locals and tourists, offering miles of shoreline perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and beachcombing. The gentle waves make it a favorite spot for families, while the vast expanse ensures there’s always a quiet corner to lay down your towel.

Crane Beach's pristine shoreline, and nature trails creates an idyllic coastal escape for those seeking tranquility.
Crane Beach’s pristine shoreline, and nature trails creates an idyllic coastal escape for those seeking tranquility.

Beyond its sandy allure, Crane Beach is a conservation success story. Managed by The Trustees, efforts here focus on preserving the beach’s dunes and habitats, which are home to diverse wildlife. As you stroll along the water’s edge, keep an eye out for the piping plovers, a protected bird species that nests here.

For those keen on cool activities, the beach offers guided tours detailing its natural and cultural history. And if you’re a fan of grand architecture, don’t miss the nearby Crane Estate, a stunning 20th-century mansion with panoramic views of the Atlantic. After a day at Crane Beach, you’ll understand why it’s often touted as one of the must-see North Shore attractions.

3. Rockport’s Bearskin Neck

If you’re looking for one of the best things to do in Massachusett’s North Shore, you’re in for a treat.

Stepping into Rockport’s Bearskin Neck feels like you’ve been transported into a charming postcard. This iconic stretch in Rockport, a picturesque seaside town, is a delightful maze of narrow lanes, historic buildings, and quaint shops. It’s easy to see why it’s one of the best places to go in the North Shore for a leisurely day out.

Rockport's Bearskin Neck is a quaint and scenic area known for its unique shops, galleries, and coastal charm.
Rockport’s Bearskin Neck is a quaint and scenic area known for its unique shops, galleries, and coastal charm.

As you wander through Bearskin Neck, you’ll discover a plethora of artisan boutiques, galleries, and eateries. Each storefront tells a story, from handcrafted jewelry to local artworks that capture the essence of coastal Massachusetts. The aroma of fresh seafood wafts from the restaurants, tempting you to take a seat and savor the catch of the day.

The harbor views are breathtaking, with colorful boats bobbing in the water and the distant sound of seagulls. As the sun sets, the sky paints a mesmerizing canvas, making it a favorite spot for photographers and romantics alike.

With so much charm and personality, Bearskin Neck is one of the top places to visit in the North Shore. Offering a blend of history, art, and natural beauty, it’s a destination that beckons time and time again, always offering something new to explore.

4. Peabody Essex Museum, Salem

In the heart of Salem lies the Peabody Essex Museum, one of the most unique things to do in the North Shore of MA. It’s a testament to the region’s rich maritime history and a treasure trove of art from around the world. If you’re thinking of where to visit in the North Shore, this museum is a cultural gem that shouldn’t be missed.

Nestled in Salem, the Peabody Essex Museum stands out as a distinctive North Shore activity.
Nestled in Salem, the Peabody Essex Museum stands out as a distinctive North Shore activity.

The museum’s collection is vast and varied, spanning centuries and continents. From ancient Chinese artifacts to contemporary art installations, every exhibit tells a story. The maritime galleries, in particular, offer a deep dive into New England’s seafaring past, with intricate ship models, nautical instruments, and tales of voyages to distant shores. But it’s not just about the past. The museum is a hub for contemporary art and culture, hosting regular events, workshops, and performances.

Beyond the exhibits, the museum’s architecture is a marvel in itself. Historic houses blend seamlessly with modern extensions, creating a space that’s both timeless and forward-thinking. As you wander the halls, it’s easy to see why the Peabody Essex Museum ranks among the best places in the North Shore for a deep cultural immersion.

5. Marblehead’s Historic Downtown

Stepping into Marblehead’s Historic Downtown feels like taking a journey back in time. With its narrow streets lined with 17th and 18th-century buildings, this charming coastal town offers a glimpse into New England’s colonial past. For those seeking unique places in the North Shore, Marblehead’s downtown is a delightful discovery.

The town’s maritime heritage is evident at every turn. From the old fishing shanties to the grand sea captains’ mansions, each building has a tale to tell. As you stroll, you’ll come across boutique shops, art galleries, and cozy cafes, all adding to the town’s vibrant atmosphere. It’s one of the best places to go in the North Shore for a mix of history, shopping, and seaside charm.

Marblehead's Historic Downtown is a charming area that preserves the town's rich history.
Marblehead’s Historic Downtown is a charming area that preserves the town’s rich history.

Don’t miss out on visiting Fort Sewall, an old military fortification offering panoramic views of Marblehead Harbor. The sight of sailboats gliding across the water, framed by the town’s historic skyline, is truly picturesque.

Concluding your visit, the Marblehead Lighthouse stands as a beacon, reminding visitors of the town’s longstanding relationship with the sea. For those wondering what to do in the North Shore, a day in Marblehead’s Historic Downtown is a journey filled with charm and history.

6. Newburyport’s Waterfront Park

Newburyport’s Waterfront Park is a serene oasis that offers visitors a chance to relax and soak in the beauty of the Merrimack River. As one of the coolest activities in the North Shore, a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk provides breathtaking views of boats sailing by and the town’s historic architecture in the backdrop.

The park is a hub of activity, especially during the warmer months. From outdoor concerts to art festivals, there’s always something happening. You can also rent a kayak or paddleboard from the nearby vendors and explore the river. The gentle currents make it suitable for beginners and families alike.

Newburyport's Waterfront Park is a picturesque destination in North Shore, MA offering scenic views and recreational opportunities.
Newburyport’s Waterfront Park is a picturesque destination in North Shore, MA offering scenic views and recreational opportunities.

Close by, the Custom House Maritime Museum delves into Newburyport’s rich maritime history. It’s a treasure trove for history enthusiasts and those keen on learning about the town’s seafaring past. And if you’re in the mood for some shopping or dining, the adjacent downtown area is brimming with boutique shops, cafes, and restaurants.

Newburyport’s Waterfront Park encapsulates the charm of the North Shore. It’s a place where history, nature, and modern amenities converge, making it one of the best things to do in the North Shore.

7. Gloucester’s Whale Watching Tours

Imagine being on a boat, the salty sea breeze tousling your hair, and suddenly, a majestic humpback whale breaches the water’s surface. Gloucester’s Whale Watching Tours offer this surreal experience, making it one of the must-see attractions in the North Shore. Located in America’s oldest seaport, Gloucester has a rich maritime history and is renowned for its spectacular whale-watching opportunities.

Offering an exceptional experience, Gloucester's Whale Watching Tours are a must-do on the North Shore.
Offering an exceptional experience, Gloucester’s Whale Watching Tours are a must-do on the North Shore.

These tours provide a front-row seat to witness the awe-inspiring beauty of whales, dolphins, and a plethora of marine life in their natural habitat. The knowledgeable guides share fascinating insights about these gentle giants, ensuring an educational and thrilling adventure. It’s not just about the whales; the journey also offers panoramic views of the picturesque coastline, dotted with historic lighthouses and rugged cliffs.

When visiting the North Shore, a whale-watching tour in Gloucester is an absolute must. It’s an experience that resonates with both nature enthusiasts and those looking for a unique adventure. After the tour, the town itself beckons with its charming harbor, seafood restaurants, and quaint shops.

A trip to Gloucester promises both thrill and tranquility, making it one of the unique places in the North Shore to create lasting memories.

8. The Enchanting Hammond Castle Museum

For an experience like no other, you’ll want to check out this top place to visit in the North Shore. Stepping into Hammond Castle Museum feels like being whisked away to a medieval European castle, right in the heart of the North Shore. This architectural marvel, perched on the rocky coast of Gloucester, is a testament to the genius of its creator, John Hays Hammond Jr., an inventor who built this castle as a wedding gift for his wife.

The castle's tranquil gardens invite leisurely strolls makes Hammond Castle Museum a North Shore highlight.
The castle’s tranquil gardens invite leisurely strolls makes Hammond Castle Museum a North Shore highlight.

As you wander through the grand rooms, hallways, and courtyards, you’ll be captivated by the blend of Roman, medieval, and Renaissance art and architecture. The museum showcases Hammond’s impressive collection of artifacts, including Roman coins, ancient manuscripts, and even a skull said to be from one of Christopher Columbus’s crew members!

The castle’s serene gardens, overlooking the Atlantic, are perfect for a leisurely stroll, and the panoramic ocean views from the castle walls are simply breathtaking, making it one of the best places to go in the North Shore.

The castle also hosts various events throughout the year, from Renaissance fairs to concerts, adding to its allure. Dive deep into history, art, and romance at this unique gem, making memories that will last a lifetime.

9. The Picturesque Manchester-by-the-Sea

Ah, Manchester-by-the-Sea! This charming coastal town, with its pristine beaches and historic charm, is a must-see in the North Shore. The town’s name alone evokes images of serene seaside living, and it truly delivers on that promise.

Manchester-by-the-Sea is a charming coastal town in Massachusetts, known for its scenic beauty and relaxing atmosphere.
Manchester-by-the-Sea is a charming coastal town in Massachusetts, known for its scenic beauty and relaxing atmosphere.

Start your day with a visit to Singing Beach, named for the unique sound the sand makes underfoot. The gentle waves and soft sands make it a favorite spot for both locals and visitors. After a relaxing morning at the beach, head to the town center. Here, you’ll find quaint shops, art galleries, and delightful eateries serving fresh seafood and local delicacies.

For history aficionados, the town’s architecture is a treat. Stroll through the streets and admire the well-preserved colonial and Victorian homes, each with its own story to tell. The North Shore is about the rich history and culture that have shaped this region.

As the sun sets, find a cozy spot at Tuck’s Point for a picturesque view of the harbor. It’s moments like these that make Manchester-by-the-Sea one of the best places in the North Shore to soak in the coastal beauty.

10. The Vibrant Beverly Arts District

Dive into the world of art and culture at the Beverly Arts District. This lively area is a hub for artists, creatives, and anyone with an appreciation for the arts. It’s one of the unique places in the North Shorewhere creativity flows freely through the streets.

Begin your artistic journey at the Cabot, a historic theater that hosts a variety of performances, from live music to theater productions. It’s a testament to the area’s commitment to preserving its artistic heritage while embracing modernity. Next, wander through the numerous art galleries showcasing local talent. Each piece tells a story, capturing the essence of the North Shore and the artists who call it home.

The Beverly Arts District is a vibrant hub that celebrates creativity and culture in Beverly, Massachusetts.
The Beverly Arts District is a vibrant hub that celebrates creativity and culture in Beverly, Massachusetts.

Then there are the Beverly Arts District vibrant murals. These large-scale artworks breathe life into the city’s walls, turning them into canvases that reflect the community’s spirit.

For those keen on hands-on experiences, numerous workshops and classes are available. Dive into pottery, painting, or even dance. It’s all about immersing yourself in the arts and discovering new passions.

As you explore, you’ll quickly realize that the Beverly Arts District is a movement, celebrating art in all its forms. There’s so much to see at the Beverly Arts District, that it’s no wonder this is among the best things to do in the North Shore.

11. The Historic Lynn Museum and Historical Society

Stepping into the Lynn Museum and Historical Society is like taking a journey back in time. This gem, located in the heart of Lynn, offers a deep dive into the rich history of the North Shore. For history lovers and curious travelers alike, it’s one of the must-see attractions in the North Shore.

The museum boasts a vast collection of artifacts, photographs, and documents that tell the story of Lynn’s evolution from a colonial settlement to an industrial powerhouse. Learn about the city’s role in the American Revolution, its thriving shoe industry, and its contribution to the arts and culture of Massachusetts.

History enthusiasts and inquisitive travelers find Cogswell's Grant a must-visit highlight on the North Shore.
History enthusiasts and inquisitive travelers find Cogswell’s Grant a must-visit highlight on the North Shore.

One of the highlights is the “Lynn Legacies” exhibit, which showcases the personal stories of Lynn residents throughout the ages. It’s a touching tribute to the people who shaped the city’s identity.

Beyond the exhibits, the museum hosts a variety of events, from lectures to workshops, making it a dynamic hub for community engagement.

So, if you’re wondering where to visit in the North Shore for a dose of history and culture, the Lynn Museum and Historical Society should be at the top of your list.

12. The Captivating Cogswell’s Grant

If you’re on the hunt for unique places in the North Shore, then Cogswell’s Grant is an absolute must-visit. Located in Essex, this historic farm offers a delightful blend of natural beauty and rich history. As you wander through the property, you’ll be transported back to the 18th century, when the Cogswell family first settled here.

The farm’s main house is a treasure trove of American folk art. From vibrant portraits to intricate furniture, each piece tells a story of the country’s artistic evolution. The collection is one of the most significant of its kind, making Cogswell’s Grant a haven for art enthusiasts.

Cogswell's Grant is a historic house museum in Essex, MA, showcasing early American life and culture.
Cogswell’s Grant is a historic house museum in Essex, MA, showcasing early American life and culture.

The sprawling grounds are perfect for leisurely strolls. As you walk, you’ll come across stunning salt marshes, lush meadows, and ancient trees. It’s a slice of New England paradise that’s sure to captivate nature lovers.

For those keen on the North Shore attractions that offer both cultural and natural experiences, Cogswell’s Grant ticks all the boxes. Whether you’re exploring the art collection or picnicking on the grounds, this historic farm promises a day of unforgettable memories.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in the North Shore, MA

Looking for more content on the top things to do in North Shore? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to the North Shore:

When is the best time to visit the North Shore?

The North Shore shines brightest from late spring to early fall. Summer brings festivals, beach days, and vibrant nightlife, while the fall foliage in September and October is simply breathtaking.

What area is considered North Shore Boston?

The North Shore of Boston refers to a coastal region in Massachusetts that lies north of Boston along the Atlantic Ocean. It’s known for its historic sites, beautiful beaches, and maritime heritage. The area typically includes cities and towns in Essex County, and sometimes parts of Suffolk County.

Some of the well-known cities and towns in the North Shore region include:

  • Salem: Famous for its witch trials, Salem offers a rich history and numerous museums and attractions related to its witchcraft legacy.
  • Gloucester: Known as America’s oldest seaport, Gloucester has a strong maritime tradition and offers whale-watching tours, fishing, and beautiful beaches.
  • Marblehead: A picturesque coastal town known for its yachting, sailing, and historic charm.
  • Newburyport: A vibrant town with a lovely waterfront, boutique shopping, and a lively arts scene.
  • Beverly: Often considered the “birthplace of the U.S. Navy,” Beverly has a mix of urban and suburban areas with beaches and a thriving arts community.
  • Peabody: Known for the Peabody Essex Museum, one of the oldest continuously operating museums in the United States.
  • Lynn: With a mix of urban and beach areas, Lynn is undergoing revitalization and offers some beautiful coastal views.
  • Rockport: A small seaside town known for its art galleries, shops, and scenic beauty.

The North Shore offers a diverse range of experiences. This includes everything from the historic and cultural attractions of Salem to the natural beauty of places like Cape Ann. It’s a popular area for both residents looking for a coastal lifestyle and tourists interested in exploring a different facet of the Boston region.

Is it easy to get around the North Shore without a car?

While some towns are walkable, and there’s a regional rail service, having a car is the most convenient way to explore the diverse attractions of the North Shore.

Are there family-friendly activities in the North Shore?

Absolutely! From beaches to museums and parks, there’s a plethora of things to do in the North Shore that cater to visitors of all ages.

North Shore of Massachusetts is a must-visit, boasting charming coastal towns, history, and delicious seafood.
North Shore of Massachusetts is a must-visit, boasting charming coastal towns, history, and delicious seafood.

How many days should I spend in the North Shore?

A weekend will let you sample the North Shore’s charms, but a week gives a deeper dive into its rich history, culture, and natural beauty.

What is North Shore known for?

The North Shore of Massachusetts is a beacon of New England charm, celebrated for its historic seaports, the legendary tales of Salem’s witches, and pristine beaches. It seamlessly blends rich history with vibrant culture, offering visitors a genuine taste of maritime Massachusetts. From captivating art districts to unparalleled seafood delights, the North Shore promises a memorable coastal adventure.

Is Saugus considered North Shore?

Yes, Saugus is generally considered part of the North Shore region of Massachusetts. It’s located in Essex County, north of Boston, and fits within the geographical area that is commonly referred to as the North Shore.

Saugus is known for its blend of suburban living and natural beauty, with attractions like Breakheart Reservation offering hiking trails and scenic views. The town’s history and local landmarks, such as the Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site, contribute to the rich cultural tapestry of the North Shore region.

Its proximity to other North Shore communities and accessibility to Boston make Saugus a part of this distinct region. It’s truly characterized by coastal charm, historical significance, and diverse recreational opportunities.

Is North Shore worth going to?

Absolutely! The North Shore of Massachusetts is a must-visit, offering a blend of picturesque coastal towns, rich history, and mouthwatering seafood. From the enchanting tales of Salem to the serene beaches of Ipswich, it’s a New England gem that promises a unique and unforgettable experience.

Concluding Thoughts on Visiting the North Shore, MA

The North Shore of Massachusetts is a tapestry of historic towns, scenic coastlines, and cultural gems. Each corner of this region offers a unique story, waiting to be discovered and cherished. Whether you’re wandering through the cobblestone streets of a historic town, basking in the sun on a sandy beach, or indulging in the local cuisine, the North Shore promises an experience that lingers in your memory long after the trip ends. So, pack your bags, set your sails, and embark on a journey to one of New England’s most enchanting destinations. The North Shore is calling, and trust us, you’ll want to answer.

the top things to do in North Shore, MA  for all types of travelers
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