Coast into Summer in Massachusetts

Three great reasons to put a Bay State visit on your bucket list.

By Yankee Staff

Aug 04 2022

Massachusetts, USA

Cape Cod

Photo Credit : Raymond Forbes LLC/Stocksy

Sponsored by the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

Spend time in any of Massachusetts’ welcoming coastal communities — 78 in all — and it’s easy to see why people love living here. The state’s 1,500-plus miles of coastline offers a wealth of things to see and do, endless scenic beauty, and, of course, some of New England’s best seafood. There’s enough here to fill up a summer — but if you’re looking to plan one perfect week, here are three ways to make the most of a Massachusetts coastal escape.

From the North Shore to the Cape & Islands, Massachusetts is filled with great reasons to answer the call of the coast.
Photo Credit : Raymond Forbes LLC/Stocksy

DO: Coastal Scenic Drives

In terms of bang for the buck, it’s hard to beat the Essex Scenic Coastal Byway, a 90-mile route that hugs the North Shore from Lynn to Salisbury and offers up both famous destinations and hidden gems along the way.

Among the highlights of the Essex Scenic Coastal Byway: a chance to stop in Rockport and snap a photo of its famous fish shack, Motif No. 1.
Photo Credit : Adam DeTour

Among the 14 coastal communities it links are Gloucester, the nation’s first fishing port; Rockport, site of Motif No. 1, “the most-painted fish shack in the world”; and Salem, historic home of the notorious 17th-century witch trials, the House of the Seven Gables, and the world-class Peabody Essex Museum. The drive itself takes you past forest, farmland, marshes, and charming coastal towns — and the beach is never far away, from Ipswich’s pristine Crane Beach to the popular playground of Salisbury Beach State Reservation.

One of Massachusetts’ prettiest stretches of sand: Ipswich’s Crane Beach, preserved by the Trustees of Reservations.
Photo Credit : Holly Perry/Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

Alternatively, head south from Boston to take an unforgettable drive on Cape Cod. While there’s no unattractive way to traverse this famed peninsula, Route 6A is the best bet if you want to stick close to the water. From the Sagamore Bridge, it skims Cape Cod Bay for much of its 62 miles, passing beaches, lighthouses, and historic towns.

Among the inviting towns along Route 6A is Dennis, home to the Cape Cod Museum of Art, where you can explore some of the finest works by this region’s artists.
Photo Credit : Maureen Dwyer/Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

After a brief stint as Route 6, the route ends in Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod. Among the highlights of this region are Cape Cod National Seashore, offering nearly 44,000 acres of protected coastline to explore, and whale-watching tours to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, one of the world’s top destinations for seeing these gentle giants up close.

SEE: Classic Lighthouses

With their power to fascinate history buffs, provide stunning photo ops for shutterbugs, and delight children and families, lighthouses are among the most enduring icons of the Massachusetts coast. And with 47 of these sturdy sentinels dotted across the state, there’s plenty to choose from.

Situated on Little Brewster Island, Boston Light was first established in 1716 to help ships navigate the island-strewn entrance to the city’s harbor.
Photo Credit : Justin Knight/Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

Located less than 10 miles from downtown Boston and first lit in 1716, Boston Light is a must-see: It’s the oldest continually used and only surviving staffed lighthouse in the country. On the North Shore, Cape Ann hosts no fewer than six lighthouses, including Cape Ann Light Station, whose twin lights are the only active examples of their kind in the nation.

Facing west at the end of the curled “fist” of Cape Cod, Provincetown’s Race Point Light sees some of the loveliest sunsets in New England.
Photo Credit : Mark Fleming

Island lovers will want to make time for Gay Head Light, perched atop the extraordinary red clay Aquinnah Cliffs on Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket’s Brant Point Light — at 26 feet tall, it’s the shortest in New England. Finally, for a true bucket-list experience, head to Race Point Light in Provincetown to watch one of the most beautiful sunsets on the East Coast.

EAT: Savory Seafood Spots

No trip to Massachusetts would be complete without a visit to one of the region’s most beloved seafood shacks, starting with Woodman’s of Essex, where the fried clam was invented more than a century ago. It sits on the North Shore’s Route 133, aka “the Clam Highway,” which also hosts longtime favorites J.T. Farnhams and Essex Seafood in Essex, and the Clam Box in Ipswich.

Nothing says summer in New England like lobster, and Woodman’s of Essex is among the many Massachusetts seafood shacks who cook this crustacean to perfection.
Photo Credit : Courtesy of Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

Picture-perfect water views and top-notch lobster rolls have drawn hungry diners to The Lobster Pool in Rockport since 1954, while Cape Cod’s Chatham Pier Fish Market offers award-winning chowder with the bonus of watching seals frolic in the cove below. But in Massachusetts, a state with the ocean’s bounty right on its doorstep, you’ll discover great seafood no matter where you are. Ask a local — or just follow your nose.