The 14 Communities Along The Essex Coastal Scenic Byway

April 5, 2022

There are 14 amazing communities that make up the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway on the North Shore of Massachusetts. Travelers (or MA residents) can explore the ins and outs of these communities to create a coastal adventure in Massachusetts. 

Read on to learn more about these towns and cities, including just a few notable things to do in each. We’ll start at the south and work our way up north, from Lynn to Salisbury, Massachusetts.

1.) Lynn, Massachusetts

Photo of a brick building in downtown Lynn, MA

We’ll start our journey in Lynn, Massachusetts. Lynn is the largest city in Essex county. Here, North Shore visitors and locals can begin their Coastal Byway adventure by exploring the shops, beaches, and restaurants in the city.

Notable Things To Do In Lynn, MA

The Lynn/Nahant Beach Reservation

This two-mile stretch of beach provides excellent views of Lynn Harbor and Nahant Bay. There are four beaches to explore: Kings Beach, Lynn Beach, Nahant Beach, and Long Beach. On a clear day, you might catch a view of the Boston skyline.

Lynn Heritage State Park

The Lynn Heritage State Park offers its own unique beauty and scenic views. Guests are welcome to explore the park, most of which runs along the seawall. There are also benches and shaded spots perfect for relaxing and taking in the coastal scenery.

2.) Swampscott, Massachusetts

Photo of Swampscott Pier Anchor

Our next step is Swampscott, MA. This seaside town was founded in 1629 as a small fishing village. The town became a retreat for the wealthy in the 1800s, who built beautiful houses, mansions, estates, and resorts, including President Calvin Coolidge. Today, the town is known for its family-friendly beaches and picturesque scenery. 

Notable Things To Do In Swampscott, MA

Fisherman’s Beach

Fisherman’s Beach combines beach exploration with early 19th-century American history. Here, visitors can learn about the beach’s significance during the War of 1812. Beach lovers can find a smaller, swimmer-friendly beach, perfect for sightseeing and relaxing. 

Beach Bluff Park

You will find Beach Bluff Park on your way out of Swampscott and into Marblehead. Travelers who stop at this small oceanfront park can expect winding walking trails, community events, and an authentic Sundial installation.

3.) Marblehead, Massachusetts

Photo of Marblehead, MA harbor

This coastal town brims with American history to explore. Additionally, Marblehead also has plenty of natural sights and scenic views to discover.

Notable Things To Do In Marblehead, MA

Marblehead Lighthouse

The Marblehead Lighthouse is one of only fourteen known pyramid-style lighthouses still standing in the country. The lighthouse looks out into the ocean atop a rocky ridge – a breathtaking view for all that visit.

King Hooper Mansion

The King Hooper Mansion is perfect for art and history lovers. The mansion was originally built in 1728 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building is home to the Marblehead Art Association, which regularly hosts six rotating galleries and exhibitions, art-related programs, and events.

4.) Salem, Massachusetts

Photo of coastal Salem, MA

Salem, MA, is perhaps one of the most famous cities in the country, known for the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. The city is steeped in history, offering walking tours, historic properties, and plenty of museums to explore.

Notable Things To Do In Salem, MA

Peabody Essex Museum

The Peabody Essex Museum is where art meets history. The museum was founded in 1799 as the East India Marine Society. Since then, the museum has amassed a vast collection of authentic artifacts, works of art, books, historic properties, and much more. PEM also hosts regularly changing exhibitions, so be sure to check out what exhibition is on during your visit.

Derby Street Historic District

Much of what Salem has to offer can be found within or near the Derby Street Historic District. The Derby Wharf, the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, the Salem Witch Trial Memorial, and the popular Essex Street are all within walking distance of each other.

5.) Beverly, Massachusetts

coastal photo of beverly, massachusetts

Beverly, MA, is just north of Salem, making it our next stop on the Coastal Byway. The seaside North Shore community goes by many names, including “The Garden City,” “The Birthplace of the American Navy,” and the “Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution.”

Notable Things To Do In Beverly, MA

Hospital Point Light Station

The Hospital Point Light Station is one of Beverly’s most known landmarks. From here, lighthouse visitors can take in an incredible view of the Salem Sound and three other nearby lighthouses. 

The Gold Coast

As Byway travelers exit Beverly and move into Manchester-by-the-Sea, along the way they’ll find the Gold Coast. Here, wealthy elites from Boston and beyond built sprawling houses overlooking the North Shore coast. As you explore the Byway, be sure to keep a lookout for these incredible properties. 

6.) Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts

Manchester-by-the-Sea sits on 12.8 miles of tidal shoreline. As such, the town is best known for its gorgeous estates, scenic beaches, lobster, and its famous yachting harbor.

Notable Things To Do In Manchester-by-the-Sea

Singing Beach

The Singing Beach is a small, half-mile-long beach that has its own unique trait – the sand sings to you! The fine, white sand makes a “singing” sound in the wind as you traverse across the beach.

Agassiz Rock

For those wishing to explore one of Manchester-by-the-Sea’s walking trails, we might suggest a trip to the Big and Little Agassiz Rocks. A 1-mile trail loop takes visitors to both rocks, which were carried and dropped by a glacier. The Big Agassiz is a sprawling 30-foot tall boulder – a true natural sight to behold.

7.) Gloucester, Massachusetts

Gloucester is a thriving and active seaside city brimming with interesting things to do around every corner. From scenic views to fine waterfront dining, art galleries, and boat tours, it’s all found here.

Notable Things To Do In Gloucester, MA

Cape Ann Harbor Tours

Cape Ann Harbor Tours invites Coast Byway travelers out onto the North Shore waters. The Gloucester tour company is noted as the longest running boat tour on Cape Ann. Additionally, it’s the only tour company to completely circle the harbor and features an exclusive lighthouse cruise.

Rocky Neck Art Colony And Cultural District 

Gloucester, MA, has long been known for its contributions to American culture and art history. The Rocky Neck Art Colony and its surrounding Rocky Neck Cultural District are filled with art galleries, local history, working artisans, and great restaurants to explore.

Other Notable Places

8.) Rockport, Massachusetts

Motif #1 In Rockport, MA

At the northernmost tip of Cape Ann, Byway explorers can find the little town of Rockport, MA. The coastal town offers plenty of awe-inspiring and meditative views across its rocky beaches and seaside parks. Local landmarks in Rockport, such as the famous Motif #1, have provided artists with the perfect subject to paint across decades.

Notable Things To Do In Rockport, MA

Halibut Point State Park

The Halibut Point State Park is the perfect Byway stop for travelers seeking natural views and seaside exploration. On a clear day, park visitors can see Crane Beach in Ipswich up to the Isle of Shoals off the New Hampshire coast and up to Mount Agamenticus in Maine. The park also contains a visitor center with natural and historical exhibitions, a fire-control tower from World War II, and the Babson Farm Quarry to explore.

Rockport Cultural District

With so many interesting things to do in the Rockport Cultural District, you will have to make a return trip! Here, visitors can shop and explore over 40 art galleries. Additionally, Coastal Byway travelers can find the famous Motif #1, Bearskin Neck, the Rockport Art Association, and the world-class Shalin Liu Performance Center. 

9.) Essex, Massachusetts

North of Rockport and Gloucester, Byway travelers can find Essex, MA. The town is perhaps most known for its wide selection of antique shops, shipbuilding history, and savory seafood restaurants.

Notable Things To Do In Essex, MA

America’s Antique Capital

If you’re an antique lover, Essex is the place for you! Essex contains over 30 unique antique shops with a 1-mile walking area. These shops specialize in antique art, furnishings, and accessories, including everything from “early attic” to fine American and international items. And many of these shops are housed within antique buildings themselves!

Essex Shipbuilding Museum

The Essex Shipbuilding Museum is a must-stop for those interested in New England maritime history. At this North Shore museum, history buffs can find and view a collection of over 7,000 authentic shipbuilding artifacts. Historical objects include photographs, tools, models, and the schooner Evelina M. Goulart.

10.) Ipswich, Massachusetts

The Crane Estate In Ipswich MA

Ipswich, MA, is a lovely seaside town with a humble rural history. Here, history meets nature meets conservation. The town is filled with wonderful sights and walking paths, especially within the Great Marsh. Ipswich also features plenty of historic buildings, museums, and working farms to discover. 

Notable Things To Do In Ipswich, MA

The Crane Estate

The Crane Estate is a vast property known for its massive mansion and beautiful grounds. Here, visitors can explore the main building’s interior, the spectacular Crane Beach, and discover various walking trails and scenic vistas over 123+ acres of land.

Appleton Farms

Appleton Farms is considered one of, if not THE, oldest farm in America. And, the farm is still active seven days a week! Not only is Appleton Farms great spots to shop for fresh produce, meat, and dairy products, it also holds an incredible amount of scenic beauty. Guests are welcome to explore over 12 miles of walking trails across the farm’s picturesque grounds.

11.) Rowley, Massachusetts

Nelson Island in Rowley, MA

Rowley’s long stretches of salt marshes provide a picturesque landscape for all who visit. Whether stopping in town to explore or driving through, there’s nothing quite like its sprawling coastal sights filled with walking paths, local wildlife, and some of the region’s best views.

Notable Things To Do In Rowley, MA

Rough Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary (Sawyer’s Island)

The Rough Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary offers travelers excellent views of the natural marshlands and the local wildlife. A one-mile hike from the parking lot takes visitors to Sawyer’s Island, rewarding hikers with an awe-inspiring panoramic view of the sanctuary. There are also many other walking paths to explore, so be sure to do your research, keep to marked trails, and follow all postings.

Nelson Island

The Rowley salt marsh, with its creeks, salt pans, wooded islands, and fields, is a feeding ground for dozens of species, many of which will be seen on a walk of the scenic Nelson Island property.

12.) Newbury, Massachusetts

The town of Newbury, MA, sits just south of the Merrimack River. Much of the town’s landscapes are made up of stretching marshlands. In fact, much of the land here is protected. Despite its rural nature, the small town has plenty to explore and sights to see for Coastal Byway travelers.

Notable Things To Do In Newbury, MA

Old Town Hill

One of the most impressive things about Old Town Hill is that its peak offers spectacular views of New Hampshire’s Isle of Shoals abd The Great Marsh. There is a three-mile network of trails within Old Town Hill. These trails take explorers through marshlands, wetlands, tidal pools, and coastal forests. Additionally, you might also catch some of the region’s wildlife, such as the Egret and Great Blue Heron.

Newbury Historic District

The Newbury Historic District is spread across 380 acres. Here, guests can find 27 historic properties built from 1650 to 1924. 

13.) Newburyport, Massachusetts

 

Newburyport’s charming and walkable downtown area has so much to offer Byway travelers. The city is filled with local shops, restaurants, art galleries, and comfortable places to stay overnight. History buffs can take in the federalist buildings built and purchased in the 19th-century by whaling and clipper ship owners. The downtown districts also sit on the banks of the Merrimack River, offering great views of the harbor. 

Notable Things To Do In Newburyport, MA

Market Square Historic District

This historic district is actually one of the last seaport business districts remaining in New England. Inside this district, visitors can find many local shops, restaurants, bakeries, and cafes to visit. Additionally, the Newburyport guests can visit the nearby Custom House Maritime Museum, go on a boat cruise, or take in the historic federalist buildings.

Plum Island

At the southern tip of Newburyport, visitors can explore Plum Island and Plum Island Beach. Much of Plum Island makes up the Parker River Wildlife Refuge. Plum Island offers its own share of long stretches of beach to explore, places to stay overnight, and natural coastal views to take in.

14.) Salisbury, Massachusetts

Views of a beach in Salisbury, MA

Our final stop on the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway brings us to Salisbury, Massachusetts. Salisbury is one of the more popular beach resort destinations in Massachusetts and New England. Byway travelers can end their coastal journey with a delicious ice cream, arcade games, or a slice of beach pizza while looking out across the Atlantic ocean.

Notable Things To Do In Salisbury, MA

Salisbury Beach State Reservation

Salisbury Beach is one of Massachusetts’ most recognizable and visited beach destinations. The reservation offers 3.8 miles of visitor-friendly beach along the 521-acre park. The reservation also features two boat launches for those wishing to get out onto the waters. Facilities include a 484-site campground and recently renovated bathhouses. 

There are also plenty of things to do and explore for all ages, such as various seafood stands, waterfront restaurants, arcades, ice cream shops, and concert venues, to name a few.

Additionally, the reservation offers many opportunities to explore the local wildlife, especially for bird watchers. You also might just catch a few local seals lounging on the rocks.