Top 10 Things To Do Along The Essex Coastal Scenic Byway

April 7, 2022

The Essex Coastal Scenic Byway is your road to the best coastal outings in Massachusetts. Here, visitors can find many adventures. From savory seafood to scenic beaches, there’s so much to explore.

To get you started, we have put together a list of the top places that you should see on your trip to the Byway.

1. Byway Beaches

Aerial view of Pavilion Beach in Gloucester Massachusetts

There are many beautiful beaches to explore along the Coastal Byway. Each of these spots provides their own unique aesthetic and picturesque viewing. So, be sure to bring your camera along with your sunscreen!

Lynn/Nahant Beach Reservation (Lynn)

Let’s start our Byway beach tour at the Lynn/Nahant Beach Reservation in Lynn, MA. This beach is about 2 miles long, perfect for sandy strolls. Additionally, visitors can take in great views of Lynn Harbor and Nahant Bay.

David S. Lynch Memorial Park (Beverly)

The David S. Lynch Memorial Park in Beverly, MA, has a little something for everyone. Beach lovers can explore two beautiful beaches. Also, the park contains its own rose garden, a live performance shell, a splash pad, and an ice cream stand.

Singing Beach (Manchester-by-the-Sea)

singing beach in manchester-by-the-sea

Singing Beach is a half-mile-wide scenic beach in peaceful Manchester-by-the-Sea. The Beach is most known for its fine sand, which makes a squeaky sound when blown in the wind – “singing” to beachgoers. Keep in mind that non-residents must pay for parking.

Good Harbor Beach (Gloucester)

Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester MA

If you’re looking for white sands and wonderful views, Good Harbor Beach is a must-stop. This beach in Gloucester, MA, is the perfect spot for oceanside relaxation and play. And low tide allows visitors the chance to walk out to Salt Island.

Long Beach (Rockport)

Long Beach is one of the more popular beaches in Rockport. Here, beachgoers can relax on the beautiful white sands and play in the tides. For lighthouse lovers, the beach also provides a view of the twin lighthouses on Thatcher’s Island.

Pebble Beach (Rockport)

a scenic photo of pebble beach in rockport

Pebble Beach in Rockport, MA, lives up to its name. Throughout the beach, visitors can find small, smooth pebbles. The smoothness of the pebbles are perfect for walking on and collecting. The beach is also a great little spot to relax under the sunny sky. Lucky visitors may catch a glimpse of a playful seal or underwater diver.

Salisbury Beach State Reservation (Salisbury)

Views of a beach in Salisbury, MA

The Salisbury Beach State Reservation is one of the most well-known beaches on the Byway and Massachusetts. The beach is also the perfect way to end your Byway journey if traveling north to south. Here, visitors can find a long stretch of sandy beach and plenty of oceanside activities for the whole family.

2. New England Lighthouses

Lighthouses hold a special place in the hearts of many. Along the Byway, lighthouse lovers have plenty to discover, view, and learn about. 

The Marblehead Lighthouse (Marblehead)

Marblehead Lighthouse in Massachusetts

There are only about 14 pyramid-style lighthouses in the US today. Luckily, you can find one of them right here on the Coastal Byway. The lighthouse stands at 105-feet tall, making it a breathtaking sight overlooking the ocean. 

Annisquam Harbor Light Station (Gloucester)

Annisquam Lighthouse in Gloucester Massachusetts

The Annisquam Lighthouse in Gloucester, MA, is a 41-foot tower built in 1801. It’s one of the oldest lighthouses in the state. While up close visits are by special arrangements only, the lighthouse can be viewed from Wingaersheek Beach.

Eastern Point Lighthouse (Gloucester)

The Eastern Point Lighthouse in Gloucester is a 36-foot tall lighthouse built in 1832. The lighthouse is currently owned by the US Coast Guard. Visitors are allowed to drive up to the lighthouse and take in the surrounding scenery.

3. Nature Hikes, Conservation, And Wildlife Viewing

There’s nothing quite like a good hike. It’s the perfect opportunity to get out of the car and stretch your legs. Fortunately, there are many great spots and hidden gems right off the Coastal Byway to explore. Here are just a few to get you started.

Walk The Coastal Byway Beaches

As outlined above, there are long stretches of gorgeous sandy beaches all across the Coastal Byway. These beaches are the perfect spots for scenic walks, taking in the bountiful sights, sounds, and coastal wildlife across the region.

The Great Marsh Area

The Great Marsh stretches across several Coastal Byway communities spanning 25,500-acres. The scenic marsh brims with breathtaking views, walking trails, conservation areas, and wildlife viewing.

Rough Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary (Rowley)

An example of nature explorations within the Great Marsh is the Rough Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary is an amazing spot for hiking, picnicking, wildlife viewing, and scenic photography. For hikers, Rough Meadows has 5 clearly marked trail paths to follow. 

Long Hill (Beverly)

long hill gardens in beverly ma

Long Hill is a public garden in Beverly, MA, that offers an incredible nature experience to all who visit. Guests have opportunities to view beautiful structured and natural gardens. Also, hikers are welcome to explore 100-acres of tranquil woodlands and marked trails.

The Crane Estate (Ipswich)

The Crane Estate In Ipswich MA

The Crane Estate is known for its massive mansion, but did you know that you can hike the surrounding grounds? In fact, the property’s Crane Beach contains over 1,200-acres of beachfront, dunes, and maritime forest areas to explore.

4. Savory Seafood Restaurants And Shacks

What’s a “places to visit list” without mentioning food? The Coastal Byway has so many great restaurants and seafood shacks that you’ll have to visit multiple times to experience a fraction. Below, here are a few popular spots to visit. But, be sure to keep an eye out for your favorite hidden gems!

The Clam Shack (Salem)

The Clam Shack in Salem, MA, is a local favorite nestled in Salem Willows on the scenic Salem Neck. Here, guests can enjoy savory plates, baskets, and more filled with your favorite fried seafood, such as clam strips, calamari, haddock, and shrimp, to name a few. The shack also overlooks the Danvers River and out into the ocean.

Lobsta Land Restaurant (Gloucester)

The Lobsta Land Restaurant in Gloucester, MA, is “where locals eat.” The seafood restaurant offers locally sourced seafood dishes, outdoor patio seating, and even live music on occasion. Come for the food, stay for the view! 

Roy Moore’s Fish Shack Restaurant and Bar (Rockport)

Roy Moore’s Fish Shack in Rockport, MA, is a local and Coastal Byway favorite for savory seafood. This family friendly seafood restaurant offers all your favorites, cold drinks, and indoor and outdoor seating options. Additionally, the restaurant looks out into Back Harbor, providing a picturesque, peaceful setting. 

Clam Box of Ipswich (Ipswich)

The Clam Box of Ipswich, MA, has served its delicious seafood plates since 1935. The seafood stand’s menu includes lobster rolls, mini meals, boxes, and plates. The restaurant offers indoor, outdoor, and take-out options. The Clam Box of Ipswich also has a stunning reputation, featured in Yankee Magazine, Phantom Gourmet, US Airways, The Food Network, and WCVB Channel 5’s Chronicle.

Lee’s Seafood At Joe’s Playland (Salisbury)

Joe’s Playland is one of the most famous stops along Salisbury Beach. But did you know that the arcade also has its own seafood stand? At Lee’s Seafood, guests can find savory bites between gaming sessions, including lobster rolls and fried clams. The stand also serves fantastic onion rings made with their secret batter, burgers, fries, and hot dogs.

5. Diving, Water Sports, And Kayak Rental Shops

While the Coastal Byway offers plenty of incredible views of the ocean, there’s not quite like getting out onto the water yourself. Don’t have a boating license? No problem! Visit these non-motorized water sport and kayak rentals to get out into the tides.

North Shore Adventures & Outdoor Center (Gloucester)

North Shore Adventures & Outdoor Center in Gloucester, MA, touts itself as “your one stop shop for adventure on Cape Ann.” Here, visitors can rent single and tandem kayaks, pedal boats, and beach cruiser bikes. Rental options include half-day to a full week. Additionally, the outdoor center hosts daily seal, birding, and island tours. 

Cape Ann SUP & Surf Co. (Essex)

At Cape Ann SUP & Surf Co. in Essex, MA, you can find kayak, stand up paddle board, and surfboard rentals. The shop also hosts various lessons and tours for kids and adults, including moonlight tours and paddle board yoga.

Foote Brothers Canoe & Kayak Rental (Ipswich)

Foote Brothers Canoe & Kayak in Ipswich, MA, is a slightly off the beaten path gem. Here, guests can rent canoes and kayaks and travel on the Ipswich River. This stretch of water takes guests on an adventure through wildlife sanctuaries, state parks, and scenic wetlands.

White Rose Canoe (Newbury)

White Rose Canoe in Newbury, MA, is located along the banks of the Parker River. Enthusiasts, beginners, and families can rent quality canoes to explore the river, Plum Island Sound, and miles of salt marsh and ocean. Guests can launch canoes right from White Rose’s waterfront.

Plum Island Kayak (Newburyport)

Plum Island Kayak in Newburyport, MA, has everything you need for an adventurous day on the Coastal Byway shores. The rental shop offers many styles of kayaks and stand up paddle boards. Additionally the location offers a vast amount of tours, instruction, and kid programs.

6. Historical Buildings, Landmarks, And Museums

Exploring the Coastal Byway also provides opportunities to dive into the region’s rich history. You’ll find plenty of landmarks, historic homes, and even a few museums to learn more about New England’s past.

Peabody Essex Museum (Salem)

Peabody Essex Museum is an arts, history, and culture museum in the heart of Salem, MA with roots dating back to 1799. Inside the museum, visitors can view various artworks and artifacts from the present and centuries past.

Hammond Castle Museum (Gloucester)

Outside stony facade of Hammond Castle

Leave the Coastal Byway and enter Medieval Europe at the Hammond Castle Museum in Gloucester, MA. The castle overlooks the shoreline and offers various tours and educational programs. The museum is also open for weddings, event rentals, and professional photography sessions.

Motif #1 (Rockport)

Motif #1 In Rockport, MA

Do you need a little artistic inspiration? The famous little red fishing shack sitting at the end of Bearskin Neck has inspired artists since the mid-1800s. 

Essex Shipbuilding Museum (Essex)

The Essex Shipbuilding Museum in Essex, MA, welcomes visitors to learn the history and craft of shipbuilding. Visitors can explore over 10,000 authentic objects and 30,000 photographs, including shipbuilding tools and Essex-built ships. The museum currently offers free admission through 2022.

Castle Hill on the Crane Estate (Ipswich)

the crane estate

Visiting Castle Hill on the Crane Estate in Ipswich, MA, is a unique experience filled with many things to do and sights to see. Guests are welcome to tour the Great House, a 59-room mansion, and explore the estate’s scenic grounds

7. Antique Shops In Essex, MA

America’s Antique Capital

There are over 30 antique shops in Essex, Massachusetts within a mile walking distance from each other. For this reason, many consider Essex “America’s Antique Capital.” These shops sell antique pieces from across the world and across time. Also, many of these antique shops can be found within gorgeous 18th and 19th-century buildings. So, you can tour antiques and historic architecture! 

These shops include:

  • Andrew Spindler Antiques & Design
  • AnnTiques
  • David Neligan Antiques
  • Howard’s Flying Dragon Antiques
  • Main Street Antiques
  • Perim Lang Antiques

8. Shopping, Historic, And Cultural Districts

State Street in Newburyport
State Street in Newburyport

What better way to get to know a town than by visiting local historic and cultural districts? Here are a few areas to visit below to explore, do some shopping (or window shopping), and much more. 

Central Exchange Cultural District (Lynn)

There’s a lot to see and do in the Central Exchange Cultural District in Lynn, MA. Visitors can explore art, cultural cuisine, and authentic brick buildings from industrial history.

Harbortown Cultural District (Gloucester)

The Harbortown Cultural District acts as a central hub in Gloucester, MA. From seasonal festivals to local shopping and incredible dining, there’s always something new to explore here.

Rocky Neck Cultural District (Gloucester)

The Rocky Neck Cultural District is home to many art galleries and working artists. Coastal Byway travelers can grab a bite while watching artists capture the district’s seaside beauty.

Rockport Cultural District (Rockport)

The Rockport Cultural District has over 40 galleries to explore along its inspirational seaside view. Byway travelers can find much to do here – grab a bite, explore Front Beach, or visit the famous Motif #1.

Manchester Village Historic District (Manchester-by-the-Sea)

The Manchester Village Historic District allows Byway travelers to step into local history. Visitors can view and explore architecture stretching as far back as the 17th-century.

Essex River Cultural District (Essex)

The Essex River Cultural District is a fantastic representation of the Coastal Byway communities. Here, visitors can find delicious dining, museums, and active shipyards. And that’s just a few of the many things to do and see.

Market Square Historic District (Newburyport)

The Market Square Historic District in Newburyport is a great spot to explore New England’s architectural history. Additionally, visitors can browse local shops, cafes, and restaurants in this walkable area.

Newburyport Cultural District (Newburyport)

The Newburyport Cultural District sits along the scenic Merrimack River. Here, Byway travelers can take in historical sites and walk the riverside boardwalk. Additionally, visitors can explore local dining, entertainment, and shopping spots.

9. Byway Breweries

There’s nothing quite like a cold craft brew combined with the seaside air. Below, you’ll find a list of incredible breweries to check out and put together your own Byway brewery tour! 

Bent Water Brewing Company (Lynn)

We can’t think of a better place to start your brewery tour than at Bent Water Brewing in Lynn, MA. Guests are welcome to visit their taproom to enjoy pours of their signature and seasonal brews, including hard seltzers. 

Notch Brewing (Salem)

Notch Brewing in Salem, MA, features riverside seating and a renovated warehouse taproom. Beer lovers can sip European-inspired session beers and take in the beautiful views of South River and Salem Harbor.

Backbeat Brewing Company (Beverly)

The Backbeat Brewing Company is a great spot to stop for lunch. The brewery offers coffee, sandwiches, and savory snacks alongside their craft beer selection. Backbeat also regularly hosts live music events, so be sure to check their events calendar.

Great Marsh Brewing Company (Essex)

Great Marsh Brewing Company in Essex, MA, has it all – quality craft beer and amazing views of the Great Marsh and the Essex River. Additionally, taproom and beer garden guests can munch on homemade pizzas and pretzels!

RiverWalk Brewing (Newburyport)

RiverWalk Brewing in Newburyport values great service, a friendly community, and fantastic craft beer. The brewery features an indoor taproom and outdoor firepit seating. Additionally, guests can join tastings, fun events, and sit down for brunch, lunch, or dinner. 

10. Ice Cream Shops

What better way to end a beautiful day on the Coastal Byway than with a sweet treat. Luckily, there are many incredible ice cream shops along the Coastal Byway. The only challenge is choosing one!

Cookie Monstah (Swampscott)

Okay, we get that the Cookie Monstah is more of a bakeshop. But you can’t deny their incredible ice cream sandwiches made from their famous homemade cookies! Flavors include The Cookie Monstah, Coffee-Doodle, Peanut Buttahcup, and many, many more. 

DownRiver Ice Cream (Essex)

At DownRiver Ice Cream in Essex, MA, there’s a little something sweet for everyone. The shop offers locally sourced, homemade ice cream, frozen yogurt, and dairy free ice creams

Hodgies Too (Newburyport & Salisbury)

Hodgies Too has locations in Newburyport and Salisbury, MA. This local favorite makes its own unique and favorite ice cream flavors in-house. As such, the shop also changes its flavor selection regularly, making every visit a new sweet experience! 

Keep Exploring

This list of top places to visit in the Coastal Byway is just a sampling of the many things to see and do in this area. So, be sure to check back often for continued recommendations. And keep exploring!