I tend to always write about far away lands I visit and at times I forget to pay attentions to the hidden gems in my own backyard. Marblehead, MA is a super picturesque small town (around 20,000 people) on the North Shore of Boston, full of history, sights, and photo opportunities. It is home to the Marblehead Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, Crocker Park, the Marblehead Lighthouse, Fort Sewall, Little Harbor and Deveraux Beach. It is ideal for a day trip in fall after all the kids and college students are gone and you have the streets, bike paths, and coffee shops to yourself. The town is SO rich, they have a FREE walking audio tour online and FREE binoculars in the parks to spy on the mansions across the harbor.
Parking in Marblehead can be a b*tch, so I recommend you park right outside town (Deveraux Beach parking lot is free off season) and bicycle right in. 🚲 Why use 4 wheels when you can ride on 2 and get a workout while sightseeing? I would start at Deveraux Beach, take a few pictures, and bike around Marblehead Neck to warm up the legs.
Take Ocean Ave to Chandler Hovey Park and Marblehead Light and go back on Harbor Ave. The views are spectacular, don’t miss peeking over the fence into the mansions on the cliffs. 👀 If you are really lucky the gates of the ones for sale may even be open.
The locals say Chandley Hovey Park boasts the most beautiful sunsets. I chase sunsets as if it were my job so I’m partial. Yes, they are beautiful, most beautiful they most definitely are not. 🌇
Coming back from Marblehead Neck take a right on Atlantic Ave to browse through your first old historic Marblehead neighborhood. It is U shaped between Atlantic Ave and Pleasant St. Highlight for me in that area is the Spirit of 76 Bookstore, locally owned and very charming. You’ll see a couple of coffee shops but save your taste buds and your thirst for your next stop – Bello e Preciso Italian Cafe ☕- in the Old Port Historic Neighborhood. The coffee is to die for (spoken from a true spoiled European), the open faced toasts are creative, light, and healthy.
The Old Port/Waterfront part of town is very quaint, with tiny little streets, old colorful houses, gardens, galleries, shops, etc. You may want to lock the bikes and walk around a bit. Climb up the rolling hills to Crocker Park and Fort Sewall, look through the aforementioned free binoculars, maybe even jump off the swimming platform if you brough a swimsuit (I never go anywhere without a pair of bikini 👙).
Jeremiah Lee Mansion is the only surviving Georgian mansion (built in the 1700s) in the area and definitely worth visiting. Things to note in it are the most adorable old gentleman who will give you a tour and a sneak peak of the history of the era, the mahogany woodwork on the first floor and the reverse spiral in the staircase, as well as the hand painted British wallpaper, only surviving specimen on a wall inside a house in the US.
Another historic/cultural stop worth making is the King Hooper Mansion (home of the Marblehead Arts Association) where the 6 art galleries change exhibits every 6 weeks. Go see what you’ll find that day!
Up for a little more adventure? Rent a paddle board from Little Harbor Boathouse and explore this hidden gem of a protected harbor/bay. Better yet, try their foot kayaks that will give you a legs workout (if biking and walking wasn’t enough 💪). Flat waters, picturesque shoreline, a quick 1-hour adventure that will leave you with memories and pictures worth sharing.
If shopping was on your list, or on your lady’s list, I’d recommend Bobbles & Lace where I always find funky and comfy items. You may even see some folks sitting outside painting the store across the street. Yes, it is that picturesque and you may have a sudden urge to paint too 🎨.
Last but not least come the chow and booze, clearly that day I didn’t have my priorities right, or more likely I was enamoured with the European coffee 😊. Five Corners has been recommended to me multiple times for dinner, The Barnacle features simple fried seafood and has a fisherman’s flare and Maddies is the local dive bar that has been around forever and definitely worth a visit (or a nightcap 🍸)!
On on your way out of town don’t forget to stop at Preston Beach and see the beautiful sculpture garden. You can walk the beach at low tide, preferably at sunset 🌅 , all the way to Phillips Beach and the local Beach Club.
And after a full day of biking/walking, sleep tight my friends.😴 The old gentleman at Jeremiah Lee Mansion will tell you (more like show you) where the expression “sleep tight” comes from!