North stars

At the shore or close by are noteworthy places for exploring, eating, browsing, learning, even sleeping

Snorkeling the waters off Halibut Point Snorkeling the waters off Halibut Point. (John Blanding/Globe Staff/File Photo 2003)
By Tom Haines
Globe Correspondent / July 12, 2009
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Massachusetts is rich in coastal terrain, where rocky coves and corners give way to settled land, much of it conserved as farms or forest. Each region has its own highlights and hidden attractions. Here are 10 North Shore sights to target these summer months.

Haul onto the rocks
Maybe it’s the 400-year-old bedrock granite or the clear-day view that runs from Crane Beach in Ipswich north to Mount Agamenticus in Maine. Then, too, there is the history of seafarers rounding the rocky point of Cape Ann. All of it comes together to make a perfect spot on the rocks after a hike through Halibut Point State Park to the ocean’s edge. Nothing to do but sleep, timed with the tide, of course. Gott Avenue, Rockport, 978-546-2997, Daily 8-8 Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Settle in for a bite
Just up the street from Halibut Point, pull over at Folly Cove and choose a feast in the fish house atmosphere at The Lobster Pool. Coastal classics abound, from fried clams and New England-style chowder to 2-pound samples of the region’s most celebrated crustacean. Best to take a table outdoors and feel - here so close to the big city - like you’re all the way Down East. 329 Granite St., Rock port, 978-546-7808, Daily 11:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. through November.

See a historic house
The house itself offers history enough, home as it was to Judith Sargent Murray, an early writer and champion of women’s equality, and later to merchants and other notable leaders of Gloucester. Today The Sargent House Museum, a well-preserved example of Georgian architecture, its front door looming on a low hill above the main street, hosts exhibits of the city’s history, as well as paintings by John Singer Sargent, a descendant of Murray. 49 Middle St., Gloucester, 978-281-2432, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through Oct. 12 with tours from noon to 3.

Take some history home
Those a bit more possessive may do better at the Todd Farm Antiques and Flea Market, which bustles alongside Route 1A in Rowley. Every Sunday more than 200 vendors offer everything from antique cabinets to fishing rods, from vintage toys to things you never even knew you needed. The flea market continues throughout the summer, but busy months are September and October. 285 Main St., Rowley, 978-948-3300, Sundays 5 a.m.-3 p.m. through Nov. 29.

Meander a meadow
Appleton Farms is one of the oldest continuously operating farms in the United States. Today that means small herds of cows and other barnyard animals, and a CSA farm (Community Supported Agriculture) full of vegetables. The center of the sprawling property, managed by the Trustees of Reservations, is the Great Pasture, which still looks like much of New England did after settlers got to work a few centuries ago. The view makes a good backdrop for a leisurely walk. 219 County Road, Ipswich, 978-356-5728, Daily sunrise to sunset.

Gauging a rainy day
The Wenham Museum documents much, from old-fashioned costumes and textiles to dolls and toys. But of particular note is the museum’s impressive array in the Bennett E. Merry Train Gallery, where nine models showcase 12 trains. For those especially interested to know, the trains run in G, O, HO, N, and Z gauges. 132 Main St., Wenham, 978-468-2377, Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.- 4 p.m., $7 adults, $5 children 2 and up.

A cinematic stroll
Get a glimpse of independent, foreign, and even some mainstream films in the cozy chairs at the Newburyport Screening Room. It’s a smaller screen in a small room, but all the better to notice the personal touches of a ticket-taker who also serves the popcorn and threads the projector. Summer features include “Limits of Control,’’ set in Spain; “Summer Hours,’’ in France; and “The Brothers Bloom,’’ in all kinds of places. 82 State St., Newburyport, 978-462-3456, General admission $7, seniors $4.50.

A taste of the place
Depending on the week you pull into the parking lot, Russell Orchards, on the road to Crane Beach, offers up everything from field-fresh strawberries during the promise of June to crisp apples during the dwindling days of autumn. The farm makes wine from black currants, cherries, and dandelions, among others. The height of summer harvest brings squash, tomatoes, kohlrabi, and much more, and cider doughnuts could keep you coming back. Be sure to leave time to feed the 800-pound pig. 143 Argilla Road, Ipswich, 978-356-5366, Daily 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

A good portion
If gourmet preparation of local flavors is your thing, then take a table in the casual room at Duckworth’s Bistrot, a neighborhood place that delivers big city tastes. Chef Ken Duckworth, who specializes in sauces of the French school, offers up grilled scallops with duck confit hash, pan-fried trout, lobster and vegetable risotto, and much more, in small and large portions. So sample a number, but leave room for dessert: profiteroles, or lemon meringue ice cream pie. 197 East Main St., Gloucester, 978-282-4426, Dinner Tuesday-Sunday. Appetizers $8. Entrees $22-$30.

Good night
Since we’re splurging, take in a sound night’s sleep near the sea at the Inn at Castle Hill on the Crane Estate. Many rooms come with views of salt marsh, dunes, and ocean. The porch, rocking chairs provided, makes a good perch for passing a summer evening. You can rise early to stroll up to and around the castle, or on the nearby beach, 3 miles long. Better, though, to roll over and slumber with the smells of the sea. 280 Argilla Road, Ipswich, 978-412-2555, Summer room rates $175-$385.

Tom Haines can be reached at