“New England” means different things to different people, but it’s easy to agree that coastal charm, easy elegance and history define the region. There are many Massachusetts towns that offer all three of those elements, but Marblehead is a place that truly embodies the beauty and picturesque quality that draws so many visitors to Massachusetts year after year.
Read on to learn why Marblehead is one of the most quintessentially New England towns in the state.
Visiting feels like stepping back in time to a quieter, simpler age.
Marblehead is a coastal community with about 19,800 residents and immeasurable charm. It’s located 18 miles north of Boston, but feels worlds away from the urban sprawl. Marblehead is famous for its time capsule feel; it has retained the quaint, narrow streets and beautiful buildings that were the pride of its first colonists in 1629.
Marblehead has nearly 300 surviving colonial-era homes – the most of any town in the country.
The staggering volume of historic buildings and preserved structures makes walking through Marblehead’s old neighborhoods one of the best reasons to visit.
There are so many quaint shops and restaurants in Marblehead’s downtown.
Head to the Old Town district to find colonial homes, galleries, restaurants and boutiques clustered together in an old-fashioned Main Street setup. It’s a quick jaunt to the harbor from downtown, and you’ll get to stroll past many old sailors’ homes.
Local businesses matter, and chain stores are harder to find.
F.L. Woods, a nautical supply shop turned clothing store, has operated out of the same building on Washington Street since 1938. Other Marblehead businesses have also been around for generations. There's something special about buying an outfit off the same rack as your great-grandparent once did.
The daytime views are as pretty as a picture...
Painters and artists of all kinds flock to Marblehead during the summer, making it a great place to swap ideas and soak up some creative inspiration.
...but the sunsets over the harbor blow everything else out of the water.
Something about the rows of bobbing sailboats framed against the glowing clouds makes Marblehead Harbor an ideal place for taking in the last rays of the day.
Marblehead transforms into a holiday wonderland every year.
Annual like the Marblehead Christmas Walk celebrate the spirit of the season, and the whole town puts on an incredible holiday show each year. From the seashell-bedecked wreaths to the twinkling lights adorning the masts of ships in the harbor, Marblehead is one of the best Christmas towns in the state.
Great seafood is the norm.
Marblehead has a long history of seafaring, fishing and working in harmony with the ocean. Restaurants like The Barnacle, a perennial favorite among locals and travelers alike, celebrate that connection with delicious fare straight from the water.
In fact, it's not unusual to find the catch of the day being peddled straight off the boat.
Head down to the Marblehead wharf for the chance to load up on the freshest fish and shellfish available.
Old Burial Hill is one of the most scenic places around.
Marblehead keeps its past close, and is proud of its place in American history. Like many Massachusetts towns, Marblehead contributed greatly to the American Revolution and the Civil War. Old Burial Hill cemetery has been taking in Marblehead’s dead since 1638, and many of the original settlers of the town are buried on this scenic hill overlooking the harbor.
Marblehead is known as the birthplace of the American Navy.
So many of Marblehead's sailors became involved in the Revolutionary War that scholars generally agree that they were the forerunners of the country's naval force.
It's basically a sailing mecca.
At some points in the summer, over 2,000 boats are moored in and around Marblehead harbor. There are several yacht clubs that operate out of Marblehead, and the waters around town are lousy with kayakers and boaters.
The beaches range from rugged and dramatic, to calm and manicured.
Check out family-friendly Devereaux Beach, or nearby Dane Street Beach for an amazing time by the water.
Famous writers, politicians and athletes have all called Marblehead home.
Horror and fantasy writer H.P Lovecraft was profoundly inspired by Marblehead. Describing his first visit to the town, Lovecraft wrote: "...the most powerful single emotional climax experienced during my nearly forty years of existence. In a flash all the past of New England—all the past of Old England—all the past of Anglo-Saxondom and the Western World—swept over me and identified me with the stupendous totality of all things in such a way as it never did before and never did again. That was the high tide of my life."
It's hard not to be inspired by the historic charm and coastal allure of this beautiful Massachusetts town.
It's the kind of place that demands a second visit. And a third.