Open daily 10 A.M. – 4 P.M.

Curious Travelers: Try these ocean-to-table seaside adventures!

On Boston’s North Shore, history and culinary innovation work hand in hand. Food, drawn from the sea and prepared by those who’ve come to the North Shore from around the world, opens a window into this historic region. Visitors and locals alike combine their love of seaside adventure with a love of fresh, delicious seafood. Use this introduction to five North Shore communities and their notable cuisines to plan your seafood excursions.



The House of the Seven Gables: Your seafood adventure starts here

As you stroll across The Gables’ lawn and view Salem’s historic harbor, think of John Turner I, who built his home here in 1668. Though Turner died at 36, he owned several ships and amassed a fortune trading codfish for sugar and molasses in Barbados. Cod — dried and salted — was early Salem’s essential harvest, both for trading and subsistence.

The working harbor of 1668 bears almost no resemblance to today’s harbor. Instead of crowded wharves and warehouses, you see pleasure boats.

One characteristic Salem retains is its embrace of diversity. Sea captains returned with objects collected from around the world. Many such objects are on view at The Gables. This same appreciation for diversity is found in the varied cuisines Salem has long fostered — many reflecting the city’s proximity to the sea.

As for cod that once fed a community, it’s now the centerpiece in an array of chowders, deep fried in the ubiquitous (and delicious) fish and chips, and prepared in novel ways throughout Salem’s many popular restaurants. Its deliciousness is complemented by its versatility.


No ordinary fishing shacks!

Head to Rockport for a pleasurable day strolling through this quintessential seaside village on the tip of Cape Ann. Look in any direction for views of lighthouses, lobster boats and family beaches.

Curious explorers quickly discover scores of historic, colorful fishing shacks on Bearskin Neck. These rustic structures are now repurposed as shops, galleries and restaurants. This is where locals go to get their fresh, lobsters steamed on the half hour. Also available: chowders, lobster rolls, fish and crab cakes and much, much more.

One of the shacks, Motif No. 1, is world famous. It is the most painted building in the world! Built in the 1840s, it once held fishing equipment and the daily catches. In 1930 it became an arts studio. The blizzard of 1978 destroyed the Motif. But, due to its handsome presence and popularity, the town rebuilt it.

Bearskin Neck is named for an incident in in the late 1600s. A member of the local Babson family slayed a charging bear with a knife (on view in the Sandy Bay Historical Society), skinned it, then laid the pelt to dry on the rocky outcropping.


Gloucester: America’s oldest fishing port celebrates its 400th anniversary in 2023

Gloucester’s identity is closely linked to its working waterfront. Take Gloucester’s free, self-guided HarborWalk that winds through the wharves to get a first-hand look at the fleet and its operations. You may encounter boats coming and going. Forty-two story stations allow you to discover as much as you like about the boats, the fish and the lives of fishing families.

Consider signing up for one of Gloucester’s Foodie Tours if you want a narrated walking tour. You’ll stop at food vendors to sample the city’s favorite foods. You won’t leave hungry for food or local lore.

If you’d like to explore on your own, most of Gloucester’s restaurants are on Rogers Street abutting the waterfront, one block up on Main Street and on Washington Street. To be sure you haven’t missed anything, visit DiscoverGloucester. Seafood is much more than a meal here. Thousands have given their lives to bring the catch back to Gloucester.

Gloucester celebrates its 400th anniversary in 2023. The city is known for the many ethnicities who’ve come to fish, and not surprisingly, to cook. During the 400th anniversary Harvest Festival, students will present video interviews, handmade cookbooks and a school newspaper showcasing family members who contribute to the city’s famed food heritage.


Essex and Ipswich: Clam Central!

In Essex and Ipswich people cheerfully line up for clams — chowder, fried, steamed, saucy pastas, and baked in their shells with stuffing. Once you get a whiff of the sweet aroma of clams and fries, you’ll want to join the crowd.

Clamming is hard work. In Massachusetts, clammers shovel and rake at low tides. Clams must measure larger than 1.5 inches in diameter and can only be harvested in April, May, August and September. Quahogs (or chowder clams), steamers (soft-shelled), cherrystones and littlenecks can be found in Massachusetts.

Chowder lovers, look for chowder festivals. These events allow visitors to taste chowders from many participating restaurants. While people have firm ideas about chowder, there are never a scarcity of favorites. Bacon or salt pork? Thin broth or thick? Celery? Stomachs or strips? Tomato-y or milk-based? Festivals are great for culinary sleuthing.

There’s more to Essex and Ipswich than clams, of course. Antiquing is extremely popular, as is the Essex Shipbuilding Museum. Boat tours and kayak trips into the Great Marsh bring you deep into a region resplendent with breathtaking views not seen from the car.


New England’s Great Marsh: Our seafood’s incubator

For our final culinary adventure, travel north along the picturesque Essex Seacoast Byway to Newburyport. On the way, enjoy stunning views of the Great Marsh, New England’s vast and essential salt marsh measuring 25,500 acres. Many are surprised to learn that 95 percent of commercially harvested fish and shellfish depends on coastal wetlands for at least part of their lives. These wetlands incubate fish and shellfish and provide a welcoming habitat for migrating and nesting birds.

Newburyport, at the northern edge of the marsh, played a significant role in this nation’s early shipping trade. Plan a visit to the Custom House Maritime Museum to explore the city’s shipping and fishing enterprises. Newburyport is also a foodie’s delight. It’s home to beloved seafood establishments and many newer spots, too, skilled in Mediterranean, Mexican, Thai, Japanese and Indian-style seafood preparation.

As you explore, you’ll spot numerous historic sea captains’ homes, evidence of the city’s early trading successes. You may encounter Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, as well. This 4,700-acre gem offers great nighttime fishing and spectacular ocean views, as well as transcendent birdwatching.




Funded, in part, by the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

Date: June 13, 2023

Author: Rae Francoeur

Share on social media!