Things To Do In Marblehead, MA: Top 15 Most Unique Spots | Stanton House Inn
The view from Marblehead Neck towards the historic district, one of the best things to do in Marblehead, MA

Things to Do in Marblehead, MA: Top Attractions to Explore the Charm

The Marblehead Lighthouse from Fort Sewall

History marinates in Marblehead, Massachusetts. With over 900 contributing buildings, its natural harbor is a focal point, especially during the Race Week regatta each July. Deeply hued Colonial-era homes dating back to the early 1700s and 1800s distinguish this charming town. Doing nothing but:

 

  • Exploring historic sites
  • Enjoying local shops and restaurants
  • Embracing the town’s enduring charm and history

 

Makes for a perfect day trip to the North Shore.

 

A tranquil destination, Marblehead offers a serene seaside getaway, particularly in late spring. Shops and restaurants buzz with activity, yet the atmosphere remains relaxed. It’s a charming break from the far more famous “Witch City” of Salem, with its beautiful harbor and well-preserved Old Town.

 

Marblehead boasts a greater number of homes from before 1725 compared to Salem. And it has its own connections to witch trials history and the Halloween classic, Hocus Pocus, to boot.

 

Ready to explore the best things to do in Marblehead, MA? Let’s get into it:

 

Quick hits

  • Marblehead is rich in America’s maritime and Revolutionary past, with attractions like the Jeremiah Lee Mansion and Abbot Hall. The town also hosts seasonal events, such as the Marblehead Festival of Arts and the Christmas Walk.
  • Marblehead, MA, boasts historical sites, outdoor activities, and tranquil spots. Notable places include Old Burial Hill, Devereux Beach, and Chandler Hovey Park.
  • Marblehead is an ideal base for exploring the rich history and scenic beauty of nearby North Shore towns. It’s a short drive from Salem, Newburyport, and Rockport.

 

A Brief History of Marblehead, Massachusetts

Undated photo of historic Marblehead, Massachusetts, as seen from Rockmere Point

Dating back to the 1600s, Marblehead has an influential history regarding the maritime heritage of New England. Besides its quaint New England charm, Marblehead holds the title as the birthplace of the American Navy. The Marblehead Militia, led by John Glover, played a significant role in the American Revolutionary War.

 

Some highlights of Marblehead’s history include:

 

  • The historic district, filled with colonial-era homes
  • Abbot Hall, where the deed selling Marblehead to the colonists for sixteen pounds is proudly displayed

 

Marblehead’s past is visible everywhere. That’s especially so in the Marblehead Historic District, with picturesque streets and historic landmarks like Marblehead’s Town Hall.

 

Colonial Era

The earliest records label the area as Massebequash. At the time, Marblehead was the home of the Naumkeag tribe, part of the Pawtucket confederation. Their leader, Nanepashemet, watched over them until diseases like smallpox ravaged them in the years 1615-1619 and again in 1633. The land is still full of their history, their shell mounds, and their dead.

 

Joseph Doliber was the first of the Europeans to make a home here in 1629, right by the shore, where Bradlee Road ends today. But even before him, Isaac Allerton, who came over on the Mayflower, had set up a fishing village at what’s now called Marblehead Little Harbor. And in 1635, the town was officially born out of land that once belonged to Salem. The folks of Marblehead, not much for the strict ways of their Salem neighbors, soon sought independence, which they got in 1649.

 

The descendants of Nanepashemet let go of their 3,700 acres in 1684.

 

Revolutionary War

Before the Revolution, Marblehead thrived, with privateering ships bringing in wealth from European vessels. The architecture from that time still stands, like the Jeremiah Lee Mansion. The town’s sailors acted as the US Navy before there was a Navy. They were the ones who got the Continental Army off Long Island safely during a battle.

 

The town felt the war’s toll, losing people and prosperity, but it was still a busy place at the time of the first census in 1790. When Washington came through on his tour in 1789, he knew Marblehead sailors well for their service in the war.

 

19th Century

1914 postcard of Front Street, in Marblehead, MA

After the Revolution, Marblehead saw its golden age in fishing, until the War of 1812 came along. The British blockaded the town’s fishing grounds and drew local men into war. After that, the town’s wealthy wanted a bank to finance ships and support the fishermen and merchants. They established the Grand Bank in 1831, which later became the National Grand Bank in 1864.

 

The 19th century brought shoe-making factories, but that didn’t last long. The harbor, though, it drew the wealthy and their yachts, and yacht clubs set up shop. Marblehead Light needed an upgrade by 1896, as the grand new houses hid the old one.

 

Marblehead even had its place in aviation history. The Burgess & Curtis Aircraft Factory was the first licensed aircraft manufacturer in the country. William Starling Burgess designed and flew the planes made there. And it was from Marblehead Harbor that Alfred Austell Cunningham, the first Marine aviator, took flight in a Burgess seaplane from the company.

 

The Best Things to do in Marblehead, MA

View from Fort Sewall, one of Marblehead's Top Attractions

Marblehead is a trove of attractions. This charming little town offers a unique blend of history, culture, and outdoor activities. Dive deeper into these top attractions in Marblehead, MA, to fully discover the allure of this coastal town.

 

Jeremiah Lee Mansion

The Jeremiah Lee Mansion, constructed in 1768, stands as a testament to Marblehead’s opulent history. This mansion belonged to Jeremiah Lee, who was known as the wealthiest merchant in Colonial Massachusetts. The mansion showcases Georgian-style architecture from the period before the Revolutionary War. The exterior of the mansion features wood carefully scored and squared to resemble hewed granite. Inside, early American furniture and a remarkable collection of decorative arts from the 18th and 19th centuries can be admired by visitors. A visit here is an immersive experience into the colonial heritage of the town. The historic townhouse provides a window into the lifestyle of the colonial elite.

 

Remember to plan your visit between June 1 and October 31, when the mansion opens its doors to the public.

 

Old Burial Hill

At Old Burial Hill, twilight falls on ancient graves.

This writer is always a fan of cemeteries, graveyards, and burial grounds. And Old Burial Hill is a quiet testament to Marblehead’s history. Home to around 650 headstones dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, it offers a unique glimpse into the town’s history. The cemetery is also known for its appearances in the popular Hocus Pocus movie.

 

Among the notable people buried here is Wilmot Redd. She was the only woman from Marblehead executed during the Salem witch trials, a grim chapter in local and national history. This serene cemetery, coupled with beautiful views of Marblehead Harbor, is not to be missed.

 

Abbot Hall

Abbot Hall, a gift from Benjamin Abbott, stands as a symbol of Marblehead’s rich historical and cultural legacy. The hall is home to the iconic ‘Spirit of 76’ painting, a symbol of revolutionary bravery. It also features a range of artifacts and exhibits that narrate Marblehead’s story.

 

Set Sail from the Historic Wharfs

Sea enthusiasts should not miss a trip to the historic wharfs. Here, visitors can:

 

  • Set sail on a beautiful journey, taking in the breathtaking views of Marblehead’s coastline
  • Rent a sailboat for a leisurely cruise
  • Embark on a sunset sail on the schooner ‘When And If’, once owned by General George S. Patton

 

Devereux Beach

Devereux Beach

As Marblehead’s primary beach, Devereux Beach serves as an ideal location to relax. It features a vast sandy shoreline, calm waves, and stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. The beach draws both locals and visitors alike. The beach also offers facilities like picnic pavilions, a playground, and a volleyball court, ensuring a fun-filled day for all.

 

Marblehead Neck Wildlife Sanctuary

Managed by the Massachusetts Audubon Society, Marblehead Neck Wildlife Sanctuary is a 20-acre gem on the Marblehead Peninsula. This sanctuary is a mosaic of swamp, woodlands, and thickets. It’s a magnet for migratory birds, particularly warblers in the spring and fall. The sanctuary serves an important ecological role and offers a tranquil pond for peaceful walks.

 

For birdwatchers, the Warbler Trail offers an excellent vantage point. It runs along the pond’s elevated western edge, ideal for observing the ebb and flow of songbird migrations. While the sanctuary isn’t waterside, its 16 acres and .85-mile path are a paradise for songbirds during the migration seasons.

 

Find Serenity at Chandler Hovey Park

water view in June from Chandler Hovey Park

This park is a peaceful retreat from the once bustling 19th-century summer resort of Marblehead Neck. Erected in 1895, the Marblehead Lighthouse is New England’s sole example of its industrial smokestack-like design. Its fixed green beacon shines across seven nautical miles. Spanning 3.75 acres, the park offers expansive views of:

 

  • The harbor mouth
  • Manchester-by-the-Sea
  • Beverly

 

Take advantage of one of the park benches to enjoy the sunset over Marblehead and the boats dotting the harbor. The lighthouse’s unique style sets it apart from the quaint, traditional New England lighthouses.

 

Fort Sewall

Fort Sewall stands guard over Marblehead Harbor with a history that stretches back to 1644. Originally established on Gale’s Head, it was later named for Samuel Sewall, a local judge, in 1814. This fort has witnessed the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, and was active during the War of 1812. Its most notable moment occurred on April 3, 1814. That was when the USS Constitution, known as “Old Ironsides,” sought refuge from two British frigates in Marblehead Harbor.

 

A small cove at the base of Fort Sewall

In 1922, the fort was returned to the town and has since been transformed into a waterfront park. Visitors today can explore the remnants of bunkers and underground rooms that once housed soldiers and held prisoners. Situated at the intersection of Front Street and Fort Sewall Lane, the park includes seasonal restrooms. Nearby, The Barnacle is a favored dining spot while attending the annual Encampment in July.

 

Castle Rock Park

Between two grand homes with ocean vistas lies a public path. It leads to Marblehead Neck’s natural spectacle. Park on the street and follow the trail. You’ll find an enormous rock outcropping, battered by waves. Facing the Atlantic, this outcrop was a vital lookout during Marblehead’s seafaring days. Its name is derived from the nearby Carcassonne mansion. A small park encircles the area, accessible from Ocean Avenue. Enjoy the seascape from benches positioned near the rock.

 

Stroll Through Art Galleries

Art enthusiasts will find a sanctuary in Marblehead. Numerous art galleries present an array of art forms, from contemporary pieces to historic exhibits. At the Arnould Gallery & Framery, ray art, and the ARTI Gallery, visitors are captivated by the showcased creativity and talent.

 

Visit the J.O.J. Frost Gallery

The Marblehead Museum is home to the J.O.J. Frost Gallery, which celebrates the work of J.O.J. Frost, a local artist. His landscape paintings serve as historical records of Marblehead.

 

Adventure to Crowninshield Island

Small island off the coast of Marblehead, Massachusetts.

Crowninshield Island is a small piece of land off Marblehead’s coast. You can reach it by boat or on foot at low tide. It bears the name of Louise E. du Pont Crowninshield, a pioneer in historic preservation. The Trustees of Reservations maintain this natural retreat. Walk here to enjoy the sandy beach, meadow, salt marsh, and rugged shoreline. The island offers views of Fort Sewall and the harbor. For a lower stress experience, arrive an hour before low tide and plan to leave an hour after.

 

Redd’s Pond

Redd’s Pond, named in memory of Wilmot Redd, a Salem Witch Trials victim, provides a quiet sanctuary amidst Marblehead’s lively atmosphere. Locals enjoy fishing for crawfish, feeding the ducks, or just take a leisurely stroll around the pond.

 

And if you’re up for a little thrill at one of the town’s hidden gems, try reciting the conjuring chant rumored to summon the ghost of Wilmot Redd near the pond. This writer is admittedly too superstitious for that sort of thing.

 

Explore the Maritime Museum at Abbot Hall

A boarded-off seaside staircase leading down to the water in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

Explore the rich naval heritage of Marblehead at the Maritime Museum in Abbot Hall. This museum offers an in-depth perspective on the town’s early connections to the US Navy, showcasing artifacts and celebrating its naval heroes. Be sure to visit the exhibit that honors General John Glover’s Marblehead Regiment for their pivotal role in the American Revolutionary War.

 

Relive Civil War History

The Grand Army of the Republic & Civil War Museum holds a vast collection of:

 

  • Civil War memorabilia
  • Relics from battles
  • Personal items from veterans’ families

 

The museum breathes life into history with its annual colonial encampment. Glover’s Marblehead Regiment reenacts the past at Fort Sewall. The Old Town House, known as Marblehead’s Cradle of Liberty, is another historical beacon. Its bold yellow walls in Market Square once echoed with pre-revolutionary war discussions. The Grand Army of the Republic, comprised of Civil War veterans, gathered on its second floor. Their legacy is a narrative that continues to resonate.

 

Seasonal Splendors in Marblehead

Marblehead Festival of Arts

Marblehead’s allure intensifies during its seasonal events, which bring together the local community and tourists.

 

Join the Marblehead Festival of Arts

Held over the July 4th holiday, the Marblehead Festival of Arts is a yearly event that celebrates and supports the local art scene. The festival offers a variety of activities, including:

 

  • Art exhibits
  • Outdoor music concerts
  • Film festival
  • 5K road race

 

The festivities take place in various historical and picturesque venues across Marblehead.

 

Experience the Christmas Walk

The Christmas Walk, a beloved holiday tradition in Marblehead, takes place on the first weekend of December. The event is a celebration of the holiday spirit, featuring a plethora of activities including:

 

  • Santa arriving by boat
  • A unique lobster trap Christmas tree
  • A holiday Shop ‘N Stroll where local shops stay open late and offer special sales and treats.

 

The event is free and perfect for families. It’s a perfect excuse for a holiday visit to Marblehead.

 

Shopping in Marblehead, Massachusetts

Marblehead harbor in wintertime

Marblehead offers a unique shopping experience with its array of local boutiques, galleries, and specialty stores. In search of one-of-a-kind gifts, local artwork, or just want to meander through the picturesque streets? The shopping scene in Marblehead is sure to delight.

 

Key destinations include the Bus Stop boutique, nestled in the historic district and celebrated for its eclectic and vibrant selection of women’s apparel and accessories. Another highlight is F.L. Woods, a venerable establishment that began as a purveyor of nautical instruments. It has since evolved into a beloved outfitter of classic maritime attire.

 

Restaurants in Marblehead, MA

Marblehead Yacht Club

Marblehead offers a ton of dining options, mostly sea-related, including:

 

 

For both entertainment and a delectable meal, Maddie’s Sail Loft and The Beacon are top picks.

 

Whether you’re craving seafood, international cuisine, or just a cozy cafe, Marblehead’s culinary scene has got you covered.

 

Directions to Marblehead, MA, from Greenwich, CT

The rocky coastline of Marblehead, Massachusetts

With so many things to do in Marblehead, MA, a road trip from NYC (or our New England bed and breakfast in Greenwich, CT) to Marblehead, MA is likely in the works. The fastest route is via I-90 E, clocking in at approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes of continuous driving.

 

For a more scenic drive, take the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway, offering picturesque views of the Massachusetts coast. And the best part? There are no toll roads on your way to Marblehead.

 

Hotels, Inns, and Places to Stay in Marblehead, Massachusetts

Castle Rock

That said, that’s a bit of a drive for a day trip. Luckily, Marblehead hosts a few great inns close to or in the town’s historic district. Top picks provide modern amenities, comfortable rooms, and a glimpse into Marblehead’s history.

 

Harbor Light Inn

The Harbor Light Inn, featuring 20 rooms and 5 apartments, welcomes guests with cozy fireplaces and spa tubs in each room. Guests can enjoy an outdoor pool and visit the in-house Tavern for dining and drinks. Situated near Gas House Beach, the Inn is also conveniently close to shopping areas, art galleries, and historic homes. Whether seeking a romantic New England getaway or a family adventure, the Harbor Light Inn promises a memorable experience.

 

Hotel Marblehead

The Hotel Marblehead, situated near the Historic District, features 10 mid-century modern rooms within an Empire-style home. Its prime location is a mere 10-minute stroll from Devereux Beach and Abbott Hall. The Hotel Marblehead is a perfect base for exploring Marblehead Neck or the historic city of Salem.

 

More Towns and Cities to Explore Near Marblehead, MA

Cape Cod style home in Marblehead, MA

If your schedule allows, it’s worth venturing into the nearby towns and cities in the North Shore. Some options include:

 

  • A town synonymous for its infamous witch trials
  • A picturesque coastal town
  • A charming fishing village famous for art galleries and stunning ocean views

 

Each offers a unique experience and is worth a visit in their own right. And there’s always nearby Boston.

 

Salem, Massachusetts

A mere 15-minute drive from Marblehead, Salem is infamous for its witch trial history. The city is a popular destination for exploring this dark chapter in American history. This historic town offers a plethora of attractions including The House of the Seven Gables, Salem Witch Trials Memorial, and the Peabody Essex Museum.

 

Whether you’re interested in history, looking to explore local attractions, or simply want to enjoy a day trip, Salem is well worth a visit.

 

Waterfront view of Newburyport, MA

But for the love of all that is decent in the world, avoid this area like the plague in October. Unless you’re interested in seeing the human version of an ant hill, kicked.

 

Newburyport, MA

On the south bank of the Merrimack River, Newburyport is a coastal city with a unique blend of history and natural beauty. The town is home to several attractions such as the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Custom House Maritime Museum, and Maudslay State Park.

 

Rockport, Massachusetts

Rockport harbor

A charming fishing village, Rockport, MA, offers a unique blend of art, history, and stunning ocean views. The town is home to several art galleries, and its natural beauty is a source of inspiration for many artists.

 

Tl;dr

Marblehead, Massachusetts, is a coastal jewel that offers a unique coastal New England experience. The town hosts a rich history, breathtaking natural landscapes, and coastal charm. It attracts history buffs, nature enthusiasts, art lovers, and foodies alike. Plan your visit to Marblehead and immerse yourself in its enchanting allure!

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

What is the hidden gem in Marblehead MA?

Marblehead, MA’s hidden gem is Redd’s Pond. It bears the name of Wilmont “Mammy” Redd, a figure from the Salem witch trials. Surrounding the pond is a mysterious legend about its depth.

 

What is Marblehead MA known for?

Marblehead, MA is renowned for its deep roots in fishing and the distinction of being the birthplace of the U.S. Navy. Today, it also enjoys the reputation as the Yachting Capital of the World, with its heritage in commercial fishing and yachting shaping its unique identity.

 

Does Marblehead MA have a downtown?

Yes, Marblehead MA has a downtown area with over 300 colonial-era homes, making it a very walkable town. You can explore this living museum and discover historic plaques on each house.

 

What historical sites can I visit in Marblehead?

You can visit the Jeremiah Lee Mansion, Abbot Hall, and Old Burial Hill in Marblehead to explore its historical sites.

 

What seasonal events can I attend in Marblehead?

You can attend the Marblehead Festival of Arts in the summer and the Christmas Walk in December for seasonal events in Marblehead. Enjoy the local arts and holiday festivities!

 

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