Sea Spots When Sailing the North Shore

Some of our favorite spots to stop when sailing around coastal North Shore.



Mark Corke

 

A boater’s paradise, the North Shore is rife with a gorgeous waterfront that beckons visitors to come ashore and explore its charming town centers, world-class restaurants, and easy-does-it watering holes. Here’s a guide to some of our favorite stops. 

 

MARBLEHEAD

Marblehead has often been referred to as the yachting capital of the world, but for those who know it best, Marblehead Harbor is simply one of the most beautiful natural harbors in the world. Located about nine nautical miles north of Boston Harbor, it contains 14.2 miles of tidal shoreline and is an attractive destination, as well as a stopping-off point for summer boating.

The main harbor is one of the busiest harbors on the North Shore, with over 2,000 moorings located within its waters. It’s almost completely full of permanent moorings, and no anchoring is permitted anywhere in the harbor. The harbor is regulated by the Marblehead Harbormaster, and, by designation, transient mooring accommodations can be obtained from the dock masters of the three major yacht clubs: The Corinthian, The Eastern, and The Boston Yacht Clubs.

 

Where to Dock

The Harbormaster Department is the law enforcement authority for the harbor and also maintains the public piers, floats, launching ramps, and sewer pump-out facilities. Visiting yachts are always welcome. When needing float space, mooring provisions, medical services, or any other assistance, call Marblehead Harbormaster F. Webb Russell, III, on VHF Channel 16 or the Harbormaster Office at 781-631-2386.

 

Where to Stay

The New York Times considers the Harbor Light Inn among the most romantic places to stay in America. Comprising two linked Federal-style houses dating from the 1700s, the small hotel offers 20 uniquely designed rooms, some with four-poster beds and Jacuzzis.

Owned and operated by Peter and Suzanne Conway, the property features sitting rooms with fireplaces, a split dining room overlooking the garden, and a heated pool. It’s also home to the Tavern, a romantic spot for a light meal or signature cocktail. 58 Washington St., 781-631-2186.

 

Yacht Clubs

Marblehead has three major yacht clubs: the Boston Yacht Club in historic Old Town, which is open year round, and the Eastern and Corinthian Yacht Clubs, both located across the harbor in Marblehead Neck and open from late April through October. All clubs are private but welcome visitors from recognized clubs. Transient moorings are available but are often scarce in the heart of sailing season. If you don’t plan to stay on your boat, consider renting a guest room at one of the clubs.

Boston Yacht Club: 1 Front St., 781-631-3100, bostonyc.org

Corinthian Yacht Club: 1 Nahant St., 781-631-0005, corinthianyc.org

Eastern Yacht Club: 47 Foster St., 781-631-1400, easternyc.org

 

Where to Eat

Beautifully presented meals made from scratch with the freshest local ingredients is what make the high-style 5 Corners Kitchen, a short walk from the dock in Old Town, a hit with locals in Marblehead. As far as hospitality and attention to detail, nobody does it better than owner and head chef Barry Edelman, who believes in the culinary virtue of an eclectic menu with unique offerings. There are many good restaurants in town, but this is the top pick of those with discriminating taste. 2 School St., 781-631-5550.

A Marblehead landmark since 1948, Shubie’s Gourmet Market and Restaurant is the place to go for that perfect wine, exquisitely prepared food, or perhaps both. Healthy fast food is no oxymoron at the family-owned Shubie’s, which prides itself on using all-natural whole ingredients. 16 Atlantic Ave., 781-631-0149.

 

Where to Shop

F.L. Woods has been a fixture in Marblehead’s Old Town since 1938. Along with modern-day boating apparel, you’ll find traditional items not available in any other shop in town—think sou’westers, signal flags, and sailing instruments. 76 Washington St., 781-631-0221.

For nautical-inspired clothing, avid sailors can do no better than to visit Marblehead Outfitters. 112 Washington St., 781-631-4660.

Nauticals of Marblehead takes love of the sea to another level. As functional as they are beautiful, some of the most enchanting nautical gifts are created right on the premises in their workshop in the old historic district. One popular gift for boaters and coastal dwellers is the serving trays and tables that feature the official National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) chart of your choice. But for that extra-special keepsake, speak to owner Davita Noland and her staff about the unusual and artistic furniture, gifts, and decor they create from wooden boats that are beyond restoration. 128 Washington St. (Second Floor Rear), 781-639-0227.

Chart 13276

42.50.00° N, 70.85.83° W

 

MANCHESTER-BY-THE-SEA

Tucked at the bottom of Cape Ann with its quaint downtown and picturesque harbor, Manchester-by-the-Sea is often overlooked by visitors to the North Shore.With no hotels or major attractions to speak of, this is a quiet little seaside community, and that’s exactly what makes it special.

For boaters, the entrance to Manchester Harbor may look formidable on the chart, but the dangers of a shallow channel are all well marked. From Boston Harbor, you can enter Salem Sound from the south through the Cat Island Channel, or from the east, keeping Bakers Island and its rocks to port. The Cat Island Channel is more direct, but on a racing weekend, of which there are many, the area between Tinkers and Cat Island will be full of small boats.

Coming into harbor, Manchester Yacht Club is on the port side. You’ll continue in past the second narrowing of the channel to find Crocker’s Boat Yard and Manchester Marine. Manchester Marine has fuel and holding tank pumpouts and both yards rent moorings, but if space is available, the Manchester Yacht Club on the western border at Tuck’s Point is the place to be.

 

Where to Dock

Visiting yachts are always welcome in Manchester. For information and assistance, contact Harbormaster Bion Pike in his office at 978-526-7832, or on his cell phone at 978-473-2520.

 

N. Larson Jewelry Designs, Manchester-by-the-Sea
N. Larson Jewelry Designs

 

Where to Stay

Although there are currently no boutique hotels in Manchester-by-the-Sea, it was interesting to learn that this was not always the case. Among the accommodations available to 19th-century visitors was a grand hotel built by Julius Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated Abraham Lincoln. Named for the chief of the Agawam Native American tribe that once populated the area, the popular Masconomo House drew visitors from near and far. What’s left of the posh hotel still stands above Singing Beach.

 

Where to Eat

For a relaxing evening of fine food and live music, you can’t do much better than The Landing at 7 Central. The cozy spot is just a stone’s throw from the harbor. As one might expect, seafood looms large on the menu, but there are plenty of other tasty dishes to be had seven days and nights a week. Sunday brunch is a local favorite, but you’ll need a reservation during the height of summer. 7 Central St.,  978-526-7494.

 

Where to Shop

Nancy Larson, owner of N. Larson Jewelry Designs, in the heart of downtown Manchester, has been crafting fine custom jewelry for 25 years. One of her most popular designs is the "Manchester Charm" pendant, which Larson and her small team of craftswomen make on site. But her true specialty is in transforming your unworn and outdated jewelry into new one-of-a-kind pieces. Complimentary consultations are available, or simply stop by and pick up a magnificent handcrafted work of art. 11 Central St., 978-526-7444.

Truly gorgeous specialty items created by artists and craftsmen are handpicked by the mother-daughter team of Mia Nehme and Claudia Bowman, owners of Mimi on Central Street. Bring your wallet, but don’t be afraid to let them know your price range—this is a place that specializes in finding you the absolute perfect gift for the perfect price. 19 Central St., 978-525-0385.

 

What to Do

Visit Singing Beach, named for its unusual sand, which some say squeaks, or "sings," beneath your feet. Don’t expect sea shanties, but if you scuff your feet on the dry sand with a bit of authority, you will hear quite a distinct squeaking sound. **If you are planning on bringing your pooch to the beach for a family outting, note that dogs are only allowed on the beach from October 15-April 15.

Take an afternoon picnic and drop anchor off the little islands at the mouth of Manchester’s harbor for a refreshing swim away from the beach crowd. Bakers, Little Misery, and Misery Islands are all good choices.

Chart 13279

42.57.78° N, 70.76.94° W

Rockport Harbor
Rockport Harbor

 

ROCKPORT

The seaside community of Rockport is located approximately 25 miles northeast of Boston at the tip of the Cape Ann peninsula and has three primary areas: the South End, Downtown, and Pigeon Cove. It is directly east of Gloucester and is surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean. If your captain needs serious work for the boat when you reach Cape Ann, then Gloucester is the place to go, but if you’re looking for a culturally vibrant, family-oriented seaside community, Rockport has it all. There are many lovely high-end boutiques and fine restaurants that are sure to please nearly everyone in your party.

Where to Dock

Getting there can be a bit rough, as the town’s shore is mostly rocky north of Lands End, but is somewhat less so south of there, as three of the town’s five beaches are on this 1.25-mile stretch of shoreline. Three islands—Straitsmouth Island, Thacher Island, and Milk Island—lie off the coast and are part of the town, but for deep-water docking, Rockport Harbor and Old Harbor are your best bets, and both are near the center of town.

Harbormasters Scott Story and Rosemary Lesch oversee Rockport’s four harbors—Rockport, Granite Pier, Pigeon Cove, and White Wharf—and can be reached on VHF Channel 9 or by calling 978-546-9589.

For transient moorings, if space is available, visitors are welcome at the Sandy Bay Yacht Club at the end of T Wharf in Rockport Harbor. Contact Ron Petoff at 978-546-9433 or on Marine Channel 9.

Helmut's Strudel Shop, Rockport
Helmut's Strudel Shop

 

Where to Stay

Emerson Inn by the Sea is Cape Ann’s only historic grand hotel with the personality and charm of a classic oceanfront bed and breakfast. It’s a choice spot for travelers seeking a getaway of unparalleled relaxation and convenience. All 36 rooms have unique coastal charm and amenities like private baths, spa tubs, and private balconies. Kick off your stay with a delicious spread of baked goods and New England breakfast favorites. 1 Cathedral Ave.,  978-546-6321.

 

Where to Eat

Nestled high atop the rocky cliffs of Bearskin Neck is the aptly named My Place by the Sea. This stunning little food lover’s dream specializes in local seafood dishes prepared by owner/chef Kathy Milbury. The French-inspired decor makes this one of the most romantic spots on the North Shore. 68 Bearskin Neck, 978-546-9667. Helmut’s Strudel Shop serves up flakey Austrian strudel, sweet and savory croissants, and espresso to die for on their harborfront deck. Pack a sweet cheese or apple strudel to go—just don’t be surprised if it never makes it back to your boat. 60 Bearskin Neck, 978-546-2824.

 

What to Do

Rockport is home to one of New England’s most unique destinations, The Paper House. Built in 1922 by mechanical engineer Elis F. Stenman, this is an actual summer home built entirely of newspaper. Having weathered almost a full century of harsh New England winters, many visitors are amazed to see it still standing. It’s open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day from spring through fall. Visit The Paper House’s website for directions, which can be a bit tricky. 52 Pigeon Hill St.

Superb acoustics and spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean have helped to designate this world-class concert hall as the North Shore’s best live music venue.  Only a short walk from Rockport’s town center, the intimate setting of the Shalin Liu Performance Center is not to be missed. 37 Main St., 978-546-7391.

Chart 13279

42.65.56° N, 70.62.08° W

 

Tug Alley Too, Newburyport
Tug Alley Too

 

NEWBURYPORT

 

Located along the banks of the Merrimack River with convenient access to the Atlantic Ocean, Newburyport is a quintessential New England town. Rich in history and the arts, Newburyport is a year-round destination for many, but in the summer, it offers boating visitors many opportunities for unique shopping, fine dining, and sophisticated cultural activities.

The "Port City" is steeped in maritime history and is also known as the official birthplace of the United States Coast Guard. There’s still a Coast Guard station in town, but today they rescue and supervise boats and yachts that have difficulty navigating the "most dangerous river mouth on the east coast."

The swift-flowing currents that meet the Atlantic Ocean can make this channel tricky to navigate. But once you make it in past Goose Rock and weave your way through the boats sprinkling the harbor, you’ll understand why Newburyport has long been one of New England’s most sought-after boating destinations. (For more on Newburyport, click here)

 

Where to Dock

To tie up at the Town Dock, check in with Harbormaster Paul Hogg on VHF Channel 12, or call 978-462-3746. For a longer stay, you may want to find a slip at one of the downtown marinas. There are four premier marinas offering full-service facilities and a total of 500 slips: Newburyport Harbor Marina, Hilton Marina, Windward Yacht Yard, and the Boat Basin.

 
Chococoa Baking Company, Nebwuryport
Chococoa Baking Company

 

Where to Stay

Since opening on the Newbury end of Plum Island, blue, The Inn on the Beach — an upscale beachfront inn fashioned after a South Beach, FL, mansion—has become its signature boutique hotel. If you’re having dinner atop the Front Range Lighthouse, ask to take advantage of the partnership agreement. 20 Fordham Way, Newbury, 978-465-7171.

 

Where to Eat

The 53-foot-tall now-decommissioned Newburyport Rear Range Light, owned by the Lighthouse Preservation Society, has been called the most exclusive, romantic dining experience in New England. Book now, as it can take a year to get in. Once you do, you’ll have the best view in town atop Newburyport Harbor in the lamp room, where your host, lighthouse expert and keeper Jay Hyland, will serve the meal you’ve ordered from one of the Port City’s many restaurants. 61 1/2 Water St., 800-727-BEAM.

If you’re in the mood for Italian-influenced cuisine with a focus on fresh local ingredients, take a short walk up from the dock to Andiamo, where chef and ownerJames Rogers uses only the finest ingredients to serve up prime meats, seafood, and pasta, along with daily-made breads, sauces, and mozzarella. 24 Winter St., 978-255-4341.

With 32 beers on tap, including several hyperlocal Newburyport brews, tasty pub food and a convivial atmosphere that has been drawing patrons in since the mid-1800s, The Grog is a great place to grab a drink, a casual bite, or listen to live music. 13 Middle St., 978-465-8008.

 
Brass Lyon, Newburyport
Brass Lyon

 

Sister spots Ceia Kitchen and Bar and Brine offer upscale city sophistication and are becoming well-known names in the culinary industry for their innovative cuisine and advanced wine programs. 38 State St., 978-358-8112, ; 25 State St., 978-358-8479.

For the town’s most delectable dessert, stop by The Chococoa Baking Company, an artisanal baker of "The Whoopie," made with dessert-quality chocolate, local butter, and free-range eggs. 50 Water St. (in the Tannery Mill Building), 978-499-8889.

 

Where to Shop

Provision your vessel with gourmet prepared foods and snacks from Joppa Fine Foods, whose counters , shelves, and coolers are stocked with everything from artisanal cheeses and meats to handcrafted candies and chocolates. 50 Water St. (in the Tannery marketplace), 978-462-4662. Take a stroll along Inn Street, one of the oldest streets in town, where you’ll find some of the most exclusive shops in Market Square. For nautical gifts, drop in at Brass Lyon, which has occupied the same location for over 40  years. 36 Market Sq, 978-465-5002. For a smart accessory or unique, stylish outfit, try Smitten (23 Inn St., 978-499-7912) or French Lessons (26 State St., 978-499-0499), two of the town’s most popular boutiques.

 

What to Do

Downtown on the waterfront, you’ll find the Firehouse Center for the Arts, a 195-seat theater built as a market house and lyceum by the citizens of Newburyport in 1823. Once host to distinguished speakers, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Daniel Webster, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, this vibrant cultural center offers live performances for visitors all year round. 1 Market Sq., 978-462-7336.

Open year round, the Newburyport Customs House Maritime Museum is an extraordinary venue exhibiting original objects from Newburyport’s prosperous trade era, as well as maritime art, clipper ship models, displays of famous shipwrecks, and tellings of the history of the Coast Guard. 25 Water St., 978- 462-8681.

If you’re up for a bit of a daytime adventure, you may want to anchor off the backside of Plum Island. It’s a popular spot for families because the water is a bit warmer for swimming. After a dip, visitors can come ashore and enjoy a beach barbecue, a trek through the open sections of the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, a  specialty cocktail at the Plum Island Grille (2 Sunset Blvd., 978-463-2290), or simply a sunning session on the soft, sandy  beach.

Chart 13282

42.81.25° N, 70.87.78° W

 

NEW CASTLE NEW HAMPSHIRE

Wentworth by the Sea, New Castle, New Hampshire
Wentworth by the Sea, New Castle

 

The 18-mile stretch of ocean coastline in New Hampshire may be the shortest in the United States, but it holds its own as a popular summer boating destination. For luxury yacht owners heading north to the rocky coasts of Maine, there’s no better place to tie up than at Wentworth by the Sea, the grand seaside resort that has been a crown jewel of the New Castle peninsula since 1874.

Designated as a Historic Hotel of America member, Wentworth by the Sea Hotel & Spa is the only oasis of opulence left standing of the 400 grand hotels that once dotted the Granite State. Today, it features 161 guestrooms, exclusive dining options, and plush spa facilities that rival the finest in Boston.

Rescued from the wrecking ball and its place on the National Trust’s "Most Endangered Sites" list, the Wentworth was fully refurbished and reopened in 2003. Before then, it had maintained a grand international reputation for much of the 20th century, hosting political and entertainment figures such as Annie Oakley, Gloria Swanson, Harry Truman, and Prince Charles.

Having returned to its original splendor, the spectacular Wentworth by the Sea Hotel & Spa is once again part of the fabric of Portsmouth/New Castle and a top venue for social events and accommodations for A-list visitors.

 

Wentworth by the Sea Hotel & Spa, New Castle
Wentworth by the Sea Hotel & Spa

 

Where to Dock

At the northern tip of the New Hampshire shore, you’ll find easy entry to the well-protected harbor at Wentworth by the Sea Marina, where floating docks can accommodate boats up to 250 feet in length. Reservations can be made in advance online, or by calling 603-433-5050.  Upon arrival, the marina can be contacted on VHF Channel 71.

 

Where to Stay

Everything you could possibly need and more is readily available at Wentworth by the Sea Hotel & Spa, but should you be looking for a night out on the town or shopping in the exclusive boutiques of Portsmouth, the hotel staff is happy to arrange transportation to take you downtown. 588 Wentworth Rd., 603-422-7322.

 

Where to Eat

For a sophisticated night of relaxed elegance, look no further than Wentworth’s newly refurbished Salt Kitchen & Bar. Just opened this summer, Salt offers a fine dining experience that combines the hotel’s historic charm with the bright flavors of locally inspired contemporary cuisine. If it’s a more relaxed atmosphere you’re looking for, then head on over to Latitudes Waterfront, where you’ll find the lighter fare of a bistro-style menu and alfresco dining overlooking the harbor and golf course beyond. You won’t be disappointed with the warm hospitality offered in either spot.

 

What to Do

Golfers staying at the hotel can hop over to the adjacent Wentworth By The Sea Country Club’s private, 18-hole championship golf course. Etched out of the New England landscape, this genuine Scottish links-style golf course presents challenges for all levels of play while providing some of the most magnificent ocean views on the New Hampshire seacoast.

For a night out, there’s no better place to go than the Music Hall, the landmark 1878 Victorian theater in downtown Portsmouth. The Music Hall features performance artists, stage productions, and the acclaimed signature series "Writers on a New England Stage," which has featured literati like David McCullough, Dan Brown, Isabel Allende, Stephen King, Barbara Kingsolver, and the late John Updike. 131 Congress St., 603-436-2400.

Chart 13283

43.07.23° N, 70.71.62° W

 

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