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Hailed by its earliest settlers as “the greatest town for fishing in New England,” Marblehead is now known as “The Sailing Capital of the World,” boasting more boats per capita than any other town or city on the face of the earth. No wonder, then, that it was also the birthplace of the U.S. Navy (sorry, Beverly) and the destination of Old Ironsides’ historic bicentennial sail in 1997.

Each year, hundreds of sailors gather in Marblehead for Race Week (which takes place toward the end of July), when crews of all ages and sizes participate in a beautiful and exciting competitive parade of sail. Every other year, international crews descend on Marblehead to prepare for the historic race to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

When not racing around the beautiful coastline, ‘Headers enjoy the historic charms of Old Town as well as the contemporary treats of Atlantic Avenue and the surrounding downtown area. From local joints to fine dining establishments and from seaborne antiques to the latest in home and personal fashion, Marblehead has it all!

Marblehead I.D.

Located 17 miles north of Boston, Marblehead is situated on a peninsula originally purchased from America’s FirstPeoples in 1648.

Marblehead is so named because its rocky shoreline looked like marble. The town – which has also been called “Marble Harbor,” and “Marvill Head,” as well as “Fowey”(pronounced “foy”), after a town in Cornwall, England – is as refreshing as the sea air. It is filled with arts and culture and great dining and shopping. Long a summer resort town, Marblehead is now bustling year ’round and is a great place to visit or live.

“You don’t come here unless you mean to,” says Marblehead Museum curator Karen MacInnis. “It is a destination.”

Date of settling: 1629

Date of incorporation: 1649

Population: 20,366

Median home price: $484,000

Median household income: $99,892

Private schools:

Tower School

Cohen Hillel Academy

Famous sons:

Elbridge Gerry, governor of Massachusetts and a signer of the Declaration of Independence

General John Glover, Revolutionary War hero

William Hooper, a signer of the Declaration of Independence

Harry Kemelman, mystery novelist

Joseph Story, US. Supreme Court justice and founder of Harvard Law School

Notable residents:

Tyler Hamilton, Olympic cyclist

Ted Hood, America’s Cup-winning sailor

David Lederman, former CEO of Abiomed, Inc.

Peter Lynch, vice chairman of Fidelity Investments

Points of interest:

Abbot Hall (188 Washington Street) – Marblehead’s town hall and home of the “Spirit of ’76” painting (see page 74).

Fort Sewall (Front Street) – A Revolutionary War fort with spectacular views of the harbor.

King Hooper Mansion/Marblehead Arts Association (8 Hooper Street) – This historic mansion now hosts exhibitions of visual and performing arts.

Marblehead Little Theatre (28 Atlantic Avenue) – A great musical theatre housed in a historic firehouse.

Me & Thee Coffeehouse (28 Mugford Street) – For nearly 40 years, this venerable venue has been bringing some of the world’s best musicians to Marblehead.

Marblehead Neck Audubon bird sanctuary (Risley Road) – A protected area for birding or hiking.

Castle Rock (Ocean Avenue) – A natural outcropping that is great for climbing, sunbathing, or watching the folks at the French-inspired “castle” Carcassonne (which was built by pioneering entrepreneur Lydia Pinkham) skinny dip.

Sources: Marblehead Chamber of Commerce;

As Marblehead is such a historic town, it makes sense to start in a historic store. So take a walk to Old Town to visit Sacks Antiques (38 State Street), the oldest antiques store in the state. Stanley Sacks is a third-generation antiques dealer and he knows how to get exactly what you want.

Just down the street is Brass ‘N Bounty (68 Front Street), which specializes in marine-themed antiques and gifts.

For more nautical fare, drop by Nauticals of Marblehead (128 Washington Street), a cool store that sells handcrafted furniture made from pieces of wooden boats.

Actually want to go into the water? Atlantic Charters (13 Drumlin Road) can get you on board.

Want something new for the wardrobe? Then look for Bus Stop (2 Market Square). From Cut Loose to Tianello, they offer one-stop shopping for  fun women’s fashion.

And for the younger (or young-at-heart) woman who needs a new look, head over to Babe (7 Pleasant Street) for Tractor Brand, Flowers by Zoe, Monkey Wear and other “clothing and accessories for hip chicks.”

Need a place to put your new clothes?  Then surely, the place to go is Cargo Unlimited (118 Washington Street), another family-owned “Best of North Shore” award winner.

In the mood for fine art? Explore the collection at  Erlich Gallery (96 Washington Street) where renowned art dealer Linda Erlich will be more than happy to help you pick out just the right piece.

When it is time to frame that perfect picture of your perfect day in Marblehead, drop by Arnould Gallery (111 Washington Street) for expert custom frame work or even an entire work of art.

After you have explored the tiny streets of Old Town, go up the hill and past Abbot Hall to Atlantic Avenue, Marblehead’s “main drag.” Here you will find even more great places to browse and buy.

If you want to look as if you just stepped off the QE II, check out “Best of North Shore” award-winner Kaps Menswear (22 Atlantic Avenue). From Canali to Zegna, this family-run men’s store will suit you to a teeÂ…or even a suit!

In the mood for baubles, bangles, and beads? Then drop into Jambu (38 Atlantic Avenue) for hip handmade jewelry.

If you are looking for something to make your home shine, C’est la Vie (24 Atlantic Avenue) offers everything from armoire shelves and antique lamp shades to mosaic tables and pottery.

If you bring a four-legged friend along, be sure to visit Pawsitively Marblehead (63 Atlantic Avenue), where pampered pets (and their owners) can dig up all sorts of treats.

For your smaller two-legged friends, Mud Puddle Toys (1 Pleasant Street) offers hand-selected toys, books, and children’s furniture.

Tired from all the sightseeing? Then maybe you need to stop in to Hand in Hand Massage (70 Atlantic Avenue) for a quick rub-down.

While your pampering yourself, float over to Dayle’s European Skin Care and Day Spa (261 Washington Street) for everything from an eyelash extension or pedicure to a full Body Bliss package.

Getting hungry but not ready for a full meal? Pop into Fruit of the Four Seasons (34 Atlantic Avenue) for the freshest produce around. (They also offer “Best of North Shore” award-winning Richardson’s ice cream!)

Back in Old Town, there is The Driftwood (63 Front Street), a local spot where fishermen and financiers meet and mingle over coffee, signature sandwiches, and, on weekends, New Orleans-inspired beignet.

Need your morning caffeine fix? Then take a bleary-eyed stroll to Java Sun (35 Atlantic Avenue) where the smell of the always-roasting beans alone will perk you up.

If you want to look out over Marblehead’s sparkling harbor as you dine, try the “Best of North Shore” award-winning restaurant and pub The Landing (81 Front Street) with its live music and great Sunday brunch or The Barnacle (141 Front Street), which is known for its lobster.

Speaking of lobster, another great place to go is The Lobster Pound (33 Smith Street), which is located near Marblehead’s post office. (“Wish you were here!”)

Back on Atlantic is Flynnie’s on the Avenue (28 Atlantic Avenue), home of north shore friend chef Louise Moore and some of the best steak tips and veggie fare around. (They also have a location on Devereux Beach!)

For some poolside fare, head over to Gilli’s Cafe (4 Community Road) for great American and Middle Eastern treats from falafel to pizza.

If you need a quick but elegant pick-me-up, try a specialty coffee or pastry at Cafe Appassionato (12 Atlantic Avenue).

In the mood for Italian? Well, then, you can go to either Marblehead House of Pizza (3 Atlantic Avenue) or the recently renovated Tony’s Pizza (1 School Street) or you can have a seat at the award-winning Pellino’s (261 Washington Street) or Cafe Italia (10 School Street).

Want to Thai one on? Then get to know Sticky Rice (26 Hawkes Street) – the place for authentic tastes of Siam.

Can’t decide? Then maybe you need to go to Shubie’s Market Place (16 Atlantic Avenue). Their selection of prepared foods and wines is so expansive, it earned a “Best of North Shore” award!

Another good choice for those who want to eat at home but do not want to cook is J. & S. Brandi’s (7 Bessom Street). With their team of professional chefs, they can cater (literally) to your every need.

And when it’s finally time for dessert…

Delphin’s Gourmandise (258 Washington Street) offers fine European pastries.

If homemade candy is your thing, then visit Stowaway Sweets (154 Atlantic Avenue).

If you want to have your cake and eat it too, Ladycakes (2 School Street) fits the bill.

And if you want that cake a la mode, go next door to Ice Cream Cafe (7 School Street) for “Best of North Shore” Richardson’s ice cream at old-fashioned ice cream parlor prices.

As it is such a stylish town, it may be no wonder that Marblehead has produced three internationally-known handbag designers.

For Marblehead native Ann V. Perrino, founder of Ann Veronica Handprints, it all started in 1975 with the purchase of a hand-printed tote bag made by her high school art teacher. Called Marblehead Handprints, the totes quickly became the rage all along the East Coast. Twenty-six years later, Ann revived the line in an effort to bring affordable, original, and whimsical textile art to a new generation.

Ann Veronica Handprints

A. Little Diamond Island Duffel in Lauren’s Circles $48. B. Marblehead Tote in Toy Boat $49.

Helen E. Riegle and her husband Chris run HER Design from their Washington Street headquarters. Their high-style handbags are made from organic, sustainable, and animal-friendly materials, including U.S.-grown certified organic cotton canvas and Treetap, a sustainably-produced rubber from the Amazon.

HER Design LLC

C. Glory (turquoise with coral lining). $188. D. Lotus (coral rose, natural lining). $98.

Tamara Freedman grew up in Marblehead but launched her career in New York, where she worked as a handbag designer for Ralph Lauren and Liz Claiborne. In 2003, she returned home to launch Tamara Handbags. Her polished andpretty collection of clutches, satchels, totes, and wallets  has been featured in Lucky, Teen People, and Us Weekly, as well as on E! Style Network’s series “Big Boutique.” They have also graced the forearms of suchcelebs as Brittney Spears and the windows of over 200 boutiques nationwide.

Tamara Handbags