Marblehead is a coastal town along the Massachusetts North Shore region that’s on its own peninsula, and is anchored in some pretty amazing history. While it’s a small town that you can see in 1-2 days, it makes for a perfect weekend getaway destination for couples and solo travelers looking to relax, be by the water and slow down a bit. If you’re looking for all the best things to do in Marblehead, MA, I’m excited to share them all with you in this post.
Is Marblehead, MA Worth Visiting?
Most definitely! It’s a bit quieter than the nearby Salem, and there are so many beautiful places to enjoy the views of the dramatic coastline. Combining that with amazing restaurants, beautiful storefronts, history dating back to the 1600’s and charm at every corner, you’re in for a real treat when you visit Marblehead.
Since Marblehead is a part of the North Shore, it also makes for a perfect home base if you wanted to take some day trips to other coastal towns in the area.
Best Things To Do In Marblehead, MA
Marblehead is a small town, but it offers so much to do, including beaches, parks, shopping and amazing coastline views, while maintaining a very quaint and loaded with character. Here are the absolute best things to see in Marblehead, MA.
1. See The Lighthouse at Chandler Hovey Park
You can actually see Marblehead Lighthouse from a few different places around town, but if you want to get up close, be sure to visit Chandler Hovey Park.
As one of the best attractions to do in Marblehead, MA, the Lighthouse might be a bit different than what you’re probably picturing. But it’s unique in that it’s the only pyramidal skeletal lighthouse still standing in all of New England. Because of its structure, you can’t go up to the tower, but instead, you can walk right through it and its base.
Chandler Hovey Park is also beautiful, offering benches to sit and enjoy the sound of the crashing waves and views of the town of Marblehead from across the water. You could even pack a picnic and enjoy lunch here as well.
2. Tour The Historic Homes
Within the historic district of Marblehead you’ll find over 200 homes with rich history dating back to Revolutionary War times, and the town has recently created a self-guided walking tour map you can use to explore them all yourself. Click here for the Marblehead walking tour map of historic homes.
The historic part of Marblehead is such a fun and interesting experience because all the houses are painted in different colors, and since they were built in the 1600-1700’s, they’re all facing different directions, and often not perfectly lined up along the streets – it almost looked like a little jigsaw puzzle when I was meandering through some of the streets. Honestly, one of the best ways to spend time in Marblehead, MA is to just wander and maybe even get a little lost in the historic area!
Each historic home will also have a plaque that tells you the date the house was built, and often will share the original owner’s name and occupation. I spent so much time wandering the streets of the historic area, taking in all the houses, and for me, it made Marblehead, MA worth visiting just for this.
One of the houses you’ll see on the walking tour is Old Town House, and there were several pre-revolutionary war meetings held in this house. It’s also recognized as one of the oldest town hall houses left in the U.S.. The interior is now home to two museums.
If you’re looking to see the oldest house in Marblehead, look for the Ambrose Gale House, which was built in 1663, and can be found at 17 Franklin Street.
3. Visit Fort Sewall
Continuing with our history theme, be sure to also stop by Fort Sewall, which is now a beautiful park where you can take in views of the water, and of Marblehead Lighthouse across the harbor. But Fort Sewall has played a part in the War of 1812, the Civil War and the Spanish-American war, and parts of the original underground chambers are still standing for you to see from the outside.
In 2020-2021, Fort Sewall underwent come renovations, which improved the landscaping and repaired some of the walkways and benches. They also added restrooms that are open seasonally, and free binoculars for visitors to use.
4. Enjoy The Sunrise And Views From Castle Rock
One of the most scenic places to see in Marblehead, MA is Castle Rock. This is an incredible stretch of coastline that provides amazing sunrises over the water, and is incredibly scenic. But don’t worry if you’re not an early riser, it’s beautiful at any point throughout the day.
Originally used as a lookout for pirates, as well as French and British invasions, it’s now one of the best hidden gems in town. You can head down to the beach area to take in views from the small shoreline, or you can climb the tallest rock formation and feel like you’re standing above the entire town. If you do this, just be sure to wear the proper footwear, be safe and take your time. It’s also not a good idea to attempt this if the rock is wet and slippery.
Tip: To get to Castle Rock, you’ll want to park on the street near 377 Ocean Avenue, and then take the little path next to Carcassonne Mansion that will lead you to the water.
5. Grab A Lobster Roll At Little Harbor Lobster Company
The best lobster roll in town is at Little Harbor Lobster Company, and it’s just a short 10-minute stroll from the heart of the historic district. Overlooking the harbor, this little seafood shack serves up not only lobster rolls, but any fresh seafood you could want, as well as organic wines and offers a great beer selection.
There is no indoor seating, and very limited outdoor seating. Many people take their food to-go and sit in a nearby park to make a picnic of it. But maybe you’ll get lucky and snatch up one of the outdoor benches to enjoy your lobster roll while watching the fishing boats in the harbor.
6. Walk Through Old Burial Hill
This cemetery should look familiar to you if you’re a fan of the movie Hocus Pocus since a few scenes were filmed here, making this one of the best places to see in Marblehead, MA. But even if you’ve never seen the movie, this is a really wonderful stop to make on your trip. You might be wondering why an old cemetery is worth your time, but this one actually provides you with amazing views of Marblehead Harbor from the top of the hill. Be sure to walk to the top and enjoy a few peaceful moments in the gazebo.
If you’re looking for some notable history in the cemetery, keep an eye out for Wilmot Redd’s memorial stone, which was only recently placed in the cemetery in 1998, but is dedicated to the memory of the only woman from Marblehead who was tried, found guilty and executed in the Salem Witch Trials. There are also over 600 graves from the Revolutionary War period, many of which still go unmarked.
7. Head Out On The Water For A Sunset Sail
Sunset Sail Salem is just a quick 10-15 minute drive from Marblehead, and offers not just sunset sail tours, but morning and afternoon sails as well. Hop aboard the historic When And If schooner and enjoy the open waters of the North Shore. Not only is this a great way to see the surrounding area from a new perspective, the schooner itself is a piece of history, which makes for a very unique experience.
First built in 1939, its original owner was General George S. Patton, commander of the U.S. Army during the Battle of the Bulge. It’s said that the general once proclaimed, “When the war is over, and If I return, Bea and I are going to sail her around the world,” hence, the name When And If.
Pricing: Tours range from $45-$55 per adult, and $20-$35 per child, depending on the type of tour you book. Tour reservations can be made right on the Sunset Sail Website.
8. Try A Joe Frogger Cookie At The Muffin Shop
Invented right in Marblehead in the 18th century by Lucretia Thomas Brown, co-owner of Black Joe’s Tavern, these cookies have a molasses base and are similar to Gingerbread cookies. Originally made the size of pancakes, these cookies didn’t contain milk or eggs, keeping them fresh for a long time. This made them very popular with sailors and fisherman who spent weeks out at sea and could eat them without worrying that they would spoil or go bad.
Lucretia named part of the cookies after her husband Joseph Brown, with whom she owned the tavern. While it’s still unknown, some say the “froggers” part of the cookie name came from the frogs in the nearby Redd’s Pond.
If you’d like to taste a piece of history, The Muffin Shop in the historic district still serves them up, and are baked fresh daily. It might be worth visiting Marblehead, MA just to say you were able to try a Joe Frogger cookie where it was first invented.
9. Stroll Around Redd’s Pond
Located in the historic district of Marblehead, this small but beautiful pond is worth a slow stroll around. It also sits adjacent to Old Burial Hill, making it easy to visit both at the same time. Redd’s Pond was named after the same Wilmot Redd, the victim of the Salem Witch Trials I mentioned earlier in the Old Burial Hill section.
10. Shop The Beautiful Stores
One of the best activities in Marblehead, MA is to visit all the charming shops. Here are a few of my favorite stores in town:
- Scribe Paper & Gift: Selling unique giftables and paper goods, many of which are made my local and national artists.
- FL Woods: Specializing in nautical clothing, tote bags and jewelry, this retailer has been selling American-made pieces for 75 years in the same location.
- MacRae’s Sustainable Goods: Boutique retailer that sells only sustainable products from kitchen accessories to reusable cosmetic compacts to compostable phone cases. Marblehead, MA is worth visiting just to experience such a unique and important store.
- C’est la Vie Home & Garden: Located outside the historic district, this little shop has all kinds of amazing and interesting home goods pieces.
- Shubie’s Marketplace: While it’s a specialty grocery store and food market, it’s also a little gift shop and wine boutique that offers to-go foods. I love visiting this little market and never know what I’ll find here.
- Sweetwater Trading Company: A great little shop offering a mix of Marblehead-branded souvenirs and home goods.
Things To Do Near Marblehead, MA
One of the best things about Marblehead is that it makes for an amazing home base for your trip to New England if you’re looking to explore other parts of Massachusetts, as well as Southern Maine. You can take so many wonderful day trips from Marblehead, including a few places that are very close, and some that are just over an hour. Here are my suggestions on the best things to do near Marblehead, MA.
11. Take A Day Trip To Salem, MA
Salem is just a quick 15-minute drive from Marblehead, and also famous for its Puritan history, and of course, the Salem Witch Trials.
Even if you can’t make it to Salem in October when the town comes alive to celebrate all things spooky, it’s still an amazing place to visit year-round. And because it’s small, it’s easy to see most of the town in one afternoon on foot.
12. Spend The Day In Boston
Boston needs no introduction being that it’s one of the top cities in the U.S. to visit, and it’s also only about 45 minutes from Marblehead. Boston makes for a very easy day trip, and while you won’t see the whole city in a day, you can definitely catch the highlights.
Here are some awesome things to do on a day trip to Boston:
- Walk the Freedom Trail.
- Stroll through the historic and picturesque neighborhoods of the North End and Beacon Hill.
- Visit the New England Aquarium.
- Grab lunch and dinner at one of the incredible restaurants.
- Shop on Newbury Street.
- Get coffee and pastries from Tatte Bakery (their shops are beautiful and Instagram-worthy!)
- Take a history tour
- Walk along the waterfront
13. Explore The Rest Of Cape Ann
As much as I love Marblehead, and tend to stay here when taking a trip to the North Shore, I honestly love every single town in this region. Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester-By-The-Sea and Essex all make up a region of the coast called Cape Ann, and they’re each incredible towns in their own rite. All of them make gorgeous day trips.
If you can only do one, I would suggest Rockport. I just think it has so much character, and is a true New England gem. But since they’re all so close to one another, it’s very easy to see them all in one full day of exploring the coast.
14. Stroll Through Newburyport
Newburyport is another beautiful town along the Massachusetts coast that’s definitely worth your time, and is only about 45 minutes from Marblehead. It’s especially great for shopping and antiquing, as there are so many options for independent and unique boutiques, but it also has a beautiful waterfront part, historic houses, amazing restaurants, options for boat tours and a lovely state park.
Newburyport is also home to Plum Island, which has a lighthouse, beaches and the incredible Parker River Wildlife Refugee for scenic nature trails.
15. Spend The Afternoon In Scituate
Head to the South Shore (the region just below Boston) and explore a bit! My favorite town in the South Shore is Scituate. It’s small, but has a lovely Main Street, awesome waterfront restaurants, a beautiful lighthouse, and is such a fun place to relax, walk around and enjoy your afternoon.
If you’re looking to make a day of it on the South Shore, you can also tack on Hingham and Cohasset, both of which are close to Scituate and a lot of fun. Of the three, I think Scituate has the most character, and is the most unique, but all are worth your time.
16. Take A Day Trip To Ogunquit, Maine
Ogunquit, ME is only about 1 hour and 15 minutes from Marblehead, and this is a great way to see a little bit of Maine. Ogunquit is home to one of Maine’s best beaches, aptly named Ogunquit Beach, and also has one of my all-time favorite things to do in New England – Marginal Way.
Curious what Marginal Way is, and are looking for more things to do in Ogunquit? Be sure to click the link below for my detailed guide!
17. Explore Kennebunkport, Maine
Lastly, consider heading to Kennebunkport in Maine! In fact, Kennunkport is also pretty close to Ogunquit (they’re only about 30 minutes from one another), so it’s easy to do both in one epic day trip. But if you’re only looking to do Kennebunkport, it’s an easy 1.5-hour drive from Marblehead.
I love Kennebunkport as much as Ogunquit, so if you’re torn between the two, I’m not much help! Both make for awesome days trips and are equally as charming, but I can say, Ogunquit is more of a summer destination, whereas Kennebunkport might be better year-round. But it’s honestly a very close call.
Here are some things I suggest you do on your day trip to Kennebunkport:
- Explore the beaches.
- Shop in Dock Square.
- Take a scenic drive on Ocean Avenue.
- Grab lunch or dinner at some of the seafood places (I love the Clam Shack for a casual lunch, and Allison’s for a casual dinner).
- Take a drive to Cape Porpoise.
- Explore Walker’s Point for awesome views.
Does Marblehead Have A Beach?
Yes! In fact, it has 6 beaches in total, and they’re some of the best things to see in Marblehead, MA. The most popular beach is Devereux Beach, which is the largest beach in Marblehead and the best for swimming. This beach also has restroom facilities, a picnic area, a restaurant and parking lot.
Tip: In season, the parking fee for non-residents is between $15-$25 for the day, depending on which day of the week you visit. Only cash is accepted. For more information on beach parking, visit the Marblehead Town website here.
Other Marblehead beaches include Fort Beach and Lovis Cove, Gas House Beach, Grace Oliver Beach, River Head Beach and Stramski Beach. Beaches in Marblehead can be a bit rocky, so it’s a good idea to come prepared with water shoes. Marblehead beaches are not known as being the best for swimming, but Devereux Beach is still a great option if you’re looking to get into the water.
Best Time To Visit Marblehead
Marblehead is a great destination to visit all year-round, but is most popular in July and August for the summer season, and October for fall foliage season, and also for its proximity to Salem. While Marblehead is a popular destination, it doesn’t ever really ever feel too crowded, so there shouldn’t be a reason to try and book a trip here for a certain time to avoid crowds. But, if you’re looking to visit during an off-season time, June and November are also lovely times to visit.
During the holiday season, Marblehead also has a Christmas celebration called Christmas Walk, which takes place the first weekend in December. This is also a magical time to visit with all kinds of cheerful activities like Santa’s arrival by boat, a lobster trap Christmas tree to admire by the harbor, and a holiday Shop ‘N Stroll, where local retailers offer longer hours, special sales and refreshments for shoppers.
Does Marblehead Have A Downtown?
Yes, in fact, it has two downtown areas. One is the Historic District downtown along Washington and State Streets, where most of the shops and restaurants in this area are located. The second downtown area is located along Atlantic Avenue, which has a mix of both locally-owned shops and restaurants, as well as a staple franchise, CVS Pharmacy.
What Is Marblehead, MA Famous For?
Marblehead is famous for once being the fishing capital of Massachusetts, and is also said to have been the birthplace of the American Navy. It’s also famous for being home of St. Michaels, the oldest Episcopal church in New England. Marblehead is also known for having the only skeletal-structured lighthouse still standing in the U.S.
How Far Is Marblehead, MA From Boston?
Marblehead, MA is between 35-50 minutes from Boston, depending on traffic, which makes it a very easy day trip or weekend getaway from Boston.
The best way to get to Marblehead from Boston is to drive. There is a MBTA Commuter Rail train that goes from Boston to Salem, but then you would have to take a taxi or Uber to Marblehead. And while Marblehead is very walkable, it would be difficult to to get around if you wanted to take any day trips in the area, or explore Chandler Covey Park or Castle Rock.
There is also the Salem Ferry, which leaves from Long Wharf in Boston, and docks at Blaney Street dock in Salem. But again, you’ll need to arrange for transportation from Salem to Marblehead. Having a car will allow you the most freedom.
How Far Is Marblehead From Salem?
Marblehead is only a 15-minute drive from Salem, making this a very easy excursion to take while staying in Marblehead. There is a bus route that goes between Marblehead and Salem, but it requires a transfer, and takes over an hour, so a car is the best way to get to Salem from Marblehead.
Where To Stay
If you’re looking to visit all the places on my list above, I highly suggest you stay right in the historic district of Marblehead. You’ll be able to walk to most places on my list, and be right in the heart of history and near the best historic houses and boutiques. It makes for the most charming stay.
The best place to stay in the Marblehead historic district is Harbor Light Inn. This historic inn has 20 individually-decorated rooms and has the most cozy and welcoming atmosphere. A wonderful cooked-to-order breakfast, free on-site parking and use of the outdoor pool (in season) are all included in your room rate, and you’re just a few steps away from the shops and restaurants in the historic area.
The inn also partners with a massage therapist, and can arrange an in-room massage for you, starting at only $120 for an hour.
If you wanted something a bit more modern, or closer to the beaches, the Hotel Marblehead is also a great option. Just over a mile outside the historic district, it’s a half-mile or a quick 2-3 minute drive to Devereux Beach. The hotel rate includes parking, a small-bites breakfast and use of the hotel’s bicycles for getting around (which would be a great way to get to the historic district and Chandler Covey Park!).
Where To Eat
Fresh seafood is going to come easy while staying in Marblehead, but there is such a great mix of restaurants here that you’ll never have to worry about where to eat. Here are my favorite restaurants in Marblehead.
Maddie’s Sail Loft: Great mix of pub/comfort food and seafood in a casual setting with some outdoor tables.
Little Harbor Lobster Company: I know I’ve already mentioned it, but it’s worth mentioning again! Don’t leave Marblehead without getting a lobster roll here.
The Landing: Popular seafood restaurant overlooking the harbor, and also has a view of the Marblehead Lighthouse from their parking area.
Fresca Pizza & Pasta: Amazing wood-fired pizzas that also offers takeout if you want to take it to go.
Driftwood Restaurant: Famous for its fried dough, but also great for a casual breakfast or lunch.
That’s A Wrap On The Best Things To Do In Marblehead, MA
Now that you know all the best things to do in Marblehead, MA, hopefully now you see why this town is such a gem in Massachusetts. If you’re looking for a small coastal destination rich in history, packed with character and stunning coastline, this is a town you should absolutely add to your list of must-visit places.