Boston, Massachusetts is a mecca for many things, many of which center around boats, nautical museums, and clam chowder. Oh, and fabulous New England lodging. Bed and breakfasts in Marblehead, MA are top of the list for visitors from around the world.
What better way to see the sights, explore the coastal environment, and learn about the region's rich history while enjoying first-class treatment at a Marblehead B&B.
Located just sixteen miles northeast of Boston on a peninsula, Marblehead is in the very heart of all there is to see and do. Bed & breakfast inns of every type, from the elegant and contemporary to the historic and cozy, can be found in the harbor district that overlooks Marblehead Harbor.
Art galleries, maritime museums, a lighthouse, shops, and restaurants are all just a walk, bike, or minutes away by car no matter which style of B&B you choose. Options abound in Old Town where you can literally park the car and spend the remainder of your visit walking or biking to many of the local attractions. A short drive away are other areas of interest such as Salem, home of the famous witch trials of the late 1600s, and the military park at Fort Sewall (check for access).
The North Shore district is loosely defined as the region between Boston and New Hampshire that includes remote rocky coastline, marshes, wetlands, and several beaches. Massachusetts's northern-most peninsula is home to Gloucester and Rockport, famous coastal towns and well worth the drive along Yankee Division Highway.
Because Marblehead is located on a peninsula close to the ocean, the weather tends to be a bit milder in winter and cooler in summer. However, it is susceptible to sudden thunderstorms from the mainland or the rogue system rolling in from the sea. Expect humid and breezy conditions with a significant salty composition in the air.
Summer highs are tempered with the cooling sea breezes, with July being the hottest month of the year and June being the driest. Winters are typically frigid, wet, and very windy, making it uncomfortable to be outside for any length of time. Annually, temperatures usually range from lows in the mid-20s Fahrenheit to highs in the low 80s. Rarely do the extremes run below 15 degrees F or higher than 85 degrees F.
It pays to maintain weather vigilance all year round as low-pressure systems and hurricanes that pummel the Mid-Atlantic states often continue wreaking havoc up the seaboard to the New England coast. And don’t be caught off guard during the spring and autumn shoulder seasons as powerful storms can roll in from the North Atlantic at any time.
Belying its rather inconspicuous name, Marblehead is known for several notable achievements in its early years. But first, that name. It was known as Marvell Head, or Marble Harbour, at various times after early settlers mistook the granite cliffs and ledges for marble.
In times of conflict the community of Marblehead represented itself well. Recognized by scholars as being frontrunners of the United States Navy, the town’s brave men were the first to respond to forces that threatened the fledgling nation. They were also was the state’s first regiment to muster at the start of the Civil War.
Perhaps Marblehead’s grandest claim to fame were the men who ferried General George Washington across the Delaware River on Christimas Night in 1776. Depicted in the painting that is a classic patriotic scene, it shows the courageous men resolute in the face of icy winds and uncertain outcome before attacking the British at the Battle of Trenton during the American Revolutionary War.
Surrounded on three sides by the water, Marblehead is a veritable playground. Swimming, boating, water skiing, para-sailing, and deep-sea fishing are just the beginning of a long list of ways to take in the sand and surf during the warm summer months. Laze on the beach and soak in the sun, or hang out on the boardwalk for some people-watching.
For those interested in whale watching, check out the various tour operators closer to Boston or Hyannis that will introduce you to these gentle leviathans. Marblehead Harbor is a more of strait but provides a port of peace when hard weather comes calling. Sailboats and yachts provide plenty of photo ops for classic harbor scenes.
Fort Sewall was home to a military installation but is retired now. Call before heading that way as it may have limited or seasonal hours. For a look at a late 18th-century mansion that has been impeccably maintained, the Jeremiah Lee Mansion is a classic and also houses the Marblehead Museum.
Abbott Hall Maritime Museum is an exciting place to explore the seafaring days of old. Located in the historic district, it’s a favorite for those who want a glimpse at how the United States Navy got its start. There is so much to see in this nostalgic town you may need to book another visit!
Part of Marblehead’s attraction is its beautiful harbor. Shielded from the worst weather the sea can conjure up, the town has always been a safe haven for sailors since the arrival of the earliest Europeans. The Native American tribes who inhabited the area in centuries past also made good use of its quiet channel. The natural protection it affords and its proximity to the open ocean is the perfect combination for those who look to the sea for a living.
Except for Cape Cod National Seashore just to the south, there is probably no piece of land on the New England coast that is as exposed to the elements of the open ocean while still being influenced by landmass weather.
After the beaches, dunes, and surf of the coastal areas, which are an endless source of fascination by themselves, perhaps the most prominent feature in the area is the world-famous Woods Hole and its namesake oceanographic institute. Marine scientists worldwide come to this venerable research center to learn, lecture, and further their science of the seas. And the kids will love the up-close and personal experience with sea life at the Science Aquarium
Usually, a geographic “hole” refers to a valley or open terrain surrounded by mountain peaks. The maritime version describes a strait or navigable waterway between two pieces of land. In this case, it is the channel of water that separates the southwestern-most point of Cape Cod (Falmouth) from the Elizabeth Islands. This makes for a great day trip but plan accordingly for a two-hour drive each way.
Closer to Marblehead, those fascinated by the occult or the morbid will want to see the Salem Witch Museum. Home to the infamous witch trials of the 17th-century, over two hundred people were accused of the dark arts resulting in nineteen executions. Though not all of them took place in Salem, the fever of accusation spread across colonial Massachusetts for over a year in 1692-1693.
On the lighter side of things, Marblehead is home to several yacht clubs. Well-heeled modern-day sailors test their skills against the weather, the tides, and each other as they vie for bragging rights during the various summertime competitions.
Marblehead Neck Wildlife Sanctuary is just across the harbor and worth a visit, especially if you’re a bird-watcher. The swamps and thickets offer plenty of cover for migrating land and sea birds. Keep a sharp eye out and your camera close; no telling what discoveries you’ll make.
Sometimes a stroll through the historic district or along the harbor front is the order of the day. Though there are endless options for young and old, a day spent getting to know this little hamlet may uncover some unexpected treasures as you peek into the various shops and galleries.
Marblehead’s dining scene has forever centered around seafood such as fried clams, grilled lobster, and a heaping pile of sides all washed down with sweet tea or a cold beer. Menus today are much more upscale and diverse. Although the old staples are present on every menu across the North Shore, high-end plates that represent the best cuisine available are just as prevalent now and can be pricey.
Raw bars offering fresh, locally-sourced oysters are always popular. And mid-summer, keep an eye out for grilled fish specials with a side of garlicky steamed mussels. A favorite for the non-New Englander is the “lazy man’s lobster,” that is, lobster prized from the shell, grilled or steamed with spices, and then loosely returned to the shell for presentation. Yum!
A beloved of landlubbers and old salts as well is, of course, New England clam chowder. Enjoyed as an appetizer or as part of the main meal, this creamy white broth served with clams and potatoes is a meal all of its own.
In addition to the customary selection of beers around town, try the local Marblehead Brewery, the first Orthodox monastic brewery in the world. A portion of their proceeds goes toward outreach programs in the area. Their home-style brews will undoubtedly enhance the menu and will go with any grilled or steamed dish. Wonderful brew and philanthropy too!
With its proximity to Boston, the seashore, and the Cape Cod area, a getaway at a Marblehead bed and breakfast is one of those bucket list items. Classic harborside scenery, salty tang in the humid breeze, and somebody somewhere close is grilling lobster! Does it get any better?
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The Harbor Light Inn offers easy access to the historic district with all its features and attractions. Harborside House is just that. Ease back in that plush chair and count the sailboats in the harbor. Let the stillness of a sunrise on the water warm your heart to the coming day.
Brimblecone Hill Bed & Breakfast is truly a step back in time. Nearly three hundred years old, the original owner was a friend of Benjamin Franklin’s. Think there are some stories in that house! Another option within steps of the water is Harbor Gardens Inn. There are many shops and restaurants just a 10-minute walk away.
Just across the harbor from town is Seagull Inn, located on Marblehead Neck. It is billed as one of the most exclusive inns on the east coast. Close to Palmer Cove between Marblehead and Salem is the Fox Pond Bed and Breakfast. With a resident art collection and easy access to nature trails for walking, this retreat provides culture and cardio!
Boston Logan provides the most convenient air service to this part of New England. A short 45-minute drive will put you in Marblehead’s historic district. MBTA rail lines also run from Boston’s North Station to Salem, where you can rent a car or opt for an Uber.
If your chosen B&B is within walking distance of town, you might decide to rent a scooter, maybe a bike, or walk and save the hassle of finding parking during the crowded summer months. It’s also an excellent way to see the sights often missed when driving.
Once you’re settled into your B&B, consider a stroll to stretch the legs, take in some sea air, and get your bearings. The enchanting harbor and the Victorian-style architecture on display at many of the homes and inns will add to the calming effect of your peaceful stay by the shore.
For decades the Marblehead bed and breakfast scene remained somewhat of a cottage industry and a bit sleepy, if comfortable in its own skin. Many still offer this downbeat ambiance as a selling point for vacation rentals.
But new money and a more refined business approach often drive today’s havens of upscale hospitality. Boutique guest rooms are sanctuaries in their own right at high-end B&Bs, while some even offer a carriage house for a unique experience.
The B&B innkeepers go the extra mile to ensure all the modern amenities, and then some, are included in your getaway. And for good reason – the bed & breakfast market is a competitive one. Although hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to the area each summer, innkeepers do all they can to make their properties as inviting as possible. Naturally, the guests benefit.
Staples of your B&B stay will run the gamut from comfortable beds and spacious rooms in some of the newer properties to a cozier feel in some of the more historic inns. Many feature private baths where the finest linens, towels, robes, bath & body, and spa products are de rigueur.
Of course, the prerequisite air conditioning is a must to chase off the ever-present humidity. Some inns will offer a full breakfast menu, while others include a continental breakfast with your stay for those on the go. And free cancellations are generally not a problem; hosts simply ask for the consideration of advance notice.
While the Marblehead’s B&Bs are never far from the shore. For the ultimate romantic getaway, book an inn right on the harbor. You’re sure to capture a lifetime of memories with classic views of the seashore and all it has to offer.
Free wifi, free parking, and other niceties are included at many of the inns. However, it’s always a good idea to confirm before check-in which ones offer free versus paid add-ons so there are no surprises at checkout. Parking is one item to double-check due to space limitations at many seaside properties.