A Day Trip to Nahant

Despite being located on the ocean, there are few places (or at least not enough for me) to get to the open water from public transport in Boston. As I studied the coastline of Boston from Google Maps I came upon Nahant, a small mass of land jutting off from Lynn. I was fascinated. In the words of Liz Lemon, “I want[ed] to go to there.”

When I told my mom I wanted to visit Nahant, she didn’t respond kindly. Instead, she quipped with an overdone Masshole accent, “Ya wanna go to Naah-hahnt?” She grew up on the South Shore, but since living in Minnesota for the past twenty something years, she has most definitely lost her accent. I had been pronouncing it Na-hant (hant as in can’t) before I had talked to my mother, so maybe getting the help of a local is not so bad after all.

Separated by a spit of land, Nahant is an island with an area of one square mile with about 3,500 people. Native Americans originally called it “Nahanten”, meaning “twins or two things united.” It was settled in 1630 by Puritans and officially incorporated as a municipality in 1853.

Houses on the edge of Nahant Beach.
Houses on the edge of Nahant Beach.

It takes less than ten minutes to drive down the main street, Nahant Road, from the mainland off to the end of the island. As soon as we entered the town, we realized the local charm was turned up to the max. All of the makings of a classic New England community can be found here: 17th century houses, American flags, historic churches and town halls.

Houses in Nahant.
Houses in Nahant.

On the outermost tip of the island is Castle Rock, an inlet that seemed like it belonged in Maine. We were all in disbelief that something like this was 25 minutes north of Boston.

Canoe Beach in Castle Rock.
Canoe Beach in Castle Rock.

Unfortunately for us (and for all tourists,) the accompanying beach is “for residents only.” Still, it was definitely worth a drive down and I would recommend a bike ride for anyone visiting.

View of Castle Rock from a park bench.
View of Castle Rock from a park bench.

One thing to note about the geography of the island is that it is very hilly. There were multiple instances where we thought we’d drive straight into the ocean.

Side street in Nahant.
Side street in Nahant.

The aptly named Marginal Road is a perfect example of this. There is nothing protecting your downward car from the depths of the ocean except for a few rocks, so reckless drivers beware. Nahant is not the place to fool around. Driving down every road, I wondered how anyone was able to make it through the past winter.

Marginal Road.
Marginal Road.

Great views of the Boston skyline and Revere Beach can be found on the southern side.

The Boston Skyline, from the Bayside Room.
The Boston Skyline, from the Bayside Room.

Local businesses are scattered around the island, but reflect the town’s sense of pride. With names like Nahant Convenience Store, Nahant Seafood, Nahant Deli, you really know where you are in this place. The most popular restaurant is Tides Bar, which sits right atop Nahant Beach. It features family style dining and reasonably priced meals with a view.

The exterior of Tides Bar.
The exterior of Tides Bar.
Inside the restaurant: views of Nahant Beach and the open ocean can be seen from here.
Inside the restaurant: views of Nahant Beach and the open ocean can be seen from here.

The only chain store on the Island is a Dunkin’ Donuts, but even that was renamed to Dunkin’ Donuts Cafe in order to keep with the quaint vibes of the town.

Not your neighborhood Dunkin'.
Not your typical neighborhood Dunkin’.

If you’re looking for a place to spend a quiet day away from the city, Nahant is the perfect mini-vacation.

Nahant Beach.
Nahant Beach.

Getting there from Boston? Car most recommended. While there were plenty of bus stops lining the main road and one could walk the entire island in three hours, getting there is the main difficulty. It is possible to get there by public transport, but it takes about an hour longer, plus multiple transfers from T to bus.

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