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Cape Cod looms large in American culture, and for good reason: in addition to its historical roots as the first landing spot of the Pilgrims, it boasts gorgeous seashores, captivating little towns, plentiful wildlife life and abundant seafood. But in summer, and especially on weekends, the traffic and the crowds can be overwhelming. Luckily, there are other beautiful spots in the Boston area loaded with classic New England charm that are great for a summer day trip or a weekend. Here are 5 awesome Boston getaways that are not Cape Cod:

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plum island-massachusetts

Plum Island | Flickr CC: Jones Road Caddie

Plum Island

On Boston’s North Shore, this barrier island offers miles of beaches and is adjacent to theParkerWildlife National Refuge, a habitat for migratory birds that features grasslands, marshes and woods. To identify flying fowl, stop by Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center, where you can pick up a guide, register for a birding tour or check out the center’s marine touch tank. To get on the water, book some of the 42 seats on the Yankee Clipper for a tour through the history and ecology of the Merrimack River, the Great Salt Marsh or Newbury Harbor. Learn more about the area’s seafaring and shipbuilding past at the Custom House Maritime Museum in Newburyport, which houses exhibits with models of clipper ships, items salvaged from shipwrecks and other artifacts.

Castle Hill-Ipswich- Massachusetts

Castle Hill in Ipswich | Flickr CC: Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism


This coastal town is famous for its clams and offers plenty of eateries to partake of them and other local seafood, most famously the Clam Box, a “nationally recognized landmark.” Crane Beach offers miles of shoreline and trails through coastal dunes, and is a noted nesting area for piping plovers, a threatened bird species. (Some areas may actually be closed if nests are spotted nearby.) When the sun gets to be too much, a visit to Castle Hill is in order. The 1928 Stuart-style estate includes a 59-room mansion, an old dairy and ice house and magnificent grounds overlooking Crane beach. Afterward, whet your whistle at Privateer Rum, a distillery founded by a descendant of 18th century merchant Andrew Cabot, or Ipswich Ale Brewery, which recently opened a restaurant featuring its own beers and sodas.

Marblehead Massachusetts

Marblehead Massachusetts | Flickr CC: Jim Peake


The quintessential New England town, Marblehead, with its picturesque narrow streets and colonial architecture overflowing with history, does not disappoint. Plenty of inns and B&Bs offer opportunities for relaxation and romance, while Devereux Beach, located along a sandbar that connects the town to the peninsula of Marblehead Neck, is family-friendly. The Neck itself is an easy bike ride from Marblehead proper and houses an 18-acre wildlife sanctuary, where visitors can spot black-crowned herons, painted turtles and other critters in season. Stop by Chandler Hovey Park to check out the cast-iron lighthouse and watch the boats sail past the rocky shore to the town’s busy harbor.

worlds end-boston harbor islands

World’s End | Flickr CC: Liz West

World’s End

On Boston’s South Shore, World’s End in Hingham is one of the 30 islands that make up the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreational Area. Its 251 acres offers a little of everything: woods, tidal marshes, grasslands, hiking paths and a view of the Boston skyline from Planter’s Hill, one of four coastal drumlins (hills formed by retreating glaciers) in this conservation area. The wide, tree-lined carriage roads that now serve as trails are the result of an abandoned 19th-century plan for a housing division by the noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead. The shoreline is rocky, but nearby Nantasket Beach in Hull provides an ideal location for sunning.

Duxbury Beach

Further south, Duxbury Beach is a 7.5-mile barrier beach that offers some of the best swimming and surfing in the area, as well as snorkeling and diving in designated spots. You can even dig for clams or forage for some of Duxbury’s famous oysters (permit required). For more water fun, the shallow South River is popular for boating as well as kayaking and canoeing. The genteel town of Duxbury has a few stately historic homes you can visit in summer. Stop by the Art Complex Museum for exhibitions by New England artists and shows of Shaker furniture and Asian art from its permanent collection. Nearby Scituate is loaded with small-town charisma and is perfect for fresh lobster  or whiling away a few hours eating ice cream at one of its waterfront restaurants.

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Heather Kenny

Heather Kenny

Heather is a Chicago writer with a serious travel jones. She draws comics occasionally, blogs sporadically, and tweets quite often at @heatherkenny.

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