Market Square in Newburyport.
Market Square in Newburyport.
Handout

The historic coastal city of Newburyport is situated 35 miles north of Boston in Essex County, Massachusetts, on the southern bank of the Merrimack River where it pours into the Atlantic Ocean. It has a population of about 17,000.

Never been there? Here are five reasons to visit.

The history. Newburyport was first settled by European immigrants in 1635 as part of “Newberry Plantation,” which is now Newbury. Newburyport became a separate town from Newbury in 1764, and a city in 1851. The seafaring city prospered from maritime trade. It boasts connections to presidential figures such as George Washington (he once spent the night at the Tracy Mansion on State Street in what is now the Newburyport Public Library), John Quincy Adams (he lived at Mrs. Leather’s boarding house on State Street), and Franklin Pierce (he discovered he was nominated for the presidency while staying on Fruit Street).

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The charm. Newburyport has always been charming — even in the winter (as you can see from these 1860 photos of folks strolling the streets). It is still the perfect place to go for a stroll. The Federalist mansions, Colonial and Victorian houses, waterfront boardwalk, white churches with steeples reaching to the sky, and centuries-old shops decorated by colorful hanging baskets offer a serene backdrop to art galleries, eclectic shops, restaurants, museums, al fresco dining, lively nightlife, and more.

The shopping. Market Square, State Street, Pleasant Street, Merrimac Landing, and adjoining streets such as Inn Street (one of the area’s earliest streets) are full of fine art, home decor, clothing, imported specialties, books, cafes, boutiques, antiques, and more. The Tannery Marketplace is a restored mill building that houses a variety of shops and services. Oldies Marketplace is an enormous barn full of antiques and oddities. See a full list of Newburyport’s businesses at the Great Newburyport Chamber of Commerce & Industry site.

Plum Island. This 11-mile long island off the shore of Newburyport offers miles of beautiful beaches. Sandy Point State Reservation is a 77-acre park on the southern tip of Plum Island that is perfect for walking, beachcombing, fishing, and birding. Parker River National Wildlife Refuge is home to more than 800 species of birds, plants, and animals. And don’t forget to check out the historic Newburyport Harbor Light lighthouse, erected in 1788.

The architecture. If you love architecture, you can feast on plenty of it in Newburyport. The Newburyport Preservation Trust outlines the many types you will see — from the First Period, Georgian, Federal, and Greek Revival styles of early American domestic architecture to examples of late 19th century and early 20th century styles such as Victorian and Shingle style, Arts & Crafts Tudor, Colonial Revival, and American Four-Square.