A Trip Across the South Shore of Massachusetts
A lot of places in Massachusetts get plenty of attention for what they have to offer in terms of scenic attractions, beaches, mountains, big cities, and historical sites. You’ve probably heard of Cape Cod, and you’ve no doubt heard of Boston. The South Shore of Massachusetts, however, sometimes gets ignored. Beyond the town of Plymouth, what else is there? Plenty. The South Shore of Massachusetts has lighthouses, scenic views of the Boston skyline, some of the best beaches in the state, great restaurants, and one other thing: a lack of crowds. That’s the biggest difference.
We’ll start north and head south on this trip, and begin with the town of Quincy.
Quincy is just south of Boston, so it’s a city, not much of a beach town. Quincy does have its own beaches, particularly Wollaston Beach, but these are no match for the beaches further south. What it does have is a lot of history. The town is the home of former Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, as well as the famous signor of the Declaration of Independence, John Hancock. Quincy boasts some of the best restaurants on the South Shore, as well as the beautiful seaside community of Marina Bay.
Normally just a stopping point along Route 3, Weymouth doesn’t seem like it has much to offer in terms of scenic views, however, you may not have visited the Weymouth Back River along Route 3A. This scenic area has its own park, Abigail Adams Park, with plenty of space for dog walking and enjoying the fresh air. Like Quincy, this is a city style town with plenty of businesses and restaurants. You’ll also find Wesagusset Beach along the relatively small Weymouth shoreline.
Hingham is one of the South Shore’s wealthiest communities, and one of the prettiest. Like Weymouth and Quincy, there isn’t all that much shoreline in town, but what is there is memorable. What’s most memorable about Hingham’s coast is the peninsula park called World’s End. This hilly land is made up of several hills overlooking Quincy, Hull, and Hingham. Nestled away on this tip, it’s easy to find yourself as the only visitor in this scenic park, strangely enough.
Located on a peninsula in Boston Harbor, Hull is connected by land to the towns of Cohasset and Hull. There is no land route to Boston, except for a long 1-hour drive back down the peninsula south, and north to Boston. This scenic town of the South Shore boasts its most popular beach, Nantasket Beach. With miles of white sand, Nantasket has little rocks and plenty of stretches of soft sand to walk on. Much of Nantasket also has a giant sea wall, which is another popular place to go walking or running. Further north in Hull, you will reach some of the hills for which the town is famous. To the north, you can view Little Brewster Island and Boston Light. At the very end of Hull, you’ll find Pemberton Point, looking out at Peddocks Island, the Boston Harbor Islands, and the skyline of the city of Boston. Get here early if you’re heading here in the summer, because the beach parking fills up fast.
Cohasset, like Hingham, is a beautiful community that has many spectacular, high priced homes on the water. Cohasset’s Jerusalem Road is a must drive for the South Shore. When you’re done with that, drive through the center of Cohasset, and to the tribute to the former lighthouse in Cohasset at Government Island. Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse can clearly be seen from the park, which stands alone in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, protecting ships from the rocky shoal to this day.
Scituate is located south of Cohasset. Scituate has its own lighthouse and harbor. Scituate Light can be seen as the introductory photo for this post. From the coast of northern Minot, you can spot the Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse, along with a small beach (and sometimes tidal pools). In Scituate Center, you’ll find plenty of shops, art galleries, and local restaurants featuring seafood, Irish food, and ice cream. South of the center, you’ll find the cliffs area of Scituate. These four cliffs have spectacular views of the ocean. The Fourth Cliff of Scituate is located in Humarock. This coastal village is only accessibly by first traveling through Marshfield. Scituate and Humarock were once connected, but a storm moved the mouth of the North River between Third and Fourth Cliff to its present entrance.
At the coastal center of the South Shore is the town of Marshfield. Like many coastal towns in Massachusetts and Cape Cod, Marshfield contains several “villages” that make up the town. Fieldston, Ocean Bluff, Brant Rock, Rexhame, and Marshfield Hills are some of those villages. The busiest of those villages in the summer is Brant Rock, which has extensive parking for summer strolls along the waterfront and for a day trip to the beach. You can find the Marshfield Hills section of town near Route 3A. Marshfield Hills has many historic homes and scenic backroads that are worth the drive.
Duxbury has some of the South Shore’s most impressive scenery. Much of the town is located on the ocean, and the town has one of the busiest beaches in Massachusetts, Duxbury Beach. If you have the time, spend a couple of hours exploring the main roads of town like Washington Street, Powder Point Avenue, and King Caesar Road. These all have incredible views of Manoment and Plymouth, along with tidal creeks, small sailboats, and waterfront homes. Near Duxbury Beach, you’ll find the Powder Point Bridge. This bridge leads to the peninsula of Gurnet, which leads to the village of Saquish. This is four wheel drive access only, and you’ll need a beach permit sticker to get here. Once you reach Saquish, you’ll need to turn around. It’s residents only. The ride to Saquish, however, is unforgettable. On one side, there’s the open Atlantic Ocean. On the other side, you’ll see dunes, shorebirds, and Plymouth Harbor. Bring your camera so you can remember this beautiful spot forever. If you’d rather not spend the extra money on a permit, you can park at the other side of the Powder Point Bridge and walk over. The walk is long, but the views are grand.
The town of Kingston is located just south of Duxbury. Much of the shoreline of Kingston is dominated by the Jones River. Kingston has the small beach that overlooks Kingston Bay called Gray’s Beach, along with beautiful historic homes located on Main Street (Route 27). Much of Kingston’s shoreline can be seen by traveling first via Washington Street in Duxbury, to Bay Road. This will lead eventually to the Jones River and Bay Farm, a large open pasture that leads to the ocean.
Plymouth is the South Shore’s most well known town, and also the largest town in the state of Massachusetts by land area. There’s no question that you should definitely make Plymouth part of your journey across the South Shore. Plymouth has some great seafood restaurants and shopping in Plymouth Center, but also has stunning beaches and deep history (which you probably already knew). There are many historic buildings and parks in Plymouth, but make Plymouth Rock, the Plymouth waterfront, the Mayflower II, and Plimoth Plantation “must-sees” on your trip. There are some beautiful beaches in Plymouth, many of which are private. For a better view of some of them, take the Captain John Boats, which offer great whale watches. A trip on one of these boats will give you great views of Kingston, Duxbury, Saquish, and sometimes Provincetown (not to mention the whales themselves).
A trip across the South Shore will take all day, if you start early. Otherwise, it could take two days. Popular towns to stay in include Rockland, Hull, and Plymouth. Be sure to plan your trip around bridge traffic on Cape Cod as well. Bridge traffic is heavy on Friday and Saturday nights, as well as Saturday and Sunday mornings.