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Exploring National Heritage in Massachusetts’ Essex Area

The iconic Fisherman’s Memorial in Gloucester, Mass., pays homage to those who lost their lives at sea from 1623 to 1923.

(Photo: Kirkikis / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

It’s easy to fall in love with beautiful Salem – especially in fall – but, it’s just one of the many lovely communities in this part of Massachusetts. And, it’s not just me saying this: Congress has designated 500 square miles – from 10 miles north of Boston to the New Hampshire line – as the Essex National Heritage Area.

Find and book a hotel in Salem.

And especially good news for fall-foliage-seekers: There’s a scenic route. The Essex Coastal Scenic Byway runs 90 miles, from Lynn to Salisbury, and features stunning views, period architecture, beaches and great dining.

Here are some highlights.

Gloucester

Hammond Castle. Built by John Hays Hammond Jr., a prolific American inventor, the medieval-style castle is filled with Roman, medieval and Renaissance artifacts bought during his extensive travels. Hammond had more than 400 inventions mostly in radio control. You can tour the castle and the grounds, which have commanding views of the Atlantic coast.

The Fisherman’s Memorial and Fishermen’s Wives statues, on the Stacy Boulevard Esplanade.

The Gloucester Visitor Center in Stage Fort Park. Climb the steps to the granite Tablet Rock for great foliage views.

The 1.2-mile HarborWalk is a self-guided walking trail through Gloucester’s history, working waterfront area, art and culture.

Rocky Neck Art Colony. Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Childe Hassam and others have lived and created here.

Ravenswood Park. Find your favorite fall colors within 600 acres of hemlock groves and a magnolia swamp.

Find and book a hotel near Gloucester.

Essex

The Essex Shipbuilding Museum. Since 1668, more than 4,000 wooden ships have been built on the Essex River shore. Study historical artifacts and learn about the story of the Essex’s shipbuilding industry.

Find and book a hotel near Essex.

Rockport

Motif No. 1. That iconic little red fishing shack with the lobster traps. Everyone else has its picture; you should, too.

Halibut Point State Park. This granite quarry turned coastal park has views that stretch from Crane Beach in Ipswich to Mount Agamenticus in Maine and the Isles of Shoals off the New Hampshire coast.

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Ipswich

The Crane Estate. Castle Hill is the centerpiece of the spectacular 2,100-acre Crane Estate, one of the region’s most scenic and ecologically diverse landscapes. The Great House, a 59-room Stuart-style mansion, presides over Castle Hill’s 165 acres of designed and natural landscapes with commanding panoramic views of the ocean.

Find and book a hotel near Ipswich.

Manchester-by-the-Sea

Singing Beach. Not really; it’s just the sound the sand makes when you walk across it.

Newbury

Old Town Hill. From the top of this 168-foot-high coastal promontory, you can see as far as Maine.

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