Just 40 minutes from Boston, Route 127 showcases the best of the North Shore. Think beautiful beaches, cute seaside towns, wow-worthy mansions, and all the fresh seafood you can handle. Bonus points for organic porridge and a medieval castle. Your coastline tour runs from Beverly to Rockport, and loops back to Route 128. To begin, take Route 128 north to exit 20B/Beverly. You will travel through downtown Beverly on Route 1A south to connect with Route 127. Tip: Bring boots; there are some excellent hiking trails along the way.
“How do I experience Stillness?” The menu at Organic Garden poses this question, a Zen way to begin the day. Ponder that for a moment, or simply cut to the chase and order some house-made granola, porridge, or Yoda’s Jedi Smoothie at Beverly’s funky, acclaimed “gourmet health cuisine” restaurant (294 Cabot St., www.organicgardencafe.com).
Follow Cabot Street through downtown Beverly; take a left at Stone Street (right before the Beverly-Salem Bridge) and another quick left onto Lothrop Street, or Route 127. Enjoy views of the ocean as you head to East Corning Street, where you will take a slight detour.
The detour brings you to Lynch Park (www.bevrec.com). With its sunken rose garden, band shell, and grassy lawn, this oceanfront park is Beverly’s unofficial backyard. President Taft summered here in 1909 and 1910, when the property was a private estate. According to park history, Taft would have returned, but the homeowner said no; his presence caused too much hubbub. That is so North Shore.
Head back to Route 127 and bear right. The road passes Endicott College, hugging the Atlantic. You will soon reach Pride’s Crossing, home of the late author John Updike. Look for a railroad depot (with separate benches for Democrats and Republicans) and Pride’s Crossing Confections (www.prides
crossingconfections.com), a tiny chocolate shop with homemade treats, definitely worth a pop in.
Pass through Beverly Farms’ tidy downtown en route to Manchester-by-the-Sea. Discover a smattering of small shops (like the Stock Exchange, a high-end consignment store), restaurants, and, just down the road, Singing Beach.
Heading out of town, Route 127 swings to the left, past an old cemetery, and morphs into a tree-lined country road as you drive toward Magnolia. At around 9.4 miles (according to the mile marker post), look for Ocean Street, and take a quick scenic detour. Warning: real estate envy ahead.
Picture your dream house perched over the ocean at Coolidge Reservation (www
.thetrustees.org), your next stop. Follow the footpath to “Ocean Lawn,” which leads to what is surely the world’s tiniest (outhouse-size) ranger station and a gorgeous green peninsula that juts over the Atlantic. (There are no actual restrooms at the reservation.) Sprawl on a flat, sun-warmed boulder and enjoy views of Singing Beach, Marblehead, and — way out there — Boston. No wonder a mansion called “Marble Palace” once stood on this dazzling site. (No dogs allowed on Ocean Lawn.)
Up for more? There is some woodsy hiking practically across the street, at Cape Ann Discovery Center/Ravenswood Park (www.thetrustees.org), a 600-acre glacial moraine where you can romp around kettle ponds, hemlock groves, and a magnolia swamp. Consider this visit a tease: You will want to come back and spend some real time here, maybe with the dog.
Medieval castle or lunch? If castle gets the vote, turn right on Hesperus Avenue to tour Hammond Castle (80 Hesperus Ave., www.hammondcastle
.org), the medieval-style fortress built by inventor John Hays Hammond in 1929, housing his collection of Roman, medieval, and Renaissance artifacts.
Then, head right onto Route 127 and enter Gloucester. Take a left onto Essex Avenue and go ¼ mile to the Causeway Restaurant (78 Essex Ave., 978-281-5256). The Causeway has zero ambience and no ocean views, but it’s the go-to joint for tasty seafood on the cheap. “We call it the poor man’s Woodman’s! Love it,” patron Joe Cucchiaro of Beverly raved.
Back on Route 127, pay your respects to Gloucester’s “Fisherman at the Wheel” statue, and then connect with Route 127A, which follows the coastline. You will rejoin Route 127 later, in Rockport. Next up, on your right: Good Harbor Beach, a luxuriously wide swath of sand with changing rooms and a snack bar. If you’re tempted, and don’t mind ponying up $25 for parking ($20 weekdays), go. If the siren song of shopping calls, follow the twists and turns of Route 127A to Rockport’s Bearskin Neck.
Let your tourist flag fly. Snap a shot of Motif No. 1, Rockport’s famous fishing shack. And now that you know where the stunning Shalin Liu Performance Center is located (37 Main St., www.rcmf.org), promise yourself you’ll come back for a jazz concert.
If you have the stamina, we have another cool stop: Halibut Point State Park, an old granite quarry with seaside hiking trails. Back on Route 127, you will head through the villages of Lanesville and Annisquam, home of Willow Rest (a great post-hike ice cream stop) as you make your way south to the rotary, where Route 128 leads you back home.
can be reached at bairwright@