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The Boston Globe

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2012 Weekend Fun Guide

Day trips on the North and South shores

Outdoor adventures, gallery hopping, lazy fun for beach bums, and more.

Yin Yu Tang, a two-century-old Chinese house reassembled at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem.

Dennis Helmar

Yin Yu Tang, a two-century-old Chinese house reassembled at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem.

NORTH SHORE

Art appreciation in and around Gloucester

There’s a reason why one of America’s oldest continuously working art colonies developed on Rocky Neck, a peninsula in Gloucester Harbor: It’s gorgeous. The light is spectacular, and the lobster boats and fishing trawlers provide ever-changing scenery.

So it’s no surprise the Rocky Neck Art Colony (Rocky Neck Avenue, 978-282-0917, rockyneckartcolony.org) has attracted artists such as Edward Hopper and Winslow Homer, and that artists still flock there today. During the summer, a walking tour of the area’s two dozen or so studios and galleries is a perfect centerpiece for an artistic day trip.

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As a warm-up for the artsy treats ahead, stop first in Beverly at Atomic Cafe Coffee Roasters (265 Cabot Street, 978-922-0042, atomicafe.com) for a hit of caffeine. Its “black phantom” features five shots of espresso, or you could go for a latte, chai, or fruit smoothie.

Then spend some time at the country’s oldest continuously operating museum, Salem’s architecturally diverse and dramatic Peabody Essex Museum (161 Essex Street, 978-745-9500, pem.org). “The Mind’s Eye: 50 Years of Photography by Jerry Uelsmann” is on view through July 15, and the permanent collection includes everything from an impressive selection of New England and maritime art to Yin Yu Tang, a two-century-old Chinese house reassembled at the museum.

From there, it’s onto Gloucester and Rocky Neck, where you can grab a brunch of hash and eggs or linguica Benedict in the old-school — and colorful — spirit of the place at Sailor Stan’s (1 Wonson Street, 978-281-4470).

To get a sense of the diversity of artists working here, check out the Sigrid Olsen Gallery (34 Rocky Neck Avenue, 978-281-1766, www.sigridolsenart.com) for bright and cheerful mixed-media pieces by the famed former fashion designer and Rocky Neck Gallery (53 Rocky Neck Avenue, 978-282-0917, rockyneckgallery.com) for a medley of oil paintings, watercolors, photography, jewelry, pottery, and sculpture. If you go on the first Thursday of the month (June through September), stay for Nights on the Neck. Starting at 5:30, many galleries offer receptions with refreshments, and there’s live entertainment by musicians, poets, and dancers.

If you’re staying in town for dinner, you can try local oysters and a glass of prosecco or pan-seared fluke with fresh lobster at Gloucester’s Franklin Cape Ann (118 Main Street, 978-283-7888, franklincafe.com), an outpost of the cozy South End institution.

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Or you can leave earlier and head to Marblehead, about a 40-minute drive away, to browse the chic racks of clothing by designers such as Massimo Alba and Alberto Aspesi at French + Italian (129 Washington Street, 781-639-5129, frenchitalian.com). Or check out the John Derian trays and Dash & Albert rugs at C’est la Vie (7 Pleasant Street, 781-639-2468).

Beverly and beyond for active types

Imagine someone on a stand-up paddle board (smiling, probably) with the sparkling ocean below and a gorgeous blue sky above, riding a wave or cruising around a harbor. Cool, right?

That could be you, about 40 minutes from Boston. If you want to try — or get better at — the current “it” water sport, book a lesson or tour with Surfari Stand Up Paddle and Surf in Manchester-by-the-Sea (26 Central Street, 978-704-9051, standuppaddlesurfari.com). The shop offers private and group lessons for adults and kids and tours from one to three hours long.

Vessels awaiting their passengers at North Shore Kayak Outdoor Center in Rockport.

John Blanding/Globe Staff/file

Vessels awaiting their passengers at North Shore Kayak Outdoor Center in Rockport.

Fuel up for your athletic endeavors with a healthy breakfast in Beverly at the Organic Garden Cafe (294 Cabot Street, 978-922-0004), where the “live granola” comes with sprouted grains, nuts, fresh fruit, and almond milk and the Get Your Greens smoothie blends kale, barley greens, apple, and banana. You can also take food to go (say, a sea vegetable salad or sunflower-sesame falafel wrap) for a beach picnic.

Singing Beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea (119 Beach Road, 978-526-7276), with its soft sand and beautiful rock formations, is one of the prettiest anywhere, but parking can be a major pain. The beach lot is for residents only during the day Friday through Sunday, and it fills early on other days in the summer. There is metered parking in town, but you’ll have to look for it. Or you can fork over $25 to the Boy Scouts for a spot at the train station. If you’re up for an evening picnic, though, the beach lot is open and free between 7 and 10.

Riding the restored Paragon Carousel in Hull.

Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff/file

Riding the restored Paragon Carousel in Hull.

So now you need something fun to do during the afternoon — and there are lots of options. You could try surf-ski paddling at Beverly’s Kayak Learning Center (Lynch Park, 978-922-5322, kayaklearningcenter.com), which also rents stand-up paddle boards ($15 for 90 minutes) if you want to hone your skills.

Or you could drive the 20 minutes from Manchester to Rockport and take a two-hour kayak tour to Straitsmouth Island with the North Shore Kayak Outdoor Center (9 Tuna Wharf, 978-546-5050, northshorekayak.com). While in Rockport, you might try eating at Roy Moore Lobster Company (39 Bearskin Neck Road, 978-546-6696) and shopping at Milk & Honey (1 Main Street, 978-546-6546, milkandhoneyrockport.blogspot.com) for sustainable clothes, home goods, and accessories, like the recycled sail tote bags by Gloucester-based Again and Again.

For a mellower coastal experience, head instead to Gloucester’s Eastern Point Wildlife Sanctuary (Eastern Point Boulevard, 978-887-9264, massaudubon.org), which hosts migrating birds and butterflies and offers spectacular water views. On June 27 and July 25, Mass Audubon is leading explorations of the natural habitats there (registration required), so you can learn what it’s really like for creatures that get to live right on the coast.

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SOUTH SHORE

A Hull of a beach day

A well-planned excursion to Hull can provide the perfect beach day at perhaps half the travel time of a trip to the Cape — and at a fraction of the cost.

Claim your $7 parking spot in the public lot along Nantasket Avenue early, before it fills up, then amble back to the cozy breakfast bistro Toast (121 Nantasket Avenue, 781-925-5221, toasthull.com), where the creme brulee French toast is well worth the wait.

Stock up on sunscreen and umbrellas at Carousels & Ships (187 Nantasket Avenue, 781-925-4975, hullstuff.com), and stake your place on Nantasket Beach, which at low tide slopes leisurely into the sea — and at high tide disappears entirely. Take a barefoot stroll down to where the surfers brave the waves and colorful kites dot the sky. Forgot yours? Pick one up at Sea Side Kites for as little as $12 (293 Nantasket Avenue, 781-925-3277, seasidekites.com). 

Body wetted and appetite whetted, head back to Hull’s Kitchen (19 Hull Shore Drive, 781-925-0225, hullskitchen.com), where you can grab a fish taco or pulled pork sandwich inside and eat it right on the front porch — or even have it delivered beach side. One perk: The place loans boogie boards for the day.

If you have kids in tow, the siren call of the Paragon Carousel — and a frappe from its adjacent creamery — will have grown impossible to resist. The 84-year-old ride’s period charm has been restored over the past several years, helped along by a $100,000 grant in 2009 from the Partners for Preservation (205 Nantasket Avenue, 781-925-0472, paragoncarousel.com). This summer, a museum spotlighting the original Paragon Park amusement park, dismantled in 1984, will debut.

For a more vigorous kind of ride, call in advance to rent a pair of 21-speed bikes from Nantasket Beach Bike Rentals (9 C Street, 339-236-1624, hullonwheels.com) and head out toward Windmill Point at the tip of the peninsula. Top off your visit with a serene bay-side paddle on the Weir River Estuary, renting kayaks from Nantasket Kayaks (Steamboat Wharf Marina, 781-962-4899, nantasketkayaks.com). Restore both body and soul with cocktails and the expansive ocean view from the roof deck of The Red Parrot (1 Hull Shore Drive, 781-925-1115, theredparrot.com).

“Leo the Miller” leads the Jenney Grist Mill Tours in Plymouth.

Tom Herde/Globe Staff/file

“Leo the Miller” leads the Jenney Grist Mill Tours in Plymouth.

Living history in Quincy and Plymouth

You’ve hoofed it along the Freedom Trail, climbed Bunker Hill, sucked out all the marrow of life at Walden Pond. Now it’s time to round out your degree in American history by heading south. Begin in downtown Quincy at the Adams National Historic Park, operated by the National Park Service (1250 Hancock Street, 617-770-1175, nps.gov/adam). Even if you missed David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book and subsequent HBO miniseries, the engaging tour and American treasures inside — such as an original oil painting of George Washington that Adams bought for $46 — are sure to pique your interest. You’ll board a green trolley and set off for the two modest Colonial-era homes, set affably side by side, where President John Adams and his son, President John Quincy Adams, were born. Continue on to the Old House at Peace Field, the stately estate that was home to John and Abigail in their golden years, plus three subsequent generations of Adamses.

From there, head down Route 3 toward Plymouth, stopping for a platter of fried cod at the no-frills haunt Wood’s Seafood (15 Town Pier, 508-746-0261, woodsseafoods.com), a harbor institution for more than five decades.

Your previous visits to “America’s Hometown” have probably covered the obligatory “Rock” and “Plantation,” so this time, sign up for a $10 walking tour through Jenney Grist Mill Tours (48 Summer Street, 508-747-4544, jenneygristmill.org, reservations required). Although there’s no shortage of guided tours — including one led by Wampanoag tribe members featuring their side of the story (774-454-7792, nativeplymouthtours.com) — the informative “Leo the Miller” will breathe life into those dusty fourth-grade history lessons.

Alternatively, plunk down $18 per person in booty and let your kids’ imagination travel back in time on Plymouth Cruises’ swashbuckling Pirate Cruise (9 Town Wharf, 508-746-5342, plymouthcruises.com), where buccaneers-to-be will shoot water cannons and recover a treasure chest from a villainous foe.

At this point, the less hardy might consider checking in for a night at the White Swan (146 Manomet Point Road, 508-224-3759, whiteswan.com, from $135), a modest 1820 farmhouse near White Horse Beach that has served as a B & B for more than a century. The four-suite property has housed Massachusetts luminaries such as Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis and Henry Cabot Lodge, according to proprietor Christine Cox.

But the energetic day-tripper can top off a journey to yesteryear by braving the Dead of Night Ghost Tours, which sets the tone for the evening with the choice of rendezvous spot: a parked hearse (70 Water Street, 508-866-5111, deadofnightghosttours.com). Guided by lantern light, “professional” paranormal investigators lead visitors through the Burial Hill cemetery, which claims to be the nation’s oldest burial spot, followed by a visit (and, by special arrangement, even an overnight stay) inside two haunted houses. The fainthearted need not apply.

Christie Matheson is a writer in Boston; Melissa Schorr is a writer in Cohasset. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.

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