12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Salem and Cape Ann

The colonial port of Salem was once a much more important shipping city than Boston and one of the major players in China’s trade. Today it preserves an astonishing number of fine homes that once belonged to sea captains and wealthy merchants. Walk along Chestnut Street and others nearby to admire them and gain an insight into the lavish lifestyle of their former residents with a tour of the Stephen Phillips Memorial Trust House . But Salem – for better or worse – is best known as the scene of the infamous Witchcraft Trials of 1692and this has been exploited in a number of modern tourist attractions seeking to recreate this gruesome past. It’s a shame that in this modern witch hysteria many modern visitors fail to see one of America’s finest museums – the Peabody Essex Museum and the wealth of genuine historic homes and tourist sites Salem has to offer.

The entire North Shore area, which is beautiful and equally historic at Cape Ann , has been designated an Essex National Heritage Area encompassing 34 villages and communities claiming “more historic structures per acre than anywhere else in the country.”

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1 Peabody Essex Museum

Peabody Essex Museum Doug Kerr / photo modified

The extraordinary Peabody Essex Museum features collections of maritime art, American decorative arts, and historical and contemporary art from China, Japan, Korea, India, Africa, North America, and the Pacific Islands. Perhaps most notable is the chance to explore inside the two-century-old ancestral home of the Huang family, brought here and reassembled from China’s Huizhou region. Also part of the Peabody complex are several historic homes open to visitors, including the 1684 John Ward House , the 1727 Crowninshield-Bentley House , and the brick Gardner-Pingree House (1804) with elegant interiors including work by master builder Samuel McIntire.

Adres: 161 Essex Street, Salem, MA

Official site: www.pem.org

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2 Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Salem Maritime National Historic Site
Salem Maritime National Historic Site

The Salem Maritime National Historic Site includes approximately nine acres along the waterfront and twelve historic buildings that preserve Salem’s late 18th- and 19th-century maritime history, which helped establish economic independence in the nascent United States. This is also the permanent home of the tall ship Friendship , a reconstructed 18th-century commercial sailing ship, which you can tour in the summer. At the historic site, you can view exhibits, watch two free orientation films, and get a glimpse into the lives of author Nathaniel Hawthorne or America’s first millionaire, Elias Hasket Derby, on hour-long free tours. The 1762 home of Derby is also open to visitors.

Adres: 160 Derby Street, Salem, MA

Official site: https://www.nps.gov/sama/index.htm

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3 House of Seven Gables

House of Seven Gables
House of Seven Gables

The House of Seven Gables site is a collection of colonial homes, including one of the oldest surviving 17th-century wooden mansions in New England, built in 1668. Nathaniel Hawthorne used the House of Seven Gables as the setting for his famous novel of the same name . Guides lead you up curved, secret stairways and tell you about the history of the former residents as you view period features, photographs, and paintings. The 1804 birthplace of Nathaniel Hawthorne , which has been restored to its 1808 appearance, has been moved to the same property, which also includes four other homes listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Adres: 115 Derby Street, Salem, MA

Official site: www.7gables.org

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4 Stephen Phillips Memorial Trust House

Stephen Phillips Memorial Trust House Henry Zbyszynski / photo modified
Stephen Phillips Memorial Trust House Henry Zbyszynski / photo modified

The Phillips House is a Federal style home featuring Chinese porcelain, Persian rugs, paintings, and early American furniture. The collections span five generations of the Phillips family, with an emphasis on African carvings and Native American pottery. What you will find most fascinating about the Phillips House is the way it shows how a real family collects in a house, from generation to generation, rather than stripping away all the later years and leaving only the items of a certain time period. to leave. This home showcases the home’s use throughout much of Salem’s history, with furnishings and family collections spanning all eras.

Address: 34 Chestnut Street, Salem, MA

Official Site: https://www.historicnewengland.org/historic-properties/homes/phillips-house

5 Witch House (Corwin House)

Witch House (Corwin House)
Witch House (Corwin House)

Judge Jonathan Corwin, one of the magistrates in the witch trials, lived in this large house, built in 1642. It is the only structure still standing in Salem that is directly connected to the Witchcraft Trials of 1692. Witch House is preserved in its original appearance and is an excellent example of Salem’s 17th century architecture. You’ll find the tours here especially interesting, combining information about lifestyles, furnishings and architecture of the time with insights into Corwin’s role in the events of 1692.

Adres: 310 Essex Street, Salem, MA

Official site: www.witchhouse.info

6 Rockport


The red fisherman’s cabin with its lobster buoys is so often painted and photographed as the iconic New England fishing port that it is known as Motif #1 . Art galleries and studios still line the streets of the picturesque fishing village. The Sandy Bay Historical Society and Museum , the Old Castle , and the James Babson Cooperage Shop will interest the historian. The biggest local curiosity is the Paper House , built entirely out of newspapers in 1922, as is the furnishings inside.

7 Gloucester


The sea, boats and fishing have occupied this ancient Cape Ann fishing port, a tradition commemorated in the waterfront bronze statue of the Gloucester Fisherman and in the five-day St. Peter’s Festival , hosted by Gloucester’s Italian American community in late June. Stop by the Cape Ann Historical Association ‘s excellent small museum to view works by artist Fitz Henry Lane and others, as well as furniture, decorative arts, and maritime artifacts and exhibits. Gloucester’s picturesque artists’ colony of Rocky Neck is still filled with studios.

8 Beauport (Sleeper-McCann House)

Beauport (Sleeper-McCann House) Massachusetts Office of ... / photo modified
Beauport (Sleeper-McCann House) Massachusetts Office of … / photo modified

Beauport was built by Henry Davis Sleeper in 1907 as a summer home and expanded over the next 27 years until it reached its current 40 rooms. He filled it with his collections of American and European art, curiosities, folk art, porcelain and colored glass, collected during his travels and his work as an interior designer. He also collected entire room interiors, which he incorporated into the ever-expanding house. Along with seeing the eccentric house, you’ll enjoy hearing about Sleeper himself and his equally colorful friends as you tour the rooms.

Adres: 75 Eastern Point Boulevard West, Gloucester, MA

Official site: www.historicnewengland.org/historic-properties/homes/Beauport/beauport

9 Hammond Castle Museum

Hammond Castle Museum
Hammond Castle Museum

Hammond Castle was built between 1926 and 1929 by inventor John Hays Hammond, Jr. in the style of a medieval castle to house his personal collection of Roman, medieval and Renaissance objects. Collecting these during his frequent travels to Europe, he also collected architectural bits and pieces, as well as interior elements that he incorporated into the building. It’s fun to see how he combined local granite with ancient and medieval stones to create his own castle by the sea.

Address: 80 Hesperus Avenue, Gloucester, MA

Official site: www.hammondcastle.org

10 Essex Shipbuilding Museum

Essex Shipbuilding Museum
Essex Shipbuilding Museum

In the 19th century, more two-masted ships were launched from the city of Essex than any other city in the world. The Essex Shipbuilding Museum, in an 1835 schoolhouse and shipyard on the riverfront, houses a collection of about 8,000 tools and other items related to that industry. More than 3000 photographs depict vessels, landscapes, history and architecture. Essex River Cruises can take you on narrated tours, where you can see estates, farms and historic dockyards in a landscape of salt marshes, islands, barrier beaches, sand dunes, winding rivers and abundant wildlife.

Address: 66 Main Street, Essex, MA

Official site: www.essexshipbuildingmuseum.org

11 Ipswich

Crane Beach
Crane Beach

Ipswich is a popular town with antique enthusiasts who enjoy the shops and galleries along the High Street. The shoreline estate of Castle Hill is a fine example of that built by wealthy families in the early 20th century, and its grounds include walking trails and the long shore of Crane Beach . You can walk around the Great House from late May to mid-October. Two other historic homes are filled with fine antiques: the John Heard House is a Federal-style mansion built circa 1800, featuring Asian and American furnishings, art, and a collection of carriages and sleighs. Built in the mid 17th century by a sea captain, the John Whipple Housecontains antique furniture and other antiques.

the address:

  • John Heard House: 54 South Main Street, Ipswich, MA
  • John Whipple House: 1 South Village Green, Ipswich, MA

12 Beverly

Balch House, Beverly Elizabeth Thomsen / photo modified
Balch House, Beverly Elizabeth Thomsen / photo modified

Just north of Salem, Beverly was founded in 1626 and the Beverly Historical Society has three historic homes for you to visit. Built in 1781 by John Cabot, the brick Cabot House was the site of the Beverly Bank, the nation’s oldest community bank, from 1802 to 1868. Permanent exhibits include dolls, portraits, art, and military and naval artifacts. Built in 1636, Balch House is one of the oldest in the country, and has been restored as close to its original design and furnishings as possible. Hale Farm was built in 1694 and owned by Reverend John Hale, who was involved in the witchcraft trials of 1692 when his wife was accused of being a witch.

Address: 117 Cabot Street, Beverly, MA

Official site: www.beverlyhistory.org

Where to Stay in Salem and Cape Ann for Sightseeing

Most of the tourist attractions in Salem, Rockport and Gloucester, as well as restaurants and shops, are close to their historic harbors. But the entire coast is dotted with scenic points, parks and sandy beaches, so there are plenty of things to do wherever you stay on Cape Ann. These highly-rated hotels in Salem and Cape Ann are convenient for sightseeing:

  • Luxury Hotels : Bass Rocks Ocean Inn is a family-run hotel located on Gloucester’s rocky coast, with sea views, a large swimming pool, free breakfast, parking, free bikes and Wi-Fi. Beauport Hotel also has a large swimming pool and is right on the beach overlooking Gloucester Harbour. Watch the surfing break on the rocky coast from the long front porch of the historic Emerson Inn in Rockport. There’s a pool, free breakfast, free parking and sidewalks all the way to the harbor and shops, as well as a scenic bluff path to Halibut Point State Park.
  • Mid-Range Hotels : In a residential neighborhood of historic homes, the beautifully appointed rooms at Salem Inn have amenities like fireplaces and jetted tubs; breakfast is included. Surrounded by all of Salem’s attractions, restaurants and shops, the historic Hawthorne Hotel offers free parking and well-appointed traditional rooms with a boutique feel. You can walk to all of Salem’s attractions or hop on the tour car right in front of The Salem Waterfront Hotel & Suites in Pickering Wharf, where the spacious, modern rooms offer free parking.
  • Budget Hotels : On weekends, the trolley takes you from the Rockport Inn and Suites, three quarters of a mile from downtown, with an outdoor patio and pool, free parking, and breakfast included. Clipper Ship Inn is located across the bridge from Beverly and a 15-minute walk from Salem’s attractions. It has well-maintained rooms in a quiet neighborhood. Between Gloucester and Rockport, the low-key Captains Lodge Motel is a good base for exploring Cape Ann, with large rooms and steps to local beaches.
Salem Map - Attractions
Salem Map – Attractions

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