A beach getaway from Boston doesn’t have to be a weekend-long commitment, or as heavy on the pocketbook as the Cape. Manchester-by-the-Sea, a lovely town in Cape Ann, is just a touch over 45 minutes away by car or commuter rail from North Station, and has more to offer than the Academy Award-winning film.
Getting there: Drive or from North Station-Commuter Rail, take the Newburyport/Rockport Line to Manchester Station. $10 regular fare. Trains leave every 1+ hours on weekdays.
Beach Street Cafe
This seat-yourself casual diner serves up go-to breakfast essentials from French toast to eggs Benedict, and it’s directly across the street from where you get off the train. Perfectly crispy home fries and another carb of your choice accompany the no-frills classics, making the portions large, simple and satisfying.
35 Beach St., Manchester (978-526-8049) bscafeonline.com
A 15-minute walk through the residential roads of Manchester will bring you to Singing Beach, a gleaming-white, half-mile wide stretch of shoreline. Take in the view of rainbow-striped umbrellas and deep blue water before snagging a coveted piece of beach for your own towel. The bathhouse offers a privately owned snack bar, showers and changing stalls.
121 Beach St., Manchester (978-526-7276) manchester.ma.us
Captain Dusty’s Ice Cream
Trade the salty shore for heaping scoops of sweet ice cream at this well-known local favorite. Heaping is no understatement—your mega-scoop will leave the dozen customers in line gasping, “That’s a small?” From the refreshingly coffee-heavy “Mississippi Mud” to playful “Cake, Rattle & Roll,” Captain Dusty’s will satisfy any craving…yes, even for you frappe lovers. Be sure to check out the creative, rotating “flavors of the moment” before taking a seat at the shady park across the street while your little ones (or you, we won’t judge) run off their sugar high.
60 Beach St., Manchester (978-526-1663)
Manchester by the Book
Fall down the bookstore equivalent of Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole in this captivating, overflowing store owned by book collector Mark Stolle. Ranging from classic literature and war novels to tomes on shipbuilding and a whole section dedicated to Harvard history, the rows of books on the shelves (which are two layers deep) tumble out into categorized chaos on the floor. It’s a bibliophile’s dreamland, and Stolle, who attentively mans the checkout counter, is happy to chat about his favorite authors and how he acquired such a collection. Have young ones with you? A whimsical children’s room is complete with beanbags and vintage picture books from the early 1900s.
27 Union St., Manchester (978-525-2929) manchesterbythebook.com
For dinner, 7 Central offers an assortment of delicious appetizers and staple entrees at a mid price range. The lemon-thyme roasted cauliflower is a perfect balance of tangy citrus and crispy florets with a soft-cooked center. Other app standouts include the house-made cheese-stuffed pretzel served with an apricot butter and the sesame-crusted ahi tuna complete with a honey wasabi aioli. For dinner, 7 Central offers the classic New England lobster roll and a more unique take on the homey pot pie with their Manchester lobster pie. Aside from seafood dishes, their menu is rounded off with an ample selection of steaks, burgers, salads and artisan flatbreads. Be sure to grab a seat on the back patio complete with stringed globe lights, or a table by the fireplace in their main dining room.
7 Central St., Manchester (978-526-7494) 7central.net