Nahant calls itself a resort town, and for good reason. This small Massachusetts community on the North Shore offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities. Hanging out at the beach is among the most popular things to do, and there are also opportunities to enjoy such other pursuits as birding, boating, golfing, and fishing. The list doesn’t end there, and as you might expect, this New England town has its fair share of history. Also known as Nahant Island, the town was settled way back in 1630. In the early days, it was basically used as a grazing place for goats, sheep, and cattle. By the early 1800s, Nahant’s role as a summer resort destination had begun to develop, partly due to the building of a hotel in 1802. Towards the latter half of the 1800s, amusement parks were built in Nahant, and some of the area’s most wealthy and influential people started treating the town as their summer retreat of choice. Among these people was the famous American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Another interesting entry in the historical annals of Nahant Island relates to its role during World War II. During this war, the town was chosen as a site for a coastal artillery. This artillery site was set up at East Point. It has since been converted into a town park that boasts various attractions. For those who might need another reason to visit Nahant, it is a great place to watch the July 4th fireworks that are launched into the night sky in Boston Harbor. Regardless of their reason for visiting, most Nahant tourists treat the town as a day trip destination, as lodging isn’t exactly in good supply. As a result of the lack of Nahant lodging, it is common for area visitors to overnight in such other destinations as Revere Beach, Lynn, Swampscott, and Marblehead.
Beaches Image: Beaches (flickr)
Nahant Island isn’t an island in the true sense. It is more accurately described as a peninsula. The peninsula on which the town sits juts out into Massachusetts Bay and is surrounded by water on three sides. Much of the Nahant coast is comprised of beaches, and therein lies the main allure in relation to the town’s popularity as a summer resort. The largest beaches are known as Nahant Beach and Long Beach. You can find both on the eastern side of the causeway road. Also here is a longstanding restaurant, that has changed names a number of times, but continues to cater to the day-trippers who flock here in the summer. Perhaps the beach that gets the most attention in Nahant is 40 Steps Beach. A wooden staircase leads down to this small and pebbly pocket beach. The fact that this staircase originally had 40 steps explains the beach’s name. Due to beach erosion, extra steps were eventually added to the staircase, but the name remains the same.
At the easternmost edge of Nahant is an area that is aptly known as East Point. Found in this area is Lodge Park, which boasts a rather rugged New England ecosystem and is a wonderful place to explore. The park was named for the family of wealth politician Henry Cabot Lodge, who spent much of his childhood here in the family's summer home. Also found in the East Point area of Nahant Island are the Northeastern University Observatory & Marine Science Center and WWII bunkers that were largely designed to defend Boston Harbor to the south.
Top image: dsearls (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0