Over the past 5 summers as Co-Host and Co-Producer of New England Boating TV, I’ve been able to film in some of the best boating destinations our region has to offer. So far, we’ve showcased over 50 different coastal towns. Many have been the popular harbors that draw the big tourist crowds, while others have been lesser-known spots. By Parker Kelley; Photos by Tom Richardson
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It’s these “hidden gems” that are particularly satisfying to explore and share, and one of them is Scituate, Massachusetts. If you haven’t been to this amazing port of call, you should!
Scituate is, if you pardon the word play, perfectly situated on Massachusetts’ South Shore, the geographic region that stretches south and east along the shores of Massachusetts Bay and Cape Cod Bay, between Boston and Cape Cod. The South Shore is a unique area of the Commonwealth comprising several towns, each with its own distinct personality and characteristics.
I’ve lived on the South Shore for the last 17 years, and although I don’t live in Scituate, I’ve spent a good deal of time there and have developed a tremendous attachment to it. With 21 miles of coastline, including five beaches and four rivers, there’s no shortage of adventures to be had. Scituate is special.
Of course the locals have known this all along. Incorporated in 1636 and named after the Wampanoag word for “cold brook,” Scituate is rich with history. Many large sailing ships were built along the North River in the 1800s, and the harbor has served as a commercial fishing port for more than a century. Not surprisingly, the town has an extremely active Historical Society, as well as a motivated Economic Development Commission. When you take a peek at the town’s events and festivals calendar, you get the sense that Scituate clearly celebrates its past and present. Scituate has a lot going on.
There are several different recognized and named parts to the town including First, Second, and Third Cliffs; The Glades, Hummarock, Egypt, Sand Hills, Minot, Greenbush, North Scituate and The Harbor. Our focus of the episode was The Harbor, which encompasses both the inner harbor and the thriving business district that surrounds it. Once a quiet fishing village, Scituate has grown into a vibrant community worthy of a visit by car, rail or, of course, boat.
The harbor is picturesque, but also well protected and easy to navigate. Boaters approaching from any direction can simply pick up the red-white “SA” gong a half-mile east of the harbor then follow the well-marked channel through the breakwater and past the iconic Old Scituate Lighthouse.
In terms of transient accommodations, Scituate is served by a yacht club and several marinas, including two managed by the town and harbormaster’s office: Cole Parkway Marina and the Maritime Center at Scituate Marine Park. The latter is a multi-use facility with a fully operational boatyard, as well as slips, showers and a function room with an outside deck.
Other harbor marinas include Scituate Harbor Marina, Scituate Boat Works and the Quarterdeck. We kept our Pursuit C260 at Mill Wharf Marina. Over the last several years, Mill Wharf Marina has received many upgrades, and offers a host of transient amenities, such as floating slips, WiFi, showers and a fuel dock. It was the ideal place for us to keep the center console and take advantage of the area’s fabulous fishing and sailing.
Trailer-boat access is equally good, as the harbor has a free, all-tide ramp with a courtesy float and ample parking.
While filming this episode, our crew stayed at the Inn at Scituate Harbor, a comfortable, convenient spot right in the heart of it all. The Inn is one of a handful of accommodations in town and provides a Continental breakfast and harbor views from every single room.
Front Street, the main street along the harbor, just steps from the Inn, has everything a visiting boater could want or need. And I mean everything. There are boutiques, nautical gift shops, art galleries, ice cream and coffee shops, breakfast spots, wine and gourmet shops, a movie theatre, a bowling alley, a hardware store, a bank and the Village Market, perfect for provisioning your boat.
The harbor also boasts many restaurants that appeal to all tastes. Local favorites include TK O’Malley’s, Satuit Tavern, Barker Tavern and Maria’s Sub Shop. Scituate offers ultra-foodies something to talk about as well, with contemporary gastro pubs like Galley, chic Restaurant ORO and award-winning Riva, each with a cool urban vibe you wouldn’t expect in a small seaside town.
In the summer, the harbor is bustling, but it doesn’t feel touristy at all. It feels like an authentic year-round community filled with folks who are genuinely delighted to welcome you to their waterways and walkways. And speaking of that, Scituate is extremely pedestrian friendly. There are sidewalks everywhere, and people make good use of them. From early morning to sunset, you can find walkers and joggers enjoying the sunshine and salty air.
Beyond the Harbor
Visitors interested in exploring farther afield can bike or take a cab to North Scituate Village. The village is one of the two commuter rail stops in Scituate, and comprises several shops and restaurants.
Another option for getting around the town and the harbor is the Scituate Sloop, a $1 shuttle that makes stops at the Irish Mossing Museum, Wheeler Park and other area attractions. The Sloop also stops at the Widow’s Walk, an 18-hole golf course adjacent to the scenic North River.
Speaking of which, the river is a boating destination in itself. It’s idyllic. When we visited, we met a group of plein air painters capturing its beauty in oils and watercolors. This lovely, marsh-lined waterway is also great for canoeing, kayaking and paddleboarding. Paddlers can put in at James Landing and follow the river upstream or head south toward the Spit, a large sandbar at the mouth of the river.
When the tide recedes, the Spit reveals itself as a beach-lovers playground, with acres of soft, white sand and tidal pools for kids to play in. Boaters can nose their bow right onto the sand and unload their beach toys, chairs, coolers and grills. We filmed a short segment on the Spit during which we talked to several families who referred to it as a slice of paradise. We couldn’t have agreed more.
Scituate is a destination like no other. It doesn’t have the mansions of Newport, nor is it a Presidential retreat, like Kennebunkport. Scituate has a more subtle appeal—traditional and trendy, historic and hip—a breathtakingly beautiful place made up of artists, executives, fisherman, and others who all who seem to agree on one thing: it’s perfectly scituated!