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Scituate, Massachusetts: A Great Alternative to Cape Cod Travel

Scituate Harbor, Massachusetts sunset


by Eric Hurwitz. Updated 1/30/2017.


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Scituate, Massachusetts, is an appealing, attractive South Shore seaside community that looks every bit as nice as many of the quaint Cape Cod communities farther down the coastline in Massachusetts.

Scituate doesn't bill itself as a resort or vacation community, so there are few lodging choices (there is the well-regarded Inn at Scituate Harbor, however). Scituate is primarily a highly desirable suburb of Boston. The town center (see picture below) is lined with independently-owned specialty shops (toys, books, music, clothing, ice cream, even a movie theater) with the harbor peaking behind the commercial district. Recreational opportunities abound here including swimming, boating and fishing. Scituate Lighthouse provides a rocky, scenic setting making it one of Massachusetts' more appealing lighthouses. The harbor is pure New England with a relaxing, picturesque view that ranks up there as one of the best scenic views in the region. Publicly accessible beaches include Egypt, Humarock, Minot, Peggotty, and Sand Hills, but beach stickers are required for parking. Admittedly, the beaches aren't as spectacular as Cape Cod's best, but it is still the ocean and the coastal magic is intact.

While Scituate can get busy in the summer, it's nowhere as touristy and crowded as much of Cape Cod. Perhaps that many locals automatically go to Cape Cod for seaside relaxation and that Scituate is a bit of a drive off the main highway (Route 3), help make this beautiful Massachusetts town more of a hidden gem.

Sunsets in Scituate Harbor hold a special place in a New Englander's heart. The way the light reflects on the water offers residents and visitors one of those great moments that will always be remembered -- a feeling of tranquility and romance. Not every night affords these sunsets due to the unpredictable New England weather, but when it happens the moment is one to treasure.

Downtown Scituate, MassachusettsWhy Scituate hasn't bowed to blatant tourism is a testament to its commitment to excellence in making the town of 18,000 a great place to live. The school system is terrific and the neighborhoods chock full of seaside and colonial New England character. This does a tourist absolutely no good if it is lodging they want. For those who want to spend a day in Scituate, however, there are few better places that represent the Massachusetts scenic seaside better. It is a great New England summer travel destination, if only for a day.

A great way to enjoy the day in Scituate is finding a spot by the ocean, doing a little shopping, and then finding a nice place to eat. Dining choices abound, with the top choices being the Barker Tavern (21 Barker Rd., Tel. 781-545-6533) and Mill Wharf Restaurant (150 Front St., Tel. 781-545-3999). The Barker Tavern is simply one of the best restaurants we've been to in New England. Overlooking the harbor, the Barker Tavern's cozy, colonial atmosphere provides the perfect setting for extremely well-prepared food. We recommend starting out with the heavenly New England clam chowder and a fresh mixed greens salad. For the main course, the fresh broiled swordfish has a legendary following, and rightfully so -- tasty and tender does not even begin to describe this incredible dish.  We finished with a chocolate cake, complements of the chef, because my wife was expecting our first child. Wonderful people, incredible atmosphere and unsurpassed food makes this our current top choice in New England.

Barker Tavern, Scituate MA
Barker Tavern

The Mill Wharf Pub and Restaurant offers one of the best harbor views we've experienced at a New England restaurant and seafood that is about as good as its gets in New England The lobster stew is undeniably top-notch, a savory mix of abundant lobster chunks and a splendid cream base. The broiled scallops are perfectly prepared and a recent special, the shrimp risotto with an Asian sauce, validated the chef's ambitious and intuitive nature -- a dish that wanted you coming back for more. Of course, there's lobster, cod, and haddock -- all expertly prepared. The atmosphere at night, with its large dimly lit dining room with great hardwood floors and the lovely Scituate Harbor sunsets, make for one of the grandest overall dining experiences in the northeast. Here is the restaurant and a view...

Mill Wharf Pub and Restaurant, Scituate, Massachusetts
Mill Wharf Pub

Scituate Harbor view, Scituate, Massachusetts
View from outside the Mill Wharf Pub

Scituate is also near Plymouth or the great City of Boston, both 25 miles away. Plymouth is a large seaside community five miles from the Cape Cod Canal with a rich heritage -- the home of the 1620 Pilgrim settlement that is currently best exemplified by the tourist-oriented Plimoth Plantation.The town also has great ocean beaches, fine restaurants and enough lodging for your "pilgrimage" to this bustling but yet relaxing community. Boston is know as the "Hub of the Universe" and with good reason: from the European leanings of Newbury Street to the festive shops and restaurants at Fanueil Hall, Boston is truly the "Hub of the Universe." With over 40 academic institutions, the magnificent Boston Common with masterful flower gardens, fine harbor views, world class restaurants, the Italian-flavored North End, some fascinating museums, the historic Freedom Trail, and a compact layout tailor made for walking, Boston deserves an extended visit.

Ultimately, there is an unspoiled feel to Scituate that has one hoping that this beautiful town will never change. It is "old" New England that might have a few trendy downtown shops, but that is about the extent of Scituate being an upscale summer tourist destination. Scituate is a "real" community, waiting to be discovered for those in search of the best coastal New England has to offer.


Scituate Lighthouse, Scituate, Massachusetts
Scituate Lighthouse

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