A pond, a steepled church, centuries-old houses -- could Cohasset, Mass., be any quainter? Beyond the common, above, the town boasts an ocean shoreline.
A pond, a steepled church, centuries-old houses -- could Cohasset, Mass., be any quainter? Beyond the common, above, the town boasts an ocean shoreline.
Emily D'urso
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Classic New England: Five for the Road

One of the houses overlooking Hingham Bay. The town is home to a 17th-century church built to resemble a ship.
One of the houses overlooking Hingham Bay. The town is home to a 17th-century church built to resemble a ship. (By Lawrence Lindner)

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Turning back toward town, stroll the streets off Hingham Square. A more satisfying collection of 18th-, 19th- and early 20th-century homes you'll be hard-pressed to find -- and with no tourist busloads.

Don't miss the Old Ship Church. Built in 1681, it is the oldest church in continuous use as a house of worship in North America. The ceiling, made of great oak beams, looks like the inverted frame of a ship. Townspeople and newcomers both still sit for services, speeches and chamber music in the wooden pews, accessed via gates. Behind the church is Hingham Cemetery, with gravestones dating to the 1600s.

EATS: Brewed Awakenings (19 Main St., 781-741-5331) has pastries, soups, salads and sandwiches; nothing costs more than $8. Hingham Lobster Pound (4 Broad Cove Rd./Route 3A, 781-749-1984), a take-away shack, has incredible fried clams (whole bellies or strips), lobster rolls and scallops. Entrees start at about $10. The Snug (116 North St., 781-749-9774) is Hingham's answer to Cheers. Dinner entrees are $10 to $15. Tosca (14 North St., 781-740-0080) serves world-class Italian-inspired food in a 100-year-old granary. Entrees start at $23.

SLEEPS: Bare Cove B&B (235 Rockland St., 781-740-1422, http://www.bare-cove-bnb.com/) offers nicely appointed rooms and a peacock that roams the well-landscaped grounds. Doubles start at $125 a night; despite the name, breakfast is not included.

Cohasset

From Hingham, drive south for a few minutes on Route 3A; turn left onto Route 228 north, then right onto Jerusalem Road. If Hingham looks tidy, Cohasset looks a bit sleepy, more pastoral, yet with a dramatic shoreline reminiscent of Maine's rocky coast.

The oceanfront homes along Jerusalem Road and Atlantic Avenue are a bit of a hodgepodge: antique, contemporary, 1920s grand and everything in between. But those views of the Atlantic stretching to forever are a heady contrast to the contained waters of Hingham Harbor. That lighthouse in the distance is called Minot's Ledge Light, and local lore says its 1-4-3 blinking pattern means "I love you."

THE TOUR: Cohasset Village (heading east and south, Jerusalem Road becomes Atlantic Avenue and eventually Elm Street) is a scaled-down version of Hingham Square. Right outside the commercial center, a little bridge spans a narrow sliver of water that separates the inner harbor from the Gulph River.

Check out Cohasset Common, a block from the shops. First Parish church is the one in which Jack Nicholson, covered in feathers, coughed up cherry pits in the 1987 film "The Witches of Eastwick." There's a nice pond and, in the summer, Sunday afternoon carillon concerts from the bells of St. Stephen's (across the common from First Parish).

For a look at more beautiful old homes, take a one- to two-mile stroll down South Main Street. Back in town, even reluctant museumgoers will enjoy walking through the Captain John Wilson House on Elm Street.

Right next door is Cohasset's Maritime Museum. In addition to displaying the town's history as a shipbuilding and fishing village, it houses artifacts from an Irish ship that carried 122 people fleeing the potato famine in 1849. Ninety-nine of them drowned when the ship crashed a mile and a half off the coast.

Near the two museums, there are a number of upscale stores, including Ports and Co. for day and evening wear (think first-class on a transatlantic cruise for a young but well-heeled set).

EATS: The Silver Spoon Cafe (5 S. Main St., 781-383-8700) serves a pleasant breakfast or brunch for $6 to $8 a person. And French Memories (60 S. Main St., 781-383-2216) has savory dishes along with sweets; $5.95 for a sandwich or salad. Red Lion Inn (71 S. Main St., 781-383-1704) has an elegant dining room with entrees from $12 to $24. Bistro-style Bernard's (107 Ripley Rd., 781-383-8300) has entrees from $18.


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