The South Shore: Cohasset, Scituate, Marshfield, Duxbury and Plymouth
Boston was transformed from a relatively small and economically stagnant town in 1780 to a bustling seaport and cosmopolitan center with a large and highly mobile population by 1800. It had become one of the world’s wealthiest international trading ports, exporting products like rum, fish, salt, and tobacco from around the globe. The city was a melting pot of mixed nationalities from Europe. By 1850, over 25% of Boston’s 135,000 residents were of Irish descent. The South Shore region of Massachusetts was predominately rural coastal farm communities. Rail service was limited and seasonal to the South Shore until the Old Colony Line connected the region in 1865. Soon after beach resort hotels began to be built along Cape Cod Bay, for summer excursions to the shore.
In the mid-to-late 1800s, Boston’s Irish Immigrants began to acquire wealth and power and built grand coastal estate homes in communities along the South Shore.
The region became very popular for those who wanted to escape to the quiet beauty of the region and raise their families away from the city of Boston. An anonymous note found in 1860 at Boston’s Immigration Hall on Constitution Wharf read, “Along the shorelines of Massachusetts Bay and Cape Cod Bay is a special place called the South Shore, it’s a place for living away from these masses. These shores are a hideaway blessed with natural beauty and pristine communities for the perfect seaside life. Much like Ireland, it is a place we can call home.” By the early 1900s, the South Shore along with Cape Cod saw steady growth of both year-round and summer residents and became one of New England’s most popular tourism destinations.
The South Shore in Massachusetts includes the communities of Cohasset, Scituate, Norwell, Hanover, Marshfield, Pembroke, Duxbury, Kingston, and Plymouth. The right mix of small historic towns strewn along the bay has become one of New England’s most treasured places to be. Small but completely embraced by a quality of life unmatched by few places anywhere, the South Shore steeps in community, family, and celebration of life itself.
The region is characterized by extensive beaches and marshes and frequented by wildlife watchers and recreational boaters. A thriving fishing industry is further enhanced by locally grown cranberries, farm-fresh produce, and great shops and sundries with the very best made-locally grown products. From historic seaside residences to spectacular waterfront homes and estates, this region has it all – shopping, dining, culture, and proximity to one of the country’s most magnificent cities, Boston, Massachusetts.
At the southern tip of Boston Harbor along Mass Bay, just 20 miles from Boston sits Cohasset on a coastal neck along the northern tip of the South Shore. Cohasset was originally an old fishing village located on the corner of the south shore along the rocky shores where greater Boston Harbor ends and Massachusetts Bay begins. A small town of between 7,500 and 8,000 residents, Cohasset covers an area of nine square miles. Colonial and more modern beach homes are set among some of the state’s best ocean vistas.
Cohasset boasts a large common area with a pond, four active shopping malls within the town, the colonial First Parish Meeting House, and St. Stephen’s Church which features a 56-bell carillon that is used for Sunday concerts, a tradition that began back in 1924. There are several large tracts of wetlands and forested areas that are protected from any further development. Although the town is no longer an active fishing center it is a great area for boaters. Cohasset offers a yacht club, a sailing club, and a public boat launch in the harbor. It is also a terrific place for the outdoor enthusiast with three beaches that lay along the bay, a bird sanctuary, the Wompatuck State Park, and the Whitney and Thayer Woods Reservation.
For those who enjoy the better things in life, Cohasset offers an active Community and Arts program, three historical museums, and the well-known South Shore Music Circus. Plans are underway to expand and improve the waterfront area. Big city cuisine is available in the form of the Bia Bistro. Residents can savor the feelings as well as the tastes of Boston without leaving the village.
Cohasset has the charm of the typical New England town with a rich history, quaint downtown shops, classic historic homes, steepled churches, tree-lined main streets, sandy beaches, great schools, open spaces, and parks, and a wide range of home styles. This treasured little seacoast town comes at a price with some of the most expensive real estate in the state.
Scituate is a small to mid-sized seacoast community located equidistant between Boston and Plymouth. In the 375 years since its incorporation, it has evolved from a summer colony to a residential community but has managed to retain some of the flavors of its past. Ocean-related recreational activities make it a very desirable place in which to live and raise families. Its Town Pier accommodates a working fishing fleet and that, coupled with three business areas, represents commercial interests in the town. Scituate also has a strong sense of its history and commemorates its founding in August each year via the celebration of “Heritage Days”. Historic points of interest include Scituate Lighthouse, The Old Oaken Bucket Homestead and Well, The Lawson Tower, Stockbridge Mill, and the Cudworth House as well as the Little Red School House which is the home of the Scituate Historical Society.
Scituate is also known as the Irish Riviera. It’s the most Irish town in America and every year the town celebrates St Patrick’s Day in a big way. There are breathtaking harbor and coastal views and open access to beaches and shorelines for recreation. Scituate has five public beaches, Minot, Egypt, Peggotty, Sandhills, and Humarock. They’re all stunning. There’s actually more than that if you include smaller and private beaches.
The unique Maritime & Irish Mossing Museum tells the story of the town’s beginnings. Headquarters for the South Shore Irish Heritage Trail with 3 designated sites on the Trail, Scituate hosts activities all year including annual parades and festivals celebrating heritage, culture, and the arts, outstanding restaurants with some of the best seafood on the South Shore, and charming shops and art galleries. Scituate home prices are not only among the most expensive in Massachusetts, but Scituate real estate also consistently ranks among the most expensive in America.
The South Shore coastal town of Marshfield almost doubles in size in the summer months. What is normally a small, quiet town of about 25,000 becomes a bustling vacation destination with almost 40,000 people. Even year-round residents say the town can feel like a vacation destination. Marshfield is named for the many salt marshes which border the salt and brackish borders of the town. There are three rivers: the North (along the northern border of the town), South (which branches at the mouth of the North River and heads south through the town), and the Green Harbor River (which flows just west of Brant Rock and Green Harbor Point at the south of town).
Marshfield is a historic town with amazing beaches and top-notch restaurants all nestled in this ocean community; in the summertime, Marshfield is the place to be. In addition to soaking up the sun, beachgoers can walk, bird-watch, go clamming, barbecue, picnic, and engage in various sporting activities, such as sailing, snorkeling, and even surfing. There are extensive seaside amenities, and waterfront and water view homes as well. It is home to the Marshfield Fair and Levitate Music Festival; both of these events are family-friendly. This is quintessential coastal South Shore living at its best.
A suburb of Boston, Marshfield is the perfect suburban town for families. There is a lot of conservation property in the town, and for the boating enthusiast, there is a beautiful boat marina along the North River where you can also kayak and sit for a picnic or enjoy lobsters fresh off the boats in the summer at the town pier.
Duxbury is long believed to be the best-kept secret of Massachusetts’s South Shore. The stretch of coast between Boston and Cape Cod is a haven for people who prefer the quiet seclusion of a small town to the social offerings of city life. Duxbury includes a sprinkling of notable residents who keep their day-to-day out of the limelight, like Aerosmith’s, Joe Perry and former Citigroup Chairman, John S. Reed. The idyllic town of Duxbury is located on Cape Cod Bay, 35 miles south of Boston on the South Shore. The Myles Standish Monument sits on top of the hill and is a prominent landmark for seafarers. Duxbury’s landscape includes dunes and salt marshes, rivers and streams, lakes and ponds, swamps and cranberry bogs, as well as forests, fields, and farms. Enclosing Duxbury Bay is Duxbury Beach, a glacial outwash barrier beach.
Duxbury began as a farming community, played an important role in the shipbuilding industry following the Revolutionary War, and eventually became a summer resort. The Town is a seaside suburb with a population of just over 15,000, with excellent schools, outstanding community services and protected conservation areas. The nearby commuter rail provides easy access to Boston. The Town of Duxbury owns and maintains approximately 3,000 acres of land for public walking trails and enjoyment.
Snug Harbor on Duxbury Bay is one of the most attractive and active recreational boat basins on the Massachusetts coastline. The Atlantic Ocean continues to influence the seaside character of the community. Duxbury Beach is picturesque and unspoiled and cultural events and the arts are integral to the lifestyle here. In the summers all roads lead to Duxbury Beach, which is truly a geographic wonder to behold. At six miles long and just fifty yards wide at points, this barrier beach separates Duxbury Bay from the Atlantic Ocean. When the tide is low, amateur clamdiggers rake up fresh shellfish to go grill on the beach.
Today, Duxbury is primarily a residential community with a village atmosphere offering excellent schools, beaches, recreation, the arts, town services and government. Duxbury is widely regarded as one of the most desirable and picturesque communities in Massachusetts and one of the priciest real estate markets in the northeast
At the southern edge of the South Shore is Plymouth. The town has a rich history dating back to 1620 and celebrates this as one of our region’s leading tourism destinations. Its waterfront teams with life with restaurants, shops, hotels, and B&B’s along one of New England’s most pristine bays. Plymouth also has a number of working farms, and cranberry bogs, and borders Myles Standish State Forest which encompasses 26 square miles of open recreational space surrounding 16 lakes and ponds. As you can see, living in Plymouth gives you a little bit of everything. You can spend one day exploring some of the nation’s most important historical sites and the next day golfing at one of the country’s top courses. That’s not to mention the outstanding local dining options on Main Street, Water Street, and Town Wharf, or the shopping at Colony Place and The Grove at Plymouth.
Many of the beaches in Plymouth are private, as the properties that line the shore have been in the same families for generations. There are, however, some public beaches, starting with Plymouth Long Beach. While narrow, this beach is three miles long and has an unrestricted swimming area with a lifeguard on duty and a restaurant. White Horse Beach is mostly private, but there is a public section.
Plymouth will never forget its history, as it’s too important to the country as a whole, but that will never stop the town and its residents from moving forward and becoming one of the east coast’s most desirable areas in which to live. Living in Plymouth means you have easy access to Boston, The Cape & Islands, the Southcoast region, and some of the state’s most beautiful protected lands. And living here offers a wide range of price points and home styles.
The Allure of Coastal Living
Living by the ocean has an allure all its own. Living in a seaside community can feel like a year-round vacation, particularly in the summer months. Swimming, boating, surfing, and soaking up the sun on sandy beaches are the order of the day from June to September, and for the rest of the year, you will enjoy the ambiance of dining from cozy oceanfront restaurants, holidays along the shore with family, and great memories for a great life.