The coastline north of Boston  is smaller than the long curving seashore to the south. The ocean here, however, is arguably much more present in the towns that cling to the rocky coves and hidden beaches along the shoreline. The North Shore (that’s “Noath Shoah” to locals) contains a mix of historic seaside villages like Essex and Ipswich; artists colonies like Rockport ; and fishing communities like Gloucester.
The can’t-miss destination of Salem  is just as interesting for its museums and maritime history as for the witch trials that made it famous.
From Boston, drive North on Route 1A to get to Marblehead (15 mi., 30 min.) or Salem (15 mi., 35 min.) For Cape Ann, take I-93 North to Route 128. Take exit 14 and head north on Route 133 for Essex (35 mi., 50 min.) and Ipswich (45 mi., 1 hr). Follow 128 to the end for Gloucester (40 mi., 50 min.) and Rockport (45 mi., 1 hr.).
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (617/222-3200, www.mbta.com ) runs commuter trains to Salem , Manchester , Gloucester, Rockport , Ipswich, and Newburyport. The MBTA also runs buses to Marblehead  and Salem. The New Hampshire–based Coach Company (800/874-3377, www.coachco.com ) runs daily buses to Newburyport.
In addition, the Cape Ann Transportation Authority (800/874-3377, www.coachco.com ) runs buses between Rockport and Gloucester.