Once part of Salem, Beverly was incorporated in 1668 and just over a century later launched the USS Hannah, the first ship ever to be commissioned by the U.S. military.
The city has a wealth of architecture from the 18th and 19th centuries, especially around the Fish Flake Hill Historic District, which goes back to Beverly’s early maritime days.
Historic Beverly runs three historic house museums, while the magnificent grounds of Long Hill, the Sedgwick family’s summer estate, are open to the public.
Cabot Street forms the backbone of downtown Beverly, home to a robust arts district, while the city’s indented shoreline has a string of inviting sandy beaches and waterfront parks.
1. Long Hill
The Trustees of Reservations cares for this 114-acre estate that was the summer home for the Sedgwick family from 1916 to 1979. Long Hill was purchased by Atlantic Monthly editor Ellery Sedgwick (1872-1960).
The gardens are open to the public and were designed by Ellery’s wife Mabel Cabot Sedgwick, who was a noted horticulturist and wrote the book, The Garden Month by Month.
On five acres and designed in an informal style, the gardens are made up of a sequence of “rooms” and feature amazing botanical diversity and a kaleidoscope of colors.
Long Hill also has more than 100 acres of wooded grounds, crossed by a tangle of trails that lead you to children’s gardens and an apple orchard.
2. John Cabot House
The nonprofit organization, Historic Beverly maintains three beautiful and historically rich houses around the city.
The largest of these is the Late Georgian John Cabot House, built in 1781 for the namesake ship owner and businessman, a prominent figure in 18th-century Beverly.
For most of the 19th century the John Cabot house served as the main office for the Beverly Bank, the tenth oldest bank in the country.
Today the building is the headquarters for Historic Beverly, containing a museum chronicling different aspects of the city’s past, from maritime industries to the witchcraft delusions of the late 17th century and the military.
There’s also a room richly decorated in the style of the early 19th century, with hand-carved paneling, a pianoforte, a clock from 1800, a teak chair brought to Beverly from India by a merchant and a pine and mahogany secretary desk.
3. North Shore Music Theatre
This award-winning theatre in the round in Beverly has wowed audiences with Broadway-quality productions since 1955.
The North Shore Music Theatre is one of the best attended in New England, bringing in 250,000 people each year, and garnering lots of recognition, including Elliot Norton Awards, IRNE Awards and the Rosetta LeNoire Award from the Actors’ Equity Association.
Under new owners, the 1,500-seat theatre bounced back from a fire and eventual closure in 2009, putting on an annual five-show subscription series and a beloved production of A Christmas Carol.
Among the acclaimed shows from recent seasons are Oklahoma!, Hairspray, Beauty and the Beast, Little Shop of Horrors and Kinky Boots.
4. The Cabot
Passing the Cabot Street Cinema Theatre, you wouldn’t realize the masterpiece that sits behind that relatively unadorned exterior.
This movie palace, one of just a few to still show movies, was built by the North Shore’s Ware Brothers in 1920, and can seat 1,450 in its splendid auditorium.
The Cabot was run by Le Grand David and his own Spectacular Magic Company from the 1970s to 2012, and became a multifaceted performing arts center in 2014.
Come for concerts by top recording artists, classical music, live comedy, children’s entertainment and regular movie shows.
Parents should look out for the $1 Family Film Series, normally on Wednesdays, with tickets sold at the box office upon entry.
5. Dane Street Beach
The top public beach in Beverly has been a favored summer escape for well over a century. One of the many advantages of Dane Street Beach is the free public parking, which sets it apart from many beaches on the North Shore.
There’s a southeast-facing ribbon of sand, dotted with some impressive outcrops and bathed by calm waters.
Lifeguards are on duty throughout the summer months, while you can visit for a walk year round to do some beachcombing.
On the foreshore behind is a spacious grassy expanse home to one of Beverly’s most popular play structures for children.
6. Beverly David S Lynch Park
Arguably the most beautiful public park in Beverly has a compelling history, as the former Evans estate.
This was purchased by the city in 1943, following a donation of $400,000 by the leather-making industrialist, David S. Lynch to be used for public parks.
In the early 20th century the Evans estate had been the Summer White House for 27th President William Howard Taft.
One survivor from the estate is the sublime formal rose garden, while there’s also a pair of beaches, a splash pad, a summer ice cream stand and a performance shell hosting public events spring through fall.
7. Larcom Theatre
Another mainstay for the Beverly Arts District is this 600-seat auditorium that opened as a vaudeville stage in 1912.
This venue is easily missed from the outside along Wallis Street, its modest brick facade belying a refined interior, with lots of original details and fabulous acoustics.
The Larcom Theatre was another project by the Ware brothers and is named for Lucy Larcom (1824-1893), the famous poet who was born at this exact address, just off Cabot Street.
The interior was restored in the mid-1980s The Larcom Theatre is a performing arts stage, mostly known for live music, but also booking dance and stand-up comedy.
8. Independence Park
Go south from Dane Street Beach and in a couple of minutes you’ll be at another picturesque waterfront space.
Independence Park pitches steeply down to a small sandy beach, with exhilarating views from the highest point, out over the islands in Beverly Harbor and across the channel to Salem.
There’s a paved path skirting the top of the slope, with plenty of places to sit and savor the views, as well as a commemorative stone and cannon, honoring Beverly as the birthplace of the U.S. Navy in the Revolutionary War.
You couldn’t find a better place to watch the waves and the sailboats in the harbor.
9. Balch House
Also in the care of Historic Beverly is one of the oldest wood-frame houses in the country, constructed in the late 1670s, although the Balch family lived on the property from the 1630s.
This is the oldest house in Beverly, initially on one and a half stories and enlarged in the early 18th century to become a two story, five-bay Colonial residence. A large extension was later made at the turn of the 19th century.
The house belonged to the Balch Family all the way up to 1916, when the Balch Family Association took possession.
Now descendants of the Balchs return to the property every couple of years for the Balch Family Meeting.
Spring through fall you can visit for a tour, to get to know the Balchs and understand the three main phases in the building’s rich history.
10. Hale Farm
At this Colonial parsonage managed by Historic Beverly you can discover the town’s links with the witch hunts of the 1690s.
The John Hale House, built around 1694 was the home of the minister Rev. John Hale (1636-1700), who had been prominent in the Salem witch trials in 1692.
He is thought to have questioned his role after his wife was accused of witchcraft, and while living at this property wrote the book, A Modest Inquiry into the Nature of Witchcraft, which condemned his colleagues at the trials.
Hale Farm is a popular wedding venue, and the grounds are used for outdoor events in the summer, including The Cabot’s Porch Sessions concert series.
Inside you can check out period furnishings, learn about the house’s various building phases and view a room dedicated to the witch trials.
11. Fish Flake Hill Historic District
Beverly’s oldest neighborhood is perched on a ridge overlooking Beverly Harbor, and was first settled as early as 1626.
Fishing and shipping were the main trades in this part of town, and the neighborhood got its name from the tables “flakes” used for the fish drying yards that were here until the end of the 19th century.
On a stretch of Front Street there are more than 150 contributing properties at the Fish Flake Hill Historic District, a remarkable portion of which date back to Colonial times.
To underline the district’s maritime character, 16 of the houses here are known to have connections to ship captains during the Revolutionary War.
12. Nick’s Famous Roast Beef
Roast beef sandwiches are a North Shore fast food staple, and this Beverly establishment has been serving up melt-in-the-mouth slices of roast beef in a burger bun for almost half a century.
On an unassuming strip mall, Nick’s Roast Beef has quite a large menu, but if you’re a first-timer you’re obliged to get the roast beef sandwich, which comes in Jr., Large or Super sizes.
For sides the traditional options are fries and onion rings, although the chicken fingers are highly rated. If you’re feeling extra indulgent, consider a shake, which comes in vanilla, strawberry, coffee and chocolate flavors.
13. Gentile Brewing Company
This nano craft brewery was founded in 2015 and makes great-tasting, unpretentious beers using English-style brewing methods and ingredients.
The location is a big part of the Gentile Brewing Company, in the old Creesy Shoe Factory building, dating back to 1884 and put to many different uses over its 135+year history.
There are normally up to a dozen beers on tap here, in varieties like Blonde, IPA, Helles, Wit, Stout, Porter and Hefeweizen, with alcohol free options available.
For a bigger sample you can try a flight, and there’s also a big selection of cans to go. The taproom is open Thursday through Sunday, and there’s usually a food truck on weekends.
14. Montserrat College of Art Galleries
In the heart of Beverly you’ll find the campus for the Montserrat College of Art, which was founded in 1970, and centers on the Hardie Building, a former school from the 19th century.
The college maintains six galleries that are open to the public for free: The Paul M. Scott Library Gallery, Carol Schlosberg Gallery, Founders Gallery, Frame 301 Gallery, President’s Gallery and the Bare Gallery.
These host innovative contemporary art exhibitions, showcasing regional, national and international artists, from emerging to established.
Past shows have featured work by the likes of Cynthia von Buhler, Leigh Wiener, Vanessa Platakis and Clint Baclawski.
15. West Beach
Despite its name, this sandy beach is in the very east of Beverly at Beverly Farms, with dramatic views to the Misery Islands, a few hundred feet off shore.
During the summer peak, West Beach is only open to residents of Beverly Farms and Prides Crossing, through a beach pass and parking sticker.
The organization managing the beach was incorporated as far back as 1852. For the other nine months of the year, West Beach is open to the public, which is great news if you catch a warm day out of season or would like a seaside stroll along this mile-long piece of coastline.