This South Shore town was incorporated some 300 years ago, and has a sedate old center with a house built by one of the town’s first European families.
Now, the Stetson House (c. 1700) is a museum owned by the Hanover Historical Society, and paints an intriguing picture of town life in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Hanover’s southern boundary is on the Indian Head River, which then becomes the North River at the confluence with Herring Brook.
In the 18th, 19th and some of the 20th century these banks were crowded with factories, producing everything from munitions to nails to reclaimed rubber.
Now, much of the riverfront is open to the public as the Hanover Greenway Trail. You can hike beside faint traces of industry in beautiful stands of hardwood forest, stopping at rocky outcroppings with striking overlooks.
1. Hanover Center Historic District
The heart of the town since it was incorporated in the 1720s, Hanover’s center has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1996.
Rather than a buzzing downtown, these 40 acres contain august public and municipal buildings, and an assortment of centuries-old residences.
The oldest of these is the Stetson House (more later), likely to have been built by the grandson of Hanover’s earliest European settlers.
The Greek Revival First Congregational Church (1863) is on the site of the town’s earliest meetinghouse, from 1727. Also grand is the Town Hall, built in the Italianate style 1863, and the Georgian Revival Curtis Free Library from 1907.
2. Luddam’s Ford Park
For centuries the Indian Head River was a source of power for a variety of industries, from forges to grist mills to the giant Clapp Rubber Works.
The latter was established in 1873, and was the largest factory of its kind in the United States, producing reclaimed rubber.
On the Hanover side of the river, the local conservation commission manages 22 acres at the site of this mill.
The land has a human history reaching back further, and had long been a ford along the Old Bay Path between Plymouth and Boston, named for the 17th-century guide, James Luddam.
The park is one of a string of interconnected spaces along the Indian Head River, skirted by the railbed of the Hanover Branch Railroad, which takes you to the Hanson/Hanover town line.
3. Starland Sportsplex & Fun Park
A go-to for family days out, the Starland Sportsplex & Fun Park combines the largest sports complex in New England with nine indoor and outdoor attractions, and an arcade with some 40 games.
The Sportsplex has facilities for basketball, soccer/futsal, volleyball, pickleball, lacrosse, baseball/softball/wiffle ball, and flag football.
As for the Fun Park, this features laser tag, mini golf, go karts, bumper cars, a climbing wall, batting cages, an XD dark ride, and a Eurobungy bungee trampoline.
There are two places for food and drink here, with a fast food counter for pizza, burgers and more, and a coffee shop upstairs offering bagels and fresh roasted coffee.
4. Stetson House
The Hanover Historical Society preserves this fine Colonial residence in the Hanover Center Historic District.
The Stetson House was built around the turn of the 18th century, for Samuel Stetson (1673-1760) and remained in the Stetson family until around the 1870s.
Long before, it is thought that the meetings that led to Hanover’s incorporation took place in the house. Another compelling detail about this 2 ½-story building is that it was briefly used for religious services after the town’s church burned down in the 19th century.
The historical society has set up a variety of exhibits, with rooms dedicated to maritime, agricultural, industrial and military history. You can drop by on Saturday afternoons for a tour, and gain lots of insights about the lives and habits of the Stetsons.
5. Forge Pond Park
This great public park combines tournament-ready sports fields with large tracts of woodland for passive recreation. Ringed by fences at Forge Pond Park are three baseball fields, three softball fields and three multi-use fields.
These are situated around a vast grassy space, and all complemented by a pavilion with picnic tables and a concession stand that is open during events.
The impressive sports facilities feature state-of-the-art equipment, including solar-powered, remote-controlled scoreboards.
If you visit Forge Pond Park on a normal day you can also spend hours exploring more than four miles of paved and unpaved trails in the woods.
These connect with the Hanover Greenway Trail, for an adventure along the Drinkwater and Indian Head rivers. When we wrote this article, the National Fireworks property, normally part of this network, was closed due to unexploded ordnance.
6. Hanover Farmers’ Market
When we put this list together, the town’s farmers’ market had only been up and running for a couple of years. Despite this, it was already a big operation, with 30+ vendors on busier weeks.
As always, there’s fresh fruit and vegetables direct from farms in the area, but also grass fed beef, honey, cut flowers, salsas, cheeses, fresh breads, baked treats, toffee, homemade sauces, and shaved ice.
Other vendors include artisans selling home decorations, jewelry, candles, pet accessories, and organic cosmetics, while there are also booths for local organizations. The market takes place on the third Sunday of the month, May through November, at Hanover High School.
7. Indian Head River Trails
On the Hanover bank of the Indian Head River there’s a two-mile linear property maintained by the town’s conservation commission, and part of the Hanover Greenway Trail.
The Indian Head River Trails stay close to the water’s edge, and occasionally grant you magnificent views from some of the dramatic rocky outcroppings along the bank.
The most convenient trailhead is probably Luddam’s Ford Park, and the main trail is provided by the railbed of the Hanover Branch Railroad, with little spurs that help you explore the bank.
Just west of Luddam’s Ford Park you’ll come across the remnants of the Waterman Tack Factory, dating back to 1830, on a site with an industrial history reaching back much further, to the turn of the 18th century.
8. Wildlands Trust – Tucker Preserve
If you’re keen to know more about the centuries of industrial history on the Indian Head River, you can cross over to the Pembroke bank where the Wildlands Trust preserves a large parcel of land.
Long since reclaimed by hardwood forest of elm, ash, oak, birch and hickory, this property was previously owned by the Clapp Rubber Company.
A framework of old stone walls speak to the land’s more distant agricultural past, and there are interpretive signs detailing everything from the old mills and forges to the river’s Native American history.
One especially beautiful spot is close to the preserve’s back boundary, where the river runs through a gorge and old dam site.
9. Boston Bowl
Whether you’re a competitive bowler or just looking for an activity with friends or family, Boston Bowl is an up-to-date alley and part of a local chain.
Something worth mentioning about the setup here is that you can choose between ten pin bowling and candlepin bowling, which is a regional style with taller, narrower pins and a smaller ball.
There are discounts all week, including Mon – Fri, 9am – 5pm, when games cost as little as $6, at the time of writing.
The arcade at Boston Bowl is also reasonably priced, and is filled with old-school redemption machines, while DW Brewpub serves a range of comfort food, including pizza with handmade dough and fresh toppings.
10. Herring Run Historical Park, Pembroke
In Hanover’s southeast corner, the Indian Head River merges with the North River. This watercourse is especially important for the alewife herring, and its giant migration every spring.
Around April many thousands of herring swim up the North River and then Herring Brook for about 12 miles to the spawning grounds at Oldham Pond and Furnace Pond in the neighboring town of Pembroke.
A great place if you want to witness this astonishing natural spectacle is Herring Run Historical Park. The brook here is especially shallow and narrow, making it easy to spot the fish, which are about one foot long and silvery blue in color.
11. Crossroads Cafe & Deli
Listed by the likes of the Boston Globe as one of the best breakfast spots in Massachusetts, Crossroads Cafe & Deli is at the intersection of routes 53 and 139 in Hanover.
In a cozy, country-style setting, you can choose from a wide selection of breakfast and lunch dishes, including omelets, quiches baked fresh every day, and build-your-own sandwiches, stacked with Boar’s Head cold cuts.
Especially tempting in the holiday season, the house specialty sandwich is the Plymouth County, filled with oven-roasted pulled turkey, and a homemade stuffing.
12. Hanover Branch Rail Trail (Rockland Rail Trail)
Almost eight miles long, the Hanover Branch Railroad was built in the mid-19th century, linking Hanover Four Corners (in the southeast of the town) with the Old Colony Railroad in North Plymouth.
Mainly used for transporting goods between several large-scale enterprises, the line owed its creation to one E. Y. Perry, who ran a tack factory in South Hanover.
You can walk along the railbed where it traces the Indian Head River (Indian Head Trails), but just west of Hanover the right-of-way has been turned into a paved rail trail.
This spans the breadth of Rockland and also cuts into some of North Abington, for a total of roughly three miles. The eastern trailhead is right on the Hanover/Rockland town line, just off Market St.
13. Hanover Day
Every June, the Hanover Cultural Council organizes two days of entertainment, culture, family fun and great food at Sylvester Field.
Things get underway on Friday with a carnival and food trucks, and then on Saturday you’ve got tons of things happening from morning to night.
To sum up, there’s a juried art show, a vendor and craft fair, and live music all day with a battle of the bands. Kids will be entertained with all kinds of games and inflatables, while the carnival continues all day on Saturday.
For competitive souls there’s a road race and a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, and the whole event comes to a close with a big fireworks show.
14. New England Holiday Craft Spectacular
For more than two decades now, the Starland Sportsplex in Hanover has hosted an enormous craft fair over the first weekend in December.
The New England Holiday Craft Spectacular is on a large scale, with close to 200 juried artisans and craftspeople.
For a small cross-section of what to expect, there’s tapestry, quilts, candles, handmade jewelry, decoupage, oil painting, watercolors, wreaths, baskets, scarves, mosaics, metal craft, pottery, and much more than we can list here.
You can also sample and purchase a variety of specialty food products, from fudge to honey, jerky, jams, balsamic vinegars, maple syrup and dips.