A well-heeled seaside town on the South Shore, Hingham is near the southeastern cusp of Boston Harbor and has volumes of colonial history going back to 1635.
This heritage shines through in downtown Hingham, where the sights include the oldest church in continuous use in the United States, and the birthplace of General Benjamin Lincoln (1733-1810), a key figure in the American Revolutionary War.
Hingham has an amazing abundance of public open space, by the water, at the extraordinary World’s End, Bathing Beach and Bare Cove Park.
This also applies to Hingham’s interior, where Wompatuck State Park and adjoining reservations create 5,000 acres of woods, wetlands, ponds, meadows and pasture.
1. World’s End
A place of immense natural beauty, World’s End is a craggy peninsula on a chain of glacial drumlins between the Weir River and Hingham Harbor.
One person drawn to this majestic location was the merchant John Brewer (1818-1893) who built his summer home here in the mid-19th century and then bought up surrounding land, becoming the largest real estate owner in Hingham by the time of his death.
In 1890 he hired world-famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to design a subdivision for 163 homes here. Although the carriage paths were cut, and survive today, the development never went ahead.
Later, in 1945, World’s End was mooted as a location for the United Nations Headquarters. The 251-acre reservation is nothing short of magnificent, with clear views of the Boston skyline, Hingham Harbor, and the Weir River.
2. Downtown Hingham
Encompassing the earliest streets laid out in the town and reaching down to the harbor, Hingham’s upmarket center reaches back almost 400 years.
This is the kind of downtown area that lends itself to a walking tour, and there are a lot of intriguing stops.
One is the Old Ship Church, which we’ll cover in more detail below, while the General Benjamin Lincoln House (1715), is the birthplace and home of the major general who formally accepted the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781.
For a handy guide to all the important sights, the Hingham Historical Society has published a custom google map, with overlays for a range of topics, from 17th-century history to local industry.
Amid this heritage, downtown Hingham is a modern center, brimming with boutiques, galleries, international dining, arts, culture and exciting events.
On the Third Thursday Stroll, numerous participating stores stay open late, and the Hingham Historical Society gives free guided walking tours during this event.
3. Bathing Beach
Lining the west side of Hingham Harbor is a scenic public park, composed of a beach, a large grassy space, a bandstand and seasonal amenities like concessions and restrooms.
In summer, if you can time your visit to the window either side of high tide this is a fine place to enjoy the sand between your toes.
At any time of year the views of the harbor and World’s End are a delight, and you can get a history lesson on the Harbor Boardwalk, which has interpretive signs detailing Hingham’s old mackerel industry.
Bathing Beach is also the venue for the third-oldest farmers’ market in Massachusetts, meeting on Saturday mornings, May through mid-November at 96 Otis Street.
4. Loring Hall
In 1936, a Greek Revival meeting hall on Main Street in Hingham’s historic center was converted into a single-screen movie house, and has remained one to this day.
Loring Hall dates back to 1852 and was built by the town as a place for social meetings, lectures and other functions, but had outlived its purpose by the 20th century.
Even some 90 years after its conversion there can’t be many more unusual places to watch a movie. Just as surprising, Loring Hall isn’t an arthouse theater, but shows first-run movies as soon as other theaters.
There’s a balcony in the auditorium, and the screen, sound and seating have all been modernized in the last few years.
5. Old Ship Church
The only surviving 17th-century Puritan meetinghouse in the United States stands at 107 Main Street. Dating back to 1681, this is also the oldest church in continuous use as a place of worship in North America.
The Old Ship Church was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960, and contains several original meetinghouse furnishings, including a christening bowl that predates the 17th century and is thought to have come to the Massachusetts Bay Colony with emigrants from Hingham, England.
On the gently rolling landscape behind is the Old Ship Burying Ground, where you’ll find the burial place of many of Hingham’s earliest settlers, with memento mori headstones.
6. Hingham Heritage Museum (Hingham Historical Society)
The Hingham Historical Society was founded in 1914 and looks after a couple of fascinating old properties in the town.
The headquarters and Hingham Heritage Museum are housed in the stately Old Derby Academy, built in the Federal style in 1818.
The private Derby Academy, founded in 1784, is the oldest coeducational institution in the United States, and relocated to new premises in 1960.
On the second floor, society’s changing exhibits tell the story of Hingham through the centuries, touching on mackerel fishing, seafaring, shipbuilding, and manufacturing, in particular bucket making. The society’s archives are on the third floor, and there’s a visitor center and museum shop downstairs.
7. Bare Cove Park
From 1917 up to the early 1970s a big stretch of east bank of the Weymouth Back River was occupied by the Hingham Naval Ammunition Depot, which employed close to 2,500 civilians and military personnel.
One of the famous people stationed in Hingham was saxophonist John Coltrane, who performed in the depot’s own jazz band. Today, 484 acres are a town-owned park, serving as a wildlife sanctuary and a place for low-impact public recreation.
There are five miles of paved and woodland trails in Bare Cove Park, with scenic riverside paths looking across to the wooded esker on the Weymouth bank.
You’ll come across plenty of traces of the old depot, from wharfs and mooring poses along the riverfront to bunkers hidden in the woods.
8. The Old Ordinary
Hingham Historical Society maintains this early tavern that was donated in 1920 by the writer and philanthropist Wilmon Brewer (1895-1998).
The Old Ordinary was set on the main stagecoach road from Boston and got its name as a place where travelers could stop “for an ordinary meal” and a drink. Built in 1686, the Old Ordinary served as a tavern for more than 150 years.
On the same campus is a refined formal garden landscaped by the Olmsted Firm at the turn of the 20th century, as well as the 17th-century Old Fort House and the Arts and Crafts Annex.
You can come for tours and special events, mid-June through September, while the much-loved Candlelight Tours take place in November.
9. Wompatuck State Park
Most of this 3,500-acre public recreation area sits within Hingham’s boundaries. If you want to escape to nature in Hingham this is a great place to start, with a 250-site campground, 40 miles of forest trails and another 12 miles of safe roads that are closed to motorized traffic.
Something truly remarkable near the campground is Mt Blue Spring, which has provided free, exceptionally pure spring water since it was tapped in the mid-19th century.
Like Bare Cove Park, this space is on a big piece of the Hingham Naval Ammunition Depot, and old military infrastructure litters the park.
In the north, the depot’s old Whitney Spur railroad has been turned into a rail trail, connecting Wompatuck State Park with a network of trails through neighboring reservations.
10. Stodder’s Neck
Jutting out into the Weymouth Back River next to a patch of redeveloped waterfront is a peninsula that was previously the site of a sand and gravel pit.
Stodder’s Neck is now a popular spot for dog walking, especially as dogs are allowed off-leash to splash around in the river here.
There’s a fence at the head of the peninsula for extra peace of mind, and the main loop leads around the water’s edge. At the center is a sparsely wooded hilltop, which is a great vantage point for the mouth of the river and Boston Harbor.
11. Whitney and Thayer Woods
Spilling over into Cohasset, more than 5,000 acre of Hingham’s interior are publicly accessible, as there’s a patchwork of reservations linking with Wompatuck State Park.
The largest of these is Whitney and Thayer Woods, in the care of the Trustees of Reservations. At almost 900 acres, this parcel of woodlands with glacial erratics, streams and vernal pools was the estate of industrialist Henry Melville Whitney (1839-1923).
Following old carriage roads you hike or bicycle through hardwood forest and open fields, arriving at some of the area’s most spectacular glacial erratics.
One grouping, known as Ode’s Den, is named for a 19th-century hermit who lived under one of the boulders after losing his home in 1830.
Climb neighboring Turkey Hill for a beautiful view of Cohasset Harbor, while the Milliken Memorial Path, dating to the 1920s, is stunning for its rhododendron and azalea blossoms in spring.
12. Weir River Farm
Adjoining Whitney and Thayer Woods, this working farm and nature reserve, also owned by the Trustees of Reservations, was the summer home of the Boston painter and pastel artist Polly Thayer Starr (1904-2006).
Starr donated Weir River Farm in 1999, and you can come to wander the footpaths weaving through open fields, pastures and oak and red cedar woods.
For kids the best part will be seeing the animals, among them goats, pigs, horses, cows, sheep and a llama.
The trails on Weir River Farm connect with Whitney & Thayer Woods, and then Wompatuck State Park, providing thousands of acres of contiguous open space to explore.
13. Bare Cove Fire Museum
By the entrance to Bare Cove Park there’s a delightful museum documenting the long history of firefighting in Hingham.
The Bare Cove Fire Museum was established in 1974, and has an enthralling collection of historic equipment to check out.
In beautiful condition there’s an array of engines and ladder trucks, from 1922, 1924, 1935 and 1939, as well as a hand engine from the turn of the 20th century.
You can take a look at the progress of a Dodge/Maxim 1937 Forest Wagon, undergoing restoration.
Exhibits on the walls recount half-forgotten events in the town’s history, such as the Hingham High School fire of 1927.
14. Patriot Cinemas at the Hingham Shipyard
In 2009 the local Patriot Cinemas company, which also runs the theater at Loring Hall, also opened a multiplex on the site of the WWII Bethlehem Hingham Shipyard, close to the ferry docks.
This first-run cinema has Colonial-inspired architecture, with a clapboard facade, pilasters and a cupola above the lobby.
Inside is a modern, well-appointed facility that has six auditoriums, all with stadium seating. The theater is one element of Hingham Launch, a large redeveloped area with new residential streets to the east, but also a great choice of restaurants in front for date nights and family days out.
15. Derby Street Shops
This upscale outdoor shopping mall, opened in the mid-2000s, is on Hingham’s southwestern corner, and has around 65 shops and restaurants.
Derby Street Shops is laid out on long, tree-lined sidewalks, with vintage style street lamps and storefronts evoking New England seaside towns.
When we wrote this article, a few of the retailers at the mall were Allbirds, Sephora, Banana Republic, Barnes & Noble, LOFT, American Eagle, Levi’s, Kohl’s Gap, J. Crew, Apple and Whole Foods.
For food and drink there are branches of CAVA, Chipotle, Panera, Legal C Bar and Bertucci’s.