"Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire inside's delightful. We've simply no place to go, so let it snow let it snow let it snow…" -Let It Snow by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne, 1945
From fluffy flurries to "thunder snow," no one in New England can deny that our winters tend to pack a punch. But there is an upside to all that precipitation in the form of small white ice crystals formed directly from the water vapor of the air at a temperature of less than 32°F—the white blankets that cover hills, dales, and the shoreline can make for some stunningly picturesque photographs.
This winter, when you've had enough of sitting by the fire, or run out of chestnuts to roast, here are some coastal activities to consider. (Please use common sense and err on the side of caution when visiting the coast in the winter. Roads and pathways can be slippery and storm waves can be dangerous and unpredictable. Never venture too close to the shoreline, seawalls, or other areas with crashing waves—large waves can hit without warning.)
Places to Go - Photos, Fresh Air, Sightseeing
The seashore has a very different look when snow drifts replace sand pails. Check out these resources to find places to go to see the winter sights:
- Massachusetts Coast Guide Online - To locate more than 1,800 sites along the Massachusetts coast that are owned by government agencies and nonprofits and open to the public, see this interactive mapping tool developed by Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM). This online viewer, which can be used on mobile phones, tablets, and desktop computers, highlights many public spots, such as rocky coasts, shore-side parks, local harbor walks, secluded coves, marshes and creeks, scenic overlooks, small rights-of-way, and much more.
- Massachusetts Coast Guide to Boston Harbor and the North Shore - This publication, last printed in 2005, includes nearly 400 public access sites from Salisbury to Hingham—ranging from expansive beaches to out-of-the-way scenic vistas. The online version includes 22 maps with site descriptions.
- Walk to the Sea - For a non-beach walk in Boston that still ends up along the Atlantic, see this aptly named website that guides you on a historic walking tour that lands you on Long Wharf.
- Visit Massachusetts State Parks Locations - This Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) web page has a complete list of public parks, with descriptions of activities, facilities, and services, along with a location map.
- The Trustees of Reservations - From Norton Point Beach on Martha's Vineyard, with its winter bird residents (Snowy Owls, mergansers, and bufflehead ducks), to the stately coastal views as seen from atop the hill of the Crane Estate on the North Shore, there are many Trustees reservations to visit. (For date-specific winter events, see the "things to do" section of their website.)
As avid avian enthusiasts already know, there are bird species such as the Snowy Owl and the Snow Bunting that can typically only be seen in Massachusetts during the colder months. Bird watching beginners and those who want to get an idea of seasonal bird varieties, can explore eBird, a web-based interactive data source managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society. At eBird’s birding hotspots map page, you can check out what birds might be in your area at a given time of year, based on real-time birder observations.
Coastal-Related Indoor Activities
And after your outdoor adventures (or when it is just too cold to go outside), there are many coastal-themed indoor places to visit in Massachusetts.
- Lowell's Boat Shop Museum - This working museum in Amesbury showcases handmade dories and gives a history of boat making in the Merrimack valley. Open in the winter by appointment, or check their event's calendar.
- Museum of Science - Among the many ocean-related exhibits offered at this Boston museum, check out salty beaches and ocean cliffs in the climate-controlled comfort of their New England Habitats classic dioramas.
- New Bedford Whaling Park and Museum - This south coastal destination offers indoor and outdoor opportunities to explore the history of whaling.
- New England Aquarium - See seals, little (sometimes kissing) blue penguins, common cuttlefish, a 550-pound green sea turtle, and their water-bound friends and foes!
- Phillips House - Originally built by Captain Nathaniel West, who made his living navigating the sea, this 5th-generation family home in Salem showcases items he brought back from sea travels.
- Titanic Museum - Everything you ever wanted to know about the Titanic and then some can be found at this museum in Indian Orchard.