Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 128: Salisbury, Massachusetts

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 128:  Salisbury, Massachusetts
November 9, 2011

            This is the final stop on Massachusetts’ North Shore.  Salisbury is a popular summer resort town with a very well known beach.  Originally called 'Colchester,' the town of Salisbury was deeded to Secretary of the Massachusetts Bay Colony Simon Bradstreet on September 6, 1638 by Governor John Winthrop.  The land grant actually included a larger area encompassing the modern towns of Amesbury, Massachusetts and the towns of Seabrook, and South Hampton, New Hampshire among others.
March's Ordinary on Ring's Island
            Part of the charm of Salisbury can be found immediately upon entering the town on Route 1 over the Merrimack River from Newburyport.  A quick right turn will lead you to Rings Island, an historic fishing village.  The land that encompasses Ring Island was granted to Robert Ring of Salisbury on March 26, 1642.  It was two acres at the time and deeded to Ring on the condition that the land be used for fishing.
            Today Ring’s Island is filled with restored homes from hundreds of years ago as well as a beautiful view of Newburyport from the Salisbury Town Wharf.  The wharf houses a tremendous panoramic view stretching from the Rt. 1 bridge east to Plum Island.  Nearly straight ahead from where the wharf stretches out into the river one can easily see the diminutive Front Range Lighthouse along the shore with the tall, brick Rear Range Lighthouse a little further behind it.
Salisbury Parsonage at Minister's Corner c.1820
            One of the most historic homes I discovered on Ring’s Island is on 2nd Street.  March’s ‘Ordinary’, or Inn, was built in 1690.  The home was built for John March who in 1687 was granted the right to begin a ferry from Newbury to Ring’s Island.  In exchange for a tavern license March agreed to pay half of the cost of the route from his ferry to the town.  The Inn was in continuous use for 137 years which was when the first bridge was built across the Merrimack River making a ferry obsolete.
            Almost directly across the street from March’s Ordinary is another home of interest.  This one also sports the name John March, Captain John March to be exact.  It is a plain white home built in 1752 it states by Capt. John March.  I believe this must be a son as the elder March would have had to be very old if alive at all when this home was erected.  I particularly enjoyed the latitude and longitude markings on the front of the house.  Ring’s Island is a small area and can easily be seen in an hour or less.
            The town of Salisbury however is most noted for Salisbury Beach State Park and the waterfront Salisbury Beach area.  It is here that the true feel of the town is on display.  The State Park includes 521 acres and a nearly four mile long beach leading to the mouth of the Merrimack River.  There are also 484 sites in the park’s camping area which are open for use from early-May through late November when it is only opened Thursday through Saturday night.
A fishing vessel entering the Merrimack River.
            There are a few large parking areas for the beach but these surely fill up during the summer as Salisbury Beach is one of the most popular beaches in the entire state of Massachusetts.  I chose to park in the lot closest to the river with the best view of Plum Island across the water.  From here it is a short walk to the shore.  As luck would have it a classic fishing vessel was entering the mouth of the river as I arrived.  I was able to get plenty of great photos as it slowly returned into the harbor.
            I walked along the river shore out to the beach and was amazed at the view of the Salisbury Beach amusement area stretching north to the New Hampshire border.  The beach was not overly crowded on this day but there were still a good amount of people walking or sitting in chairs as the North Shore waves crashed on the sand.  Whether spending an afternoon on the beach or a night camping it is definitely a worthwhile trip to the Salisbury Beach State Park.
The sand sculpture of Snoopy at Salisbury Beach.
            Besides the state park area Salisbury Beach also has a classic amusement area that brings up visions of the Coney Island in New York, minus the rollercoasters.  The area I enjoyed is where Beach Road travels toward the ocean and then loops around to become Broadway.  There is an island in between the two roads where many sand sculptures were located.  Though the ravages of the wind had eroded parts of some they had remained intact for the most part.  I particularly enjoyed the sculpture of Snoopy sleeping on his dog house although this was one that had been worn out by the ocean winds.
            Surrounding the sculptures are typical shoreline attractions like arcades and movie theaters.  Names like Joe’s Playland and Hobo’s CafĂ© make this stretch of Salisbury unique and very popular all year long.  I was glad to visit when I did however as I can only imagine how packed the beach and amusement area is during the summer.  I highly recommend checking out the final stop along Massachusetts’ North Shore.  Whether it’s summertime or anytime, Salisbury is absolutely worth the drive from anywhere, have fun and happy traveling!   
My first book, In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, is now available at,, and, soon to be in stores everywhere!  Follow me on Twitter!

Directions:  Ring’s Island:  From I-95N take Exit 56, take slight right onto Scotland Road.  Follow it 2 miles, continue onto Parker Street, after .4 miles turn right to stay on Parker Street.  Take 3rd exit at rotary for Newburyport Turnpike, follow it 1.6 miles, take 1st right over the bridge for 1st Street.

            Salisbury Beach State Park:  From I-95 N take Exit 58A, take a slight right onto Rt. 110E.  Follow 2.1 miles, take left onto Bridge Road.  Take 2nd right onto Beach Road, follow 1.9 miles, turn right onto State Beach Road.