Travel

10 Suburbs Outside of Boston That Are Absolutely Worth a Visit

With picturesque main streets, scenic waterfronts, and under-the-radar restaurants, there's a lot to explore in these towns just outside of Boston.

Wangkun Jia/Shutterstock
Wangkun Jia/Shutterstock
Wangkun Jia/Shutterstock

Aside from the traffic, crowds, and high stress that Bostonians face, it’s hard to beat city living. All kidding aside, no matter how much we love our city, sometimes it’s time to shake up our urban ideals and start socializing farther afield.

Whether you seek shopping, sightseeing, beach time, or a restaurant scene that rivals Boston’s top spots, there’s a suburb just outside of Boston that has it covered-in fact, some of these destinations are so great, we wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to put down roots. From idyllic hamlets and beachside locales to true dining destinations, here are 10 suburbs outside of Boston that deserve a visit ASAP.

The Bancroft
The Bancroft
The Bancroft

Burlington

Distance from Boston: 30 minutes
Who knew one of the best dining scenes in the state would pop in unassuming Burlington, of all places? Yet there’s The Bancroft, a fantastic, classic steakhouse; L’Andana, a special-occasion trattoria; and the suburban outlet of oyster bar Row 34. But this northwest suburb has multiple appeals. Beyond the top-notch food options, there’s also the stunning natural oasis at the Landlocked Forest, history to be discovered, and a beautiful overnight boutique spot at the Archer Hotel.

NayaDadara/Shutterstock
NayaDadara/Shutterstock
NayaDadara/Shutterstock

Lexington and Concord

Distance from Boston: 30 minutes
We Bostonians tend to take all our landmark history for granted. But a stroll through the Minute Man National Historical Park could inspire even the most Revolutionary War-indifferent. That’s only the start of the charms of this twofer suburb. Shopping in downtown Concord is a throwback charmfest, between the indie bookstores (The Concord Bookshop and Barrow Bookstore) and The Concord Cheese Shop, beloved for its wines and sandwiches as well as its global cheese selection. And the rest of the dining opportunities are also great, from Il Casale Lexington to Woods Hill Table to 80 Thoreau. And then, of course, there’s the famous Walden Pond.

Pierrette Guertin/Shutterstock
Pierrette Guertin/Shutterstock
Pierrette Guertin/Shutterstock

Salem

Distance from Boston: 45 minutes
Honestly, the Halloween celebration is the least exciting feature of this historic town, given how overrun the place gets every year (although we’re excited that as of 2023, the Salem Horror Fest is now taking place in April). Instead, it’s about the history, the architecture, and the ever-more-exciting dining scene. You could spend a whole day museum-hopping, between the Peabody Essex Museum, the Salem Witch Museum, and The House of the Seven Gables. Explore the water with Mahi Cruises, or investigate its maritime history via the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. Bit Bar scratches your arcade itch and is alone worth a trip north, while fine-dining spots like Ledger, Counter, and Settler remind you that Greater Boston is hardly the only fine-dining game around. And you can’t skip town without grabbing a drink at The Roof, which affords you craft cocktails as well as panoramic views of the harbor.

Mill No. 5
Mill No. 5
Mill No. 5

Lowell

Distance from Boston: 50 minutes
Here’s a bit of trivia for you: Jack Kerouac AND Ed McMahon grew up here. The historic mill town fell on hard times for decades (see: The Fighter), but these days is a full-scale artistic haven. The Lowell Public Art Walk takes you past all manner of outdoor art, while Mill No. 5 is an indoor indie shopping mecca that hosts regular comedy shows, movie nights, and literary events. Boarding House Park hosts live music in the summer, Rogers Fort Hill Park offers easy in-city hikes, and of course, the town is still home to the Lowell Spinners. Once you work up an appetite, hit up Cobblestones for oysters and filet mignon in a former gentlemen’s club, then mosey over to the Worthen House, Lowell’s oldest tavern–where, by the way, Kerouac was known to knock back a few with the locals.

Yingna Cai/Shutterstock
Yingna Cai/Shutterstock
Yingna Cai/Shutterstock

Hudson

Distance from Boston: 55 minutes
Hudson is another industrial town in the midst of a renaissance. For starters, there’s a speakeasy: Less Than Greater Than, which you access through the ice cream parlor next door. That’s on top of the two local breweries, Medusa and Ground Effect; in other words, when you visit, you’ll be drinking well. The Main Street here is also as iconoclastic as it gets, and shopping local in the downtown area is a pure joy, what with home and clothing spots like Haberdash and Vintage Anthropology. Speciality food shops also abound (Mullahy’s Cheese Shop is a must), but don’t shop and run-stay to sample the divine pizza at Rail Trail Flatbread Co., excellent sushi at Feng, and the liquid nitrogen ice cream at New City Microcreamery.

DejaVuDesigns/Shutterstock
DejaVuDesigns/Shutterstock
DejaVuDesigns/Shutterstock

Hingham

Distance from Boston: 45 minutes
Just a ferry ride away from the city, Hingham is the ideal refuge for haughty yachtie wannabes. The Hingham Shipyard is where you can stare at beautiful boats for hours-and it’s also a shopping and dining haven that includes Alma Nove and Wahlburger’s, Paul Wahlberg’s high- and low-end dining ventures, as well as Trident Galley and Raw Bar. You’re also visiting a town whose public parks rival Boston’s: World’s End, Womaptuck State Park, and Weir River Farm combine to provide more than 600 acres of outdoor shenanigans. Hingham is also minutes from Nantasket Beach-and did we mention that the water ferry has a bar on board?

Steven Phraner/Shutterstock
Steven Phraner/Shutterstock
Steven Phraner/Shutterstock

Ipswich

Distance from Boston: 50 minutes
For starters, Crane Beach and its miles of pristine shoreline offers plenty of space to hike, fly kites, and walk the dog-and it’s pretty much all yours in the off-season. This town also offers a true taste of the Gilded Age thanks to the stunning Crane Estate. To bring you back down to earth, there’s the iconic Clam Box (and, if you dare cross the border into Essex, additional fried clam options at Woodman’s and J.T. Farnham’s). But Ipswich opens visitors up to a higher-falutin’ dining world beyond fried clams, too, especially at 1640 Hart House. If you’re a cycling enthusiast tired of the mean streets of Boston, you’ll be thrilled by the expansive mountain biking scene, or if you’re more into horses, stables are plentiful in this bucolic, stone-walled area.

Island Creek Oysters
Island Creek Oysters
Island Creek Oysters

Duxbury

Distance from Boston: 1 hour
Who wouldn’t want to visit (or live in!) the same town as Island Creek Oyster Farm? Or a place dotted with shingled saltbox homes, the likes of which you normally only see on the Cape? Or a South Shore shelter so revered that locals never want to leave? It’s all about fulfilling your coastal fantasies in Duxbury, where you can take sailing lessons at the Duxbury Bay Maritime School, tavern hop from Sun Tavern to Milepost to the Winsor House, which was recently reimagined by the Island Creek Oyster team. And, if you’re lucky, revel in the residents-only parking at Duxbury Beach.

Nashoba Valley Winery, Orchard and Restaurant
Nashoba Valley Winery, Orchard and Restaurant
Nashoba Valley Winery, Orchard and Restaurant

Groton

Distance from Boston: 1 hour
Looking to reconvene with nature? You need only head northwest for less than an hour to get your fix. The Luina Greine Farm lets you meet up with alpacas, miniature donkeys, and dwarf goats. Then see what critters you can spot at the Rocky Hill Wildlife Sanctuary (we’re gunning for baby porcupines). Get some exercise by hiking the Nashua River Rail Trail, then toast your back-to-nature habits with some locavore drinking at Nashoba Valley Winery, which also houses a brewery and distillery. Giblet Hill Grill might be the best steakhouse you’ve experienced and the buzzy Forge & VIne, which specializes in wood-fired fare and interesting wine pours, offers plenty of opportunities to snag a seat thanks to its barn-like space. And looking ahead, you should make time for the swimming pool and swim-up tiki bar at Nashoba Valley, slated to reopen June 1.

Plum Island Kayak
Plum Island Kayak
Plum Island Kayak

Newburyport

Distance from Boston: 1 hour
The first time you visit, you’ll go home grumbling about your own dirty-city existence. The second time, you’ll start perusing real estate. The tiny coastal city is a charming enclave that still grants you big-city trappings. You’ll start the day by strolling the streets and gawking at the 19th-century New England homes. Amazingly, you can also rent and launch a kayak right in town, but exercise can also be had on the walking trails on nearby Plum Island. Enjoy walking to fine-dining spots? BRINE brings you oysters and crudo, Sea Level Oyster Bar gives you a further fish fix, Michael’s Harborside provides the classic waterside dining experience, and The Poynt grants your palate an international experience.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

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Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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