Where should I live on the North Shore of Boston?
April 18, 2010 4:01 PM   Subscribe

Please help me figure out where to live on the North Shore of Boston.

I need to move to the North Shore of Boston (got a new job there), and I'm not sure which town would be the best fit for me and my partner. We did explore the area one day and liked the vibe of downtown Beverly. But now, looking at apartment ads on Craigslist, I'm seeing some seemingly nice places (hardwood floors, nicely maintained older buildings with charm, etc.) on the Lynn/Swampscott line and I'm wondering if I should also consider living in that area. Or maybe Gloucester? My ideal apartment would be in a safe, quiet area within walking distance to the water and a lively downtown area with an offbeat/artsy vibe (coffee shops, restaurants, library, etc.).

I am looking to rent, for now. My budget is under $1500/month.

Any advice you could offer would be much appreciated!

(anonymous because I haven't told my current employer that I am leaving.)
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Salem!! We live in a neighborhood in the slowly-revitalizing Bridge St. Neck area, and we can walk to downtown and to the commuter rail (30 minute train ride into Boston). I know the campy witch stuff in Salem can be a bit off-putting, but there's also a really vibrant downtown nightlife and some artsy stuff (I am not into artsy stuff so can't speak much about that). And there's the public library and private athenaeum in walking distance from downtown- and also a great indie bookstore that has lots of author events going on. We keep walking up to Beverly in the hopes of checking out some of their downtown stuff, but all the interesting looking restaurants seem to be closed every time we want to check them out. There are some cool secret beaches dotting the Salem and Beverly shores. If you have any Salem questions feel free to me-mail me, we've been here for about a year and absolutely love it (moved from Davis Square in Somerville, and every time we're back in Davis I remark that I really don't miss it at all).
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 4:48 PM on April 18, 2010

Sounds like you might enjoy Salem, MA. Halloween can get a bit nuts, but just off of the downtown area it is pretty quiet and I believe the rent is generally less than Beverly or Swampscott. There is certainly an offbeat element due to the city's past concerning witches.
posted by Captain Sunshine at 4:48 PM on April 18, 2010

Dammit. BATP beat me to it.
posted by Captain Sunshine at 4:49 PM on April 18, 2010

I live in Salem, on the North Shore.

Having biked quite extensively along the shore roads on the North Shore from Lynn to Gloucester this spring, I simply cannot say enough good things about the coastal areas of Gloucester. I vastly prefer their esplanade to the one in Revere Beach, and find Stage Fort Park vastly more interesting than Lynch Park in Beverly or Salem Willows in Salem. I haven't found an acceptable beach in the area yet (my bike travels have yet to take me north of St. Peter's Square), but Singing Beach in Manchester is only a few miles down the road.

South of Gloucester, there's an area split between Gloucester and Manchester called Magnolia. I rode a one-way coastal street called Shore Rd a few weeks ago, and found it by far the most enjoyable bicycling experience I've had yet this year, and I assume it'd be just as pleasant a walk.

For a more rural experience, there's a small, wooded area called Coolidge Reservation, with about a mile and a half of trails, just south of Magnolia.

Unfortunately, I cannot speak to any other amenities (coffee, etc.) afforded by Gloucester, or anywhere else on the North Shore, really; I always just go into Boston for a good time.

If transport into Boston figures into any of your calculations, note that Revere has T (subway) access, and Salem or any point south will have easy bus access, but north of Salem (including Beverly/Gloucester) your best bet will be commuter rail.

If you have any more specific questions, feel free to mefimail me, and I'll do my best to answer.
posted by The Confessor at 4:52 PM on April 18, 2010

If you're not freaked out by the prospect of Halloween all year, Salem is actually a pretty cool little city. It's most famous for the 17th century witch trials, so witch-themed kitschy museums are the major tourist attractions, but it was also a major seaport in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, so it has some other neat history and plenty of gorgeous historic buildings. The Peabody Essex museum is really cool (and witch-free). For some reason, Salem seems under-represented on Craigslist, but it's in your price range.
posted by oinopaponton at 5:01 PM on April 18, 2010

(ha! guess I'm not the only one with that idea)
posted by oinopaponton at 5:01 PM on April 18, 2010

Salem has the cachet, but Beverly is a wonderful town. The Cabot St. Cinema is one of my favorite places to see a movie, there's a nice little downtown area, and the North Shore Music Theatre is right near the highway.

I lived in both Salem and Beverly, and while I loved both, Beverly has all the charm of Salem without the tourists or college students.
posted by xingcat at 5:35 PM on April 18, 2010

My folks live in Lynn; I grew up there. My understanding is that Lynn's gone downhill in recent years, especially downtown and around Jefferson St., so you'll want to check crime stats and location pretty carefully.

Also, if you move to Pine Hill, my mother will critique your every yard and siding choice for the next 20 years whenever I call her. It's an OK neighborhood otherwise, it just lacks stuff to do besides "judging the neighbors."
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 5:39 PM on April 18, 2010

I live in Gloucester, close to downtown (and 100 yards from the train station!). I have a supermarket, four pizza places, chinese, seafood, and scads of other things within a 1-minute walk from me, PLUS all the great stuff downtown. I know rents here are very, very cheap but the buildings are usually outdated owner-occupied ones. Glosta has a very townie vibe and there's a few bars I'd never step foot in, there are testosterone-fueled bar fights a lot, and there's a lot of bad drunken behavior here. I live in what's considered the "bad" part of town, but the only things that ever happened were a bike stolen from our carport that was returned 5 months later, and someone also stole some polyurethane (for sniffing? dunno). We have backyard chickens, no one's fucked with them at all. People are actually pretty nice.

I LOVE Beverly, and Salem as well. Honestly, I'd suggest Salem but it really just depends on what town you're working in and what places are available to rent. The Swampscott/Lynn border isn't bad, but it's suburban and you have to drive everywhere - the nearest shops are at Vinnin Square, and it's all chains. My husband works at the whole foods nearby. The train station there (Swampscott) is EERIE at night, it's dark and desolate. But if you find something closer to downtown Salem or Beverly, there's a lot of great little shops and restaurants on both.

Just make sure you have some places nearby that are walkable. It makes a huuge difference around here. And memail me if you end up in Gloucester! I know very, very few people here.
posted by kpht at 6:56 PM on April 18, 2010

It might be too far north for you, but I would really recommend Newburyport. It's right on the water, has a great historic district and a super artsy downtown with lots to do, but is also immensely livable. It's got a very New England feel. It's far enough from Boston to not feel suburb-y, but it's right on the commuter rail, which can be helpful for mobility's sake.
posted by lunit at 10:12 PM on April 18, 2010

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