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Home » TRAVEL AND LODGING in MA » MASSACHUSETTS (all topics) » Which Bay?
An Aerial View of Hull, Massachusetts     BY: Doc Searls
Which Bay?

Part 1 - The Hidden Delights of Hull, Massachusetts

By Pippin Ross | July 03, 2012

It took a few weeks of hot-day summer swims at Massachusetts’ Nantasket Beach before I finally asked, “What is up with this water being so cold?”

I got the kind of answer every local loves to give, and every newbie local, like me, loves to hear: “Who cares? It keeps the beach from getting too crowded.”

A Lifeguard on Duty at Nantasket Beach
BY & COPYRIGHT: Philip Austin

Too bad it’s not true. The beach that wraps the outer peninsula of Hull, Massachusetts may be perpetually colder than just about anywhere else in the state, but it still attracts a big crowd on a good beach day. What do I mean by cold? On a classic 90-90 (degree/humidity) New England day in mid-August, the water still provokes an authentic gasp. Another theory liberally applied: “Whaddahya want? It’s the Irish Riviera. We thrive in cold climates with hot potatoes.” (Feel free to interpret that comparison any way you want.)

One of the common ailments among those of us who consider ourselves a ‘true New Englander’ is that our pomposity is steeped in ignorance. We ignore the fact that just because we know a lot about Maine, for example, we don’t really know jack about Rhode Island, except that its local accent actually trumps a BAWston accent.   When I moved from the western side of Massachusetts to the ‘south county’ town of Hull, it took me about five minutes to wonder, ‘how come I’ve never been to this part of my state?’

Admit it, if you don’t live in Massachusetts, you have probably never even heard of ‘south county’. If you do, and don’t live there, the only thing you know about it is that every town from Quincy to Plymouth are little more than road signs you see along Route 3 en route to Cape Cod - along with every other tourist on the planet.

To help, I will share what little I know. My knowledge is limited for two reasons: I’m still new to a place where the one thing I do know is that Hull is a secret few (myself included) are willing to expose. It is a miniature (6 mile) Cape Cod-shaped peninsula just south of Boston with ocean, beach, and bay.

Early Morning Fishing
BY & COPYRIGHT: Philip Austin

It’s a mellow, peaceful community where drivers stop to let you cross the street, houses are comparatively cheap, and a 20 minute ferry ride deposits you in downtown Boston.   I urge you to keep believing that Hull is still ‘Trashbasket.’ That’s the tag the town was given when Paragon Park, a turn-of-the (20th) century amusement park with a gag-reflex roller coaster, was erected to taint the once prestigious playground of New England’s late 19th, early 20th century über rich.   The only vestige of the grand and tacky 1908 amusement park is a stunning carousel, now a piece of art from the past.

When you hear Hull referred to as ‘the ghetto of Hingham’ don’t pay attention to the fact the remark is coming from a Talbot’s-wrapped Volvo driving Hinghamite about the fact that their town has little on Hull but an overabundance of swank colonials and, I’ll give ‘em this - a great library. Cohasset and Scituate are also part of the ‘Hull’s a Hullhole!’ contingent fueled by envy that Hull has the longest, sandiest beach around. Most important of all, Hull has the most direct access to a place I also never knew: Massachusetts Bay.

The facts on this part of the world make me want to resort to quiz show host:

What exactly is Massachusetts Bay?

It’s a 65 mile cul-de-sac of the Atlantic Ocean that extends from Cape Ann, a coast town north of Boston, to Plymouth where the Atlantic tucks into the Cape Cod’s inner arm and receives the name change of, you guessed it, Cape Cod Bay.

Why is the water colder than places like Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, those islands way off in the Atlantic?

Because the Massachusetts Bay is fed by the Gulf of Maine which suckles its existence from Canadian water, the trickle-down of the Arctic.   Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket are poised upon the warming Gulf Stream.

A 1910 Postcard of Nantasket Beach

What’s so great about Massachusetts Bay?

It’s the epicenter of a mighty lively piece of nautical history: The Boston Harbor Islands. If you’re not quite sure where those islands are, reflect upon the last time you landed at Logan Airport. Remember noticing the vast sprinkle of islands beneath the airplane until becoming distracted worrying about whether the pilot will plop the landing gear on the tarmac, not into the ocean? Those are the arguable 34 Boston Harbor islands (some are peninsulas) and they’re all packed with intrigue, and can be visited up close and personal on a trek that can begin and end within a few hours; unless you want to camp out for a night or two, which, upon several, you can do.

Bonus question: How many bays are there in the Massachusetts Bay?

Three: Dorchester Bay; Quincy Bay; Hingham Bay; and Boston Harbor - which is also a bay. My complete lack of knowledge is improving due to the hustle early obsession brings. Shortly after moving to my undiscovered, primo commuter village, I discovered that there is a regular commuter ferry that departs from the nor’eastern tip of Hull and lands at Boston’s Long Wharf.

Boston Ferry Sign
BY & COPYRIGHT: Philip Austin

The first thing I noticed about the ferry is its communally cheery chit-chat. Having previously commuted by subway, where human interaction is intentionally non-existent despite the fact that we’re often squishing our bodies together, it was almost surreal.

I was rapidly integrated into a group of women I immediately nicknamed the ‘Ferry Femmes’. Although I’m not interested in talking much at 8 in the morning en route to work, the 20 minute ride often whipped by with conversational content involving life, love, divorce, children, food, film, clothes, music, and politics - all in one ride!

The second thing I noticed occurred shortly after we left Hull’s dock to splash our way downtown. To the boat’s starboard side (I’m practicing talking nautical) I noticed that the island about 100 yards from Hull’s dock had its own antiquated, weather-beaten dock with an early 1900’s style brick building behind.

It appeared to be exactly the place Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo had pulled up to at the start of the film, Shutter Island.

“That’s Peddocks Island,” says Ruth. “It’s in Shutter Island. You should take a walk on it someday, it’s packed with history," she pauses, “all of the islands are packed with history.”

In Part 2 Pippin Ross explores the islands off the coast of Hull, Massachusetts, by way of a newly acquired boat - from Craig's List!

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