Piece of the ACK-tion

Island living is large—if you can afford it. Here are five towns close to Boston that approximate Nantucket life, sans the six-figure property taxes.

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Photograph courtesy of iStockphoto

Rockport

Bring your oil paints

This peninsula on the North Shore has a thriving cultural scene complete with galleries and a performing-arts center.

Population › 7,044

Area › 17.6 square miles

Average sale price over 12 months › $514,601

Beaches › Six beaches and nearly zero public parking keep out the riffraff.

Historical charm › Twin lighthouses (built in 1771) mark Thacher Island. Old Castle, built circa 1712, has housed six generations of Rockporters.

Food › Dozens of eateries line the town’s main streets.

Recreation › Thacher Island and Halibut Point State Park offer walking, hiking, and cross-country ski trails.

Summer fun › A local band plays at Back Beach on Sundays.

What the locals say › “We’re boaters, and whenever we go to the islands, we say, ‘Oh—we have the same thing at home,’” says Lynda Hemeon, a local real estate agent and Rockport native.

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Photograph courtesy of Mattapoisett Boat Yard

Mattapoisett

Come Join the Yacht Set

Once a shipbuilding town, Mattapoisett is now perfect for recreational sailors who come for its harbor on Buzzards Bay.

Population › 6,400

Area › 17.5 square miles

Average sale price over 12 months › $398,502

Beaches › The three beaches here are tiny, so the area stays quiet.

Historical charm › Ned’s Point Lighthouse was built in 1838. The Inn at Shipyard Park is the country’s oldest seaside inn.

Food › Enjoy barbecue cooked on a wood-fired smoker at the South Coast Local Diner.

Recreation › The Mattapoisett Rail Trail leads to nearby Fairhaven.

Summer fun › Harbor Days Festival takes over the waterfront in July.

What the locals say › “I’ve sold houses to people who left Nantucket and came here because it had the coastal-village feeling they were looking for,” says Anne Bramhall, of Robert Paul Properties.

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Photograph courtesy of the Patriot Ledger

Marshfield

A Working Man’s Paradise

This low-key beach town features weathered cottages tightly packed on streets that dead-end at sandy shores.

Population › 25,000 (year round); 40,000 (in summer months)

Area › 31.7 square miles

Average sale price over 12 months › $397,645

Beaches › Professional lifeguards watch over the town’s five beaches.

Historical charm › Marshfield’s 19th-century general store (known as “The General”) was saved by native celeb Steve Carell in 2009.

Food › Tuck into a seaside breakfast at Arthur & Pat’s.

Recreation › The North River Wildlife Sanctuary attracts avian fans.

Summer fun › The Marshfield Fair is a 145-year-old tradition.

What the locals say › “People go to the pier and watch the boats bring in the king-size tunas. Then buyers from around the world make bids,” says real estate agent Betsy Hines.

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Photograph courtesy of iStockphoto

Scituate

This Deal Won’t Last Long

Close to Boston but still quaint, Scituate is an unpretentious alternative to Duxbury and Hingham.

Population › 18,234

Area › 16.9 square miles

Average sale price over 12 months › $491,205

Beaches › Five sandy beaches with lifeguards mean plenty of umbrella space for all.

Historical charm › The Old Scituate Lighthouse (1810) and Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse (1850) continue to warn ships of undersea dangers.

Food › Oro and other fine-dining spots mix with townie staples like Cosmos, Riva, and the Mill Wharf.

Recreation › Cyclists and strollers enjoy the town’s bike trail and Harborwalk.

Summer fun › Heritage Days bring games, local crafts, and music to town every August.

What the locals say › “You walk through the harbor and people smile and say hi to each other,” says Margie McShane, of Coldwell Banker.

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Photograph courtesy of Dreamstime

Ipswich

So Much to Beach About

Fried-clam lovers and antiques buffs find their fix here.

Population › 13,531

Area › 33 square miles

Average sale price over 12 months › $462,815

Beaches › The only time Crane Beach’s four miles of sandy shoreline isn’t crowded is when the greenheads take over in July.

Historical charm › Ipswich has 59 First Period homes (1626 to 1725), more than any other town in the United States.

Food › The Clam Box has been dishing up plates of deep-fried seafood since 1938.

Recreation › Castle Hill has four miles of trails and roads that surround the Great House.

Summer fun › In July and August, the Crane Estate hosts picnic concerts on the lawn on Thursday evenings.

What the locals say › “We have eight humongous mansions, beautiful homes, and some teensy-weensy 80-year-old houses,” says Jean Moss, of Olde Ipswich Tours.


Still Want Nantucket?

There are few buildable plots in Nantucket, a problem that has resulted in overcrowded enclaves of McMansions. So if privacy is what you seek, be prepared to spend major cash on people-buffering land. This 75-acre seaside estate—now worth more than six times what it fetched in 1997—was renovated a few years ago and has all the luxe amentities you’d expect. Something it doesn’t have? Neighbors. —Rachel Slade

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Photograph courtesy of Great Point Properties

ON THE MARKET

Address › 260 Polpis Rd., Nantucket

Listing Price › $47.5 million

Listing agents › Bill Liddle, Greg McKechnie, Sam Parsons, and Edward Sanford, Great Point Properties, 508-228-2266, greatpointproperties.com

Stats › Nine bedrooms, nine baths, one half bath, a boathouse, and a barn

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