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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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