The harbor in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Editorial credit: Mystic Stock Photography /

10 Underappreciated Towns to Visit in Massachusetts

From spectacular coastal scenery and Revolutionary War heritage to old colonial homes, Massachusetts is one of the most interesting states on the East Coast. Scattered across its territory is an assortment of fun destinations promising travelers a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Although famous cities like Boston get the lion's share of tourist traffic through the Bay State, many more charming towns outside the major highways make for exciting vacation bases.

Off the well-beaten path are countless communities with unique historic and cultural allure waiting to be discovered. From mountain hamlets to Cape Cod enclaves, these lesser-known towns to visit in Massachusetts deliver memorable getaways filled with scenic beauty, entertainment, and an authentic taste of Bay State living beyond the crowds.


Historic Deerfield Museum Gift Shop and Bookstore in Deerfield, Massachusetts.
Historic Deerfield Museum Gift Shop and Bookstore in Deerfield, Massachusetts. Image credit Alizada Studios via

This Connecticut River town in Franklin County is home to interesting historical sites and museums that have allowed its heritage tourism to thrive. A visit to Historic Deerfield reveals a cluster of 12 historic home museums offering a window into 18th-century New England. The Memorial House Museum is another must-visit for history explorers in Deerfield. Opened in 1880, this quaint brick structure exhibits a vast collection of paintings, furnishings, textiles, and other artifacts sourced from around New England, presenting a rich perspective of the region's heritage.

Deerfield's backcountry presents ardent outdoorsmen with plenty of opportunities, thanks to nature areas like Mount Sugarloaf State Reservation. This rugged preserve beckons picnickers, hikers, campers, and nature viewers, spoiling them with panoramic vistas of the Connecticut River.

Shelburne Falls

The beautiful flower bridge in Shelburne Falls, Masachusetts.
The beautiful flower bridge in Shelburne Falls, Masachusetts.

A hidden gem in Franklin County, Shelburne Falls remains unexplored for many tourists passing through Massachusetts. It stands out for scenic natural attractions and a quirky small-town feel that invites exploration on foot. The few visitors who come to Shelburne Falls rush to stroll along the Bridge of Flowers. This historic footbridge connects Shelburne and Buckland and is lined with thousands of colorful flowers and shrubs, culminating in stunning scenery and a serene atmosphere. Shelburne Falls houses a friendly community that welcomes residents to experience its warmth and culture at the Hager's Farm Market, with a chance to shop for fresh produce.

Strolling through the downtown district, travelers will notice a series of Victorian structures with unique architecture, hinting at the town's storied past. This is well documented inside the Shelburne Historical Society, which features a variety of archives and artifacts detailing local history.


Downtown street in Nantucket, Massachusetts.
Downtown street in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Image credit Gretchen Mystic Stock Photography via Shutterstock

While the East Coast is chock-full of charming summer getaways, Natucket's laid-back tropical vibes last beyond the warm season. This scenic island escape off Cape Cod is known for its pristine beaches, picturesque lighthouses, and bustling restaurant scene. Beachgoers are spoilt for choice, with areas like Madaket Beach and Surfside Beach offering sandy shores and clear waters perfect for sunbathing and swimming. Nantucket's brilliant lighthouses are not only alluring to the eyes but also offer a glimpse of the town's maritime heritage. The Great Point Lighthouse is among the most recognized local landmarks and dates back to 1784 when it was built.

Away from the coast, Downtown Nantucket houses a rich range of attractions, from restaurants and breweries to museums. Noteworthy among these is the Whaling Museum, which delights guests with a 44-foot sperm whale skeleton exhibit.


Buildings in downtown Northampton, Massachusetts.
Buildings in downtown Northampton, Massachusetts. Image credit: AlexiusHoratius via Wikimedia Commons.

Northampton's booming cultural landscape features an impressive mix of art galleries, performance art centers, and music venues, making it an excellent destination for culture vultures. The town hosts Smith College, which has helped elevate the local art scene with venues like the Smith College Museum of Art. Established in 1870, it has a vast collection of intricate artworks. Northampton also charms tourists with the Academy of Music, captivating them with an assortment of performances by nationally and internationally recognized artists inside a world-class venue.

Several idyllic nature areas provide outdoor lovers with the right atmosphere to enjoy the open spaces. The Botanic Garden of Smith College stands out for its tranquil environment and comes to life in summer and fall with its display of color.


The quaint town of Sandwich, Massachusetts.
The quaint town of Sandwich, Massachusetts.

One of the oldest towns to visit in Massachusetts' Cape Cod, Sandwich traces its history to the 1630s when it was first settled. It harbors a range of historical markers that provide proof of its storied legacy while offering visitors a look into its past. A good example is the Cape Cod Canal Visitor Center, where guests can find different artifacts and memorabilia chronicling the region's history. The Sandwich Glass Museum is also a worthy stopover for history lovers, boasting a unique collection of glassware documenting the town's glassmaking heritage.

Meanwhile, Scorton Creek invites adventurers to spend quality time outdoors. The area features a tranquil setting with well-maintained trails for hikers and secluded fishing spots. It comes in handy for visitors looking to get away from the crowds and enjoy some alone time.


Stage Harbor at Chatham, Massachusetts in Cape Cod.
Stage Harbor at Chatham, Massachusetts in Cape Cod.

This charming Cape Cod village draws tourists with its exciting cluster of family-friendly attractions, known for its beaches, lighthouses, museums, and lovely downtown area. Chatham's Atlantic Ocean location provides a selection of beautiful beaches popular among tourists, such as Ridgevale Beach and Harding Beach. It also harbors a couple of postcard-worthy lighthouses that have been a conspicuous sight in the town since the 19th century, highlighted by the Chatham Lighthouse. This iconic landmark was initially erected in 1808 and provides sweeping views of the Chatham Bars Inn.

Downtown Chatham is jam-packed with captivating points of interest that will take the whole day to go through. If you are a fan of retro experiences, consider taking a tour of Atwood Museum, a restored 18th-century home with archives and documents about Chatham's colorful history.


University of Massachusetts Amherst Campus in the town of Amherst, Massachusetts
University of Massachusetts Amherst Campus in the town of Amherst, Massachusetts. Editorial credit: Feng Cheng /

This bustling college town in Hampshire County offers a little bit of everything to ensure all its visitors are entertained, from interesting museums and quaint art centers to fun outdoor reactions and a lively farmers market. Museum enthusiasts will want to check out the Beneski Museum of Natural History, which indulges guests in an insightful lesson. The facility hosts a vast collection of exhibits, with more than 1,700 specimens on display. Meanwhile, the Emily Dickinson Museum offers a look into the town's past through a historic home built in the 19th century.

Those seeking an escape to the great outdoors can take advantage of the vast wilderness of Mount Holyoke Range State Park. Covering almost 3,000 acres, the nature area harbors a mixed habitat of wetlands, woodlands, and thickets, with opportunities for hikers, campers, hunters, and other adventurers.


Sharon, Massachusetts, town center
Sharon, Massachusetts, town center

Situated less than 20 miles from downtown Boston, Sharon easily gets forgotten about with so much to see and do in the big city. However, this adorable suburb boasts a selection of interesting attractions that take you away from the crowds. It has lovely nature spaces with serene atmospheres, including Memorial Park Beach, inviting tourists to enjoy a relaxing swim or picnic. Ardent adventurers who prefer to venture into the wilderness will prefer hiking the forested trails cutting through Mass Audubon's Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary.

Additionally, Sharon's modest history can be explored inside the Sharon Historical Society. Although small, the facility exposes visitors to a wonderful collection of documents, archives, and other exhibits providing background to the town.


Hamilton-Wenham Public Library
Hamilton-Wenham Public Library

This charming Essex County community is known for its history and horses and entices visitors with quintessential small-town flair. Its relaxed environment features a network of outdoor spaces with various recreation activities. Among these is Patton Park, which provides a range of public facilities, including tennis courts, a playground, and walking trails. Those who want to take their recreations to the open sea can book a fishing trip on the New England coasts, courtesy of Greasy Beaks Flyfishing.

The downtown neighborhood hosts a lively bar and restaurant scene, with numerous joints acting as the ideal hangout after a long day of exploring the town. Tourists can try out 15 Walnut Tavern, which serves eclectic dishes to go with refreshing cocktails.


Rockport Harbor, Rockport, Massachusetts
Rockport Harbor, Rockport, Massachusetts. Image credit Keith J Finks via Shutterstock

Encircled by the clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Rockport is a spectacular spot for travelers who enjoy coastal escapades. It is home to Halibut Point State Park, a granite outcrop separating the ocean from the mainland. Standing on the platform places visitors at a vantage point to soak in stunning views of the rocky shoreline on one side and colorful wildflowers on the other side. The Rockport community has a deep appreciation for the arts, and this is evident from the numerous galleries scattered around the downtown. Art enthusiasts can stop by the Art of David Arsenault or Ken Knowles Fine Art to check out local creations.

A trip to Rockport will not be complete without sampling the local cuisine. The town's coastal setting allows travelers to enjoy sumptuous seafood served at the Lobster Pool, featuring delicacies like haddock sandwiches.

The Takeaway

While Massachusetts undoubtedly boasts world-class cities and destinations along its historic coastline, venturing further inland or seeking out the quiet Cape Cod towns rewards travelers with an authentic experience of Bay State living. Exploring these underrated towns to visit in Massachusetts exposes newcomers to fresh and unique adventures while ensuring they gain a deeper appreciation for the state's diverse character through cultural treasures, recreational gems, and natural beauty beyond the well-trodden routes.

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