So, now I have the answer next time another visitor who has “stumbled” upon Newburyport and is all flushed with excitement because they had not made original plans to be in this place, and consequently, can only allot a quickie stop over.
And they want a quickie summation of the place before they are forced to “move on”. *
So after much thought, I came up with this:
First thing to do is a visual tour: drive (with short walks along the way) through the following experiences – start off with Atkinson Common park in the east and walk through it – then get back in your car and follow that visual feast by travelling down High Street. Avoid going down any street, just keep straight ahead and take in the views, you will pass churches, our beautiful High School, the Bartlett Mall (pronounced Mahl) and The Ridge. As you go along, more questions than answers will be popping through your head as you see one mansion after another. Continue until you see the sign that says you are entering the Town of Newbury. Just before that, take a hard left and continue down Marlboro Street until you reach the river and Water Street. Take a left and start looking mostly to the right (making sure the driver doesn’t overly gawk and cause an accident – there is much to take in.) Downtown, refrain from going left up State and continue along the river, this is now Merrimac Street. Once at the Route One underpass, you will need to make a decision. If you wish mostly a driving tour, then continue westward, stopping along the way at Moseley Woods City Park and take in the breathtaking views. Briefly cross the Chain Bridge into Amesbury, taking an immediate left on the other side and continue along the river for even more majestic views. Once you cross a bridge, take a left and go down to a parking area by a marina. Turn around and back track back across the Chain Bridge. Once on the other side, continue straight up the hill until you see an intersection – take a right and follow the road until you arrive at Maudslay State Park. Hidden inside is a magnificent garden but you must walk to it and you must pay for parking. If you’re going to stop there, stroll west down the road in front of the park until you reach a small pedestrian bridge. That is Curzon Mills and simply beautiful. As you walk back you will pass a grand gate called the Gates of Hell. (save your questions for later.)
Backtracking to Merrimac Street at the underpass, if you wish to stay downtown, then walking is the best way. Take a left in your car up Winter Street just beyond the underpass, then take a left onto High Street again. Continue to Green Street, turn left and continue down to the Green Street Central Parking Facility. If it is full, drive over by the water and there are two parking areas there. All of them are paid parking.
Head for the Visitor’s Booth by the outdoor bathroom facilities and pick up one of the Resort Maps, an Art Walk Brochure and a Clipper Heritage Tour Brochure. One will guide you on restaurants and shops, one on art and the other on our history. You are now set – keep in mind that even if you not in the best of health, everything is close – just take your time and enjoy the views. And of course, don’t miss walking the boardwalk. And if you happen upon our farmer’s market on Sunday or one of our many festivals, more fun to you. If you get disoriented, just look for the granite markers in the sidewalk and check your brochure (or iPhone if you’re using that) and you will again know where you are.
Now, by the time you are done, you are now bursting with questions as to what you have seen. And the heritage tour won’t inform you of any of the significance. Nor the resort map tell you where are the best places. I suggest you visit the visitor booth and the chamber and ply them with questions. As for art, go to the Newburyport Art Association which is right next to the in-town Lighthouse and get the lowdown there. But if you want to know the “WHY” , you need to go to the Custom House Maritime Museum and tour the facility. The docents there will love to give you answers. And, keep in mind, they focus on the sea; you will need to go to the Cushing House Museum back on High Street that will cover all our history. You will be astounded at their vast collection as well as their helpfulness.
Wrap up your experience along with fresh air by either taking a harbor tour or heading east on Water Street to the Audubon Center and across the street, to the Parker River Wildlife Center. Then finish it up by a drive out to Plum Island and enjoy the airport, the beaches, or drive some more inside the wildlife preserve to get to more trails and views.
Of course, I am assuming from my original post, you’ve got only two days. If you are flexible and can add some more time; there is more to do – take your pick: A tour of the Old South, a fishing trip or a Whale Watch and a show at the Performing Arts Center at the Firehouse. More time will allow you to hike our many nature trails and take in the majestic Great Marsh by biking or walking our rail trails which extend over the Gillis Bridge. You can get back to Route 1A and visit our neighboring town of Newbury and visit the Spencer-Pierce-Little Farm and Tendercrop Farm. (great for children as both have petting zoo facilities)
As for getting ALL your questions answered – sorry – there is only one place – right here on this website.
* Of course, they are now doomed and must return as this place sticks in the heart like a dart! And the only way to extract that dart is to return it to its origin!