I won’t call it Nantrashket. I won’t complain there’s “nothing to do here.” I won’t even make fun of the tough kids who cruise the beach in souped-up cars at night.
No. I love the town of Hull, which juts into the Boston Harbor at a spindly angle, because of the time I spent there in high school, my friends loaded into my old Chevy, playing mini golf or swinging lazily in the hammock on one of their front porches.
Hull, to me, is summer.
But my visit there on a recent, mild November Sunday, was a reminder that the town has more to offer than just the beach. First of all, there’s a stunning view of the water almost anywhere you look, and its residential neighborhoods (beyond Nantasket) are like a time machine to the Victorian era, when wealthy Bostonians made Hull their summer home.
Spend some time at Nantasket itself, and take a walk or fly a kite along the water, while you enjoy an unblemished view of the Atlantic. During storms, the waves put on a great show, but this past weekend, they were tame. Folks in jeans and sweatshirts walked with their families and dogs along the sand at low tide, and parking — unlike in the summer months — was plentiful.
We had lunch at Jake’s Seafoods, a combination fish market/seafood restaurant that literally hangs over the harbor. I sprung for the reasonably priced lobster bisque ($7) and it was fantastic; full of strips of lobster meat and seasoned with a little kick. I was still feeling way too full to eat dinner six hours later.
My travel buddy for the day (my mom) said the clam strip platter was excellent as well.
Were it busy season, we could have killed a few hours playing miniature golf and checking out the beachside businesses, but instead we hopped in the car for a ride north.
The village is worth a trip, if just to see the houses: Everything from modern mansions and impeccably restored Victorians to humble beach bungalows and ramshackle cottages. Any side street will take you to the ocean: in most parts of the town, you can walk from its eastern border to its western border in less than five minutes.
There’s no question the Hullians have made the most of the space on their peninsula. Even the largest and most elaborate waterfront homes are a stone’s throw from their neighbors. As you near Hull High School, which is directly on the tip of the town and must beat any public school for location, parts of the road are lined with small cottages, whose back yard is the sea.
Hull has its downsides, to be sure. It’s a pain to access it — if visiting from the north or west, make sure you don’t get caught in the ongoing construction at Neponset Circle in Quincy, and head in instead from Route 3 south to Route 228 (Exit 14) as far east as it’ll take you. Parking at the beach is impossible if you’re a late arrival on a hot, sunny day. And some of the entertainment venues toe the line between fun and sketchy.
Still, I’d recommend a visit, especially if you’re not fully committed to suffering through Cape Cod traffic on a summer vacation. Rentals are comparable in Hull (or less expensive). Day trips in the area are plentiful: Take the MBTA ferry (from Hingham) right into Boston, or take a boat to one of the Boston Harbor Islands, which offer hikes, camping and natural exploration. For restaurants, Hull has a strong showing from standard beach-town spots like Barefoot Bob’s and the Red Parrot, but there’s also the better-than-average Jake’s and the outstanding (if very pricey) Bridgeman’s, from brother-of-celebrities chef Paul Wahlberg. If shopping is your thing, Hull may not be your ideal destination, but nearby Hingham and Cohasset both boast plenty of options.
One of the cool retail spots to see in Hull is the original Johnny Cupcakes store. Founded by accident about a decade ago by Hull resident Johnny Earle, the designer T-shirt store looks like a bakery but offers up cool designs for men, women and children. I couldn’t justify the purchase I wanted to make — it had a panda eating a cupcake!! — because I’m not sure I’d get my money’s worth from a $35 T-shirt.