Needless to say, a lot of things look different this summer. Thankfully that also includes traffic, since nobody ever needs another four-hour commute to the Cape in their lives. This year, take advantage of the clearer roads and explore some restaurants across the state. Because let’s face it - you’ve already rearranged all the furniture five times, and a sixth will do nothing for your mental health. Here are seven great restaurants outside the city worth visiting, all within a two-and-a-half-hour drive. While you’re out there, hike a mountain, swim in the ocean, and (safely) enjoy what the season offers.
All drive times are approximate, starting from Downtown Boston.
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Drive Time: 1 hour
Operating Hours: Noon-Twilight every day
If you’ve accepted mediocrity for the night, then you should hit play on any movie starring Will Ferrell. But if you’re looking for a far more enjoyable time, then you should head to Duxbury, where you’ll also find a food truck that’s the epitome of all things New England. Grilled lobster, clam steamers, and the freshly-shucked oysters are served right by the bay where the namesake bivalves are farmed. Throw in a few glasses of rosé, and soon you’ll forget all about how bad Daddy’s Home 2 truly is.
Drive Time: 1 hour
Operating Hours: 11am-7pm every day except Tuesday
While Island Creek Oyster Bar, filled with newer filament bulbs and Ryan Gosling look-alikes, is a bit like Blade Runner 2049, the Clam Box in Ipswich is more akin to the original film. It’s a classic spot that’s been serving fried clams to die-hard fans since 1935, and the rest of the menu is filled with even more heavily-battered sea creatures - the true spirit animal of Boston summers. The only downside is there’s no patio here, but Crane Beach is only a short drive away, so head over once you’ve obtained your platter. Clams always taste better while you’re sitting in the sand anyway.
Drive Time: 2 hours
Operating Hours: 5-10pm every day except Tuesday
What’s P-town without Bear Week and swarms of people on the streets? Actually, a pretty quaint and beautiful place to spend a few days this summer. If you choose to do so, make sure to stop by Strangers & Saints, a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant located in a former sea captain’s home. There’s a stellar garden patio there, and as you sip on a rosé-sake sangria between bites of clam dip, you can contemplate your outfit for next year’s bear gathering.
Drive Time: 1 hour
Operating Hours: 11:30am-8:30pm daily
It’s probably sacrilegious to say that Maine has the best lobster shacks, but since our northern neighbors aren’t really letting us visit at the moment, we’ll put that topic aside for now. In any case, The Lobster Pool in Rockport is a decent substitute. It’s a counter-service spot where live lobsters are cooked to-order and, most importantly, you’ll get to eat right by the ocean. No fancy designer chairs or colorful umbrellas here, by the way. Just you, a crustacean, and it’s former home - you don’t really need much else this summer.
Drive Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes
Operating Hours: 11am-10pm daily
We would probably drive two and a half hours away for the best soft serve in the world, but honestly, it’s a stretch to put that label on Krispy Cones in Lanesborough. However, this place is perfect to visit right after a moderate hike up Mount Greylock, the highest peak in the state of Massachusetts. There are over 100 different flavors of soft serve here, with ample patio space to remain socially-distanced from the inevitable summer masses. If you prefer to skip the hike, we won’t tell anyone.
Drive Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Operating Hours: 11am-9pm daily
One of the downsides of living on the East Coast is not having many places to watch the sun set across a body of water. That’s one of the reasons why the southwest-facing patio at the Lobster Trap is great, especially with a coconut-raspberry vodka cocktail in hand. Additionally, there’s a lot more to the menu here than fifteen iterations of fried seafood and a lone chicken tender plate. To be clear, we like battered shrimp just as much as the next Bostonian, but garlic broth mussels and grilled swordfish are nice options as well.
Drive Time: 30 minutes
Operating Hours: 11am-6pm, Thurs-Sat
In theory, you could make the quick drive over to Saltbox Kitchen in Concord and be back before the end of your lunch break. But there’s no fun in that, primarily due to the drab nature of Route 2. So we recommend a half-day biking adventure instead along the Minuteman Path, which begins in Cambridge. The 18-mile ride will take you on some nice tree-lined roads, after which you can enjoy a great brunch or lunch, with produce right from the Saltbox Farm. They also brew their own beer, just in case you need some extra carbs for the ride home.