Perfect Mass afternoons, from Lynn to Hingham
Now that the warmer weather is firmly in place, thoughts turn for many to hiking and walking, especially after the endless winter and cabin fever that was due in part to the pandemic. Patio season is here as well, of course, and it may still be the best option for dining since indoor spaces still feel a bit dicey (and takeout/delivery are really starting to get old).
A particularly fun day out is to combine hiking and eating, which might take a little planning, especially if you don’t want to drive far between the two (or, better yet, want to find hiking areas that are within walking distance of restaurants). Some great options can be found in the Greater Boston area and just beyond, and the ones below include both difficult treks and easy strolls (and these are all casual dining spots because you’re bound to be a bit grubby after a hike).
Lynn Woods/Four Winds, Lynn
Often bypassed and rather unappreciated except by those in the know, the Lynn Woods certainly rivals the Middlesex Fells and other conservation areas north of Boston in terms of scenery, with the northern section (which is north of the “other” Walden Pond) being particularly rugged and remote. If you like hilltop and cliff top views, you’ll love this section of the park, and the Great Woods lot is a bit closer to a beloved pub on Sluice Pond called Four Winds, which is only a couple of minutes away by car. Four Winds—which sits on what the locals call “Lake Lynnapesaukee”—has one of the nicest lakeside patios in the Greater Boston area and is a place where locals chow down on burgers, pizza, wings, and more while enjoying the breezes and often-spectacular sunsets.
Lynn Woods, 150 Great Woods Rd., Lynn. lynnma.gov/cityhall_documents/maps/misc_maps/Lynn_Woods_2020.pdf
Four Winds Pub & Grill, 265 Broadway, Lynn. fourwindspub.com
Charlestown Navy Yard/Brewer’s Fork, Charlestown
One of the best places in Boston to walk during the pandemic, the navy yard is mostly quiet away from the more touristy areas and consists of wide, safe-feeling walkways. The area has some real beauty, including a viewing area at the end of Pier 7 (also known as Constellation Wharf) and another viewing area way out in the water east of Spaulding Rehab. If you start to get hungry during your walk, head under the Mystic Bridge at Bunker Hill Street to Brewer’s Fork, a friendly neighborhood restaurant and bar that is known in part for its sublime wood-fired pizza and its beer and cocktails. And yes, it has a beer garden that is a perfect place to spend some time before walking back to the navy yard.
Charlestown Navy Yard, Charlestown. nps.gov/bost/learn/historyculture/cny.htm
Brewer’s Fork, 7 Moulton St., Charlestown. brewersfork.com
Brookline Staircases/The Publick House, Brookline
For a truly weird day in the great outdoors, head over to Brookline after you’ve done some research and hit some or all of the many staircases that can be found mostly around Corey Hill and Aspinwall Hill, which basically rise north and south of Washington Square, respectively (on either side of Beacon Street). Highlights include the thigh-burning Summit Path leading from Beacon Street to the top of Corey Hill and the cozy-feeling Addington Path, which leads from Winthrop Road to the top of Aspinwall Hill. When you’ve had enough, head back down to Washington Square to the outdoor “shed” at the Publick House where you can dine on some excellent comfort food and drink some marvelous beers, including top local and European options.
Brookline Staircases, Brookline. walkboston.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/WalkBoston-BrooklineMap.pdf?8621dc&8621dc [note—there are more staircases than shown on this map, so feel free to further research/explore]
The Publick House, 1648 Beacon St., Brookline. publickhousebrookline.wordpress.com
Burrage Pond/Venus III, Hanson
There are few things as peaceful as taking a walk through a cranberry bog, and this wildlife area takes that to the extreme, as Burrage Pond is home to an abandoned bog that was once one of the biggest in the entire world. Here you’ll find easy, flat, and wide walkways with stunning views of wetlands and water, and when you’re done, it’s a short five-minute ride to Venus III, a large restaurant, bar, and function hall that features a great version of that most regional of South Shore foods—bar pizza. The Venus also has a hidden back patio overlooking a pond, and since so many people stay indoors to watch the games on TV, you may even have the deck to yourself.
Burrage Pond, Hawks Ave., Hanson. nsrwa.org/listing/burrage-pond-wildlife-management-area
Venus III, 252 Main St., Hanson. venus3.com
Habitat/Patou Thai, Belmont
The town of Belmont, much like its neighbors to the north, west, and south, is extremely hilly in spots, with Belmont Hill pretty much towering over the downtown area. Right in the heart of Belmont Hill is Habitat, a Mass Audubon property that feels far away from downtown Boston just a few miles to the east and includes verdant pastures and fields, deep forests, and a pond where you’ll likely see turtles. Leaving Habitat, take a leisurely walk down little-trafficked Somerset Street, which will take you right into Belmont Center where you can dine on some excellent Southeast Asian fare at Patou Thai. And because Leonard Street is partially closed to traffic, dining outdoors is a no-brainer, though don’t eat too much because it’s quite a steep walk back to Habitat (you can also drive, of course).
Habitat, 10 Juniper Rd., Belmont. massaudubon.org/get-outdoors/wildlife-sanctuaries/habitat
Patou Thai, 69 Leonard St., Belmont. patouthai.com
Somerville Community Path/Mike’s Food & Spirits, Somerville
A peaceful urban walkway that has expanded over the years and is in the process of expanding even more, the Somerville Community Path stretches from Lowell Street east of Davis Square westward to the Cambridge/Somerville line near Mass Ave where it becomes the Alewife Linear Park. The eastern part of this walkway may eventually connect to paths that lead to the Charles River, but for now, the walkway is still plenty long enough to make for a good stroll (especially when combined with the Linear Park). When you reach the Davis Square part of it, a good stop for a quick bite is Mike’s, a longtime fave for pizza, burgers, pasta dishes, seafood, and beer that has a great patio for people-watching.
Somerville Community Path, Somerville. pathfriends.org/scp
Mike’s Food & Spirits, 9 Davis Square, Somerville. mikesdavissquare.com
Borderland State Park/Shovel Town, Easton
One of the largest conservation areas south of Boston is Borderland, a deeply wooded space with countless trails, bucolic pockets in the northern section where you might not see anyone, gorgeous ponds, a historic estate, and if you’re lucky enough to have a DCR parking pass for the Bay Road lot by Lincoln Street (rather than the main lot off Massapoag Avenue on the other side which has a pay station), you’ll be very close to the charming village of North Easton. Why is this important? Well, North Easton is home to Shovel Town Brewery, a laid-back spot in a quiet area of town where you can sit outside and eat pizza or sandwiches while drinking some truly great beers. (The main lot isn’t all that far away, either, so don’t fret about not having a pass.)
Borderland State Park, 259 Massapoag Ave., Easton. mass.gov/locations/borderland-state-park
Shovel Town Brewery, 50 Oliver St., Easton. shoveltownbrewery.com
Harborwalk/Sullivan’s, Dorchester/South Boston
One of the nicest sections of the Harborwalk can be found between Harbor Point/Columbia Point in Dorchester and Castle Island in South Boston, with a good starting place being JFK/UMass station. This stretch of the walkway goes past some of Boston’s most scenic beaches and includes a causeway over the ocean at the Sugar Bowl as it approaches Castle Island. And no visit to Castle Island is complete without a visit to Sullivan’s, a landmark of sorts (especially to locals) that is basically a rite of passage every year as the weather starts to get warm. It is well worth waiting in line for cheap eats such as hot dogs, burgers, lobster rolls, fries, onion rings, soft serve, and more, and then finding a metal table, a wooden bench, or a strip of grass overlooking the Boston skyline.
Harborwalk, Dorchester and South Boston. bostonharborwalk.org
Sullivan’s, 2080 William J Day Blvd., South Boston. sullivanscastleisland.com
Breakheart Reservation/Prince Pizzeria, Saugus
Breakheart is a wonderful place to get away from it all, with its several exposed hilltops and ledges, its two pristine ponds, and its peaceful pine forests, and one of the best things about it is it’s literally one minute off Route 1 in Saugus so it’s easy to get to if you have a car. If you like rugged hiking, the Ridge Trail is for you, but for an easier (but hilly) stroll, the paved roads that are shut off to traffic are fine as well. And when you’re done hanging in front of the fireplace at the rustic visitor center, you can literally walk to the legendary Prince Pizzeria for old-school pies and beer under its tent if you don’t mind a stroll through the Target parking lot next to Breakheart and a very short walk along busy Route 1 (or you can just drive over, which is marginally more pleasant being that it’s Route 1).
Breakheart Reservation, 177 Forest St., Saugus. mass.gov/locations/breakheart-reservation
Prince Pizzeria, 517 Broadway, Saugus. princerestaurant.com
Bare Cove Park/Greenside Grille, Hingham
The South Shore is full of hiking areas that are close to restaurants with outdoor dining, and Bare Cove Park is no exception, though the restaurant end of this trip is a bit tough to find. Bare Cove Park itself is stunning and is a place where you can do a short walk or an all-day hike, with one highlight being the out-of-the-way Indian Point with its scenic wetlands, while the narrow paths that hug the Back River are little-used and include memorable views. Once you’re done, head out of the main lot on Bare Cove Park Drive and set your GPS to the South Shore Country Club, which is just up the street from the park in a hidden spot and includes the Greenside Grille, a slightly upscale but casual restaurant with a patio overlooking the course and great takes on everything from steak tips to chicken parm to salmon.
Bare Cove Park, Bare Cove Park Dr., Hingham. hingham-ma.gov/Facilities/Facility/Details/Bare-Cove-Park-12
Greenside Grille, 274 South St., Hingham. greensidegrille.com