- 24 miles (38 km)
Travelers along the 24-mile Essex National Heritage Area (ENHA) Scenic Byway will experience much of what New England has to offer: historic seaports, colonial era farms, village centers, and a wealth of period architecture. Set against the backdrop of The Great Marsh, New England's largest salt marsh, the byway traverses six communities and is anchored at each end by the destination cities of Gloucester, a large active fishing community founded in 1623 and popularized in the movie "The Perfect Storm," and Newburyport, a historic shipbuilding and trade port renowned for its intact Federal Period (1780-1830) architecture and restored commercial downtown district. Along the way the route passes through Essex, a small community with extensive farmland, woodlots, marsh views, and a thriving antiques trade. It's once numerous shipyards built much of Gloucester's famed fleet of 19th Century fishing schooners. The coastal towns of Ipswich, Rowley and Newbury, among the country's oldest settlements, are well-known for their extant collection of First Period (1625-1725) dwellings and other vestiges of 17th and 18th Century rural New England - town "greens"; burying grounds, meeting houses, and early maritime and industrial sites.
Together, the six byway communities contain over 3,000 properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places as well as several National Historic Landmark properties. The region's unique story is chronicled by the numerous historical societies and house museums found along the byway. Easily accessed from the route are a national wildlife refuge, two state wildlife management areas, and numerous beaches, trails, and parcels of conservation land open to the public. ENHA visitor centers in Gloucester, Ipswich and Newburyport can help the byway traveler discover the region's rich history and culture by car or bicycle.
All resources lie within the Essex National Heritage Area, designated by the U.S. Congress in 1996 to recognize the significance of the region's abundant historical, cultural, and natural resources related to three nationally significant themes: Early Settlement (17th Century), the Maritime Era (18th Century), and the Industrial Revolution (19th Century).