The Essex National Heritage Area was designated by US Congress due to its abundance of historic, cultural, and natural resources related to three nationally significant themes, or "trails": Early Settlement Trail, Maritime Trail, and Industrial Trail. These themes are loosely formed into trails that cross the region.
Early Settlement Trail
Explore our seaside villages, towns, and cities with their jagged granite coastline and amazingly crooked, narrow streets. Experience our expansive tidal marsh plains, meandering rivers, straight fieldstone walls piercing open fields and forests, and quaint village commons. Visit the vast array of buildings, sites, districts, land grant farms, and museums that reflect our early settlement patterns, building techniques, and decorative arts. Travel on scenic roads that evolved from Native American Indian trials carved into the landscape before the earliest colonists arrived. Learn more about the Early Settlement Trail.
Cradle of a nation, Essex County's bays, harbors, and salt-marshes have attracted visitors since pre-Columbian tribes summered along its shores. Drawn by rich fishing grounds, many 17th-century settlers turned to the sea - first to trade along the Atlantic Rim, then on to the Far East, where merchants opened the exotic China trade. Learn more about the Maritime Trail.
Shoemaking, tanning, and textile cottage industries were a way of life for the early settlers of Essex County. The rhythm of life was measured by the ring of iron, the smell of leather, and the woody beat of the hand loom and shuttle. The tools of these early artisans still exist in original shoe workshops, beam rooms, and exceptional museum collections. Learn more about the Industrial Trail.