Marshfield resident Brendan Martin Coyne reflects on summer treks to Burke’s Beach.By Brendan Martin Coyne | Photography by Jack Foley
“I live on the sandy
seashore of Marshfield,
and get along as well as I can…”
Green Harbor, originally known as Green’s Harbor, is my favorite place to be during the summer. For those not familiar with the area, the harbor was named after one of Marshfield’s first settlers, an avid fisherman named William Green. Within the harbor lies one of Marshfield’s hidden gems—Burke’s Beach.
If one is to plan properly, an ideal beach day starts with an early rise at about 7:30 a.m. Your traveling companions will call you irrational for the early hour, but be assured that a parking spot in the Green Harbor Beach lot (known to the locals as Burke’s) is well worth it. Before venturing out, my girlfriend Liz and brother Tommy help me pack the necessities: an umbrella, tent or similar shelter, portable speaker, cooler packed with sandwiches and drinks, beach chairs, towels and sunblock. If you prepare properly for a day at the beach, relaxation will inevitably ensue.
The journey to Burke’s begins with a drive down Route 139, through the bustling center of town and past the Green Harbor Golf Club. Eventually, we make our way onto Careswell Street, named after the Winslow family’s estate in England, known as Kerswell. After a refueling stop at The Coffee Shack, we take a shortcut down Marginal Street to reach Beach Street.
Numerous beachgoers are making the trek down to the beach, including parents pulling children in wagons, and I begin to doubt that we will be able to find a parking spot. The Green Harbor Post Office parking lot is already half full, as SUVs laden with “I love Green Hahba” stickers enter by the minute. We decide to keep driving, hoping Lady Luck will be on our side. The Burke’s parking lot appears to be full, but looks can be deceiving. After further investigation we discover an open spot that was hidden from view by a large Chevy suburban parked in the spot closest to the street. Gleefully, we pull into the open space and start to unpack our gear. Folks waiting in the lot to be picked up inform me that I am “one of the lucky ones,” as these spots are hard to come by.
With our arms full, we make our way toward the boardwalk. Immediately, I am distracted by the “hot dog man” who is setting up shop and by the sound of two boys arguing over which flavor slush is best. I momentarily stop to peruse the beach reads in the floating beach library (thanks, Eagle Scout!) before continuing on.
As we walk, a breath of salty air sweeps across our faces. Arriving at the end of the boardwalk, we spy the jetty stretching out into the sprawling blue ocean. Scanning the beach, we spy fishermen, lobster boats heading out for a long day at sea, sandpipers scurrying along the shoreline, and crowds of people swimming and lounging on the sand. These are my favorite sights of summer.
The tide is going out, so we choose a spot close to the waterline. We set up our tent, chairs and speaker, and are finally “good to go.” We listen to Zac Brown Band, Jimmy Buffett and some “oldies.” A gentleman sitting close by hums along to Bob Seger’s “Night Moves.” It’s Saturday, the work week is a distant memory, and our worries slowly dissipate.
After gazing out at the sparkling water, I doze off for a spell, before being awoken by three of my close friends who have come to join us. Without enough sandwiches for everyone, I flip-flop up the boardwalk en route to my saving grace: The Green Harbor General Store, affectionately known as The Genny.
At the Green Harbor Bridge, young and old are taking the opportunity to jump into the cold water below, for they know that in a few hours the tides will change. The Green Harbor Lobster Pound is packed and, in typical fashion, displaying various signs indicating they are at parking capacity for the day—mind you, it’s not even noon. On Marginal Street, I pass peaceful rows of quaint houses with scallop shell doorknockers and hydrangeas out front.
Once I have my sandwiches in hand, I hurry back to the beach as fast as I can. We enjoy our lunch as we bask in the sun and savor the cool ocean breeze The forecast for today is perfect—a balmy 79.
Strolling over to the jetty, I watch deckhands in orange rubber jumpsuits working on a commercial lobster boat. Recreational vessels pass by carrying exuberantly waving passengers.
As I walk down the jetty, I recall fond memories of catching crabs with my cousin, Brian. Back then, we would run and jump from rock to rock with no fear. Now, one false step could result in a trip to South Shore Hospital.
I stop to chat with a fisherman.
“Catch anything?” I ask.
“Nothing, only a sunburn,” he says with a laugh.
From the end of the jetty, I spot the hills of Plymouth, dunes of Saquish and the flapping of red, white and blue flags that adorn the cottages located along the seawall. Seagulls are gawking, children are jumping off rocks into the water, fishermen are shooting the breeze and someone is practicing yoga on his paddleboard. Behind me a young boy, full of excitement, has hooked a striped bass while his father looks on proudly; a scene reminiscent of a classic Norman Rockwell painting.
Feeling the heat of the sun on my face, I decide to head back, but I’m sidetracked by a few persuasive teenagers who convince me to jump off one of the abutting rocks and swim back to shore. It’s a great decision. As I come up for air and look around, it’s clear that these are the small moments we all live for, and being able to fully appreciate them is satisfying.