The Essex National Heritage Area begins just 10 miles north of Boston and extends for 40 miles along the scenic coast of Massachusetts. The Area is characterized by white, sandy beaches interspersed with rugged granite outcroppings, and overlaid by 400 years of New England history and culture. From the Atlantic Ocean up the Merrimack River, this 550-square-mile region features historic seaports, white clapboard buildings, renown art and cultural museums, antique farms, wooden boat-building shops, early industrial mill complexes, and significant wildlife refuges - both on-shore and off-shore. The Area is instilled with authentic Yankee character. Three significant themes of American history can be easily experienced within its boundaries: early colonial settlement, maritime commerce and sailing, and New England's early Industrial Revolution. The Area contains two National Park sites and hundreds of historic structures, museums, and natural resources, and it is within an easy day trip of Boston by train or car.