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Community:: Havre de Grace

Location:: Harford County

Average sales price:: $241,000 (January through June)

Notable features:: Water, water, everywhere. Havre de Grace's northeastern boundary is the Susquehanna River, and along its southeastern edge flows the Chesapeake Bay. There's a boardwalk promenade along the river and boats galore, plus a quaint downtown on the National Register of Historic Places.

Some of the homes here are historic and stately. Some are just darn cute, with splashes of bright color and inviting porches. The housing options range from Victorians to waterfront condos to the gated community of Bulle Rock, with a golf course that hosted the LPGA Championship.

While in town, I stopped to chat with artist Debra Moffitt. She was painting a Havre de Grace streetscape that caught her eye, with a turret glinting in the morning light.

"It's just a charming scene," said Moffitt, an Arbutus resident participating in a painting contest. "It's sort of iconic of Havre de Grace."

About 13,000 people live in the incorporated part of Havre de Grace. Meghan Simmons, manager of economic development there, said she was attracted to the area by the downtown waterfront. She and her husband live in a Victorian house that's big enough for them plus four apartments.

"There's a lot of really neat Victorians that people have invested [in] and turned them into all hardwood, brick-exposed apartments," she said.

Havre de Grace markets itself as a tourist destination. You can rent kayaks in town, visit museums in unusual spaces (a lighthouse and a skipjack boat), hike on recreational trails, check out the art galleries or simply stroll along the streets and imagine what the town looked like when it was incorporated in 1785. Its name was suggested three years earlier by the Marquis de Lafayette, who crossed the river by ferry and was struck by a resemblance to Le Havre in France. (Locals translate it as "harbor of grace" or "harbor of mercy.")

If you're looking for a short commute to Baltimore, Havre de Grace isn't the place for you. It's a 40-mile drive to downtown. Wilmington, Del., is several miles closer, in fact. But you don't have to rely on back roads to get where you need to go.

"We are right off 95," Simmons said.

About this series

With help from readers, The Baltimore Sun's Real Estate Wonk blog selected 10 nice, affordable and off-the-radar places as "hidden-gem neighborhoods." This is one of the 10.

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