The oceanside “twin towns,’’ Ipswich and Essex, welcome hundreds of tourists each year to enjoy the sandy beaches and the subtle New England charm. Overlooking the Ipswich Bay and the Essex Bay, they are situated just 30 miles north of Boston. Together, the two stretch roughly 58 square miles (Ipswich spans around 42 miles and Essex around 16 miles). Ipswich has a population of 13,175. Essex has a population of 3,504.
You can get to Ipswich and Essex from the city in just under an hour, traffic permitting. But, if you’re looking to leave the car at home, there’s an option for you too. Hop on the commuter trail to the Ipswich commuter rail station and take the Ipswich Essex Explorer for just $5. The bus transports riders to sites in both Ipswich and Essex, meaning you can get to your destination without paying for parking or a cab — and you won’t have to walk the over six miles from the train station to town. Get more info here.
Considered the Northeast’s most spectacular beach, according to the Trustees of Reservations, Crane Beach has winding trails, stunning boardwalks, and a beautiful landscape of sand dunes and salt marsh. The water is clean and warm for the region with miles of shoreline and breathtaking views. It’s a perfect day-trip for families and individuals alike. It is open year-round daily from 8 a.m. to sunset. The beach’s in-season facilities include lifeguards and rangers, bathhouses and outside showers, picnic tables, a beach store and refreshment stand, and transportation for handicapped visitors. Park admission is $10 for members and $20 for nonmembers on weekdays; $15 for nonmembers and $25 on weekends and holidays.
Restaurants, Farms, and Orchards! Oh my!
One thing’s for sure—there is no shortage of food in Ipswich and Essex. Award-winning Woodman’s restaurant, home of the “original fried clam,’’ is situated right in downtown Essex. They serve up hearty seafood dishes and are known for their famous clam chowder, fresh lobster, and locally harvested steamed clams. They are open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m..
If you’re visiting on a cooler day, pay a visit to Russell Orchards in Ipswich for some of the best pick-your-own berries around. In the summer you’ll find strawberries, raspberries, currants, blueberries, and blackberries. Make sure to call ahead to see which fields are ready for harvesting! They also have a full range of farm-fresh goodies, from produce to their famous cider donuts and fruit pies.
Appleton Farms is the country’s oldest continuously operating farm. Rich with history, the farm features rolling grasslands, grazing livestock, beautiful stone walls, and historic farm buildings. Stop by and see how cows’ milk is processed to make cheese, butter, and yogurt. Fresh eggs are collected daily. During haying season, the farm produces thousands of bales. Their state-of-the-art kitchen cooks up farm-fresh recipes daily for guests to enjoy. When you’re done sampling, be sure to check out the trails and nature walks on-site.
This is something you have to see to believe. Wolf Hollow, an Ipswich-based non-profit established in 1990, offers a unique opportunity to learn about and view gray wolves in a natural setting (well, almost—they do have a fence keeping them enclosed). Guests can see how the wolves interact with their pack and act in a social setting. You might even get a chance to hear a wolf howl. Tours are one hour long and include an educational presentation. They also offer special photo sessions, where visitors can go inside the fences and get an up-close-and-personal look. Wolf Hollow is open to the public on weekends and they take groups of twenty or more during the week.
The Shipbuilding Museum
Both kids and adults can find something to do at the Shipbuilding Museum in Essex. The exhibits tell the unique story of historic Essex, a small New England village that built more two-masted wooden fishing schooners than any other place in the world. Guests can discover antique shipbuilding tools, old photographs and documents, special shipbuilding industry exhibits, and one of the seven historic Essex schooners, the Evelina M. Goulart. Also on-site is the Lewis H. Story, considered the museums most popular and important asset. Built in 1998, it is often seen at nautical events throughout New England. Tours include video presentations and hands-on activities. A gift shop is also on-site.