Escape the City Efficiently with the Ipswich Essex Explorer

Crane Beach. in Ipswich, is one of the stops on the Ipswich Essex Explorer shuttle.
Crane Beach. in Ipswich, is one of the stops on the Ipswich Essex Explorer shuttle. –The Boston Globe

Does an inexpensive and convenient weekend day-trip sound too good to be true? Well, if you hop on board the Ipswich Essex Explorer shuttle, an affordable excursion could be within reach.

Even though the summertime weekend and holiday shuttle has been around for nearly 10 years, many may not know it exists. Here’s how to use it. Between June and Labor Day, take the train from Boston’s North Station to the Ipswich commuter rail station. Once there, the Ipswich Essex Explorer, operated by the Cape Ann Transportation Authority, will be available to pick you up. For just $5 round-trip, the 35-seat bus (with room for carry-on bags and beach supplies) transports riders to sites in both Ipswich and Essex, including the popular Crane Beach, Russell Orchards, and Woodman’s restaurant, to name a few.

The Ipswich Essex Explorer Shuttle runs on weekends and holidays from June to Labor Day. —TripAdvisor

The buses take one of two routes. Route one takes visitors to Ipswich and stops at the beach, the orchard, Wolf Hollow, and Appleton Farms. Route two goes to Essex and drops off at the Shipbuilding Museum, the Essex River Cruises, restaurants, and downtown antique shops. Once off the shuttle, visitors are free to explore without the hassle of keeping track of a vehicle. They do, however, need to keep in mind the scheduled return time. The bus does not stay and wait at these sites, according to its website, and it only travels back to the train station a few times each day.

Why is this worth it? For one, these destinations are packed in the summertime and a cheap parking space—if it is available— typically costs more than $20. If you choose to leave the car at home, these locales are not very walkable, with most destinations sitting more than six miles away from the commuter rail (the equivalent of a $25 cab ride). The bus drops passengers off right in front of their stop and shuttle schedules are lined up to accommodate train times. The ticket price also gets you into Crane Beach for no additional charge and riders are guaranteed admission even when the parking lot is full.


So, pack up the beach towels, picnic, and umbrellas, get a group together, and check out the explorer shuttle. You’ll save a chunk of cash all while exploring the area’s top summer attractions.

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