City residents don’t have to travel far to socially distance at pristine beaches, elaborate gardens, coastal trails, and more this season.
“I’d like to encourage people in Massachusetts to explore Massachusetts,” said Ann Marie Casey, executive director of the North Shore Convention & Visitors Bureau. “When was the last time you went to Rockport? When is the last time you went to Salem?”
The following spots near the coast, recommended by tourism experts, are currently open or partially open for an outdoor escape.
Bike, walk, or jog the Cape Cod Rail Trail.
This 22-mile trail, a former railroad track, cuts through the Cape Cod towns of Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham, and Wellfleet. The trail leads to the 1,900-acre Nickerson State Park in Brewster. “Pull off at Nickerson State Park and do the walk around Cliff Pond, which is absolutely fantastic,” said Bill DeSousa, publicist for the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce. Here is a trail map. (various locations)
Stroll the Bass Hole Boardwalk at Grays Beach in Yarmouth Port.
The Callery Darling Conservation Area has about 1 1/2 miles of trails through old cranberry bogs and fields, said DeSousa. “But the highlight is, when you come out at Grays Beach, there’s an 858-foot boardwalk that goes all the way out into the marsh,” he said. (400 Center St., Yarmouth Port)
Mingle with the animals at Taylor-Bray Farm in Yarmouth Port.
Bring the family to visit the sheep, cattle, goats, donkeys, and chickens at Taylor-Bray Farm and view the 17th-century Taylor farmhouse site. “It’s a great place to take pictures,” said DeSousa. “It overlooks the marsh and out to Cape Cod Bay.” (108 Bray Farm Road N, Yarmouth Port)
View the gardens at Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich.
While the museum’s galleries remain closed, the outdoor gardens opened on May 30. “They have several special areas, like Hidden Hollow, which is a great area of the park for families with children,” said DeSousa. The McGraw Family Garden of the Senses, with its water features, meadows, and boardwalk, is billed as “the first wellness garden experience of its kind on Cape Cod.” Guests must buy tickets online and follow the health and safety guidelines. (67 Grove St., Sandwich)
Follow the Shining Sea Bikeway in Falmouth.
This 10.7 mile path on a former railway line runs between Falmouth and Wood’s Hole. “It’s a beautiful pathway — one of the most beautiful on the Cape — because much of it goes along the coast,” DeSousa said. (County Road, Falmouth)
Explore the Cape Cod National Seashore.
Head to one of the six beaches that are part of the Cape Cod National Seashore: Coast Guard Beach, Head of the Meadow Beach, Herring Cove Beach, Marconi Beach, Nauset Light Beach, and Race Point Beach. There are also great hiking trails, DeSousa said, such as Fort Hill Trail and Red Maple Swamp Trail, both in Eastham, the latter of which has a boardwalk. (Various locations)
Hike a Mass Audubon trail.
Mass Audubon opened trails at wildlife sanctuaries across the state on June 9. There are open trails in the following regions: Berkshires, Connecticut River Valley, Central Massachusetts, North Shore, Greater Boston, South of Boston, and Cape Cod and the Islands. Visitors must follow trail safety guidelines. Also, at the following two popular spots, guests must reserve tickets and parking: Broodmoar Wildlife Sanctuary in Natick and Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary in Topsfield. (various locations)
Check out the World War I Memorial Park and Zoo in North Attleboro.
You can hike the trails and feed the animals at this free park, which is maintained by the North Attleboro Park and Recreation Department. (Elmwood St., North Attleboro)
Brush up on your history at Fort Phoenix State Reservation in Fairhaven.
You can visit the Revolutionary-era Fort Phoenix and walk along the hurricane barrier complete with views of the Atlantic Ocean. While state parks are open, facilities and parking may be limited due to COVID-19 restrictions and visitors are asked to follow the state’s health and safety guidelines.(Green Street, Fairhaven)
Step back in time at Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth.
You can walk through Plymouth Colony as it was in 1627 at this living history museum, which opened on June 11. Masks are required and advance tickets are recommended. (137 Warren Ave., Plymouth)
See Plymouth Rock at Pilgrim Memorial State Park in Plymouth.
View the iconic Plymouth Rock, which marks where the Pilgrims landed in 1620. While state parks are open, facilities and parking may be limited due to COVID-19 restrictions and visitors are asked to follow the state’s health and safety guidelines. (79 Water St., Plymouth)
Check out the heirloom gardens at the Alden House Historic Site in Duxbury.
Though the 17th century home is not open yet for tours, guests can roam the picturesque grounds and take in the heirloom gardens. (105 Alden St., Duxbury)
Embrace nature at South Shore Natural Science Center in Norwell.
The nonprofit organization dedicated to educating folks about the South Shore environment hasn’t opened its facilities yet, but visitors are welcome to walk the trails. (48 Jacobs Lane, Norwell)
Study the historic gardens at the House of the Seven Gables in Salem.
The seaside mansion, built in 1668 and the inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1851 novel, is not yet open but the property’s gardens opened to visitors on June 8. “It’s a beautiful place to visit,” Casey said. Visitors are asked to follow health and safety guidelines. (115 Derby St., Salem)
Get up close to the Gloucester Fisherman’s Memorial in Gloucester
The 8-foot-tall bronze statue of a fisherman standing at the wheel of his ship pays homage to local fishermen who lost their lives at sea. An inscription on the statue reads, “They that go down to the sea in ships, 1623-1923.” (Stacy Boulevard, Gloucester)
Picnic at Stage Fort Park in Gloucester.
Historic Stage Fort Park is the site of Gloucester’s first settlers in 1623. “It’s a large park with spectacular views,” Casey said. “There’s a beach there. It’s a great place to take the family, take the kids, and have a picnic.” (24 Hough Ave., Gloucester)
Snap a photo of Motif No. 1 in Rockport.
Get your camera ready at Rockport’s iconic red fishing shack on Bearskin Neck wharf, Motif No. 1. “It’s one of the most beautiful images and it is often referred to as the most painted building in America,” Casey said. (Bearskin Neck, Rockport)
Pick your own strawberries at Russel Orchards in Ipswich.
Visitors can pick strawberries and other fruit. Access to animal enclosures is limited due to COVID-19 restrictions, store capacity is limited, and guests must wear face coverings. “It’s a great place to be socially distant and safe and to get some great fruits and vegetables,” Casey said.
Gaze at the ocean from Castle Hill on the Crane Estate in Ipswich.
Though the 59-room Stuart-style mansion remains closed, visitors can spend time on the estate’s landscaped grounds and walk the Grand Allee with views of the Atlantic Ocean. Guests will also discover formal gardens with fountains and Italian-inspired sculptures. Visitors must get timed entry day passes in advance. (290 Argilla Road, Ipswich)
Visit the animals at Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm in Newbury.
This historic farm set on 230 acres has sheep, goats, chickens, and more. Visitors must follow health and safety guidelines, such as wearing masks and visiting in groups no larger than 10. (5 Little’s Lane, Newbury)
Marvel at 19th-century gardens at Maudslay State Park in Newburyport.
Take in the 19th-century gardens and plantings, rolling meadows, and one of the largest naturally-occurring stands of mountain laurel in Massachusetts. While state parks are open, facilities and parking may be limited due to COVID-19 restrictions and visitors are asked to follow the state’s health and safety guidelines. (74 Curzon Mill Rd., Newburyport)
Swim at Salisbury Beach State Reservation in Salisbury.
Head to Salisbury Beach for a dip in the Atlantic. While state parks are open, facilities and parking may be limited due to COVID-19 restrictions. Visitors are asked to follow the state’s health and safety guidelines. (State Reservation Road, Salisbury)
Spot local art on the North of Boston Mural Tour.
There are more than 100 public murals in Essex County and you can tour them all for free using this “North of Boston Mural Map” created by the North of Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau. (various locations)