Weekend or Day Trip to the North Shore

Are you thinking about a day or weekend trip to the North Shore of Massachusetts? We’ve put together a sample itinerary featuring scenic coastal vistas, lush gardens, varied hiking trails and a cozy inn.

With beautiful beaches, vibrant farms, lush gardens and scenic trails, the North Shore of Massachusetts has everything you’re looking for in a day trip or a weekend getaway. The Trustees is proud to care for well-known destinations like Appleton Farms and The Crane Estate, as well as undiscovered gems like Coolidge and Hamlin Reservations.  

Explore some sample itineraries below and stay for the day, a weekend or longer!

Castle Hill Estate

Staying for the weekend? Start by booking your stay at The Inn at Castle Hill. The Inn at Castle Hill  in Ipswich is located in the heart of the spectacular Crane Estate.

Day One

Explore Castle Hill at Crane Estate or enjoy a day at Crane Beach!

The Inn at Castle Hill is located right on the Crane Estate so you don’t have far to go. After breakfast you can wander the grounds. Across the grounds, there’s no shortage of stunning features to stop you in your tracks, including the quietly captivating Casino and the jaw-dropping Grand Allée rolling toward the surf. Allow a minimum of one and a half hours to explore the Grand Allée, gardens, and grounds.

If you are looking for guided tours, check out the events planned. Everything from tours of the house, gardens, river boat tours, hikes to kayaking.

Are you more of a beach person? Crane Beach is considered one of the most spectacular beaches in the Northeast.

While swimming and sunbathing are the main draws, Crane Beach is a four-season playground where walkers, hikers, birdwatchers, citizen scientists, students, and more come to enjoy the great outdoors. Don’t miss more than five miles of trails that wind through coastal dunes. Reserve your Crane Beach pass here.

Looking for a farm adventure? You can easily spend the whole day at Appleton Farms.

Start your visit at the white farmhouse affectionately called the “Old House,” and easily find your way to our many hiking and walking trails. Follow the paths to Sunset Hill, Wilson’s Field, Briar Hill, The Great Pasture, The Plains, and beyond. Six miles of footpaths, bridle paths, and farm roads (easy walking and great for jogging strollers), some of which are part of the Bay Circuit Trail, crisscross the farm. Visit our busy events schedule online to sign up for guided tours, pasture walks, birding hikes, farmstead story hours, and our many other programs for all ages.

After all that exploring, you have likely worked up an appetite. Appleton Farms  offers Farmhouse Dining Wednesday – Sunday. Casual outdoor dining featuring seasonally inspired menus and approachable fine dining experience in an outdoor, picnic-style setting. Often there is a local band and brewery to go with your meal! Make an afternoon or evening of it.

While at Appleton Farms, be sure to check out the farm store which is stocked with local produce and goods. Perfect for taking home or for snacks on the beach!

Appleton Farms

appleton three pizzas

Pizza at Appleton Farms

Day 2

Wake up at the Inn at Castle Hill. After a hearty breakfast, venture forth to the first of two exquisite public gardens on the North Shore.

Long Hill is your first stop. Today, visitors delight in the beauty of Long Hill’s structured and naturalistic gardens as well as a network of woodland trails. A diverse collection of trees, shrubs, and distinctive perennial plants provide color during the growing season, peaking in May and June and providing structure and beauty throughout the year. With an ever-growing calendar of public events and festivities, you’ll find ample reason for frequent returns. Reserve your Long Hill pass here. 

Stevens Coolidge House & Gardens is next on the itinerary. Enter a world of a former farm that became an early-20th-century estate, where a newly expanded array of bountiful gardens and plantings complements a gracious and refined home.  Explore the gardens yourself or check out the many guided tours and events on offer.

Reserve your Stevens Coolidge House & Gardens pass here.

Long Hill house

Long Hill gardens

Stevens-Coolidge House and Gardens

Stevens Coolidge House & Gardens

Woman in wheelchair on the accessible path running through the garden of Stevens Coolidge House & Gardens

Stevens Coolidge House & Gardens

Other Options
  • For the Explorers: Coastal Hikes & Scenic Vistas
  • Family Friendly Excursion

For the Explorers: Coastal Hikes & Scenic Vistas

Your first stop on this itinerary is Halibut Point Reservation, At Halibut Point Reservation, bird watchers get an eyeful from this low coastal shelf overlooking dramatic surf, where storms wallop the craggy shore, and tidal pools harbor snails, hermit crabs, and sea stars. The state park adjacent to the reservation surrounds the former Babson Farm Quarry, where granite was quarried at the turn of the 20th century and used to build thousands of streets, bridges, tunnels, monuments, warehouses, and buildings.

Next up is another coastal gem, Coolidge Reservation, which is a 25-minute (9mi) car ride away. Climb Bungalow Hill for quiet solitude and views of Magnolia Harbor. Walk along Clarke Pond and scan the surrounding wetlands for snapping turtles, great and snowy egrets, and black-crowned night herons. Revel in the sea of monarch butterflies in the wildflower meadows in the fall. Coolidge Reservation also includes a portion of Magnolia’s Gray Beach, complete with colorful beach pea and beach rose.

Across the Harbor at Coolidge Reservation

Across the Harbor at Coolidge Reservation by Pete Marotta

Ravenswood Park, is up next and just a 5-minute (2mi) car ride away.

Ten miles of woodland paths and trails meander through the park, providing plenty of room to picnic, bird watch, walk, cross-country ski, and simply appreciate the outdoors. Wander the child-friendly, two-mile Ledge Hill Trail among the magical-looking, fern-covered boulders, or trek to the overlook to Gloucester Harbor.

Family Friendly Excursion

Appleton Farms, a great first spot to stretch your legs and explore (bathroom available on-site).

Children can visit a variety of barnyard animals at this 658-acre working farm, and families can enjoy more than 6 miles of walking trails. Some trails might be considered stroller and wheelchair friendly. The ones on the Farmstead side of the property, around the Old House, Farm Store, and a few of the trails over our railroad bridge and onto the other side of the property are wide, flat, dirt roads.  A picnic table area and weekend pizza is a great spot to stop and enjoy lunch before embarking on the next stop.

Next up you will explore the grounds of Stevens Coolidge House & Gardens, which is a 35 minute (18mi) car-ride away.

There is a stroller-friendly crushed blue stone pathway throughout the grounds.

If you are planning a weekend visit, be sure to check out the family-friendly events such as tours, garden adventures and teas!

If your family enjoys hiking,  Ward Reservation would be a great next stop and is just a 6 minute, (3 mi) car ride away.

There is a stroller-friendly trail  approximately ¼ mile long (out and back). Begins at parking lot with aggregate/stone dust tread, then transfers to wood decking. Terminates at a floating dock/viewing platform at the open water of Pine Hole Bog.

For longer hikes, Ward boasts over 15 miles of trails to explore.

On top of Holt Hill, the highest point in Essex County, you’ll find the “Solstice Stones,” a compass-like arrangement of stones set up to mark the sunset on the longest and shortest days of the year. A perfect spot for sunset picnics!

Ward Reservation Solstice Stones

Ward Reservation Solstice Stones

 

 

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