Outdoor Recreation

CraneOutdoors Kayak Adventures

Join us for a guided kayak adventure in the Crane Wildlife Refuge

Photo: Thomas Barrieau

There is no better access to the premier saltwater kayaking destination of Essex Bay than via the Crane Wildlife Refuge! Located in Ipswich and Essex, the Crane Wildlife Refuge boasts miles of salt marsh, tidal creeks, and clam flats, in the center of which lies Choate Island—a crown jewel even among the extensive beauty found across other parts of the Crane Estate. 

Kayaking season at the Crane Estate begins on Memorial Day weekend and runs through mid-October. We offer a broad portfolio of professionally guided adventures, including our fan-favorite Choate Island Kayak & Hike trip, historic Fox Creek paddle, and memory-making sunset paddle. 

Kayak participants must be competent swimmers and age 15 or older. Group rates are available, as are private tours. Please email us or click below to submit a form for more information about group tours:

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Please Note: For the safety and convenience of all participants, CraneOutdoors provides lifejackets, paddles and kayaks for all events. The use of personal kayaks is not permitted for any CraneOutdoors event. Thank you for understanding.

Upcoming Events
Program Descriptions
  • Once Around The Islands
  • Kayak Adventure on The Castle Neck River
  • Sunset Kayak in the Crane Wildlife Refuge
  • Kayak Historic Fox Creek
  • Choate Island Kayak and Hiking Adventure

Once Around The Islands

Once Around The Islands

Circumnavigating an island is one of the great joys of kayaking, providing a constantly changing perspective while giving you a great sense of accomplishment. The Crane Wildlife Refuge, home to seven islands, offers an excellent opportunity to do this, suitable for even beginning paddlers. These islands provide a haven for wildlife and have a rich cultural history spanning from when Native Americans summered on these shores, harvesting the shellfish for which this area is known, to their purchase by Chicago industrialist Richard T. Crane, Jr., who made them part of his vast early-20th-century summer estate.

On this adventure, we’ll paddle around three of the bigger islands, the largest of which—Choate (formerly Hog) Island—supports myriad birds and mammals including egrets, herons, deer, and coyote. We’ll land on Long Island and take a short hike to a hilltop that overlooks the tide marsh that interconnects the islands. From here, we’ll enjoy a splendid view of the c.1778 Proctor Barn and the c.1725-40 Choate family homestead.

Kayak Adventure on The Castle Neck River

Kayak Adventure on The Castle Neck River

One of the best was to enjoy the natural beauty of the Massachusetts North Shore is kayaking the placid waters of the Great Marsh—the largest continuous stretch of salt marsh in New England, extending from Cape Ann to New Hampshire. The Castle Neck peninsula on the Crane Estate is a vast barrier beach that protects the tidal estuary of the Essex River basin. Running along its back side is the Castle Neck River, a superb location for paddlers of all skill levels to explore these sheltered waters.

This intimate kayak tour offers the perfect vantage point to observe the unique environment of the salt marsh and the wildlife that calls it home. Keep your eyes peeled for herons, egrets, and other shore-birds—with luck we may even spot an osprey soaring overhead! Depending on the wind and tide conditions on the day of the trip, destinations may include a beach landing on Castle Neck or one of the various islands in the Crane Wildlife Refuge.

Sunset Kayak in the Crane Wildlife Refuge

Sunset Kayak in the Crane Wildlife Refuge

There are few places on the North Shore that more reliably enjoy spectacular sunsets than the back side of Crane Beach, overlooking Essex Bay.

On this kayak outing into the heart of the Essex River basin, we will be paddling in the protected waters of the Crane Wildlife Refuge, one of the most scenic sections of the Great Marsh—the largest contiguous salt marsh in New England. We’ll either paddle around Choate Island with a landing on Long Island, or down the Castle Neck River, landing on Castle Neck (varies based on wind/tide conditions on the day of the event). Along the way, we’ll observe the wide variety of wildlife found in the marsh, including egrets, herons, and other shore-birds. You can count on making an amazing connection with nature and creating enduring memories as we paddle home into the setting sun.

Kayak Historic Fox Creek

Kayak Historic Fox Creek

The Great Marsh—the largest contiguous salt marsh in New England—is not only brimming with fascinating natural history, it is also home to a rich cultural history. Nowhere is this more evident than in the meandering waters of Fox Creek. Connecting the tidal estuaries of the Essex River basin and the Ipswich River, it contains the oldest saltwater canal in the United States and the remains of the historic Robinson’s Shipyard, where over 100 minesweepers used in WWII were once built.

This adventure offers the perfect vantage point from which to observe this unique environment and the wildlife that calls it home; the seat of a kayak. Starting at our dock in Essex Bay, we’ll paddle through the Fox Creek Canal and into Fox Creek, where we’ll see herons, egrets, and other shore birds nestled amidst the grasses of the salt marsh. With a little luck we might even spot an osprey soaring overhead!

This is one of our longer, more strenuous adventures and previous salt water kayaking experience is recommended.

Choate Island Kayak and Hiking Adventure

Choate Island Kayak and Hiking Adventure

Circumnavigating an island is one of the great rewards of kayaking and reaching the summit of a hill that offers a great view is one of the payoffs of a good hike. This adventure in the Crane Wildlife Refuge offers an opportunity to do both in one outing. We’ll paddle around three islands, the largest of which—Choate (formerly Hog) Island—supports myriad birds and mammals including egrets, herons, deer, and coyote.

We’ll land there and stretch our legs by hiking to the highest point on the island and burial site for Cornelius Crane and his wife, Miné. From this hilltop, we’ll enjoy views of Ipswich Bay, the tide marsh that interconnects all three islands, and the historic buildings that sit on them, including the c.1778 Proctor Barn, the c.1725-40 Choate House, and the White Cottage—Cornelius and Miné’s private getaway when they visited the Crane Estate.

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