Alas, those lovely, sun-kissed days at North Shore beaches have disappeared as quickly as the M&Ms in a bag of trail mix. All that’s left of summertime 2013 is the sand in the bottom of the tote bag and those photos we snapped at the beach.
The only thing that gets us through September is the fact that some things are even better in autumn. Things like crunchy apples, walks in the woods and bogs (no bugs!), and day-tripper destinations minus the tourists. Here are some of the North Shore’s most inviting places to visit, post-beach season.
Indulge your inner Willie Wonka
You probably wouldn’t do it in swimsuit season — not to mention, chocolates melt in the heat — so fall is prime time to take a free tour of Harbor Sweets in Salem. Scheduled tours are Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11 a.m., but anytime you go, you can peek through the gift shop window and watch the chocolatiers at work. Get a free sample of your favorite — Sweet Sloops are always in season, and the equine-shaped Dark Horse Chocolates are so North Shore — or be one of the first folks to sample their new line of (ridiculously good) Salt & Ayre truffles. 85 Leavitt St., 978-745-7648, www.harborsweets.com
Take a field trip
You’ve been meaning to hit the Peabody-Essex Museum for ages, but that rainy day never came. Go now, before the Haunted Happenings celebrants take over Salem and nab all the parking spots. Bonus: “Fabergé Revealed” is running through Sept. 29, a special exhibition of 230-plus treasures created by the House of Fabergé. $15; $5 surcharge for Fabergé. 161 Essex St., 978-745-9500,
Say hello, dollies
Whether you’ve got small fry to entertain, or you’re just a kid at heart, you’ll be charmed by the Wenham Museum, which boasts world-class doll and toy collections, model trains, costumes, and textiles. Your ticket includes a visit to the circa 1690 Claflin-Richards House. Make it a two-fer, and do lunch at the Wenham Tea House across the street. 132 Main St., 978-468-
Walk in the country
Come fall, there’s nothing better than a walk along the bucolic trails of Appleton Farms in Hamilton, the oldest continuously operating farm in the country, now maintained by the Trustees of Reservations. Sixteen miles of trails wind through rolling grasslands and crop fields, past stone walls and Jersey cows. There’s a dairy store on the property so you can take home fresh eggs, yogurt, and cheese. Sign up for a cooking class or a cheese-making lesson, or catch one of their Friday night farm dinners (see www.thetrustees/appletoncooks for a schedule). $3 entrance fee for nonmembers. 219 County Road, 978-356-
Paddle a kayak
Fall is the perfect time to try the 30-mile-long Ipswich River. Water levels are typically high, and the marshes take on heathery hues. Bring your own vessel or rent from Foote Brothers in Ipswich, and feel stress slip away as you glide past scenic wetlands dotted with shorebirds, plus a wildlife sanctuary, a state park, and a state forest on an easygoing paddle that’s ideal for beginners. 230
Topsfield Road, 978-356-9771,
Pick a pumpkin
A favorite North Shore spot for pumpkins is Russell Orchards in Ipswich, where you can take a biodiesel-powered hay wagon to the picking fields. Back at the farm store, line up for an apple cider donut, the farm’s own fruit wine, cheddar bread, and other edibles. Out front, there’s a big pile of pumpkins, each awaiting a good home. Tip: Weekends get very crowded, but they’re usually open for picking on weekdays. 143 Argilla Road, 978-356-
Pop out to Plum Island
The 4,700-acre Parker River National Wildlife Refuge is a dandy place for a nature walk. The refuge provides coastal habitat for more than 300 species of resident and migratory birds in a glorious landscape that includes freshwater and saltwater marshes, dunes, beaches, maritime forest, and cranberry bogs. Hike the boardwalk trails, do the quick jaunt to Hellcat Swamp, and then drive down to Sandy Point. $5 per vehicle. Sunset Drive, New-
bury, 978-465-5753, www. fws.gov/refuge/parker_river
Newburyport’s one-of shops are especially beguiling. Chain stores and T-shirt purveyors are few; instead, you’ll find tiny storefronts with specialties such as custom body potions and British-made goods. Shop for cool contemporary, mostly made-in-the-USA furnishings and home accessories at Urban Elements (20 Pleasant St.). Check out the bird-emblazoned pillows and bird-print upholstery. Sleuth out funky fashion finds at Modern Millie Vintage & Consignments (41 Pleasant St.) and a spiffy new shop called Smitten (23 Inn St.). Allow plenty of time to pop in and out of the small stores on State Street and The Tannery. Renew yourself with a cookies-and-cream smoothie — or something green and refreshing — at Revitalive Café & Juice Bar (The Tannery, 50 Water St.).
Bike a rail trail
Load the bikes and head to Route 97 on the Wenham-Topsfield line, where a couple of local bike paths converge. (Look for the small parking lot and a bike-crossing signal.) Pedal from Wenham to Topsfield along the Ipswich River on the two-mile Topsfield Linear Common, (www.topsfieldtrail.org) or bike the Danvers Rail Trail (www.danverstrail.org), a lovely route of woodlands and wetlands, including the Great Wenham Swamp. It runs 4⅓miles from Danvers to Peabody, but the first three miles are the most scenic (with a bonus: a third of a mile-long elevated boardwalk, the Swamp Walk). Following the old Boston to Maine railroad, the multi-use trail has a smooth gravel surface and is mostly flat.
Catch dinner and a movie
Remember the old Warwick Cinema in Marblehead? Opened in 1917 and shuttered in 1999, this classic theater has been restored, and now shows first-run movies in comfy seats, with food and drink catered by Palmer’s Restaurant, on site. Movies $8.50-$11. Warwick Place, 123 Pleasant St., 781-476-2076 .