Less than an hour’s drive north from Boston, Ipswich springs to life in the warmer months as cars stream into the parking lot at Crane Beach. After a day of lounging on the sand and swimming in the cool surf, day-trippers zip through town, only stopping for a bucket of fried clams on their way out. Spend an overnight in this historic village, however, and you can stroll the dunes of Crane Beach at sunrise or sunset without the masses, visit strawberry patches and apple orchards, learn more about the dozens of 17th- and 18th-century structures in town, and paddle a quiet river through a Mass Audubon property.
Few inns in America can look out from their wraparound porches onto miles of uninterrupted salt marsh and beach. Then again, few inns are owned by conservation groups like the Trustees of Reservations. In 1949, the descendants of plumbing magnate Richard Crane bestowed their 2,100-acre estate to the Trustees. This included a 59-room Stuart-style mansion, grounds designed by the Olmsted brothers, a 4-mile stretch of Atlantic beach, and a 10-room, 19th-century cottage and tavern, renovated in 2000 and now called Inn at Castle Hill (280 Argilla Road, 978-412-2555, www.thetrustees.org/the-inn-at-castle-hill, rates from $195). Breakfast, included in the price, features eggs and milk from the Trustees’ 1,000-acre Appleton Farms down the road. Smack dab in the historic district of Ipswich, nestled amid homes dating to the late 1600s and early 1700s, is the seven-room Ipswich Inn (2 East St., 978-356-2431, www.ipswich
inn.com, rates from $130). The sumptuous breakfast served daily might include eggs Benedict, fresh baked muffins, French toast, and bacon. On the other end of town, near the Rowley line, the Arbor Inn Motel (153 High St., 978-356-0220, www.arborinnmotel.com, rates from $139) features Jacuzzi suites and a kidney-shaped pool in the back. Across the street from a Dairy Queen, the hotel is a family favorite.
Open in 1938, The Clam Box (246 High St., 978-356-9707, www.ipswichma.com/clambox, meals start at $8.50) is one of those iconic Roadfood.com stops Jane and Michael Stern dream about. Order your heaping plate of fried clams, scallops, and shrimp, and grab a seat at one of the outdoor picnic tables. Savor the sweet meat, lightly battered, and you’ll understand why it deserves all the hype. A favorite among locals is Stone Soup (141 High St., 978-356-4222, www.ipswichstonesoup.com, lunch from $5.50), offering four freshly made soups daily, salads, and burgers. Don’t be put off by the nondescript exterior of Riverview Restaurant (20 Estes St., 978-356-0500, pizzas start at $5), which makes a serious thin-crust pie that North Shore residents happily wait in line for. For a more intimate Italian dining experience, head to Zabaglione (10 Central St., 978-356-5466, entrees from $13.50) in the center of town, and sample one of their tasty pasta, fish, or meat dishes with a side order of funghi selvatici, sautéed mushrooms sprinkled with rosemary and topped with pine nuts.
DURING THE DAY
It’s easy to find your own spit of sand at Crane Beach (Argilla Road, www.thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/northeast-
ma/. Admission in summer is $10-$25 or free to Trustees members who order a $75 year-round parking sticker), where the white crescent beach spans more than 4 miles. Tours of the Crane Estate’s Great House (290 Argilla Road, 978-356-4351 ext. 4001, free to Trustees members, $8-$10 for nonmembers), designed by architect David Adler, are offered from late May through October. Also visit the impressive grounds, including the half-mile-long Grand Allée that leads from the Great House to the sea. Not far from the entrance to Crane Beach is Russell Orchards (143 Argilla Road, 978-356-5366, www.rus
sellorchards.com), a favorite stop for families since 1920. Stop in the store to find just-made cider doughnuts, muffins, apple cider, hard cider, and fruit-flavored wine. Or head out into the fields to pick your own strawberries and apples. The annual strawberry harvest culminates with a Strawberry Festival June 16 and 17. For lovers of historic houses, Ipswich is a rich find: Almost 60 still stand from the years 1625 to 1725. They include the 1677 Whipple House (1 South Village Green, www.ipswichmuseum.org/exhibitions-collections/whipple-house) and the many Colonial-era homes that border High Street. The Ipswich Visitors Center (36 South Main St., 978-356-8540, www.ipswichcham
index.php), located inside the Hall-Haskell House, offers a self-guided audio tour that traces the town’s history. Today, Ipswich is home to many working artisans, including Nancy Kemp-Soucy, who’s been creating pottery at her home for more than 30 years. View the selection of stylish wares at Ipswich Pottery (315 High St., 508-527-2747, www.ipswich
pottery.com) and then ask if you can see her kiln in her backyard, just to get a glimpse of her gardens. If you savor quiet, spend a morning or afternoon paddling on the Ipswich River through one of Mass Audubon’s largest sanctuaries. Foote Brothers Canoe Rentals (230 Topsfield Road, 978-356-9771, footebrotherscanoes.com, rentals from $20) will drive you to the Salem Road put-in to begin a 7-mile jaunt back to the rental outpost.
Thursdays in July and August, the Crane Estate features live music and encourages visitors to picnic on the grounds. Last summer’s performers included reggae band Inner Visions and Latin music from Grupo Fantasia. Stone Soup offers live jazz Thursday, Friday, and Sunday evenings. Head down the road to White Farms (326 High St., 978-356-2633) for homemade ice cream or yogurt and call it a night.Stephen Jermanok can be reached at www.ActiveTravels.com.