Monday May 21, 2007

This way to the beach!

Are you a beach lover, or do your summer interests lie elsewhere? Whichever category you fall into, chances are there’s at least one beach bum in your family, so you’ll most likely end up at the beach before summer is over. Here’s a sampling of some of the best beaches to visit, and some wonderful, if lesser-known, side trips for each. All destinations are within an hour or so of travel time from Wellesley and Weston (depending on traffic). A few words of advice: Because parking is a major consideration when beaching, midweek is preferable to a crowded weekend and arriving early is always a good idea. If getting there early just doesn’t work for you, or if the lot is full by 9:00 am (a definite possibility at many of these beaches), simply head out on a side trip to one of the fantastic destinations listed below. Then pull into the beach parking lot after 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon, and at day’s end everyone will be happy.

Boston’s North Shore
Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester
Approximately 50 miles from Wellesley and Weston; Thatcher Road (Route 127A)
Lifeguards, snack bar, restrooms, somewhat limited parking
Smooth sandbars and plenty of shallow water and calm surf make this a good second-best beach for kids in Gloucester.

Wingaersheek Beach, Gloucester
Approximately 50 miles from Wellesley and Weston
Lifeguards, snack bar, restrooms, somewhat limited parking
Undoubtedly the North Shore’s best family beach, Wingaersheek consists of a small cove of sand dunes at the mouth of the Annisquam River. The beach is in a protected inlet and the water is neither too deep nor too rough for little ones although, like all North Shore beaches, the water can be cold. Climbing the rocks is a favorite pastime for children, and an added attraction is the Annisquam lighthouse, visible from the beach. Be sure to arrive early, as after 9:30 am, you’ll probably miss out on a parking space.

Singing Beach, Manchester-by-the-Sea
Approximately 45 miles from Wellesley and Weston
Beach Road off Route 127
Lifeguards, snack bar, restrooms, no parking;
on weekends there is a small walk-on fee
charged by the town.
The sand does in fact make melodious squeaking sounds when you walk on it, hence the name. A tranquil beach, its only downside is its lack of a parking lot. But you can take the Rockport commuter rail line from North Station in Boston to Manchester Station, and walk the half mile down Beach Street (you’ll be joining a veritable parade of beachgoers). The train excursion will be a memorable event for the little ones, and the beach is certainly worth it!

Crane Beach/Crane Wildlife Refuge, Ipswich
Approximately 50 miles from Wellesley and Weston
Argilla Road
Lifeguards, snack bar, restrooms,
parking for 1,400 cars
Admission half-price after 3:00 pm
One of the most breathtaking beaches on Boston’s North Shore, Crane’s offers four miles of sand and surf for beachgoers. It also provides important habitat for wildlife and serves as a natural barrier protecting the Essex River Estuary and inland communities. More than five miles of designated trails cross an extensive dune complex. Morning beach walks are best, as Crane’s is popular with nature and outdoor enthusiasts.

Plum Island Beach/Parker River Wildlife Refuge, Newburyport
Approximately 55 miles from Wellesley and Weston
Lifeguards, restrooms, parking
Plum Island combines a beautiful beach atmosphere with added appeal for the naturalists in your family. A small barrier island separated from the mainland by the Parker River, most of Plum Island is the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. Boardwalks take you through the dunes and onto the beach. Virtually the entire oceanfront is a public beach, although much of it is accessible only by foot. The inland side faces spectacular tidal marshes (especially at sunset) with a continually changing population of birds ranging from plovers, redwing blackbirds and killdeer to egrets, gulls, great blue herons, and occasional snowy owls.

North Shore Side Trips
Marblehead Arts Association
8 Hooper Street, Marblehead
Open Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 4:00 pm, Sunday, 1:00 to 5:00 pm.
Located in the 1728 King Hooper mansion, the Association’s five galleries of exhibits change monthly. There is a great gift shop, and visitors receive a free booklet highlighting Marblehead artists, past and present.

The Ipswich Essex Explorer
Operates Saturdays and Sundays late June through early September, also July 4th and Labor Day
The Explorer is a shuttle bus service that takes visitors from the Ipswich Train Station to some of the North Shore’s most popular destinations. Service runs on the following routes:
• Route 1 to Crane Beach, stopping at Ipswich Visitor’s Center, Russell Orchards, Wolf Hollow, and Appleton Farms.
• Route 2 to Essex, stopping at Main Street Antiques, the Shipbuilding Museum, and Woodman’s Restaurant.
Note: Route 2 (to Essex) is part of Route 1 (to Crane Beach), allowing you to travel directly between Crane Beach and Essex.
• Route 3 to Ipswich River, stopping at Foote Brothers Canoes and Bradley Palmer State Park.

Foote Brothers Canoe Rentals
Willowdale Dam, 230 Topsfield Road, Ipswich
Foote Brothers offers 15-foot and 17-foot top-of-the-line Grumman canoes for canoeing on the Ipswich River. There is a shuttle to upstream drop-off points and instruction for beginners. The Ipswich River runs quietly through forests, fields and farmlands, with much of the undeveloped land along its banks protected. You’ll pass an Audubon wildlife sanctuary, wetlands, and two state parks.

Essex Antiquing
Essex Antique Dealers Association
Travel down Main Street in the quaint and historic town of Essex and visit numerous antique shops featuring items as varied as estate jewelry, porcelain and glass, silver, paintings, furniture and lighting. While in Essex, be sure to treat yourself to fried clams and other seafood at the famous Woodman’s and other local restaurants.

Myopia Hunt Club Polo Matches
Matches take place Sundays from late May through early October at 3:00 pm.
Gates open at 1:30 pm.
435 Bay Road (Route 1A), Hamilton
978.468.7956 or 978.468.5570
(Hamilton Town Hall)
Named in jest in 1882 for its nearsighted founders, the Myopia Hunt Club is a training spot for the United States Equestrian Team. A private country club, Myopia has the oldest continually-running polo field in the country. Matches are open to the public for a small fee, and the audience sits close enough to the field to see the sweat on the horses’ flanks. Come when the gates open and you’ll have time to picnic directly next to the polo field while watching the horses being unloaded.

Wolf Hollow
Open Saturdays and Sundays, weather permitting.
114 Essex Road, Ipswich
Ticket sales for hour-long structured presentations begin at 1:00 pm; presentation begins at 1:30 pm.
Admission $6.00 adults, $5.00 seniors,
$4.50 children (ages 3-17)
Grey wolves live in a social unit very similar to human families. Wolf Hollow offers a unique opportunity to view them in as natural a setting as possible, and to observe them with their pack members. Calling ahead before visiting Wolf Hollow is recommended.

Boston's South Shore
Duxbury Beach Park, Duxbury
Approximately 45 miles from Wellesley and Weston
Canal Street/Gurdnet Road (off Route 139N)
Lifeguards, snack bar, extremely limited non-resident parking
781.837.3112 or
Very limited free public parking is available across the bridge, but get there early; the lot is usually full by 9:00 am. The beach itself is long and beautiful, with warmer water than the North Shore beaches. Outside Beach is great for sun-bathing, walking and swimming, with its dunes and gentle surf, while Inside Beach offers protected clam beds, kayaking, a boat launch and bird-watching. The Black Crab Restaurant can be seen from the beach and is a favorite daytime spot for ice cream, popcorn shrimp, and chicken fingers. After 5:00 pm on weekends, you can sit down at an indoor table and enjoy a lobster dinner.

South Shore Side Trips
Mary’s Boat Livery
2205 Main Street, Marshfield
Open daily 7:00 am to 7:00 pm from mid-May through mid-October
Why not rent a boat and explore Boston’s South Shore? Mary’s rents 16-foot open skiffs (large enough for four adults), powered by a six- horsepower outboard motor and equipped with a full tank of fuel, anchor, oars and life jackets. Located on the scenic North River in Marshfield, Mary’s also offers easy access to the South River and Massachusetts Bay. Bait and snack foods are available, as well as the best steamed hot dogs on the North River.

World’s End / Trustees of Reservations Site
250 Martin’s Lane, Hingham
With unparalleled views of the Weir River, Hingham Harbor, and Boston’s skyline, this Reservation is criss-crossed by tree-lined roads interspersed with tree groves. In between are vast grassy fields that attract butterflies and provide habitat for nesting birds. 4.5 miles of carriage paths and footpaths allow for moderate hiking, and interpretive tours and programs are offered.

Kaleidoscope Children’s Theatre
130 Sohier Street, Cohasset
Productions are on Thursdays at 10:30 am from July 12 through August 23
The South Shore Music Circus is a well-known professional entertainment venue. The Russian American Kids Circus will lead off the Kaleidoscope series on July 12, followed by stage productions of several well-loved children’s fairy tales.



© 2006 Elm Bank Media