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Ipswich, Massachusetts Guide

Famous for lobsters and clams, antiques, Crane Beach, artists, and author John Updike, Ipswich is a classic New England coastal town reachable from Boston by car or train.

Whipple House, Ipswich MA
Whipple House (1677), Ipswich MA.

The swift, tidal Ipswich River runs through the heart of Ipswich, Massachusetts, an old New England colonial town founded in 1634 and located 35 miles (56 km) northeast of Boston (map).

Ipswich became famous in the 1960s and later as the home of novelist and poet John Updike (1932-2009). In Ipswich town proper there are bed-and-breakfast guesthouses, restaurants, and several historic houses.

What to See & Do

Come by car or train to swim, eat clams, lobsters and other good things, browse its shops, admire the historic houses, its village green, its hilltop white Congregational church, tour the Ipswich Historical Society's old Whipple House and Ipswich Museum, then the vast Crane Estate, with its huge manor-like Great House on Castle Hill.

Castle Hill, Crane Estate

Richard Teller Crane Jr made a fortune in plumbing and bathroom fixtures a century ago, and spent it on a grand English-manor estate in Ipswich MA. It's now a museum, and the broad, long beach below is a favorite place to go on hot summer days.

The Crane Estate's Great House, in a style from the time of King Charles II, is surrounded by extensive gardens and deer parks.

You can take a tour of the Great House, now cared for by The Trustees.

You can even stay overnight in the estate's former guest house, now The Inn at Castle Hill, a cozy inn. Revenue from the inn helps to maintain the Crane Estate and other properties. More...

At the far eastern end of the grande alléet hat sweeps down the hills to the sea is Crane Beach, among the North Shore's best swimming beaches.

Crane Beach

At the foot of Castle Hill, Crane Beach is a four-mile-long barrier beach that fills with sun-and-sea seekers in summer.

On the way to Crane Beach, stop at Russell Orchards Farm & Winery for fresh fruit (pick-your-own in autumn), or to taste their fruit wines and other good farm products.

Crane Beach, the long fine white sand beach on Argilla Road facing Ipswich Bay in Ipswich MA, is part of a 1400-acre (567-hectare) reservation created by Richard T Crane, Jr, a Chicagoan who made a fortune in plumbing fixtures.

The Crane family gave the Crane Estate, along with their palatial Great House mansion, to The Trustees of Reservations in 1974.

The beach (tel 978-356-4351), often (and erroneously) called Crane's Beach, is now open to the public from 8 am to sunset for a fee.

Services include lifeguards, bike racks, toilets, snacks and fast food, beach shop, and a first-aid station.

To get to Crane Beach, follow I-93 or I-95 to MA Route 128 North toward Gloucester, then MA Route 133 north through Essex.

Just after entering Ipswich (there's a sign), look for the road on the right marked for the Crane Estate and Crane Beach. Follow this road, then turn right onto Argilla Road (there are signs) and follow the road, and the signs, to the Crane Estate and Crane Beach.

Choate Bridge & Whipple House

Right in the center of Ipswich (map), the stone Choate Bridge still arches the Ipswich River as it has since its construction "by Town & County" in 1764.

On MA Route 133 on the south side of the bridge, toward Essex, is the Hall Haskell House holding the town's Visitors Center.

A bit farther south is the town green and the Ipswich Museum lodged in two historical houses, the Whipple House (1677) and the Heard House (1800). More...

Little Neck

Every New England seafood lover has heard of Little Neck clams. Most people think the name is a description of the clam, but in fact it eponym is from the Little Neck isthmus in Ipswich (near Great Neck) where the clams are dug.

Nature Reserves

Hamlin Reservation (tel 978-356-4351), on Argilla Road (the road to the Crane Estate), is aproperty of The Trustees of Reservations. Its 135 acres (55 hectares) of fields, salt marsh and marsh meadow are open daily from sunrise to sunset for birdwatching, walking and nature study, for free.

Other nature reserves in Ipswich include the beaches of the Sandy Point State Reservation in the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge at the southern tip of Plum Island; Ipswich Wildlife Sanctuary; and Willowdale State Forest, with 40 miles of hiking trails as well as fishing and boating opportunities.

The Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary (tel 978-887-9264), 87 Perkins Row in neighboring Topsfield, is a 2800-acre (1133-hectare) nature reservation of the Massachusetts Audubon Society with 10 miles (16 km) of hiking trails, and opportunities for birdwatching and canoeing. There's an admission fee.

Wolf Hollow

A very special place is Wolf Hollow, the North American Wolf Foundation's a non-profit, all-volunteer conservation and education center for the study and preservation of wolves in the wild. More...

Ipswich Transportation

Ipswich is 35 miles (56 km) northeast of Boston along US Route 1A (map), though the fastest drive is via I-93 North to I-95/MA 128 North, east to MA 1A north. Or take MA 133 north from Gloucester and Essex.

You can easily get to Ipswich from Boston's North Station via the MBTA Commuter Rail's Newburyport line, a trip of just under one hour. More...

Ipswich Essex Explorer Bus Lines

On summer weekends from mid-June through early September (Labor Day weekend), the Cape Ann Transportation Authority (CATA) operates the Ipswich-Essex Explorer, two local bus routes connecting the Ipswich Commuter Rail train station with the Ipswich Visitor Center, Wolf Hollow, Russel Orchards Farm & Winery, Crane Beach, Essex's Main Street Antique Shops, the Essex Shipbuilding Museum, and Woodman's Seafood Restaurant, famous for its lobsters and clams. More...

Where to Stay

Ipswich has few lodging places, so it's best to stay in a larger North Shore town such as Gloucester or Rockport, both of which have fine selections of hotels, motels, inns, B&Bs and resorts. More...