North of Boston
From Marblehead to Topsfield to Newburyport, the North Shore offers exciting opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy the nature of Massachusetts by land and by sea.
- Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary in Topsfield offers more than 12 miles of interconnecting trails that invite you to explore the forests, meadows, and rich wetlands.
- The Joppa Flats Education Center is located at the gateway to one of the country’s most productive, year-round, wildlife viewing areas—the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on the Plum Island estuary.
- Eastern Point Wildlife Sanctuary in Gloucester provides amazing coastal vistas from the parking area and is a hot spot for butterflies and seabirds.
- Nahant Thicket is a tiny patch of red maple swamp and brushy tangles with a traversing stream. It’s possible to find a rare bird here any time of year.
- Marblehead Neck Wildlife Sanctuary’s 12 acres of woodlands are located in the center of the “Neck,” a peninsula that extends into Massachusetts Bay.
Get On The Water
- Take naturalist-guided canoe trips along the Ipswich River at twilight to learn about the river and all its inhabitants.
- Canoe solo along eight miles of the Ipswich River that meanders through the wildlife sanctuary on your own; Mass Audubon members can rent canoes May through October. Email or call the sanctuary (978-887- 9264) for more information.
- See a variety of shorebirds (Greater Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, Wilson’s Phalarope) as well as several species of cetaceans (Humpback Whale, Fin Whale, Minke Whale) during one of Joppa Flats’ Seabirds and Whales cruises aboard the “Prince of Whales.”
- Joppa Flats offers a variety of sea kayaking adventures, including Introduction to Sea Kayaking, Full Moon Evening Paddle, and Exploring the Merrimack River by Kayak.
- Enjoy hands-on learning activities while sailing into the Merrimack River and the Plum Island Estuary during Joppa Flats’ Family Ecology Cruises aboard the “Yankee Clipper.”
Join a Program
- Ipswich River offers programs for families and adults at the sanctuary, on Cape Ann, and in Marblehead. Go tide-pooling at the seashore, join us for a campout, learn to identify butterflies and dragonflies, and more.
- Joppa Flats runs programs for families and adults at the education center, Parker River Wildlife Center, and beyond. Learn about horseshoe crabs, go butterflying, master the art of nature drawing, and more.
- Borrow a pair of binoculars at our nature centers and bring our bird checklist.
- Take an upcoming birding program with instructors from Ipswich River and Joppa Flats.
- For a great introduction to local birding areas, join Joppa Flats’ Wednesday Morning Birding, which runs every week from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (except in July).
Spend the Night
- Mass Audubon members can rent a cabin at Ipswich River conveniently located close to the office and program facilities. Call 978-887-9264 for more information.
- Be adventurous and camp overnight on Perkins Island a mile paddle from the Ipswich River's sanctuary landing. Call 978-887-9264 for more information.
Send Your Kids to Camp
- Ipswich River’s Nature Day Camps (one and two week sessions and ½ day for 4-5 year olds)—located in Topsfield, Marblehead, and Essex—are designed to provide campers with a unique opportunity to learn about nature, meet new friends, and have fun.
- Joppa Flats offers a science-based camp (3- and 4-day sessions) for children 6-12 who enjoy outdoor exploration, crafts, photography, journaling, science experiments, and group challenges.
Play in Nature
- Identify sea shells, crab molts, and mermaid purses at a sand table or handle live animals such as sea stars, urchins, and hermit crabs in a 110-gallon tide pool touch tank at Joppa Flats.
- Challenge your brain and body on the Ipswich River Quest; follow clues around the sanctuary to reach a special destination.
- Play a rousing game of Summer Walk Nature Bingo.