Places to Explore — North Shore

Not sure where to start exploring? Try visiting one of our wildlife sanctuaries on the North Shore.


Nature Center & Trails

Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary

Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary

Location: Topsfield
Trails: 12 miles

Whether exploring by foot or paddle, you'll marvel at the diversity of wildlife inhabiting this sanctuary's forests, meadows, wetlands, and namesake river. Details >

Joppa Flats Education Center

Joppa Flats Education Center

Location: Newburyport
Trails: None

Celebrate this region's wildlife-rich habitats through guided tours, marine touch tanks, art exhibits, drop-in programs, and interpretive displays. Details >

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Endicott Wildlife Sanctuary

Endicott Wildlife Sanctuary

Location: Wenham
Trails: 0.5 miles

Enjoy a short walk on a trail through mature mixed forest with views over a wet meadow. The building is home to the Ipswich River Nature Preschool and serves as a base for several of Mass Audubon’s staff. Details >

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Trails Only

Eastern Point Wildlife Sanctuary

Eastern Point Wildlife Sanctuary

Location: Gloucester
Trails: 0.5 miles

Located on a peninsula near the historic Eastern Point Lighthouse, the small sanctuary is a hot spot for butterflies and seabirds at particular times of the year. Details >

Marblehead Neck Wildlife Sanctuary

Marblehead Neck Wildlife Sanctuary

Location: Marblehead
Trails: 0.85 miles

In the center of a peninsula that extends into Massachusetts Bay, Marblehead Neck's swamp, thickets, and woodlands are a haven for migratory birds, especially warblers. Details >

Nahant Thicket Wildlife Sanctuary

Song Sparrow at Nahant Thicket (Photo: Rosemary Mosco)
Song Sparrow (Photo: Rosemary Mosco)

Nahant Thicket Wildlife Sanctuary

Location: Nahant
Trails: 0.25 miles

Explore this inviting spot for hundreds of migrating songbirds such as warblers, vireos, and thrushes along a short trail that winds through a tiny patch of red maple swamp. Details >

Rough Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary

Sunset at Rough Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary © Paul Mozell
© Paul Mozell

Rough Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary

Location: Rowley
Trails: 1.7 miles

Encompassing spectacular coastal woodlands, salt marshes, tidal creeks, and salt pannes, Rough Meadows supports an astonishing diversity of wildlife. Details >

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Straitsmouth Island Wildlife Sanctuary

Lighthouse on Straitsmouth Island © Thacher Island Association
© Thacher Island Association

Straitsmouth Island Wildlife Sanctuary

Location: Rockport
Trails: 0.33 miles

Encompassing most of a rocky island 500 feet from the mainland in Rockport, this wildlife sanctuary is adjacent to the town-owned historic lighthouse and lies within a designated Important Bird Area. Accessible by kayak. Details > 

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No Trails

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Kettle Island Wildlife Sanctuary

White faced ibis © Craig Gibson
White-faced ibis © Craig Gibson

Kettle Island Wildlife Sanctuary

Location: Manchester-by-the-Sea
Trails: None

A designated Important Bird Area, the island hosts a large colony of nesting waterbirds. You can view wildlife from small boats and kayaks, but landing on the island is prohibited. Details >

Other Sanctuaries - North Shore


Not Ready for Visitors


Annisquam Salt Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary, Gloucester

5 ACRES

The exact location of Annisquam Salt Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary—sometimes referred to as Cut Creek Wildlife Sanctuary—is ambiguous since it is situated within a large complex of salt marshes to the north or west of Rust Island (located on the west side of the Annisquam River) and immediately north of where Route 128 crosses the Annisquam River. 

Conservation Features: The original 1808 deed describes this property as "a piece of salt marsh land." The property bounds described in this deed run along the creek and several ditches without reference to compass directions. Over the more than two centuries since the deed was written, it is likely that the course of the creek has changed somewhat, and the alignment of the ditches may have been altered, making precisely relocating the parcel very difficult. The salt marshes in this area are rich habitat for a variety of birds, mammals, and invertebrates.

Cedar Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, Wenham

158 ACRES

Just south of Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, Cedar Pond Wildlife Sanctuary is bisected east to west by Cherry Street. It lies within a mosaic of protected conservation lands that includes Ipswich River and several large state forest and park areas. The northern section includes portions of Wenham Swamp, and the southern section contains an informal trail system that existed prior to Mass Audubon’s ownership.

Conservation Features: The wildlife sanctuary contains approximately 110 acres of upland forest, 27 acres of wooded swamp, 10 acres of marsh, open water, and bog, 4 acres of shrubland, and 7 acres of field. The wetlands include Cedar Pond and Meadow Pond. There is an Atlantic white cedar wetland along the shore of Cedar Pond, and also a sphagnum bog and several vernal pools on the property. The sanctuary is within the Eastern Essex County Interior Forest Important Bird Area, and its mix of habitat types offers nesting habitat to numerous species as well as resting and feeding habitat during migration. Some 15 species of birds that are priorities for conservation have been recorded at Cedar Pond. Also seen here are the Blue-spotted Salamander and 34 species of odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) including lilypad forktail, aurora damsel, and hudsonian whiteface. In addition, approximately 175 plant species have been recorded on the wildlife sanctuary.

Fish Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, Boxford

6 ACRES

Fish Brook Wildlife Sanctuary—also known as the Hardy Property—is a small property surrounded by conservation land, including Boxford State Forest. It is located west of Middleton Road in Boxford, in or near the eastern portion of an area called Longmeadow Swamp, situated on the border of two tributaries to the Ipswich River. Conservation land owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Boxford State Forest and Boxford Wildlife Sanctuary) and Essex County Greenbelt Association surround the sanctuary. 

Conservation Features: Red maple and eastern white pine dominate Longmeadow Swamp. Sweet pepperbush, spicebush, and highbush blueberry are common in the dense woody understory. A few glossy buckthorn shrubs are present in some areas, but the area is mostly free of invasive plant species, even in areas disturbed by beaver activity. Herbaceous vegetation is sparse and includes skunk cabbage, cinnamon fern, and scattered grasses and sedges. 

House Island Wildlife Sanctuary, Manchester-by-the-Sea

10 ACRES

This rocky island lies approximately 2,000 feet south of Gales Point in Manchester-by-the-Sea and is situated within the Essex County Coastal Bird Islands Important Bird Area.

Conservation Features: Approximately one-half the island is covered with dense vegetation. Beyond the rocky shoreline is a dense band of deciduous shrubs and vines (including poison ivy), within which lies a forest comprised of deciduous trees. This wildlife sanctuary is part of a cluster of islands that hosts nesting colonial waterbirds, such as herons, egrets, ibises, and other species. There are currently no colonies using this island, but colonies are roosting on nearby Kettle Island and other islands in the vicinity. Public access to House Island is limited to scheduled Mass Audubon programs only.

Norman's Woe Wildlife Sanctuary, Gloucester

35 ACRES

Three non-contiguous parcels are situated in a residential area off Hesperus Avenue. A private residence and driveway is on one of these sites.

Conservation Features: The wildlife sanctuary contains an oak-hemlock-white pine forest. The central parcel features several forested wetlands. The northern parcel contains a freshwater wetland and borders a brackish marsh along its southern boundary.

Norwood Mills Wildlife Sanctuary, Rockport

13 ACRES

On Cape Ann, west of Granite Street (Route 127) near Halibut Point in Rockport, the southern boundary of the sanctuary abuts the town-owned Pine Pit Conservation Area.

Conservation Features: The sanctuary is dominated by native plant species and two streams cross the property flowing south to north. There is a small stone dam on the stream that crosses the western side of the property. The impoundment behind this stream has largely filled with sediment and is vegetated with a shrub swamp that is transitioning into a forested wetland. Rock outcroppings are common and slopes are steep in some locations.