We ordered the clam strip and haddock “mini-meal” It was the perfect amount.
Photo Credit : Marie Adele Ware
It’s nearing the end of summer, and there is still so much to do and see. How to squeeze it all in? The best thing to do is to plan some day trips. Have you ever visited Ipswich? Whether you are traveling with family, friends, or solo, the seaside Massachusetts town of Ipswich has some great attractions for all seasons. I often drive there just for fun. Beautiful back roads can take you to some real gems. Whether you are local, or from out of state, Ipswich is worth putting on your “must-see” list. As the last week of summer approached, I revisited some of my favorite spots.
Favorite Things to Do in Ipswich, MA
The first stop of the day was Russell Orchards. Russell Orchards was first established in 1920, as Goodale Orchards, but has been owned and operated by the Russell family for more than twenty years. The name was changed in 2000. Russell Orchards is open from May through November, offering seasonal fruit picking, wine tasting, and shopping in their farm store.
The farm store is always the first place I go, and there are so many goodies to choose from that I’ve never left empty-handed. They sell fresh fruits, local honey, baskets, fruit wine, ice cream, cookbooks, homemade cider, and their famous (and award-winning) apple cider donuts. I had to get some donuts while I was there.
While eating your cider donuts, walk around or relax at one of the picnic tables. You may see some barnyard friends along the way. The geese are a personal favorite of mine. Follow the dirt road to the barn, and you’ll also see a pretty big attraction — Big Darrell, the very large pig.
While it may not be apple season quite yet, there is still plenty of picking you can do at Russell Orchards! During the summer months, they offer pick-your-own berries. At this point in the summer, the blackberry patch is open for picking. Although you can buy them pre-picked in the farm store, the experience of picking the berries yourself makes it even more fun, and memorable.
Leaving Russell Orchards, we head down the road to the historic Crane Estate, a beautiful 2,100-acre site. The Crane estate is home to three different properties. Crane Beach, The Crane Wildlife Refuge, and Castle Hill. As you drive up Castle Hill, allow some time for taking in your beautiful surroundings. It’s no wonder that Richard T. Crane fell in love with this place and made it into his summer retreat. At Castle Hill you can see The Great House, and the estate’s newly renovated Italian gardens. Guided tours of the estate are offered throughout the year, and reservations are not required. I would allow a few hours just to walk around. Everywhere you turn, there is something to see. The experience is like being transported back in time. Looking for somewhere to stay while in Ipswich? The estate is also home to The Inn at Castle Hill.
Just down the road from the estate is Crane Beach, a big attraction for both locals and tourists alike. If you want a full beach day, Crane Beach is worth the cost of admission, but if you don’t, the admission fee is reduced after 4:00 PM, and the beach stays open until sunset.
One of my favorite things to do at Crane Beach is to have a picnic. Bring a blanket, take your farm store goodies (maybe the berries you just picked at Russell Orchards?), and have yourself a beach picnic.
Continuing our Ipswich day trip, we turn off the main road and onto a dirt path, leading us to Appleton Farms, one of the country’s oldest operating farms. In the farm store, you can buy fresh flowers, baked goods, cheeses, and milk from their cows.
I suggest taking a stroll on one of Appleton’s walking trails. If you do, you may see the farm’s Jersey cows grazing in the field. If you happen to be at the farm around 4:00 PM, you could also see the afternoon milking at the milking barn. You’ll probably see some other animals along the way, too. Appleton farms has not only cows, but sheep, goats, chickens, and bunnies as well. Make sure you take a peek at the baby cows, located right by the milking barn.
Appleton Farms offers other great summer activities, as well, including Friday night farm dinners that are not to be missed. Right behind Jimmy’s Barn you’ll find the pick-your-own-flowers field. Late summer is sunflower season, so right now you can pick 10 stems for 10 dollars, and go home with a beautiful bouquet.
The Clam Box
Getting hungry? There are some great dinner spots in downtown Ipswich, but since I can only choose one, I head to the historic Clam Box. Wondering about the name? Take a good look at the building as you pull up. It is, in fact, shaped like a clam box!
Stopping here brings back a lot of memories for me. When I was little, my Pepere used to take me on “mystery rides.” I would never know where we were going; I just knew it would be a new, fun adventure somewhere in New England. One of his favorite stops was the Clam Box, where my Memere, Pepere, and I would all enjoy the fried seafood together. I like to blame them for my enduring love of fried seafood.
At the Clam Box, the large plates are perfect for sharing with friends and family, but they also offer “mini meals” for those who don’t want too much and aren’t looking to share.
We took advantage of the nice weather and ate at the outdoor picnic tables during this visit, but the indoor dining room makes the Clam Box a great option no matter the weather. If you love fried seafood, the Clam Box has some of the best in New England, so don’t miss out!
SEE MORE: The Best Fried Clams in New England (including the Clam Box!)
Whether you are visiting from near of far, be sure to stop by the Ipswich Visitor Center in the heart of downtown to learn even more about the town’s heritage and all it has to offer.
What are some of your favorite things to do in Ipswich, MA? Let us know!
This post was first published in 2016 and has been updated.
Thing to Do in Ipswich, MA, in Summer | Featured Spots