5 Best Ice Cream Shops in Ipswich, MA

From old fashioned homemade chocolate and vanilla to new-fangled candy-packed environmentally conscious flavors, Ipswich MA has some great ice cream.

Ipswich MA is best known for Crane Beach, and what better way to cool off after the beach, than with ice cream. Packed with candy, made from organic fruit or served with espresso, Ipswich has some of the best ice creams around. Here is a list of the top five ice cream shops.

Environmentally Friendly, High Quality, Down River Ice Cream

The hands-down, best ice cream in Ipswich comes from the Down River Ice Cream shop. Actually, it is right over the border in Essex, MA, off of 133 after the turn for Crane Beach. Their ice cream is rich, but not heavy, made from milk from local dairy farms. They go the extra mile to make the business green, with spoons, dishes, and straws that can be composted.

Every one of their 25 flavors is made on-site with the best quality ingredients. Their coffee ice cream, Mug Up, is made with actual coffee, and they grow the strawberries for their ice cream in a patch behind the shop. Beyond the basics, they have creative flavors that are loaded with candies, such as Monkey’s Uncle, which is fresh banana ice cream with Reese’s peanut butter cups mixed in.

Down River has two geographical disadvantages, which don’t stop ice cream lovers from flocking to their shop. The parking is really lousy and right off of route 133. Even though the owners have made extensive efforts to provide seating, the shop is wedged between marshes and the highway. The ice cream is reasonably priced for the quality, but more expensive than other shops in town.

Zumi’s Downtown Coffee and Ice Cream Bar

Zumi’s is a special downtown coffee shop and ice cream bar. Mixing hot and cold, they have a little something for everyone. Their ice cream is not fantastic, but all 20 flavors are of good quality at a fair price. What is great about Zumi’s is that they are more than just a business, they are a community-oriented cultural zone.

Enjoy your ice cream on the deck out back, next to the Ipswich Riverwalk. If it is too hot, come inside where there is air conditioning. Local artist’s paintings hang on the wall, and live musicians play on weekends and some weekdays. The wifi is free, and there are bins of toys to distract the little ones. The atmosphere is laid back. Simple, good.

Good Old-Fashioned Ice Cream at White Farms

The cow on the roof is a beacon for ice cream lovers to come and feast at White Farms. They serve copious amounts of over 60 varieties of homemade ice cream and share picnic tables with Sal’s pizza. “Chip” is their specialty: Chocolate Chip, Mocha Chip, Kahlua Chip, Mocha Almond Chip, Reverse Chocolate Chip, Coconut Chip, Mint Chocolate Chip, and Chocolate Chocolate Chip.

They have plenty of parking recessed from 1A at the border of Rowley and Ipswich. Picnic tables are available under a large tent, and there is a great sandbox for kids to play in. Sometimes on hot summer days, all the ice cream drips can get a little icky. Also, some flavors taste a little artificial, like the blue vanilla and the nearly fluorescent key lime pie ice cream, but some people like that.

Richardson’s Ice Cream at Russell Orchards

Russell Orchards is the closest shop selling ice cream to Crane Beach, selling premium Richardson’s ice cream made in Middleton, MA. They claim the secret to their rich ice cream is the extra butterfat. The Death By Chocolate ice cream is truly to die for, and the peach ice cream is made with real peaches. Russell Orchards features a select fifteen flavors served at reasonable portions and prices.

On a hot day, it is better to grab a dish than a cone because there are only a couple of benches outside under the shade of trees. Otherwise, visit the farm animals or let the kids play on the recycled toy playground while enjoying the ice cream. With plenty of parking, ice cream at Russell Orchard is worth the stop.

Dairy Queen and Orange Julius in Ipswich, MA

Dairy Queen is a fail-safe ice cream shop. Best bets are Blizzards loaded with candy, ice milk cones dipped in chocolate or refreshing Orange Julius. Located on 1A/133, there is plenty of parking, friendly service and the clean sterility one expects from a franchise. The stonescaped patio provides adequate seating but views the highway. Mosquitoes lurked in the marshlands behind the shop, so plan on eating ice cream in the car after dusk.

Quincy MA: The City of Presidents

Birthplace of the American Dream and Kilroy in Easy Reach of Boston birthplace of John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and John Hancock, Quincy played a vital role in the American Revolution. Today, much of their legacy remains.

Five miles south of Boston, just across the Neponset River, Quincy appears at first sight just like any other suburb. Stay awhile, there is a wealth of history that is impossible to avoid.

Quincy claims to be “The birthplace of the American Dream” and the “City of Presidents”. John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and John Hancock, who played a vital role in the fight for American independence, were all born here. John Adams, the first vice president, was born in 1735, the oldest of three brothers.

Their legendary forefathers have inspired succeeding generations to live the American Dream. Howard Johnson and Dunkin Donuts both started trading as small Quincy businesses before becoming household names.

The Adams Mansion was the summer White House for both presidents and home to their descendants until the early 20th century. Today, the mansion and the birthplaces of both presidents from the Adams National Historical Park A regular Trolley Tour departs from the Visitor Center in Hancock Street, visiting all three sites in about two and a half hours. Other historic sites include United First Parish Church – the burial place of both presidents and their wives, the historic Hancock Cemetery, and the Dorothy Quincy Homestead, the childhood home of John Hancock’s wife, Dorothy Quincy.

America’s first commercial railroad was founded in Quincy in 1826; transporting granite to Charlestown for the construction of the Bunker Hill Monument. Granite played a large part in the city’s population growth; with immigrants settling to work in the city’s quarries. The industry declined after 1945 with the advent of cheaper building materials and the last quarry closed in the 1960s. Examples of Quincy Granite can still be seen at the Bunker Hill Monument and the Women’s Titanic Memorial in Washington DC.

Parts of the original granite railway still exist, while old quarries are popular with hikers and rock climbers. The new Granite Links Golf Club stands on the site of some of the former quarries.

Many of the U.S. Navy ships that fought in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam were built in Quincy’s shipyards. Shipbuilding continued until the mid-1980s. The Fore River Shipyard is now home to the U.S. Naval Shipbuilding Museum, aboard USS Salem, the former flagship of the Sixth Fleet, built in Quincy in the 1940s

Kilroy was in Quincy- in fact he worked there. At Quincy’s Bethlehem Steel Shipyard, during World War II, James Kilroy chalked his name next to rivets he inspected, and so a legend started. With no time to paint over the markings before the ships went into battle, “Kilroy Was Here” traveled the globe, and soon became a GI’s rallying cry, scrawling it wherever they went.

The sea still influences modern Quincy, with 27miles of coastline and nearly a dozen beaches there are plenty of opportunities for swimming, picnicking and water sports. Marina Bay hosts a wide variety of restaurants, lounges and clubs, with a Nantucket-style boardwalk, offering a panoramic view of Boston’s skyline.

Easily accessible from Boston by road, the Red Line T subway or commuter rail, Quincy provides an enthralling mix of past and present.

Enjoy A Day at Crane Beach in Ipswich, MA

On the Crane Beach Reservation pristine sandy beaches stretch for miles. Piping plovers nest contently in the protected grassy dunes. At low tide, tidal pools reveal glimpses of sea creatures. Escape the hassles of modern life on this beautiful marine wildlife reservation, about an hour north of Boston.

Open year-round from eight am to dusk, Crane Beach has something for everyone. Kids play along the shore while teenagers soak up the sun. Nature lovers hike through the grassy dunes and athletes swim in the chilly waters. In the fall until early spring dog walkers share the beach with horses and riders.

What Beach Gear to Bring and What to Leave at Home

Crane beach facilities are well equipped. During the summer the concession stand sells sandwiches, ice cream, and cold drinks. The bathhouse has showers and toilets. Drinks are available in vending machines and portable toilets are open year-round. There are no lockers for valuables, so if it is important leave it in the car.

When the beach fills up in the summer, umbrellas and tents are useful to protect from the sun as well as staking out a spot. Some good beach gear to bring is sunblock, towels, beach chairs, Avon Skin So Soft®, water, and snacks. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited, as are barbecues. The Crane Estate is carry-in, carry out, so bring an extra bag for trash.

The space available for beach toys and games depends on how many beachgoers are around. On a calm day, there is room for a volleyball set or a skin board. No flotation devices are allowed at the beach, from boogie boards to inner tubes. A pail and a shovel are always sure bets

Family-Friendly Summer Events at Crane Beach and Castle Hill

There are tons of fun activities during the summer at the Crane Estate. Learn about ocean creatures and their habitat during guided Beach Combers walks. Weekly picnic concerts on Castle Hill feature a variety of musical styles. Creativity is tested at the end of summer sandcastle competition. The Inn, Steeple Beach, and the Great House can be rented for a generous fee, but the grandiose functions held at the Crane Estate are unforgettable.

Fun Cloudy or Cooler Day Activities at the Beach Guide

Crane Beach has more to offer than just summer tanning. Explore the marshland and dunes with miles and miles of hiking trails. Take a tour of the Great House in all its turn of the century splendor between May and October for $10 USD. Bring your dog or your horse the rest of the year for $3 USD. Just dress warm and bring a windbreaker to ward off the sea breeze.

Commuter Rail and Beach Shuttle vs. Driving to Crane Beach

It is a toss up whether it is better to come to Crane Beach by car or beach shuttle. Riding the commuter rail with flip-flops and beach umbrella does seem a bit silly, but it is by far the most convenient way to visit during the summer. Compared to the $25 USD to park (2010 rates), the $5 USD beach shuttle seems like steal.

The shuttle brings passengers from the Ipswich train station to the beach and includes the entrance fee. It also guarantees entry, since the gates close to cars when the parking lot fills up by 11 am on hot sunny weekends and holidays, and does not open again to more visitors until 4pm. Parking information is available on Twitter.

On the other hand, driving makes more sense for large parties with lots of beach gear. Traffic is not bad coming from 1A or 133. Parking is half off after 3pm and there is plenty of parking on weekdays and off-season. The best option is to tag along with an Ipswich resident who gets in for free, and parks in the resident only parking lot.

Greenheads, Seagulls and Other Pests

People are not the only ones that love the beach; greenheads, seagulls and ticks love it too. Greenheads are vicious horse flies that leave welts. They swarm Massachusetts beaches in late July to early August, with different intensities from year to year. Avon’s Skin So Soft® works well as a repellent and is for sale at the Crane Beach concession stand.

Caution is the best remedy against getting bit by a seagull or tick. Never feed the birds, and keep a flip-flop handy to ward off aerial attacks when eating sandwiches. Ticks are not found on the beach, but live in the sea grass. Stay on the boardwalks and designated paths to avoid tick bites and check children carefully if they are little explorers.

Day Trips from Boston, Mass.

Cape Cod, Salem, Plymouth, Concord, Lexington, Lowell

Massachusetts offers visitors varied attractions. Beaches, outlet malls, museums, and historical sites like Plymouth, Quincy, and Lexington are an hour’s drive from Boston.

Downtown Boston offers ample shopping and sightseeing opportunities, but for anyone fancying a day away from the city here are 10 ideas for days out within easy reach.

Cape Cod

Explore the coastline of this popular peninsula. “The Cape”, as it affectionately is known is famous for wonderful beaches and fresh seafood. An hour’s drive south of Boston down highway 3 brings you the Sagamore Bridge, the gateway to Cape Cod. The area is very popular in the summer months and traffic congestion can be a problem.

Gloucester and Rockport

Just over 30 miles northeast of Boston, at the tip of Cape Ann, lie two small fishing villages with a wealth of history. First settled as early as 1623 the area was the inspiration for The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger.

Lexington and Concord

Trace the route taken by Paul Revere to the Revolutionary battlegrounds of Lexington and Concord. Visit the Old North Bridge in Concord and the Minute Man National Park, Lexington. Lexington and Concord are roughly 20 miles northwest of Boston on Route 2.

Lowell

The Lowell National Historic Park is a series of historic buildings, in downtown Lowell, with trolleys and canal boats providing transport between them. Lowell is within easy reach of Boston via the I93 and I495. Rail passengers can take the Lowell Line, commuter rail train, from North Station.

Old Sturbridge Village

The largest living history museum in New England recreates village life in 1830. Watch master craftsmen at work, see a nineteenth-century school classroom, or visit a colonial-style garden. Old Sturbridge Village is 60 miles west of Boston down the Mass Turnpike (I90).

Plymouth

The lives of the Pilgrim Fathers still dominate Plymouth today. A replica of the Mayflower stands proudly in Plymouth Harbor and, two miles up the road, the Founding Fathers and Native Americans’ lives are recreated by role players at Plymouth Plantation. Plymouth is a 40-mile drive from Boston via highway 3. A commuter rail service to Plymouth/Kingston runs from South Station.

Quincy

“The Birthplace of the American Dream” is just 5 miles south of Boston. Visit the birthplaces of two presidents on the trolley tour to the Adams’ family residences. To get to Quincy from Boston take the I93, commuter rail from South Station, or the red line subway.

Salem

Famous for the Salem Witch Trials in 1692, various museums and exhibitions recreate these events. 25 miles northeast of Boston, Salem is reached via I93 and route 128 or by the Rockport or Newburyport commuter rail line from North Station

Whale Watching

Do you fancy something completely different? Take a Whale Watching trip from either Boston Harbor or Gloucester. A camera and warm clothing are necessities as you watch whales in their natural environment. Trips leave daily between May and September.

Wrentham

If you want a bit more retail therapy, take a trip to the Wrentham Village Premium Outlet. Over 170 outlet stores offer designer goods at discounted prices, including Barneys New York, Burberry, and Saks Fifth Avenue. If you time it right, you can also take in a football or soccer game at the nearby Gillette Stadium. Wrentham is on route 1A at the intersection with the I495.

These are just a few of many attractions that the area has to offer, The Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism can provide more details.

Six Things to Do in Provincetown: Pilgrims to Whale Watching

Provincetown offers a unique culture and history from the first Mayflower Pilgrim landing to today’s vibrant gay population, whale watching, and seafood.

Provincetown, Massachusetts has its share of flamboyant people living and visiting there. There are also people with different hairstyles, tattoos covering the body, and unique choices of clothing like a cowboy hat, tighty-whities, and rollerskates.

It’s also known as a gay-friendly place. In addition to the large resident gay population, many others come to the area for events such as Gay Pride Week and Bear Week (big, burly, hairy gay men).

The street performers include a young teenager playing at saxophone to a mime painted in gold paint to a 78-year-old transvestite singing karaoke and “living his dream.”

Watch people watching people, and see the reactions some people have towards the more unusually turned-out individuals.

The Pilgrim Monument

Climb a series of 60 inclined ramps and 116 steps to the top of the 252-foot Pilgrim Monument for a great view of Provincetown. On clear days, Plymouth and the Boston skyline can be seen.

With construction finishing in 1910, the monument became the highest point on Cape Cod. The monument commemorates the landing of the Mayflower Pilgrims in 1620 in Provincetown. They only stayed five weeks because the sandy ground was not fertile enough, but wrote the Mayflower Compact while there.

Eat Seafood

In a fishing town, seafood is always a must and there are so many places to go to. Try the Lobster Pot. The seating is a bit cozy, even crowded, but that gives an indication about what people think of the food. Try the Shellfish Algarve – shrimp, mussels, littlenecks, scallops, fish, and calamari, steamed in a delicate blend of olive oil, butter, garlic, bay leaf, and a hint of crushed red pepper; served over noodles. Also, try the broiled scallops.

There’s also a full bar, lots of drinks, and a view of the harbor. If you are not in the mood to sit down to eat, along the harbor there are pick-up windows to order some fast, delicious seafood. Don’t forget to try the clam chowder.

Commercial Street

An eclectic mix of bars and restaurants, houseware and home decor shops, art galleries, wine stores, clothing stores, and souvenir shops line Commercial Street. Governor Bradford’s is a bar/restaurant located in the center of town that has good food and at night usually has interesting entertainment from cross-dressing karaoke to drag queen shows.

Hocus Pocus specializes in all types of piercings and, in Provincetown, that means all types of piercings. There’s Himalayan Handcrafts and Chadwick’s of Provincetown who bill themselves as having a “fascinating and unusual collection of home décor, accessories, and antiques.” Then there are Cape Treasures that has nearly everything under the sun.

Go to the Beach

Basically, five beaches exist in Cape Cod. There’s Race Point Beach (Cape Cod National Seashore) on the Atlantic Ocean, a great view of the sunrise. Located on Provincetown’s West End, Breakwater (Provincetown Harbor) allows for hiking to the very tip of Cape Cod at Long Point Light House.

Herring Cove (Cape Cod National Seashore), located along the Massachusetts Bay side of Provincetown, has miles of sandy beaches and Town Beaches (Provincetown Harbor) extends along with the town. Enjoy the beaches and even rent a boat or kayak to explore. Be aware the waters around the town are sometimes strong – physically and aromatically.

Whale Watch

Try one of the whale watching tours. The Portuguese Princess gives three-hour tours that usually find whales. The boat leaves from Macmillan wharf in Provincetown. On their website, they say, “Because we work with whales in the wild, each trip is different. The special habitat we visit is the summer home to such species as the Humpback, Finback, and Minke whales. The North Atlantic Right Whale is one of the most endangered species in the world, and may be seen in and around the waters of Provincetown and Cape Cod Bay. Toothed varieties such as pilot whales, white-sided dolphins, and harbor porpoise are often seen as well.”

Additionally, if it’s hot on land, a trip to the ocean will cool everyone down. If you get seasick or car sick, Dramamine might be good to take before the voyage begins. On the trip, a knowledgeable marine biologist talks over a microphone about the whales and, when whales are in view, she acts as a spotter and directs people around the boat for the best view possible.

Then relax, put an arm around a loved one and check out the sea and the lighthouses on the way back.

William Cullen Bryant Homestead, Cummington MA

William Cullen Bryant wrote his most famous poem, Thanatopsis, a meditation on death, at his tranquil homestead in Cummington, Massachusetts.

William Cullen Bryant’s poetry was inspired by the peaceful, bucolic countryside overlooking the Westfield River Valley in Cummington, Massachusetts. He was considered a prodigy when, at the age of ten, he published his first poem. He began his most acclaimed work, Thanatopsis, a poem about death, when he was 17 and he continued to expand and embellish the poem throughout his life.

William Cullen Bryant

A prominent journalist, William Cullen Bryant was editor of the New York Evening Post for fifty years until his death. He was also a lawyer, philanthropist, and was politically active as an abolitionist, a supporter of the rights of workers, and an environmentalist before the term even existed.

The Homestead

The Bryant Homestead was a two-story farmhouse that Bryant expanded into a three-story Victorian cottage. He also expanded a barn and orchards on the land, which – to Bryant – represented the picturesque beauty of rural America. Bryant traveled extensively in the United States and went abroad numerous times. His house features both Colonial and Victorian articles as well as exotic items from his travels.

The 195 acres of land surrounding the house include woodlands, pastures, and streams. Open to visitors year-round, The William Cullen Bryant Homestead offers:

  • Guided tours of the house and farm scheduled on various dates throughout the year.
  • A self-guided tour of the “Rivulet Trail,” leading to the stream which inspired Bryant’s poem Rivulet, published in 1823.
  • Two and a half miles of trails, including footpaths and carriage roads.
  • A maple sugar bush that has been tapped for over 200 years.
  • The “Pine Loop,” with pines among the tallest found in New England, some growing 150 feet high.
  • A gift shop and visitor’s center, open seasonally.

Thanatopsis, a Poem about Death

For the literary tourist, the most interesting thing about the Homestead is that it was in this idyllic retreat that William Cullen Bryant wrote Thanatopsis. A poetic treatise on death, Thanatopsis was published in 1817 in The New York Review. Thanos is the Greek term for “death personified.”

Bryant’s poem identifies death as the common fate shared by all of humanity, which ties us together so that no one can ever die alone.

“All that breathe/ will share thy destiny…” (60-61)

The natural beauty of the quiet aerie where Bryant wrote the poem influenced his view of death as oneness with all living things and all of nature. In spite of his conservative religious upbringing, he describes the passage to death as joining in nature’s eternal cycle,

“to mix forever with the elements” (26).

He often compares death with “sleep” (57), alluding to it as “slumber” (59) “rest” (58) “bed” (66) and “couch” (59). The closing words of the poem are “… pleasant dreams.” (81)

“Thanatopsis Realized”

On June 13, 1878, an article in the New York Times served as the obituary for William Cullen Bryant. It was named “Thanatopsis Realized” because Bryant died peacefully in his sleep, several days after suffering a fall.

The article also noted that Bryant was blessed to die in June. The Times noted that in his poem June, which praises the natural wonder and beauty of the month of June, Bryant expressed a petition to die in June, and not in the cold and darkness of winter.

The William Cullen Bryant Homestead: A Literary Travel Destination

The William Cullen Bryant Homestead is an excellent literary travel destination and is not far from the home of Emily Dickinson. Almost 50 years ago, as a child, I enjoyed chamber music on the lawn followed by a tour of the house. Today the Homestead offers even more for the literary traveler who is visiting New England.

References

“Thanatopsis Realized,” The New York Times, June 13, 1878, © The New York Times.

Thanatopsis excerpts from Yale Book of American Verse. Ed. Thomas R. Lounsbury. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1912. © 2002 Poetry-Archive.com.

Whistler’s Inn – Haunted Hotel in Lenox, Mass.

Whistler’s Inn overlooks beautiful gardens from leaded windows and has charming hosts, but what lies beneath the quaint charm? Charming ghosts?

Whistler’s Inn History

Set in the rolling Massachusetts countryside, the lovely mock-Tudor house that is now known as Whistler’s Inn was built in 1870. Railroad tycoon Ross Winans Whistler bought the house and lived there with Theodora after they married in 1884. The house is situated in a small valley and was originally called Hidden House. The gardens are romantically planted with Wisteria and roses.

Ross Whistler died in 1927, leaving his wife in the huge rambling house. The widow, grieving and faced with spending the rest of her life alone, hired a young woman from Sweden to help her. Nancy complained that she couldn’t cope and was given permission to bring her sister and brother-in-law to work at Hidden House. There was a hidden passion between Nancy and her brother-in-law, Paul, but he died, very young and very suddenly, perhaps from the stress of his wife and her sister, his mistress, in the same house. He was buried in the graveyard across the road. Some of the rooms at the Inn now overlook the old graveyard. Perhaps that is what gives people the idea that ghosts walk here.

The Rivals & The Tycoon

Nancy and her love rival sister remained together in the house, but it was not easy. They are buried across the road too, and there is speculation that the three lovers, and the one-time owner of the house, millionaire Ross Winans Whistler, all cling to the old place. Ross didn’t die here, though; he succumbed to heart disease in Nassau, Bahamas, at the age of 69. Three of the fourteen bedrooms are said to have a spiritual presence and the attic is a very uncomfortable place for living people.

Who is in Room 7?

When the current owners inherited the house they found that things would suddenly flood. Walk into a room, immediately turn and walk back out, and find you are wading through an inch of water. This happened to Richard Mears the first time he stayed in the house alone and went to check on room 7 just before leaving. Pipes would then burst on a fairly regular basis. He and his wife noticed areas of warmth and cold too, particularly in rooms 1, 5, and 7.

The possibility of spirits has brought customers to the Inn but it has meant some extra work when people have wanted to change rooms, for undefined reasons. A feeling of discomfort, uneasiness, and sudden changes in temperature are some of the quoted issues. There have been no reports of visualizations or of being touched by anything. Strange things still happen with the plumbing, even 30 years later. There was the time a window fell out too, but that could happen anywhere. Couldn’t it?

Cape Cod Whale Watching Tour

Cape Cod Boat Trip – Humpback Whales & Seals

From April to October visit feeding grounds for humpback and other whales off Cape Cod National Seashore. Tour Provincetown before or after your whale watch cruise.

The Gerry E. Studs-Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, a major feeding area for marine wildlife, sits less than one hour from Provincetown by whale watch boat. Whales are found here every summer in huge numbers, as are pelagic seabirds, seals, and fish. There is also easy access to the Cape Cod National Seashore’s beaches and biking and hiking trails.

Whale Watch Tour

Portuguese Princess Excursions provide multiple daily 3 or 4 hours (depending on the whales and weather) whale watch cruises out to Stellwagen Banks. On leaving the harbor, keep an eye out for common and grey seals traveling the waters near the Cape Cod National Seashore beaches. Often the whales come into range long before the feeding grounds are reached. Minke and Fin whales may be seen traveling along the Cape Cod coast. Schools of Atlantic white-sided dolphins are common as well.

Support Whale Research

While waiting to see whales, the onboard naturalists provide plenty of interesting things to see and do, starting with some basic information about the marine wildlife of Cape Cod and surrounding areas. Learn about the research being done in conjunction with the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies on humpback, right, and other whales.

Or browse the Photo Identification Catalogues of the humpback whales of the area. Many have been known for generations, first seen as calves, now coming back with young of their own. Those photographers lucky enough to get clear pictures of the flukes of humpbacks can contribute to this ongoing record.

Whales, Dolphins, Birds & Fish of the Area

Once the whale watch boat has reached Stellwagen banks, humpback whale sightings are nearly guaranteed. Occasionally, especially early and late in the season, there may be a sighting of an endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, traveling through to feed in the Bay of Fundy. Basking sharks have been seen, as well as Mola mola or ocean sunfish, and bluefin tuna. For bird watchers petrels, shearwaters and jaegers are all likely finds.

Provincetown & Cape Cod National Seashore

Taking the first whale watch cruise of the day has several advantages. Often the boat is less crowded, making viewing easier. And Portuguese Princess Excursions offers a discount on this trip. Best of all, the boat is back in Provincetown in time for a leisurely lunch at one of many waterfront eateries.

After lunch, a tour of the town may be in order. With museums dedicated to the Pilgrim Monument, history, nature, and the arts there will be no lack of things to see. If staying out of doors is preferred, a walking tour of the town and its docks provides a leisurely way to stroll away that lunch.

Or head for Race Point Beach where the possibility of further seal and whale sightings is strong. If no marine mammals appear, the beach is perfect for walking, swimming or fishing. Or the Provincelands, another part of the National Seashore, is a great place to bike or hike, ending a great day savoring the wildlife and natural beauty of Cape Cod.

New England Bus & Train Fall Tours

Enjoy the autumn colors from the comfort of a motorcoach or train on an independent or escorted September or October holiday.

New England has always been a favorite area for fall foliage. For seniors and boomers who would rather not drive but wish to sit back and take in the sights from the windows of a deluxe bus or train, there are options ranging from one-day trips out of Boston to multiday trips that bring tourists to Maine and the Canadian Maritime provinces.

Bur Tours from New Hampshire & Connecticut

Tye’s Top Tour & Travel, based in Merrimack, NH has a variety of motorcoach tours from both Boston and New Hampshire. For example, starting Oct. 10, there is an 8-day trip that shows off the beauty of Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine for $1,599, which covers six nights at a first-class New Hampshire hotel and one night in Boston, plus many breakfasts and dinners.

Longer Tye’s bus tours cover Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and New York City, as well as Maine and Rhode Island, all on the same trip. For details, call toll-free: (800) 374-6819.

There may be spots left on the extremely popular 8-day bus trip covering Connecticut, Massachusetts, and parts of eastern Canada run by New England Vacation Tours.that start at $1,819 for quad occupancy. See the company website for details.

Caravan & Insight Tours from Boston

Another longtime bus tour company, Caravan, runs numerous bus trips through all six New England states in September and October over 8 days and 7 nights, leaving from Boston. Costs begin at under $1,000 and are pegged to the price of hotel rooms that range from standard to deluxe. For details and to reserve space call 1-800-Caravan.

Insight Tours feature deluxe accommodations and stops – including some relaxing 2-night visits – in such beautiful towns as Stowe, Vermont, and Williamstown, Massachusetts. Departures are scheduled from Boston throughout September and October. Prices for the 8-day tours begin at $1,999. Travelers can get a brochure or reserve places through travel agents.

Road Scholar (Elderhostel) Foliage Vacations

Road Scholar, formerly Elderhostel, has all kinds of special interest tours starting in the New England states in September and October. These include photography trips, a Vermont visit with an American Revolution theme, and multiday trips geared to eating lobster starting from Newport, Rhode Island. Details can be found at roadscholar.org, or by calling toll free 800-454-5768.

Finally, look into the 2 ½ hour foliage tours of Connecticut on a historic steam engine train out of Essex. The Essex train begins in the town of the same name that’s 40 minutes from Hartford or New Haven.

All in all, there is a wide selection of non-driving foliage tours in New England.

Spring Bird Watching on Cape Cod

Migration Highlights: Shorebirds, Songbirds, Seabirds, & Raptors

Cape Cod can be a great spot for birding during spring migration. Limited land concentrates the birds into a few key areas. Late foliage makes songbird viewing easier.

Although mid-summer through fall is traditionally the best time for birding on Cape Cod, spring offers plenty of birds and fewer people. Starting from Provincetown and working along the Outer Cape to Chatham’s South Beach provides a range of species and habitats.

Songbirds in the Beech Forest

The later arrival of spring weather keeps the trees on Cape Cod from going into full leaf for several weeks after the mainland. This makes elusive songbirds, in recognizable plumage and full voice, easier to spot. A great place to check them out is the Beech Forest, which is near Race Point in the Cape Cod National Seashore.

Follow the bike trail into the forest, then explore the ponds and woods. This area is best visited in the early morning when the birds are active and the humans less so. On a good day, it will be possible to see as many as 20 species of warbler, along with a good number of the common eastern Massachusetts songbirds.

Race Point Seabirds

When the Beech Forest fills with humans, move on to Race Point itself, especially if there has been a recent northeast storm. Look for razorbills, guillemots, terns, gulls, and even shearwaters or jaegers if conditions are right. A few sea ducks might be present as well. And don’t forget to watch for blows as fin and humpback whales often come close to shore in this area. There is also a good possibility that a seal or two will cruise the waters next to the beach.

As you leave Race Point take a brief stop at Pilgrim Lake to the left on Route 6, the main highway running the length of the Cape, to catch the last of the winter ducks before they leave.

Raptors at Pilgrim Heights

The next stop is Pilgrim Heights, just a short distance past the lake, also on the left. Once on the trail, take the first fork to the right and follow it to the first watchpoint. After viewing from there continue on to the second watchpoint. Between March and June, Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary sponsors a hawk watch here. If time permits visit the sanctuary itself in Wellfleet, which offers a variety of habitats and species.

South Beach’s Shorebirds

For the best shorebird viewing, take the Rip Ryder shuttle ferry and plan to spend the better part of a day on South Beach in Chatham. Once separated from South Monomoy Island, storms in 2005 connected the two so access to roosting and nesting areas are greatly increased. Please respect the birds when walking this area as good habitat for these species is becoming increasingly rare on Cape Cod.

While wet feet getting into and out of the ferry is a guarantee so is the amazing experience of being surrounded by hundreds of waders once on the shore. The best time to start the trip is on the high tide, walking back along the beach to the more highly human-populated section in time to catch a ferry back.

Counting 25 species in one day is a real possibility here. In addition to the shorebirds, good views of pelagic species are likely. As a bonus, grey seals are nearly guaranteed as they feed regularly in these waters.

With plenty of places to stay on Cape Cod, it is easy to plan a bird watching trip for any budget.