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.