15 Best Things to Do in Ipswich, MA

Ipswich, MA
Danita Delimont / shutterstock.com

If you’re searching for the quintessential New England experience, Ipswich, Massachusetts, might be your place.

This seaside town has a vibrant tourism industry, and as of the 2020 census, it has a population of 13,785.

Ipswich was incorporated as a town in 1634 and was founded by John Winthrop the Younger, son of John Winthrop, the Massachusetts Bay Colony founder.

Ipswich is well-known for its clams, celebrated yearly in the Ipswich Chowderfest and Crane Beach, a barrier beach close to the Crane Estate.

Rural lands and domestic neighborhoods surround Ipswich’s town center, and its topography runs with farmlands, forests, fields, beaches, and dunes.

The rural setting also allows for miles of open space, stunning river views, and ocean shorescapes.

Ipswich has many quiet attractions – one can stroll along the shore, visit various craft breweries, drop by farms and orchards, and discover historic places.

If you want to have a closer look at this coastal town, here is a list of some of the best things to do in Ipswich:

See the Grandeur of Castle Hill on the Crane Estate

Aerial View of Castle Hill on the Crane Estate
Jay Burnham, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The historic Crane Estate is a lovely 2,100-acre site home to three different properties: Castle Hill, Crane Beach, and the Crane Wildlife Refuge.

After Chicago industrialist Richard Crane Jr. bought the property in 1910, Castle Hill became a European-inspired estate with its designed buildings, cultivated grounds and gardens, and diverse areas.

Castle Hill is a beautiful seaside estate with spectacularly landscaped grounds, restored Grande Allée or driveway, sweeping gardens, and a Casino complex.

Photo of the Sunken Garden in Castle Hill.
Paula Stephens / shutterstock.com

Today you will also view the Great House, a 59-room Stuart-style mansion that architect David Adler designed.

Be stunned by the landscape and scenery, the quietly alluring Casino, the rolling Grande Allée, the mysterious grounds and gardens, and the beautifully-preserved Great House.

You will feel like you’ve taken a step back in time at this breathtaking mansion by the sea.

Front View of Castle Hill on the Crane Estate
Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Taste Rum at Privateer Rum Distillery

Privateer Rum is a distillery in Ipswich that seeks to do right by the rum-producing tradition of New England.

Founder Andrew Cabot was an American rum privateer and distiller during the American Revolution, with a fleet totaling more than 25 ships.

The Privateer Rum crafts include Tiki Gin, Navy Yard,  Queen’s Share, New England Reserve Rum, and New England White Rum, which they ferment, distill, age, and bottle, coaxing out purity and richness of the spirit, making the flavor richer and deeper.

Privateer Rum Distillery aims to create a new standard of rum, with releases that are never filtered, never sweetened, molasses-based, and aged in new oak.

They select only the highest quality ingredients and the finest yeasts, ferment long and cool in the grand tradition and age the rum in the New England maritime climate.

With this, they hope to create the best spirits possible and make a quality standard of American rum.

Discover Farm Life at Appleton Farms

View of grove of trees inside the Appleton Farm.
Paul Mozell / shutterstock.com

Discover New England’s agricultural history at one of the oldest operating farms in the country, established in 1638 and managed by nine generations of the Appleton family.

There are rolling grasslands, livestock on the graze, vegetable crops, and historic farm buildings distributed over 1,000 acres of landscape.

Start your visit at the farmhouse and buy baked goods, flowers, cheeses, and fresh milk.

View of the Appleton Farm in Ipswich and Hamilton, Massachusetts
Paul Mozell / shutterstock.com

Go on a stroll on Appleton’s walking trails with six miles of footpaths, farm roads, and bridle paths, and see some of the farm’s Jersey cows out on the fields.

See afternoon milking of the cows at the milking barns and catch a glimpse of more animals, such as sheep, rabbits, goats, and chickens.

There are also guided tours to explore Appleton’s natural beauty and diversity, and one can embark on pasture walks, birding hikes, farmstead story hours, flower picking, and additional programs.

Dine on Ipswich Clams at The Clam Box

Ipswich has long been known as the home of the fried clam, having been the hub of the clam-processing industry in the 1940s.

If you’re searching for the finest local seafood and clams in Ipswich, you’ve come to the right place at The Clam Box, which has been serving New England families for over 85 years.

The Clam Box is a nationally-recognized New England landmark built in 1935, shaped like a tall trapezoidal to-go box with flaps tipped open on the top.

Taste the delicious, whole belly clams from the waters of Ipswich, large and savory scallops, sumptuous fried lobster, traditional onion rings, crunchy calamari, flaky fish & chips, yummy seafood platters, and other mouth-watering fare.

Join the New England tradition to visit the restaurant where you can indulge in a deep love for fried seafood and share an iconic meal with your friends and family.

Pick Fruits at Russell Orchards

Photo of a vintage truck at Russell Orchards Farm
Micha Weber / shutterstock.com

Russell Orchards has had an extensive history as one of Ipswich’s working farms, and here you will see 120 acres of orchards, barns, fields, and gardens.

You will likely leave the place with your hands full: the farm sells items such as fresh fruits, fruit wine, homemade cider, ice cream, local honey, and award-winning apple cider donuts.

When the fruits are in season, pick strawberries, raspberries, apples, cherries, currants, blackberries, blueberries, and others.

A cart full of pumpkins at Russell Orchards Farm.
Micha Weber / shutterstock.com

After picking and buying goodies, stroll towards the picnic tables and view some friendly barnyard animals such as peacocks and potbellied pigs walking around.

Come in for tastings at their winery, and sample different flavors of wine such as apple blueberry, black currant, blackberry apple, and raspberry peach.

You will have a fun and memorable time exploring Russell Orchards, no matter what time of the year.

Visit Northern Lights Farm Stand

Northern Lights Farm Stand has an active branch in Ipswich where they grow seasonal flowers and vegetables and offer plenty of Amish farm products.

You’ll never know what you’ll come across when you drop by: you might find mixed flower bouquets, the freshest produce, organic vegetables, eggs, honey, Amish jams and conserves, pies, baked goods, and many more.

Northern Lights Farm practices hydroponic farming using state-of-the-art setups that involve recycling, sustainability, and LED lights to produce compact, leafy green plants.

They grow lettuce, kale, culinary herbs, thyme, basil, cilantro, dill, parsley, and other fast-growing compact, leafy greens with this setup.

Stop by the stand and discover a charming place with beautiful flowers in rows, lively farm animals, bees making honey, a rustic shop filled with tasty bread, displays of handmade crafts and products, and friendly and knowledgeable staff.

Stroll and Relax at Hamlin Reservation

View of Hamlin Reservation
John Phelan, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hamlin Reservation is a former coastal farmland that leads visitors towards a salt marsh and a dike path leading to a trail looping around Eagle Island.

Walk into a wildflower field and complete the loop circling the mature woodlands of Eagle Island at low tide.

Walk around a 1-mile loop trail that circles around a landscape covered with oak, hickory, and white pine, and see the remnants of stone walls built along the perimeter.

Wander the marsh meadows and gently rolling fields, encounter bobolink birds and wildlife that gather around the island, and wading birds like glossy ibis and American and snowy egrets that hunt for fish.

Hamlin Reservation is perfect for anyone looking for a sprawling, scenic, open space around which one can go on a nature walk, embark on a hike, or even bike and ski when the season is right.

Meet the Wolves at Wolf Hollow

Wolf Hollow, also known as the North American Wolf Foundation, is a non-profit wolf sanctuary and educational hub with a mission of preserving wolves in the wild with education and exposure.

Meet the resident grey wolves and see them interacting with their packmates while viewing educational presentations that will help you understand their endangered state.

Wolf Hollow seeks to raise awareness on the grey wolves’ role as a keystone species; display the pack dynamics, biology, and hierarchy of these fascinating animals; and give a glimpse on how we can protect the wolves as a species.

Wolves are essential for balance in our ecosystem and food chain, help protect against climate change, and keep other predators in check.

As a community, Wolf Hollow has made good strides to champion the protection of wolves in the wild and remains committed to the struggle to protect the grey wolf and its habitat.

Sample Mead at 1634 Meadery

Mead is a historical drink, dating back to thousands of years, created by the fermentation of honey with water, with the optional addition of fruits, grains, spices, or hops.

At 1634 Meadery, do an indoor tasting at the bar or settle on the patio with a glass of mead.

The meadery serves a “flight of mead,” a sample of pre-selected meads that best embody the styles created: you will taste many types from plain to fruity to spiced, all created with local-sourced fruit and fresh, unprocessed raw honey.

The mead they create is gluten-free and ranges from dry to sweet to fruity to spiced, with much versatility.

You are in for a treat when you go for a tasting at the meadery, as the employees will guide you on the best meads to drink, what blends well with them, and all the different ways to drink mead.

Spend a Day at Sandy Point State Reservation

View of Sandy Point State Reservation shoreline.
Terry Kelly / shutterstock.com

Sandy Point State Reservation is the most peaceful beach in the area, so don’t hesitate to take the opportunity to visit this unspoiled shore.

You will find oceanfront and riverside swimming opportunities out on the shore.

At this shore, you may go beachcombing, fishing, hunting, and hiking, and also start birdwatching for field birds, sea birds, and shorebirds.

True to its name, Sandy Point has very wide stretches of sand for all kinds of beach activities, such as taking walks at low tide, wading from a sandbar to another, and even picking up debris from long-ago shipwrecks.

Sometimes the tide encroaches over a warmed stretch of sand and creates heated pools where you can sit, relax, and bring your little ones for a wade.

Sandy Point is a pristine hidden spot to explore the New England seascape to your heart’s content.

Get Educated at Ipswich Museum

Ipswich Museum is surrounded by 400 years of history, with wide art collections celebrating Ipswich's historical and architectural accomplishments.

Three historical homes anchor the museum: the 1677 Whipple House, the 1800 Heard House, and the 17thcentury Alexander Knight House, all filled with architectural features, artifacts, and furnishings showcasing the early lives of Ipswich citizens.

The Ipswich museum also owns the largest collection of works from Arthur Wesley Dow: ink wash drawings, oil paintings, watercolors, photographs, woodblock prints, and plaster casts.

At the museum, take Dow art classes that teach visual arts, plein air painting, sculpture, and more creatively rich endeavors.

Attend lecture series on a diverse range of topics by the staff, local hobbyists, and professionals, and programs that go on an interdisciplinary journey through history.

Have a tour of Ipswich Museum and uncover the people's pasts, events, industries, and places making up this fascinating town.

Explore Fresh Options at Marini Farm

Marini Farm has flourished for three generations, growing some of the freshest fruits and vegetables on the North Shore.

Their greenhouse is an abundance of annuals, perennials, herbs, vegetables, and a remarkable selection of plants filling the air with variety and colors.

Have your pick of fresh farm-grown produce at their farm stand, such as spinach, cucumbers, carrots, onions, beets, green bean, tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini, and others – their selection changes weekly.

Also, enjoy their bakery items, dairy products, butchery meats, gourmet pasta, and other specialty food items.

For a fun time with the family, bring them to Marini Farm’s 8-acre corn maze, into trails cut into thousands of living cornstalks with educational and interactive stations scattered throughout the paths.

Lead your kids to fun activities such as hayrides, a pirate ship play structure, a tube slide, barnyard paintball, pony rides, and others.

See a Wildlife Haven at Crane Wildlife Refuge on the Crane Estate

John Phelan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Crane Wildlife Refuge is a mosaic of the island and coastal habitats covering a portion of Castle Neck and seven islands in the Essex River Estuary.

Here you will find rolling fields divided by old-fashioned stone walls, with intertidal zones, salt marsh, and the seven islands providing a haven for wildlife.

There are over 200 species of birds and rare species of animals and plants thriving in this refuge.

Choate Island, the largest island on the refuge, supports many birds and mammals, including coyotes, deer, and otters, with gulls and sandpipers along the shore.

The spruce forest in the refuge, planted in the early 20th century, is home to sharp-shinned hawks and golden crown kinglets, and Choate Island’s grasslands is a habitat for bobolinks and Savannah sparrows.

Explore the historic remains of the refuge via island hikes, boat tours, and kayak trips, including landmarks built in the 18th century.

Walk on Crane Beach on the Crane Estate

Crane Beach is a major attraction in the area for both locals and tourists, a place for walkers, hikers, beachcombers, students, and scientists to indulge in the great outdoors.

It is a national model for conserving diverse natural habitats and wildlife.

Here lies a magnificent stretch of white sand lining the Atlantic coast and more than 1,200 acres of maritime forest, dunes, and beachfront.

Take a plunge in the sea, play in the sand, sun yourself on the beach, make memories at the seaside, and explore the five miles of trails winding among the coastal dunes that shield the inland from flooding.

Check out the interior of Castle Neck, home to the largest pitch pine forest on the North Shore that has some fantastic hiking.

Crane Beach is one of the most important nesting areas for piping plovers, so uphold its successful shorebird protection program when you’re there.

Wander through Greenwood Farm

View of Greenwood Farm
John Phelan, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you enjoy historical settings, you will cherish this pastoral location on a peninsula with pastures, meadows, woodlands, salt marshes, and three tidal islands.

Find yourself wandering an open field and enjoying the views of historic Paine House, a yellow clapboard saltbox-shaped structure that is an example of First Period architecture.

Here, six generations of the Paine family made their homes, including Robert Paine, who was on the Salem witch trial jury.

From 1916, Greenwood Farm was also a summer retreat for Robert G. Dodge and his family.

They transformed the farmhouse into a Colonial Revival guesthouse and furnished it with a fine collection of decorative art and American furniture.

Greenwood Farm now serves as a rich ground for birds, shellfish, finfish, and mammals.

On a summer day, you may see waxwings and dragonflies winging over the fields, hear the hoots of a great horned owl, or view a red-tailed hawk on a thermal.

You might also spot great blue herons and American egrets as they wade the marsh or red foxes and bobolinks darting through the fields.

Greenwood Farm is a quiet natural space evocative of New England that remains beautifully preserved for many generations to come.

Final Thoughts

Many sights and attractions will hold your attention in this coastal Massachusetts town.

If your curiosity about Ipswich is heightened, bring out this list and check the best things to do there.

It may seem unassuming at first, but Ipswich is a truly engaging place to be once you start keeping your eyes open.