Beyond Wellesley: a secret hike at Crane Beach in Ipswich, plus a Downton-like estate, and a great clam shack lunch

Crane Beach in Ipswich is known as one of the most beautiful beaches in New England, but it’s not without its issues. In the early summer the green heads will bite you to bits. In high season, crowds of people swarm. But in the fall, ah well, that’s another story. The green heads are gone, the crowds have thinned. There’s no better time to take the perfect coastal hike and enjoy all the beauty Crane Beach has to offer right now. Best of all, this hike is the best-kept secret on the North Shore. I’ll take you section by section through 5-miles of dunes and a pine forest, to points with marshland views, and tantalizing peeks at the ocean. Then you’ll reach a deserted stretch of beach and stroll along the shore for the last leg of your hike. This is the type of coastal walk you’ve always wanted to go on, but never could find. Until now. Wear your hiking boots, because you’ll be walking through sand, and as on any hike, wear long pants to guard against ticks. Bring a bottle or two of water, a snack, some sunscreen, and bug repellent in case you’re the type they love. Ok, you’re good. Let’s go.

First off, go to the main entrance of Crane Beach (plug 310 Argilla Rd., Ipswich, MA 01938 into your GPS) and pay your entry fee. It’s $10 on weekdays and $20 on weekends now through Columbus Day. After that it’s $10 through the Friday before Memorial Day. The fee also allows you to tour the grounds of the Crane Estate and the first floor of the house. After you pay your fee, park way over to the far right of the lot, in area 8 or 9. You will see a mounted trail map and an intriguing path.

Crane Beach, Ipswich

 

Follow the path and head to the right, to the green trail. You will see a green marker, #9.
Follow the path and head to the right, to the green trail. You will see a green marker, #9.

 

Crane Beach, Ipswich

Keep following the numbered posts down. At Number 7 will lead you through a pine forest.
Keep following the numbered posts down. Number 7 will lead you through a pine forest.

 

At the intersection of posts 6 and 25, I took 25, the red trail.
At the intersection of posts 6 and 25, I took 25, the red trail.

 

About 30 minutes into your hike, you will start to glimpse water views.
About 30 minutes into your hike, you will start to glimpse water views.

 

Crane Beach, Ipswich

 

At post 22, you get to walk down a dune. After a lifetime of having it drummed into me that I must never EVER walk on the dunes, I was almost unable to do it. I dug deep, overcame mu early indoctrination, and did it.
At post 22, you get to walk down a dune. After a lifetime of having it drummed into me that I must never EVER walk on the dunes, I almost had to turn back. Somehow, I dug deep, overcame my early indoctrination, and made it.

 

Seriously? It doesn't get any more beautiful than this. Keep following the post numbers down. I am around 21 here.
A composition of dunes and ocean reward the stalwart hiker. It doesn’t get any more beautiful than this. Keep following the post numbers down. I am around 21 here.

 

Keep following the marker numbers down. At the intersection of 15 and 27, go right to access Crane Beach. Once at the beach, go left and walk along the water to get back to the parking area.
Keep following the marker numbers down. At the intersection of 15 and 27, go right to access Crane Beach. Once at the beach, go left and walk along the water to get back to the parking area.

 

If you can see the Crane Estate, you are going in the right direction to get back to your car.
If you can see the Crane Estate, you are going in the right direction to get back to your car.

 

Great hike, right? If you’re ready for more Ipswich fun, visit the Crane Estate. Your beach parking ticket gives you admission to the grounds and the first floor of the 59-room mansion, which is one of the most significant American country estates of the early 20th century. It was designed by Chicago architect David Adler as a summer home for industrialist Richard Teller Crane Jr. You know him. You probably have some of his company’s heavy-stock cards in your desk drawer right now, embossed with a loopy script version of your monogram, good for all occasions. Here are some pictures of what putting that kind of quality out into the marketplace buys a business magnate:

Crane Estate, Ipswich
Crane Estate, Ipswich

 

When you have your land contract with the Indians carved onto the side of your mansion for all to see, does it really stop all the questions, I wonder.
When the original land contract with the Indians is carved onto the side of your mansion for all to see, does it really stop all the questions, I wonder.

 

 

Crane Estate, Ipswich
Very Downton Abbey.

 

Crane Estate, Ipswich

 

Crane Estate, Ipswich
The formal Italian Garden, in full summer bloom.

 

You did a great job. You deserve lunch at The clam Box, 246 High St, Ipswich, MA 01938. I had the native clam (that means with the bellies) mini meal with cole slaw.
A hike and some mansion gawking. You did a great job. You deserve lunch at The Clam Box, 246 High St, Ipswich, MA 01938. Always on top-10 clam shack lists, their unofficial motto is “we don’t claim to have invented the fried clam, but we believe we have perfected it.”  I fully enjoyed their native clam (that means with the bellies) mini meal with cole slaw, and there are lots of other choices: hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken fingers; lobster roll; fried scallops, shrimp, and calamari; haddock sandwich; and more.

 

Thanks for indulging this little Beyond Wellesley jaunt. Now it’s back to our true mission: bringing you “More than you really want to know about Wellesley, Mass.”

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