Road Scholar Cycling and Multisport Tour
of the historic Massachusetts North Shore
This cycling tour of the Massachusetts North Shore is based in Ipswich and Newburyport Massachusetts and visits some of the most beautiful and historic coastal areas in New England. The tour is offered through Road Scholar Road and is designed for experienced cyclists who are able to cycle from 20 to 40 miles a day at a moderate pace (about 11 miles per hour average for the day). Participants generally range in age from their 50's to early 80's. Along the way we stop occasionally to explore local attractions, take photos and enjoy each other's company. Each day offers shorter and longer ride options, as well as multisport options including hiking and canoeing.
In addition to receiving route maps and cue sheets, the tour always has at least two guides. When we are riding as a group, one will be leading and the other "sweeping". Rather than providing van support along the route, all riders are accompanied by a cycling guide. When we separate for short and long distances or for multi-sport options, one guide accompanies each group.
Our tour explores the Essex National Heritage Area, which covers 500 square miles of eastern Massachusetts to the New Hampshire border and hundreds of historical sites, miles of intact landscapes, glistening coastal regions and lifetimes of rich experiences that chronicle the history of our region.
Sunday, Day 1: Jeffrey's Neck and Labor in Vain Creek
Check in at the Ipswich Inn and Kaede Bed and Breakfast after 1 pm. At 4:00 we'll take a 10 mile ride to Jeffrey's Neck, cross the Great Salt Marsh and enjoy a spectacular view of Plum Island, Cape Ann, and the Atlantic. On our return into town we enjoy a nice out and back ride on Labor in Vain Road. (When we get to the bridge, you'll know how the road got its name). Tonight's group dinner will be followed by a "get acquainted" session at the inn. Cycling distance 10 miles. View route.
After breakfast at the inns, we head out past scenic meadows on an easy ride through neighboring Hamilton and Wenham. From here we offer two options.
- Short ride: Historic Ipswich.
This pleasant morning mile
ride breaks away from the Salem ride
and returns through Hamilton to Ipswich.
Cycling distance 17 miles.
In the afternoon join your guide Gordon Harris for a walking tour of Ipswich, one of the most historic communities in New England. View the walking tour.
- Long ride: Historic Salem. Crossing the harbor to historic Salem, we stop for a break at the Salem Visitors Center, run by the National Park Service. After lunch at Red's Sandwich Shop, we'll spend a couple of hours in town so that you have the chance to walk in the historic Chestnut St. neighborhood, visit the Salem Maritime National Historic Site and the Friendship (a reconstruction of a 171-foot three-masted Salem East Indiaman built in 1797), the Salem Witch Museum, or the House of Seven Gables. Our return takes us through historic downtown Beverly and Hamilton on our return to Ipswich. Cycling distance 32 miles. View route
This evening we have dinner again at the Ipswich Inn, after which we take a short walk to visit the Ipswich Riverwalk Mural with your guide, Ipswich town historian Gordon Harris.
Tuesday, Day 3: Crane Beach, Essex and Cape Ann
Ride: Essex and Crane Beach.
This relaxed ride takes us along wooded
back roads to historic
Essex, one of colonial America's
first ship-building towns. While in
Essex you may wish to visit the Essex
Historical Society's Shipbuilding Museum.
Our ride turns back toward Ipswich and
Crane Beach, where you can enjoy
a gorgeous hike in the dunes, returning
along the pristine beach.
Cycling distance 17 miles. View route.
View the dune trails at Crane Beach.
- Long Ride: Cape Ann. This faster-paced ride continues to Manchester by the Sea. After a short break, we'll ride along the rocky Atlantic shoreline in quaint Magnolia, then circle back past glacial erratics in West Gloucester for lunch at Farnham's in Essex before returning to Ipswich. Cycling distance 31 miles. View route
We spend a third evening in Ipswich.
After dinner we enjoy a slide show by local
Wednesday, Day 4: The Ipswich River Sanctuary and Topsfield
Wednesday is the official "half day", and is an opportunity to explore other areas on the North Shore. We check out of the inns in Ipswich before today's rides, and after our return we transfer to the Essex Street Inn in Newburyport.
Today's ride takes us through Bradley Palmer State Park and along beautiful Perkins Row to the Ipswich River Sanctuary. We'll stop here for a walk along the estuary and over glacial eskers. We continue on the bikes to Topsfield, a classic New England village for lunch. Two activities are available on the ride back to Ipswich:
- Short Ride: Canoeing on
the Ipswich River. On the return
to Ipswich stop at
Foote Brothers Canoes to enjoy an
hour or two of canoeing on the Ipswich
River into the Audubon Sanctuary.
Cycling distance: 21 miles.
- Long Ride: Topsfield-Danvers
Rail Trail: Take the stone
dust rail trail from Topsfield to Danvers
Great Wenham Swamp, then return
to Topsfield and continue on the ride
back to Ipswich. Cycling distance
In the afternoon we transfer 15 miles by van, personal automobile or bicycle to the Essex Street Inn in Newburyport MA, a gorgeous small city on the Merrimack River. Check-in is after 3 pm. Enjoy an unscheduled evening in Newburyport.
Thursday, Day 5: Plum Island and the Parker River Wildlife Refuge
We'll head out this
morning for a scenic ride that takes us
out to America's first national seashore,
plus a short walk along the beach at Plum
Island with naturalist
Bill Sargent. We often stop at the
Joppa Flats Audubon Center on our return
to the inn.
Morning ride cycling distance: 16 miles (view route)
Afternoon ride: The Merrimack River and Artichoke Reservoirs: The rural roads outside of Newburyport in Newbury and West Newbury are some of the most beautiful and less-travelled in the North Shore area and are wonderful for cycling.
Short Ride: Maudslay State Park and the Artichoke Reservoirs. This beautiful ride begins on High Street in Newburyport and continues through Maudslay State Park and along the Artichoke Reservoirs. The return into Newburyport is on the Clipper City Rail Trail. Cycling distance: 12 miles (view route)
Long Ride: the Merrimack River. The long ride continues past the Artichoke Reservoirs and along the Merrimack River to West Newbury. Cycling distance: 23 miles (view route).
Friday, Day 6: (morning): Newbury and the Great Salt Marsh.
Short route: This ride takes us through historic neighborhoods to the South Green in Newbury. Along the way we pass several historic houses, including the Sweet-Ilsley House circa 1670 built in the late 17th Century. We continue past Old Town Hill into the heart of the Great Salt Marsh. Cycling distance: 8 miles (view route).
Long route: The longer version of this ride adds 7 miles, continuing along Historic Route 1A to Rowley and back through the Great Salt Marsh. Cycling distance: 17 miles (view route).
We return to the inn at 10:00, in time for the 11:00 am checkout, departure, and farewells.
Bike Rentals: You may use your own road or hybrid-road bicycle. Mountain bikes, city bikes, beach bikes and other heavy or slower bikes are not appropriate for this tour. Jamis Coda, Diamondback Insight, and Villano "flat bar" road bikes with straight handlebars are available for rent with our tours, $100 for the week. Helmets are required and are available, although it is recommended that you bring your own. Please email tour leader Gordon Harris to reserve a bike.
This Perfect Place: A Natural History of the MA North Shore was created by Ipswich naturalist Kristina Lindborg.
Your host and primary guide is Gordon Harris, owner of Bike New England, webmaster for North Shore Cyclists and official historian for the Town of Ipswich Massachusetts. For more information or to rent bicycles for this tour email tour leader Gordon Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paula Bossone is the vice president of North Shore Cyclists and organizes many special events for the club, including the annual Blazing Saddles Century.
Jimmy White is the ride coordinator for North Shore Cyclists, and oversees the club's weekday and Sunday rides. Jimmy also hosts the Saturday Fitness Ride from Topsfield, a popular weekly event. He enjoys sharing his expertise with cycling fitness and gear.
Lampron has led tours with Gordon Harris
for over a dozen years. She is currently
the activities director at a resort in the
Berkshires of Western Massachusetts.
Reviews from previous Road Scholar tours:
- "You are the best! We had a fantastic adventure"
- "Thanks for a Great Trip!"
- "We had a Wonderful Time! Great Riding!"
- "Gordon, you've done a great job! What a wonderful bike outing."
- "Thanks so much - we loved the trip. You were the Perfect Guides"
- "This was an outstanding trip. Thank you Gordon for the wonderful rides."
- "Wonderful biking area and knowledgeable guide made this program outstanding"
- "Gordon was helpful and patient while explaining the mechanics of shifting to me."
- "Gordon did the best trip we have been on. He had everything covered." "Gordon is so well prepared not only for the biking but on the history, geography etc of the area."
- "Gordon was always helpful to everyone, flexible well informed, good natured and sensitive to everyone's needs."
- "Very enjoyable experience: Gordon was an excellent guide and teacher. He planned the daily rides very well. Alternate routes and plans were thorough throughout. We appreciated the effort he put forth. Nothing was left to chance
- This is a great trip. The bicycling is very scenic, with rolling hills and lots of water views. You will learn about the history for the area as the guides are very knowledgeable and have carefully planned the routes. Both Ipswich and Newburyport are interesting old colonial towns that have retained their character and are fun to explore by bike and on foot. There are plenty of charming restaurants and shops.
- 'Tis a truly 'top shelf' New England north shore experience. Cycling, seashore and coastal vistas, knowledge of the local history, experience of leadership, restaurants and then some made for a worthwhile Road Scholar program.
- What a fantastic experience did 14 lucky people have over 5 days bicycling around and about Ipswich, Massachusetts. Beautiful scenery, lucky with the weather, fabulous group of fellow travelers, and a wonderful, sensitive, competent, and accommodating leader in Gordon Harris. Do this trip in September if you can--and if not, try next June. You won't regret it!!
Bike New England, Ipswich MA Email Bike New England