Old house in Topsfield MA

Cycling tour of the 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. GPS Files for Garmin cycling computers can be downloaded from the RideWithGPS route links provided below.

Sunday, Day 1: Jeffreys Neck (8-14 miles)

Image from the Ipswich Riverwalk Mural
Image from the Ipswich Riverwalk Mural

Check in at the Ipswich Inn and Kaede Bed and Breakfast and 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). Turkey Shore and Labor in Vain Roads take us out to Gould’s Creek, which runs in opposite directions depending on the tide. Our return takes us along the Ipswich River and some of the oldest parts of town. Ride time is about an hour.

Full day ride to Salem, 32 miles

Salem ride

Full 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. Have lunch at Red’s Sandwich Shop, and 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. The return takes us through Beverly and Hamilton on our return to Ipswich.

You may take the commuter rail from Salem to Ipswich for a nominal price. Bikes are allowed except during rush hours.

Essex, Crane Beach and Cape Ann (17 or 32 miles)

Cape Ann full ride

Short 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 we often stop by the Essex Historical Society’s Shipbuilding Museum. Our ride turns back toward Ipswich and continues to Crane Beach, where you can enjoy a gorgeous hike in the dunes, returning along the pristine beach. Have lunch at the Beach or back in Ipswich.

Long Ride: Cape Ann. This faster-paced full day ride takes participants to Manchester by the Sea. After a short break,  ride along the rocky Atlantic shoreline in quaint Magnolia, then circle back past glacial erratics in West Gloucester for lunch at Lobsta Land in Gloucester or Farnham’s in Essex before returning to Ipswich.

The Ipswich River Sanctuary and Topsfield

The Wednesday morning ride takes us along the Ipswich River. Participants may wish to spend an hour or two kayaking or canoeing with rentals from Foote Brothers Canoes.

This ride takes along beautiful Perkins Row through the Ipswich River Sanctuary to Topsfield, a charming New England village. We return through Bradley Palmer State Park to Ipswich for lunch.

Canoeing on the Ipswich River: You may wish to stop at Foote Brothers Canoes to enjoy an hour or two of self-guided canoeing or kayaking on the Ipswich River.

Topsfield-Danvers Rail Trail: After the Ipswich River Sanctuary, you may chose to take the stone dust trail from Topsfield to Danvers through the Great Wenham Swamp, then return through Topsfield, and back to Ipswich for a total of 30 miles for the day.

The Parker River Wildlife Refuge and the Merrimack River 

Thursday afternoon ride: West Newbury, the Artichoke Reservoirs and the Merrimack River

The following rides start at the Essex Street Inn in Newburyport. MA. We cross the bridge to Plum Island for a visit to the Parker River Wildlife Refuge

Plum Island and the Parker River Wildlife Refuge.  This short ride takes us out to America’s first national seashore. We often stop at the Joppa Flats Audubon Center on our return to the inn.

Tthe Merrimack River. 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.This beautiful ride begins on High Street in Newburyport and continues through Maudslay State Park and along the Artichoke Reservoirs. The full version includes a gorgeous section along the Merrimack River to West Newbury.

Newbury and the Great Salt Marsh. (8 or 17 miles)

Thursday morning ride: Plum Island and the Parker river Wildlife Refuge

This 8-mile ride takes us through historic neighborhoods to the South Green in Newbury. We continue past Old Town Hill into the heart of the Great Salt Marsh. A longer option adds 7 miles, continuing along Historic Route 1A to Rowley and back.

This Perfect Place: A Natural History of the MA North Shore was created by Ipswich naturalist Kristina Lindborg.