Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids Boston (AMC Books)
Address:87 Perkins Row, Topsfield, MA
Hours:Trails: dawn to dusk Tuesday through Sunday and Monday holidays; visitor center: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends and Monday holidays
Fee: Adults, $4; children ages 3–12, $3; Mass Audubon members, free

massaudubon.org; 978-887-9264

Bathrooms: Next to the parking lot
Water/Snacks: Water fountain by the parking lot; snacks in the visitor center

Cool rock tunnels, a pond, and boardwalks make Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary a favorite with kids.

Mass Audobon members may rent a canoe to paddle the Ipswich River.
Photo by: Jerry and Marcy Monkman

Within minutes of hiking or snowshoeing along Rockery Trail at this Mass Audubon sanctuary, you get a surprise that kids will love: huge rocks that were brought in to form part of an arboretum built in the 1900s. Tunnels, staircases, and bridges await exploration, and kids will happily spend their time climbing around and on them as long as you let them.

Once you move on, more than 10 miles of trails take you through forests, meadows, and wetlands. Rockery Trail goes around Rockery Pond, where you might see painted turtles basking in the sun as you wander past. Part of the trail is on a boardwalk, another kid-pleaser. Instead of heading directly back to the visitor center, take a left on Waterfowl Pond Trail to the Stone Bridge, where you can see evidence of beavers hard at work in the pond. Take Innermost Trail back to the visitor center. For an added exploration, cross the parking lot to the short Bunker Meadows Trail, which leads to an observation tower that kids will want to climb. (You could also start your hike here to get a lay of the land before setting out.)

Volunteer docents are on duty on Sundays and Monday holidays between Labor Day and Memorial Day and offer information on all sorts of nature topics. Also, at 1 p.m. on Sundays, docents lead hour-long nature hikes. In the nature center, check out various exhibits and spend time watching birds at the outside feeders through a giant glass window.

Remember: Mass Audubon members can rent a canoe to paddle along the Ipswich River, spend the night at the sanctuary’s one cabin, or camp on Perkins Island from May through October.

Plan B:

Nearby Appleton Farms and Grass Rides (Trip 77) is a charming seventeenth-century farm still in operation, run by The Trustees of Reservations.

Where to Eat Nearby:

Retrace your steps to MA 97 and head north into Topsfield. Along Main Street, you’ll find a few options for dining.


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