Joppa Flats Education Center
GOOD FOR: Ages 5-8

Source:Outdoors with Kids Boston (AMC Books)
Address:1 Plum Island Turnpike, Newburyport, MA
Hours:8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and Monday holidays
Fee: Suggested donation, $2; Mass Audubon members, free
Contact:; 978-462-9998

Bathrooms: At the visitor center
Water/Snacks: Water fountain next to the bathrooms; vending machine; ice cream for sale and coffee and tea offered for a donation

Joppa Flats Education Center—with a children’s education room, marine touch tanks, butterfly gardens, and interpretive displays—offers a great overview of the region.

Views from the Joppa Flats Education Center include the Merrimack River and salt marshes.
Photo by: Kim Foley MacKinnon

The two-story Joppa Flats Education Center sits right on the banks of the Merrimack River. The surrounding salt marshes, mudflats, rivers, bays, and coastal waters are a magnet for more than 300 species of birds, including the bald eagle and snowy owl, and many warblers, shorebirds, and waterfowl.

The education center at this Mass Audubon property offers a number of programs for children and families, such as walks and canoe trips, so it’s advisable to call ahead or visit its website if you might be interested. However, the programs are not necessary for enjoying the center. Kids will like looking at the creatures in the marine tanks and peering through a telescope to see if they can spot anything outside. An excellent shop is stocked with nature guides and gifts. Outside, benches invite you to sit and watch the river go by and gardens planted to attract butterflies offer a peaceful setting.

Remember: There are no hiking trails on this property, but the visit is worthwhile for learning about the area. The knowledgeable staff is happy to talk with you and your kids and will offer advice on which trails you should take at nearby Parker River.

Plan B:

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge (Trip 80) and the Plum Island estuary are just a few minutes’ drive away. Head there to explore the trails and habitats you’ve learned about at Joppa Flats.

Where to Eat Nearby:

Quaint Newburyport offers many dining options from clam shacks to more upscale restaurants.


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