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Crane Beach, The Sand Dunes

What to Bring

Hiking shoes   Emergency blanket
Backpack   Binoculars
Sunglasses   Compass
Hat   Insect repellent
Comfortable pants   Watch
Sunscreen   Snacks
Outer shell   Water
Flashlight   Food
First aid kit  


  From Boston, take Route 1 north, or from I 95 north, take exit 50 for Route 1 north
  In Topsfield, turn right onto Ipswich St., becoming Topsfield Rd, then becoming Market St. in Ipswich
  Turn right onto Route 1A and follow it past two sharp left and right curves
Turn left on Argilia Rd and drive until you reach the gatehouse at the end of the road
  Good to know in advance

Bathhouses with toilets and changing facilities available at the parking in-season; toilets available off-season

  Lifeguards and Rangers in high season
  Map available at gatehouse
  Crane Beach is owned and managed by the Trustees of Reservation; members can get a discount on the entrance fee.
  Stay on designated trails
  Do not enter fenced dune areas
  Do not enter fenced wildlife management areas
  Bring back your trash with you

Dogs prohibited on beach April 1
—September 30

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Crane Beach—
The Sand Dunes

ID Card

Overall rating: Three-Star Rating Three-Star Rating Three-Star Rating Three-Star Rating Three-Star Rating
Difficulty: 3/5
  Time from Boston: 1 hour
  Duration: Half day/full day

$ 5 per call (in spring and fall)

$ 20 per car in summer

  Main activity:


  What do our ratings mean?
Crane Beach is managed for both conservation and recreation—wildlife and people. It provides important habitat for numerous rare plants, invertebrates, mammals, birds, shellfish and finfish. With 7 miles of waterfront and over 1,000 acres of dunes and upland, it is a wonderful place to enjoy the great outdoors. A key feature of Crane Beach is its dunes. Crane Beach is indeed one of the very few areas in New England where you can actually explore sand dunes through a trail network open to the public.

Hold on to the map and information sheet you will get at the gatehouse—it will be of good use to find your way in the dunes. You may actually get lost despite the map, as the trails are sometimes difficult to spot and follow in the dunes. However, the sand dune area is small enough that you will always find your way back to the parking lot or to the beach itself.

In this environment where trails are not individually named, you may want to pick a hike yourself based on the map and try to follow it thoroughly. All trails depart from the right side of parking lot, or from the beach on the right of the main acess boardwalk. After having been there, we suggest you try to reach Castle Neck River, on the South side of the dune area, through one of the three trails that lead to it. You will probably find the small beach there deserted, and you will have a nice view of Hog Island across the river. It is a nice place to rest or to have lunch. From the river, you can either backtrack to the parking lot through one the two main trails that lead to it, or decide to head North to the beach. You will then walk on the beach itself back to the main access boardwalk and parking lot.

Remember that dunes are very fragile—always stay on trails even if you are not sure they lead you where you want, and do not walk on the beach grass planted to limit erosion. Also remember that walking in the sand can wear you out quicker than on firm surfaces, and do not overestimate your strength when deciding how much of the area to explore.

Considering the relatively high entrance fee, you may want to spend the whole day at Crane Beach, exploring the dunes in the morning and walking along the beach in the afternoon after a good picnic.
The entrance fee from 5/24 to 9/7 is $ 20 per car on weekends and $10 on weekdays; the fee drops to $ 5 per car the rest of the year; you can get half price after 3 p.m.—a good destination if you have taken off late!

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