New England
Search by outdoor activity
  Alpine Skiing
  Cross-Country Skiing
  For Families
Search by Destination
  By the Sea
-In & Around Boston Search by duration
  A Few Hours
  Half Day
  Full Day

  Crane Beach – The Sand Dunes
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
Entrance fee is $7 per car every day
between mid-September and mid-May; fee increases to $15 on weekdays and $22 on weekends between mid-May and mid-
September; members of the Trustees of
Reservation receive 50% discount; all
vehicles receive 50% discount after 3 pm, year-round, every day
Bathhouses with restrooms and changing
facilities available at the parking in-season; restrooms available off-season

Lifeguards and Rangers in high season

Map available at gatehouse
Crane Beach is owned and managed by the Trustees of Reservation
Stay on designated trails
Do not enter fenced dune areas
Do not enter fenced wildlife management
Bring back your trash with you
Dogs prohibited on beach April 1
September 30

ID Card

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

From $7 per car

  Main activity:


Bring Along Friends?
  E-mail this page to a   friend
Bring Along Friends?
  Have a question about   this destination?
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.

Paddling Biking Mountaineering