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  Biking Plum Island
Biking Plum Island

What to Bring

Helmet   First aid kit
Biking pants   Gloves
Sunglasses   Windbreaker
Backpack   Lights
Repair kit   Water bottle
Water   Snacks


From Boston, take I-95 North
Take exit 57 for route 113 east
Drive through Newburyport and under the route 1 bridge, then turn left down to the
Turn right and drive straight on Water
Street, becoming Plum Island Turnpike
After the bridge over Parker River, turn right on Sunset Drive to follow sign for Parker
River Refuge
Refuge entrance is about half a mile down the road
  Good to know in advance
Hybrid bikes or mountain bikes suggested (gravel road after parking lot 4)

Restrooms available at Refuge gatehouse and at Parking Lot 4

Map available at the refuge entrance and
online - click here
Refuge quickly fills to capacity in summer
months – be there early
Refuge closes at sunset – if you exit after the Refuge has closed, automatic barrier
will open as you drive up to it
Mosquitoes can be abundant in summer – bring insect repellent
For beach access status, call Refuge at
978 465 5753
Bikes allowed only on main Refuge road
Stay on trails when walking
No dog allowed
Carry-in, carry-out trash policy

ID Card

Overall rating: Four-Star Rating Four-Star Rating Four-Star Rating
Difficulty: 2/5
  Time from Boston: 1 hour
  Duration: Half day/Full day

$5 per person or $2 walk/in & bicycle

  Main activity:


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Plum Island is a 6-mile long barrier beach that extends south of Newburyport. Most of it makes up the Parker River Wildlife Refuge, which nearly 300 bird species visit seasonally.

This bike trip follows the main Refuge road and takes you through the extraordinary diversity of Plum Island scenery. You will have several opportunities to stop along the way to walk and explore side trails or hike down to the beach.

Leave your car on parking lot 1 on your left after the Refuge entrance. Ride down the main road - you will see boardwalks to the beach on your left at regular intervals, while enjoying the view on the Plum Island River marshes. Though you can naturally stop as you wish, we suggest you do stop at parking lot 4. There, you'll find an observation tower - climb it up to get a feel for Plum Island's lay of the land. Then, retrace your steps on the main road to explore Hellcat Swamp Trail, which extends on both sides of the road. There is a photography blind at the end of the trail that will have children and adults alike excited!

Take back your bike to continue exploring the Refuge and bike down to its tip. From that point you will ride on a gravel road, so stay focused on your ride. You'll find several other parking lots, and two other boardwalks to go explore the beach if you would like to walk for a while. Sandy Point State Reservation is the end of the road, at the tip of the island. There is another observation tower there, from where you will have a nice view on Broad Sound, protected from the ocean by Plum Island. You can also access the beach, though you may find more people there than elsewhere on the beach.

To ride back to your car, go back the way you came on the Refuge road. Even though cars drive slowly on this dusty gravel and sand road, traffic can be significant in late afternoon, so ride carefully. If you are back when the sun starts to set, stop again at the observation at the parking lot 4 and enjoy the silence - most visitors will have probably left by then. Watch out for deers, which appear often along the road between there and parking lot 2 in the evening.

Account for about 4 hours for the ride if you stop frequently along the way and on the beach. Total distance round trip is about 13 miles.

Please note that the beach generally closes from April 1st to mid-August to provide nesting for the piping plover, a threatened shorebird. The Refuge itself stays open, and you can still ride down to the island tip as described above. However, you may feel frustrated if beach access is closed. During this period, we therefore suggest to call the Refuge to get an update of the beach status.

All trails are clearly marked; here are detailed directions:
Hiking to the Tip of Plum Island
Walking on the Plum Island Beach
Paddling Biking Mountaineering