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Hiking to the Tip of Plum Island

What to Bring

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


  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 harbor.
Turn right and drive straight on Water St., 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

Restrooms available at refuge gatehouse
and at Parking Lot 4

  Map available at the refuge entrance
  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
  No dogs allowed
  Stay on trails
  Carry-in, carry-out trash policy
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Hiking to the Tip of Plum Island

ID Card

Overall rating: Four-Star Rating Four-Star 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:


  What do our ratings mean?
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 long hike will take you through the extraordinary diversity of Plum Island scenery.

After you have crossed the refuge entrance, drive down the road to Parking Lot 4. This is where our hike starts. First, go to the observation tower adjacent to the Lot 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! When you are back on the road, follow it south for about half a mile, then take the boardwalk to the beach on your left, facing parking Lot 5. Once on the beach, hike south down to the tip of the island, where Sandy Point State Reservation is located. There is another observation tower there, from where you will have a nice view on Broad Sound, protected from the ocean by Plum Island. To go back, either walk up back on the beach, or more likely, if you start being tired, take the main road back to your car. Even though cars drive slowly on this dusty gravel and sand road, traffic can be significant in late afternoon, so walk carefully and always face incoming cars. If you are back to your car when the sun starts to set, walk again to the observation and enjoy the silence— most visitors will have probably left by then.

Account for at least 4 hours for the round-trip hike.

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 may still hike down to the island tip using the main Refuge road. 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 before leaving.

Like this destination? See also:
Biking across Plum Island
Walking on Plum Island Beach



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