In New England, we’re all screaming for ice cream. It's a historic passion that dates back to the days of the soda fountain, which was invented in Lowell in 1863 – some reports have shown New Englanders eating as much as 30 percent more ice cream than other Americans, even leading the world in ice cream consumption. If winnowing down the plethora of icy choices feels hard, we’ve made quick work of it. Here are some of the best small-batch ice cream spots to visit this summer on the North Shore.
(And if these choices feel a little too conventional, check out some of the ice cream adventures the region has to offer.)
No place can stake a claim to ice cream history like Richardson’s Farm. With a milk pedigree dating all the way back to the 1600s, and nearly 70 years of experience freezing it into a dessert, Richardson’s has an undisputed hold on the market. With roughly 80 flavors on offer at any given time, the creamery balances impeccably produced classic flavors with new and creative variations (like Campfire S'mores and orange pineapple). Visit the ice cream stand at the Middleton farm, or check out a local ice cream shop – dozens throughout the region offer a selection of Richardson's flavors.
156 South Main St., Middleton, 978-774-5450, richardsonsicecream.com
Holy Cow Ice Cream Café
In 2014, Lynnfield native Mike Schifino purchased an abandoned building in Gloucester with the intention of converting it into condominiums. A decade later, his accidental business, Holy Cow Ice Cream Café, is more than thriving. Holy Cow’s Ritzy AF salted butter was awarded the best flavor of the year in 2022 by the North American Ice Cream Association. Schifino prides himself on baking most of the mix-ins for his decadent flavors in-house, but he also thrives on collaborations like current creation Peach Piescraper, which includes fresh peaches and Peach Piescraper Ale from Night Shift Brewing. And with three North Shore locations and one on Cape Cod, you're never too far away from a scoop.
86 Andover Street, Peabody, 978-587-2255; 80 Pleasant Street, Gloucester, 978-281-0313; 181 Fort Avenue, Salem, 978-498-4387; holycowicecreamcafe.com
Melt Ice Cream
Christiana Kroondyk developed a passion for ice cream during a 2009 vacation in Cape May, New Jersey, when she happened upon a boutique ice cream shop with compelling flavors. Melt Ice Cream leans into local vendors, locally sourced flavors, and the community at large. The store sells more than 10 permanent flavors, like white minty chip, maple bourbon, and Atomic coffee, as well as a roster of rotating ones, which reflect the season, the zeitgeist, and the moods and vicissitudes of the owner. A recent rotating flavor, malted robin’s egg, an homage to Easter, featured a malted ice cream base with chopped robin’s egg Whoppers.
60 Washington Street, Salem, 978-826-5703, meltsalem.com
Benson’s Ice Cream
Katherine Perley Benson opened Boxford’s Benson’s Ice Cream during the Great Depression, selling plates of ice cream for a nickel on her front porch, says current owner and Katherine’s great-granddaughter, Tina Benson de la Cruz. Today, the ice cream stand, which is open from spring through October, is known both for its small-batch scoops and for their fresh fruit flavors, made with fruits harvested from local farms. The best way to learn whether the native strawberry, red raspberry, fresh peach, fresh sweet corn, fresh baked apple, and other fruit flavors are in stock, she says, is to check the stand’s Facebook page.
181 Washington Street, Boxford, 978-352-2911, bensonsicecream.com
Churn & Co. Creamery
With limited flavors and cultish appeal, Churn & Co., the Danvers-based ice cream maker—which releases a weekly menu and allows only online ordering—is a sweet spot with an appetite for the new and different. Three flavors are dropped per week (some recent offerings include a pretzel-infused malted & salted; a Rice Krispie Treat, made with marshmallow ice cream; and a mint-green 100% Sicilian pistachio), and orders are picked up in Danvers, where customers can occupy themselves while they wait by playing retro arcade games.
10 Garden Street, Danvers, churnandco.com, Friday, 6–7 p.m. pickup, Saturday, 12–1 p.m. pickup
DownRiver Ice Cream
Joe and Amy Ahearn, who opened Essex's DownRiver Ice Cream in 2009, are fastidious about sourcing flavorings: Honey comes from local farms, organic producers provide the maple syrup, and chocolate is dark and Belgian. Flavors enjoy playful and unique names (instead of French vanilla, expect custard cream; instead of mint chocolate chip, expect Green Head, a nod to the Essex County pest), and the perpetual line into the petite parking lot proves that the ice cream is worth waiting for, so get there early and often.
241 John Wise Avenue, Essex, 978-768-0102, downrivericecream.com
Meletharb Ice Cream
For nearly 50 years, Meletharb has been making one-of-a-kind flavors like Baklava and Nutella, and perfectly rendered classics. Everything is homemade here, right down to the whipped cream. A choice of fountain drinks, from thick frappes to lime rickeys, will quench your sweet tooth with a satisfying slurp. They’ll even send you packing with ice cream and toppings for a do-it-yourself sundae at home.
393 Lowell St., Wakefield, 781-245-4946, meletharb.com
Cherry Farm Creamery
Open since 1976, Danvers’ Cherry Farm Creamery is one of the North Shore’s most iconic ice cream shops. Cherry Farm’s original store, located near the Beverly-Salem Bridge in Beverly, was closed in 1988 after the land was taken by eminent domain by the state. Today, locals can find more than 30 flavors of ice cream and sherbet at the Danvers location, as well as ice cream cakes, frozen yogurt, non-dairy sorbet, vegan ice cream, sundaes, soft-serve, frappes, lime rickeys, freezes, and more.
210 Conant Street, Danvers, 978-774-0519, cherryfarmcreamery.com
At Captain Dusty's each flavor is produced in small batches, with ingredients like cookies and nuts stirred in by hand to create the perfect chunky crunch in each and every bite. Visit often to try the "flavor of the moment" like the recent Mint Me in Masconomo, a peppermint ice cream studded with chocolate mint truffles.
60 Beach St., Manchester By-the-Sea, 978-526-1663; 642 Hale St., Beverly Farms, 978-921-5311; captaindustys.com
Treadwell’s Ice Cream
One of the few places open year round, Treadwell’s has had a loyal following since it opened in 1946. Known for generous portions of extra-luscious ice cream, those who also love chunks, pieces, and swirls rave about the amount of goodies in each bite. A diverse menu serves up several kinds of sundaes, from classic banana split to brownie, and the must-share, topping-loaded 12-scoop Kitchen Sink. Try the hard yogurt (it really tastes like ice cream) in flavors like coffee Heath Bar and black raspberry chip.
46 Margin St. (Route 114), Peabody, 978-531-7010, mytreadwells.com
White Farms Homemade Ice Cream
Just look for the cow on the roof as you make your way from Crane’s Beach along Route 133. This old-fashioned ice cream stand has been making fun flavors like Purple Cow and Cotton Candy since 1953. Light and fruity sherbet and sorbets, as well as frozen yogurt and soft serve, make it easy to please any palate. Devotees anticipate the opening of White Farms every year and were more than thrilled when a second location opened in Gloucester.
326 High St., Ipswich, 978-356-2633; 76 Essex Ave., Gloucester; 978-559-7489; facebook.com/whitefarmsicecream
Did we miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments.
Jeanne O'Brien Coffey, Brandy Rand, and Hannah Selinger contributed to this story.