Think back to your last vacation: Were you getting away from it all on an island, or taking in the view from a mountain top? While vacations to far-flung locales might be hard to come by for a while, the North Shore has its own tucked-away places that can make you feel like you’re venturing into a new place. We spoke with Alicia Leuba, Eastern Region vice president for The Trustees of Reservations, and Dave Rimmer, director of land stewardship for Greenbelt, Essex County’s Land Trust, to hear about some far-way places near home.
1. Crowninshield Island, Marblehead
While you can reach this island by boat, a fun and adventurous way to do so is on foot during low tide (just be sure you allow yourself plenty of time to walk out, explore and walk back before the tide comes back in by arriving an hour before dead low tide and leaving no later than one hour after). Once you arrive on the five-acre Trustees property, find a short, family-friendly loop trail, a sandy beach, a small bit of woods and plenty of tide pools to explore. Access the island via Doliber Cove.
2. Tompson Street Reservation, Gloucester
This 320-acre Greenbelt location offers so many experiences, like seeing huge glacial erratics throughout the property and trekking across a 150-ft.-long boardwalk over a red maple swamp filled with beaver activity. But perhaps its most striking features are two summits: Eagle Rock and Sunset Mountain. These trails offer moderate-to-difficult uphill hiking, first through woods and then onto huge granite bedrock outcroppings. Once you’ve reached each summit, fantastic views await, but instead of looking over cities or towns, you’ll see just nature, including Ipswich Bay and even into Southern Maine; Mount Agamenticus in York is visible on a clear day.
3. Gerry Island, Marblehead
Like nearby Crowninshield, Gerry Island is not only accessible by canoe or other small boat, like a standup paddleboard; you can also get there by walking across a naturally occurring rocky stretch of land, called a tombolo, at low tide. At 1.5 acres this Trustees location is smaller than Crowninshield, and has a small swath of trees and pretty views of surrounding Little Harbor and the Marblehead shoreline. Fun fact: The family for whom the island was named also lent its name to the political term “gerrymandering.” Access Gerry Island via Gashouse Lane.
4. Rough Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary, Rowley
This 265-acre property, co-managed by Essex County Greenbelt and Mass Audubon, is part of the 20,000-acre Great Marsh ecosystem and is filled with wildlife, like shore birds, waterfowl, heron, and egrets. Hike one of the five well-marked, family-friendly trails to see views of the marsh, natural salt pannes, and woods filled with hickory, oak, and sassafras. A mile-long hike from the parking area will take you to Sawyer’s Island (where you can see an active osprey nesting platform). From there, launch a canoe or kayak to paddle into Mud Creek and other nearby tidal creeks.
5. Misery Islands, Salem
Don’t let the moody names fool you: Misery Islands—a pair of islands in Salem Harbor, managed by The Trustees—make for a very happy escape. Take your boat to the 83-acre Great Misery Island to find more than two miles of trails that wind through forest, aspen groves, and an open meadow, past the ruins of an old resort, and all along the rocky shoreline. Wait until low tide and take off your shoes to wade across a shallow channel to Little Misery Island next door. From there, you can see the ruins of a steamship called the City of Rockland, which ran aground in the 1920s.