Although I love traveling and visiting new places, I’m not really a fan of doing so during the summer months. Airfare is often much more expensive during July and August than at other times of year, and many places worth visiting are virtually bursting with tourists in the summer.
Now that my daughter, Madelaine, is in college, my husband, Rob, and I save our traveling for the fall. But that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy getting away during the summer to enjoy the warm weather. We choose getaway spots that are relatively local and opt to stay mid-week and drive at off-peak times in order to minimize time spent sitting in traffic and the number of other visitors we encounter.
In the Merrimack Valley, we are fortunate to be within an hour’s drive of Plum Island. The 11-mile long barrier island, just off the coast of Newburyport, is home to some of the most pristine and beautiful beaches in New England. And although it’s just a short drive from Plum Island’s heart to downtown Newburyport, once you’re on the island you really get the feeling that you’re in a place set apart from the rest of the world.
There are plenty of long-term rentals available on Plum Island if you’re planning to stay for a week or more, but for a shorter getaway your best bet is Blue, an upscale 13-room inn located right on the beach.
Owned and operated by Amesbury-based Lark Hotels, the accommodations at Blue vary from oceanfront suites to private one- and two-bedroom cottages that are ideal for people with young kids. Some rooms are even dog-friendly. Breakfast, included in the room rate, is delivered to each room daily in an attractive basket. On a recent visit, Madelaine and I enjoyed freshly brewed coffee, homemade muffins, fresh fruit and hardboiled eggs. Our room, one of the oceanfront suites, also had a small kitchen area that included a microwave, refrigerator, coffee maker and various glasses and dishes — very convenient if you like your coffee early or want to enjoy a late afternoon snack or glass of wine out on your deck.
One of the nice things about Plum Island is that you don’t have to do much of anything if you don’t want to, but in the event that you feel like getting up out of your beach chair a visit to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge is always time well spent (there are beaches there as well in case you experience withdrawal symptoms).
Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Parker River was established in 1942 and is a favorite spot for both rare and endangered migratory birds and people who enjoy watching them. The reservation is also home to several varieties of plants rarely seen inland including bayberry, black cherry trees and the island’s namesake beach plums. There are few hiking trails on the island, too, if you feel like stretching your legs.
With its flat terrain, great views and limited parking, Plum Island seems like it was made for travel by bicycle. If you own one and can easily travel with it, I highly recommend bringing your bike with you. (There is a place to rent bicycles on the island if you don’t have one or can’t bring your own.) I think it’s the best way to see the sights, run to the store for a bottle of wine or even trek to dinner at one of the few restaurants nearby.
Parker River National Wildlife Refuge