You don’t need the folks here at MVM to tell you the benefits of getting outside and experiencing the natural world. During the pandemic, the popularity of outdoor activities increased tremendously — to the point where we faced a bicycle shortage. Fortunately, sneakers remain in good supply, and if you’re looking to lace up and find new places to explore, you’ll find plenty to do this summer. Here are some great places in the Merrimack Valley. As a bonus, we’ve added off-the-beaten-path destinations within driving distance. From picnics to whaling voyages, luna moths to kayaks, hot air balloons to movie nights at the beach, it’s time to get out and explore.
If you’re looking for a good place to go fruit picking, Brooksby Farm is the place for you. Their hearty supply of apples, raspberries, blueberries and peaches ensures that you’ll walk away with a heavy basket, full of fresh fruits. Don’t forget to visit the local farm animals and market too.
Peabody, Mass. / BrooksbyFarm.org
Bruce Freeman Rail Trail
Spanning over 25 miles, through the towns of Lowell, Chelmsford, Westford, Carlisle, Acton, Concord, Sudbury and Framingham, the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail provides plenty for those looking for a scenic trail to frequent. Enjoy the sunny weather and take a casual stroll down the path, or participate in one of the trail’s many fundraising walks and cycling events.
The Butterfly Place
Walk along The Butterfly Place’s winding path and witness the elegance of various butterflies, birds and fish. Staff members are always present and ready to answer any question you may have. Before you leave, take home a butterfly hatching kit so that you can hatch and release your own butterfly or moth.
Westford, Mass. / ButterflyPlace-MA.com
Take part in one of Eastman’s Docks’ many boating tours for a day of excitement and relaxation on the water. Their deep-sea fishing tours, offered as half or full day trips, are perfect for the whole family, and die-hard fishermen will love the 12-hour Marathon Fishing tour. After enjoying a day at sea, rest and replenish yourself at Eastman’s Tuna Strike Pub.
Seabrook, N.H. / EastmansDocks.com
Field of Dreams
The Field of Dreams is a nature-rich community park and playground located in Salem, N.H. Families with children will enjoy the fitness trail, hiking trails, picnic areas and a diverse playground for toddlers. There is also a newly reconstructed volleyball court open to the public.
Salem, N.H. / FieldOfDreamsNH.org
Foote Brothers Canoe & Kayak Rental
Foote Brothers Canoe Rentals offers a canoeing experience for anybody looking to have a good time. Trips can be slow and relaxing, or fast-paced and strenuous; it’s all up to you. For those who like camping, try the Foote Brothers overnight camping trip on Colt Island.
Ipswich, Mass. / FooteBrothersCanoes.com
Granite State Whale Watch
Witness the beauty and power of the ocean’s largest mammals at Granite State Wale Watch. On these whale-watching tours, you are not just simply sight-seeing, you’re on an expedition to seek out some of the Atlantic’s most magnificent creatures. Whale-watchers will be led by expert naturalists who are always excited to share their passions with others.
Rye, N.H. / GraniteStateWhaleWatch.com
Great Brook Farm
With over 1000 acres of land, Great Brook Farm provides plenty of opportunities for nature-lovers and history-lovers alike. The farm has over 20 miles of trails that are perfect for a relaxing walk, bike ride or hiking adventure. Witness notable Native American sites, and explore 17th-century cellar holes that were left by English settlers. There’s also an active dairy farm that offers free tours on weekends.
Carlisle, Mass. / Mass.gov
Great Freedom Adventures
Great Freedom Adventures offers cycling tours that allow participants to immerse themselves in New England’s natural beauty and rich history. If cycling isn’t your forte, the Vermont walking and hiking tours provide nature-lovers the same scenic experience on-foot.
Sherborn, Mass. / Woodstock, Vt. / GreatFreedomAdventures.com
Toss a Frisbee. Build a sandcastle. Screen movies. The possibilities abound at the Merrimack Valley’s busiest beach. Don’t sit inside to watch a movie when you can see free Monday-night films on the beach beginning at dusk. Your kids especially won’t want to miss children’s week on Aug. 16-20.
Hampton Beach, N.H. / HamptonBeach.org
High 5 Ballooning
Take flight in one of High 5 Ballooning’s towering hot air balloons and embark on a journey over the White Mountains, Atlantic Ocean, Boston’s skyline and the Merrimack River Valley. The scenic ride will provide a new perspective of New England’s northern landscapes, and the complimentary picnic afterwards, equipped with Champagne mimosas, will be the perfect way to end your adventure.
Derry, N.H. / High5Ballooning.com
Joppa Flats Education Center
Overlooking the Merrimack River, the Joppa Flats Education Center offers unique educational opportunities for people of all ages. You can explore the salt marshes, mudflats, rivers, bays and coastal waters of the region’s wildlife-rich habitats. Take part in their guided tours, marine touch tanks, art exhibits and interpretive displays to learn more about these delicate and intriguing ecosystems.
Newburyport, Mass. / MassAudubon.org
Merrimack River Rowing Association
A nonprofit affiliate of the US Rowing Association, MRRA is dedicated to promoting the amateur sport of rowing, both in its competitive and recreational forms. MRRA memberships are open to the public, and the organization hosts a series of beginner classes, races and other boating events throughout the spring and summer seasons.
Lowell, Mass. / MerrimackRowing.org
Newburyport Whale Watch
Climb aboard the spacious, 106-foot Captains Lady III to witness a vast array of marine wildlife including humpback, finback, and minke whales as well as porpoise, seals, sharks and an array of sea birds. The tour begins by navigating the Merrimack River and will eventually lead into the Gulf of Maine, a prime hub for wildlife activity.
Newburyport, Mass. / NewburyportWhaleWatch.com
Ninth Wave Sailing Charters
Passengers can expect to take an active part in these 2 1/2-hour-long boating trips. Raise the main, trim the sails and take the helm, all under the tutelage of one of their experienced captains. Boats leave through the mouth of the Merrimack River and can either follow the coast or set straight out to sea, depending on weather conditions.
Newburyport, Mass. / 9thWave.net
Plum Island Kayak
Whether you’re a first-time kayaker or a veteran at the sport, Plum Island Kayak has something for you. Their Isle of Shoals tour is an all-day kayaking experience where participants can enjoy bird-watching and seal-sighting as they explore several islands off Newburyport’s coast. For those who prefer evening boating, Plum Island Kayak’s Full Moon tour is for you. And make sure to inquire about their new Haverhill location.
Haverhill and Newburyport, Mass. / PlumIslandKayak.com