A Quick Trip to Crane’s and a Winery

A beautiful shell

Years ago, like decades if I’m honest, we spent a lot of time at local beaches: Wingaersheek, Crane’s, Good Harbor, Nahant, Singing Beach. We knew sneaky spots to park where we didn’t have to pay (but might have to walk a 1/4 mile or so carrying all our stuff). But those were days when we didn’t mind, had all the time in the world, and no real responsibilities calling us back.

Summer’s over, let’s head to the beach!

A few weeks ago, on a day we’d normally be hiking, we decided to take a quick trip to Crane Beach in Ipswich, MA. It was an overcast day and we weren’t really up for a lot of walking, but fresh sea air was calling us. And the fact that the beach was finally open without requiring an expensive “reserve it ahead of time if they have any available” passes made it sound even more like a good idea. If you’ve been there before you know, the parking area is big, and the beach is also quite wide and long. But this past summer all beaches in the area had limited access unless you lived locally or belonged to the Trust or a similar organization. We’d had trips to Gloucester shut off early because of this. But now Crane was open without an admission ticket purchased in advance. Then again, they SOLD those tickets. And if we’d arrived and discovered the beach crowded, without a ticket in hand, we could have been sent away. It was a risk we were willing to take.

The pink of sunrise

A Cloud-Colored Beach

While the beach was pretty nearly empty, and clouds rolled by overhead, the colors captured on that morning were ethereal. It makes me want to go to the beach every morning for a year, just to take photos and see how things change.

You can see the social distancing signs in the foreground

As you drive down the road that leads to the beach, you pass Castle Hill and the Crane Estate. Usually the property is open for tours, but at this point it is closed, only open for special events. They have winter events with a light show on the castle and bonfires everywhere, and in the Spring they have a Roaring 20s event. In fact, the estate is managed by The Trustees who oversee a number of places we’ve been on our Saturday walks. They have over 120 historic homes, trails, gardens, farms and more! A few we’ve visited include:

And there are definitely many more we hope to visit soon! If you’re looking for a place to wander in Massachusetts, I’d strongly recommend you check out their website.

Enjoy these photos from our day:

The colors of this shell, close up, are magical
The sky and ocean met in the distance and the clouds reflected below
It was tough to get all three of us in but I managed it with shadows
Sandy and Beth and Castle Hill

And there’s a winery!

Actually Russell Orchards and Winery is more than a winery, and more than an orchard. We drove by on the way to Crane’s and I looked them up online. Amazingly, we were there on their final day of the season and couldn’t resist stopping in to buy a few things.

Plenty of wine, but no sampling now.
They carry wine, cider and fresh produce, and obviously win medals for their wines!!
Lots of social distancing in place

And we found the best place in Gloucester for lunch!

While we had plans to eat in Gloucester for an early lunch, it was tough to find ANYWHERE that had outdoor seating. It’s just past the season where that can be done comfortable without outside heaters. Plus, the streets in Gloucester are pretty narrow, and adding seating out front can be a challenge. While we planned on going to Sugar Magnolias, and they did have seating indoors, we’re still limiting ourselves to outdoors only. They have an amazing menu, and I’m sure it’s all good. We even considered getting something to go since we’d found parking right across the street, but we couldn’t find anywhere to sit! No benches, no parks… but we did hear Italian music playing just a few blocks away and discovered Virgilio’s. If you’re in Gloucester do NOT miss this place. Fresh bread, fresh mozarella, pastries to die for, and yes, they even made fresh sandwiches at 10:45 am.

Storefront of Virgilio's
This place is a must if you’re in Gloucester!

What to buy, what to buy?

So we chose a few pastries and some sandwiches and ooohed and aaaahed over homemade sauce, semolina flour and dozens of kinds of pasta, and then headed over to Stage Fort Park where there is a great playground for kids, plenty of picnic tables, a big parking lot, and all overlooking the harbor. It was a great ending to our morning outing. Not a huge amount of walking, but we got the fresh air we were looking for!

Looking for a place to go for a hike or a special spot for lunch in the MA area, or elsewhere? Follow my blog for ideas and updates about social distancing and ways to get out and enjoy yourself while staying safe.

And don’t miss out on places we’ve been going in the past 8 months or so!