Connect:

Newburyport Historic Tours – The Best Walking Tours

Hosted by Untapped History – You’ll Laugh, You’ll Learn, You’ll Drink!

A Lively Tour of Newburyport History

This summer, try something new and different: fun historic tours of Newburyport followed by snacks and cocktails inspired by the city’s history. Untapped History, one of the city’s walking tours, is run by local historians Eric Getz and Alex Cain, is just that. These two teachers who call themselves “history nerds,” go by the motto “you’ll laugh, you’ll learn, you’ll drink,” and they achieve that by concluding their walking tours at a waterfront Newburyport restaurant, where attendees try a sampling of appetizers and cocktails that have been enjoyed through the city’s four hundred-year history. These walking tours begin at the Custom House Maritime Museum, then visitors follow the tour guides, who are dressed in 18th-century merchant garb, through downtown Newburyport. The historic tours focus on the Merrimac River, explaining how the river influenced life in Newburyport – and in fact, the country – from the very beginning. The tour guides also discuss Newburyport as the birthplace of the US Coast Guard and how it was an important center of ship-building in the 18th century. These historic tours even go into some darker history as during the Revolutionary War when the city was a center for “privateers,” aka legal pirates who harassed British ships.

Those who participate in any of these walking tours, which makes sixteen stops through downtown Newburyport, get to touch and taste the history. Attendees handle hemp sailcloth fabric and rope used in the ship-building industry, and cones of sugar used in distilling the local spirits. Speaking of local spirits, the tour concludes with a celebration of Newburyport’s history as a center of rum distilleries by letting tour-goers try a rum cocktail for themselves. Partnering with a local rum distillery and a local brewery, walkers get to try concoctions like the “rattle skull,” a colonial-era beverage made with rum, applejack and lime juice, then topped with nutmeg, or something called a “rum swizzle” that features two kinds of rum, orange juice, pineapple juice and grenadine. Just the thing after a long walk!

The tour costs $50 per adult, and this includes the walking tour, appetizers and a cocktail. For more information, see the Untapped History web site. And if you have a moment, check out their blog, where Alex and Eric narrate some interesting – and less well known – chapters of Newburyport history.

Untapped History

Start Location for Tours
25 Water Street
Newburyport MA 01950
Alex@untappedhistory.com
978-355-8410

Book a Tour

Tour Details
Tours start at the Custom House Maritime Museum located at 25 Water Street, Newburyport. Please check in 15 minutes prior to your tour at the Museum Gift Shop. Tours are 75 minutes in length and include 16 stops. The cost is $50 per person. The tour will conclude with a flight of historic alcoholic drink samples and appetizers at a Newburyport waterfront restaurant.

Newburyport is the birthplace of the USCG

US Coast Guard

PART OF A LONG TRADITION OF LIFESAVERS

One of 20 stations in the Coast Guard, the Merrimack River Station in Newburyport, Massachusetts is home to the men and women protecting our waters with search, rescue and law enforcement.

As the the birthplace of the U.S. Coast Guard, our Newburyport Coast Guardsmen are responsible for some of the greatest rescues, with history dating back almost 200 years.

Born Ready, through intense surf and heavy breaking seas, these men and women maintain and handle several sea going vessels including steel hull boats, a utility power boat and Boston Whalers.

Read more about the history of the USLSS Station #1, Second District Coast Guard Station #20.

US Coast Guard

Merrimack River Station
65B Water Street
NewburyportMA 01950
(978) 462-3428

Date of Conveyance: 1881
Station Built: 1882

Coordinates 42°48′37.68″N 70°51′53.48″W

Connect

Bartlet Mall

A Scenic Park Rich in History

Bartlet Mall, a gorgeous historic park at the intersection of Pond and High Streets, is a great place for ice-skating, sledding, and enjoying nature. Its scenic views provide the setting for a wide variety of popular community events, including Yankee Homecoming Olde Fashioned Sunday, Art on Bartlet Mall, and the Newburyport Lantern Festival.

Bartlet Mall is an ideal place for taking a walk, walking the dog, having a picnic, biking or running. The Mall features a basketball court and one of the top 8 playgrounds in the Newburyport area, which means fun for people of all ages!

There are wide walkways and a series of footpaths that border the Mall and lead to the Frog Pond. It has also become a highly photographed area by many local photographers. The benches, walkways and shade trees create a beautiful setting.  And the view of Frog Pond, with its resident ducks and ornate cast iron fountain, is lovely.

Bartlet Mall dates to the 1600s when the first English settlers used the area as a place to water and graze sheep. It was also a training area for militias that would go on to fight in the Revolutionary War. The Mall was professionally landscaped in the late 1880s using plans by landscape architect, Charles Eliot. This work resulted in the beautiful paths and grassy lawns enjoyed by visitors today.

The historic Superior Court building, constructed in 1805, sits at the edge of Bartlet Mall. It is one of the oldest active courthouses in the U.S. Charles Bullfinch, who designed the Massachusetts State House in Boston, was also the architect for the Superior Court Building.  In fact, both Bartlet Mall and the Superior Courthouse are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Bartlet Mall is a shimmering and beloved jewel in the heart of Newburyport’s historic district.

Bartlet Mall

High & Pond Sts.
Newburyport, MA 01950
978-465-7223

 

For upcoming events at Bartlet Mall, check the Newburyport.com Events Calendar.

Plum Island Airport Historic Contributions to Aviation

Plum Island Aerodrome

Plum Island Airport, Newburyport MA
Image by Ethan Cohen of UAV Look

Plum Island Airport History and Current Operations

Do you know about the impressive history of the Plum Island Airport in Newbury? Many advances in aviation occurred on Plum Island. The first flying field in New England was built on Plum Island. The original runway over the sand dunes and marshes was made of wood! The Burgess Company built over one hundred different types of airplanes at Plum Island Airport until the end of World War I.  The founder of the Burgess Company built planes for the Wright Brothers and is recognized for his contributions to aviation.

Nowadays, the runway is asphalt, not wood! The Plum Island Airport offers several services to the flying community including flight instruction, aircraft fueling station, parking tiedowns and more. Glider rides and scenic flights are available to the general public throughout the year. The Airport is also used for public services including emergency medical evacuations and Coast Guard rescue operations.

The airport is a nonprofit organization. Volunteers are responsible for a great deal of the work at the airport. The goal of the organization is to make sure the historic nature of the Plum Island Airport is preserved and to inform the public about the history of the airport. The airport also hosts a number of community services, such as tours for schools, youth groups, and community organizations. It is also frequently used to host local fundraising efforts. Featured here is the Newburyport Scout Troup 21 hosting a food drive in support of the Pettengill House.

There is a museum located at the Plum Island Airport. The Burgess Aviation Museum highlights the history of the Plum Island Airport and is open year-round for self-guided tours.  Visiting the Airport and the Museums is free to the public.  Check the Plum Island Airport website for more information and make sure to schedule group tours in advance!

Plum Island Airport is a great place for plane lovers to stop and watch planes take off and land. In addition to its rich history,

Liberty Law Rob Ciampitti Frying from Plum Island Airport to Nantucket for a Real Estate ClosingPlum Island Airport enables local licensed pilots to significantly decrease travel time to regional destinations such as Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod. If they are planning a vacation or have a need to schedule business travel, the Plum Island Airport can turn a 2-4 hour car/ferry trip into a 30-45 minute flight. Featured here is Rob Ciampitti, Newburyport Pilot and Partner in Liberty Law & Title flying to Nantucket for a Real Estate closing.

Many folks from the local area ride bikes to Plum Island Beach and enjoy taking a break at the airport while they treat themselves to delicious eats from Metzy’s. During the warm weather months, Metzy’s Taqueria Truck is frequently parked at the airport and folks can enjoy delicious, authentic Mexican food while catching picturesque views.

A visit to the Plum Island Airport is just one of the many fun and interesting Things to Do in the Greater Newburyport area!

Plum Island Airport

24 Plum Island Turnpike
Newbury, MA 01951

Airport Operations Tours/Working Museum: 508-269-4941

Burgess Museum: 978-270-6744

Flight Instruction: 781-325-2135

 

Directions:

From I-95 take exit 86 MA-113 W Newbury/Newburyport. Follow-113 East/ Storey Avenue continuing on to High Street/Rt 1A. Turn left at Rolfe’s Lane/ Ocean Ave. Turn right at the end of Ocean Ave on to Plum Island Turnpike. The airport will be on the right.

Metzy's Taqueria Truck at Plum Island Airport

Metzy's Food Truck at Plum Island Airport

Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm

Historic Farm in Newbury

Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm

Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm is a historic 231-acre property in Newbury with events and activities for you and your family to enjoy. The property features exhibits and interactive activities that demonstrate what it was like to live on a farm throughout the centuries. Much of the land at Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm is still under active agriculture!

Visit the expansive open land and tour the farmhouse to see what life was like in Newbury in the 1690s! The farm was originally used to raise cattle, sheep, horses, pigs and chickens. In addition, fruit, vegetables, flowers, barley and fresh meadow hay have been grown on the land. The main house was built with local stone, most likely from nearby Plum Island. There are several outbuildings including a large barn and visitor center that was originally a carriage barn.

There are many fun outdoor events at the Farm including Vintage Baseball from May to October. It’s a lot of fun to watch baseball being played with rules from 1881!

You can also visit sheep, goats, chickens and a horse on the property. The Farm partners with the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to foster these friendly animals.  The Farm Friends is a program geared toward children 3 to 6 years old. The children who sign up for this program get to spend time with farm animals, listen to a story, and create a neat craft item to bring home. Programs run at various times throughout the year so be sure to check the Farm’s website for details.

Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm owned and operated by Historic New England, a cultural preservation organization. The season for Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm is from June 1st to October 15th, the grounds are open year round during daylight hours. It’s a great place to enjoy a stroll, ride bikes, cross-country ski, and ride horses. There is plenty of parking at Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm.

Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm

5 Little’s Lane
Newbury, MA 01951
978-462-2634

Directions: Take I-95 to Route 113, Newburyport. Route 113 turns into Route 1A (High Road). Follow Route 1A for 3.7 miles. Turn left onto Little’s Lane.

Plum Island Light House/Newburyport Harbor Light

Guide Us Through the Channel

Plum Island Light House, Newburyport MA

The Historic Plum Island Light House

The Plum Island Light House also know as the Plum Island Light or the Newburyport Harbor Light, has a very interesting history. It was first lit in 1788 with a lantern burning whale oil. And it was the 13th lighthouse to be constructed in the U.S..  It was needed to guide boaters into the treacherous mouth of the Merrimack River and into Newburyport Harbor. The strong currents and shifting sands at the mouth of the harbor present a serious challenge to boaters to this day.

Newburyport Harbor was very active and important to the U.S. for whaling, fishing, shipbuilding, and trade. There were many ships coming in and out of Newburyport Harbor. Before the lighthouse was built, fires on the beach in Plum Island were used to guide mariners. It was the business people of Newburyport in the 1780s that paid to build the Plum Island Lighthouse. President George Washington appointed the first keeper of the Plum Island Lighthouse, Abner Lowell. And three generations of Lowells served as lighthouse keepers at the Plum Island Lighthouse.

There were storms that damaged and original Plum Island Lighthouse. In addition, shifting sands meant that the Lighthouse had to be moved several times.

The current lighthouse dates from 1898. Since 1927 the lighthouse has been powered by electricity. The last keeper left the Lighthouse in 1951 when the light was automated. Today the lighthouse flashes a green light to guide boaters.  It is still very important to have this lighthouse in operation to guide boats safely through the turbulent area where the Merrimack River meets the Atlantic Ocean.

The Plum Island Lighthouse is located across from the Park River National Wildlife Refuge at the northern section of Plum Island.

Today the lighthouse is owned by the City of Newburyport. Friends of Plum Island Light lease it from the City and care for it. The grounds are open to the public. The Friends of Plum Island Light offer periodic public tours inside the Plum Island Lighthouse.

The picture perfect Plum Island Lighthouse is one of the great lighthouses to visit in New England and the North Shore.  It’s a “must see” for any lighthouse enthusiast and worth the visit if you are in the Greater Newburyport area. For more general information on Plum Island attractions visit our Plum Island Beach page and check out our Plum Island Parking article for parking lot information.

Plum Island Light House

Northern Boulevard
Newburyport, MA 01950
(978) 973-6935
FriendsofpiLight@gmail.com

The Friends of Plum Island Light maintain the lighthouse and sometimes open the tower. Call (978) 973-6935 to see when open houses are offered.

Directions:

From the Newburyport Harbor Range Lights on Water Street in downtown Newburyport, continue east on Water Street for 1.3 miles, where Water Street will become Plum Island Turnpike. Follow the turnpike for 1.8 miles to Plum Island, and then turn left on Northern Boulevard. Continue on Northern Boulevard for 1.3 miles to the northern end of the island, where you will see the lighthouse on your left.

We see whales

Newburyport Whale Watch

Sail Aboard the Captain Lady III

Leave Newburyport Harbor and head out to the Atlantic Ocean to see Humpbacks, Minkes, Finbacks and other marine life along the New England Coast. Newburyport Whale Watch naturalists will guide the 4-hour tour out to Jeffries Ledge or wherever the whales are playing.

The Captain Lady III is a 160 foot boat with cruising speeds of 20 knots. The ship accommodates 100+ guests, and offers restrooms, a climate controlled cabin, flat screen satellite TVs and a Galley with snacks and lunches. You may also bring food with you, but Coast Guard regulations prohibit bringing your own alcohol aboard. The Galley however does offer wine and beer.

In addition to Whale Watch tours, there are several cruises available for fishing parties or watching the sunset. Definitely something different for those hot New England summer days and nights, and perfect for corporate parties, weddings or a little romance under the stars. Select tours even scope out various summer fireworks on Salisbury Beach and during Yankee Homecoming.

Trips aboard the Captain Lady III are also ideal for bird watching. These Birding Trips run out to the Shoals and surrounding areas where bird life is active. A naturalist from the Audubon Society at Joppa Flats will guide the way, introducing you to shore and seabirds of the Atlantic Coast. It’s a great education experience for guests of all ages.

VIP Card Deal

Receive $5 off Whale Watch Tickets with a Best of Newburyport VIP Card.

Order your VIP Card Online here

The Clipper City Rail Trail –
A Bike Path Lined with Exceptional Local Art

Run, Bike, Scoot, Skate or Stroll it!

Experience the Clipper City Rail Trail – Newburyport’s Bike Path

The Clipper City Rail Trail is more than just your average bike path! Whether you live local to the Newburyport area or you are just coming for a visit, the Clipper City Rail Trail is a great way to experience the natural beauty of the area. In addition to the natural beauty that sounds the Clipper City Rail Trail, you will find many wonderful works of art that line this popular bike path. Enjoy unique sculptures, murals, unique signage and even a a steel “Steam Locomotive” play sculpture with a cow catcher, coal car, bell and whistle by artists Scott Kessel and Matt Niland.

Inspiration for Newburyport’s Clipper City Rail Trail came from The City of Newburyport’s Senior Project Manager Geordie Vining. On a family trip to Paris, George and his family enjoyed the art along the Seine River and realized that art shared i a public space had far more ability to have broader cultural impact than art behind closed doors.

The original phase of the bike path runs from the  MBTA Commuter Rail Station over to Cashman Park, a picturesque spot on the Merrrimack River.  Construction has extend the path through the South End neighborhood of Newburyport down to the river so that folks can experience even more of Newburyport via the Clipper City Rail Trail. The last phase of the project is slated to connect the two ends providing folks a safe connection across the Rt. 1 traffic circle. Whether your ready for serious exercise or a leisurely stroll with the dog, this local bike path is a wonderful place for all to enjoy.

Along your bike route stop and experience exciting Newburyport destinations such as the Newburyport Art Association and the Custom House Maritime Museum. If you work up an appetite, stop at one of the many restaurants along the way such as Metzy’s Cantina right next to the Newburyport Commuter Rail Station or Sea Level Oyster Bar to enjoy beautiful water views as you pass through downtown.

 

Clipper City Rail Trail

Merrimack River to the MBTA Station
Merrimack River through the South End

Rail Trail Map

Detailed Rail Trail Overview

Enjoy the nature of Newburyport

Joppa Flats Education Center

Education Opportunities for people of all ages

Explore Newburyport salt marshes, coastal waters and more at the Joppa Flats Education Center (JFEC) located near the entrance of the Parker River Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

This 52-acre wildlife sanctuary includes not only outdoor grounds, but indoor observation areas, making JFEC a great educational experience all year round.

From guided tours and marine touch tanks, to art exhibits, summer camps and programs for EcoKids, adults and birders, you’ll experience a variety of species recorded locally each year.

The Joppa Flats Education Center also offers annual events like the Superbowl of Birding, Plum Island CoastSweep and Merrimack River Eagle Festival, making nature all the more fun.

Plus, the JFEC in cooperation with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has banded and released 36,000 birds and counting from its Bird Banding Station on Plum Island, a popular stopover point along the East Coast for migrating birds. The research collected during the banding process is entered into a database with the longterm goal of studying the relationships between some of these bird species and habitat types.

The Joppa Flats Education Center in connection with the Audubon Society of Massachusetts relies on volunteers and donations from the community. Learn more about how to contribute here.

Joppa Flats Education Center

One Plum Island Turnpike, Newburyport, MA 01950

978.462.9998

joppaflats@massaudubon.org

joppaflatsdaycamp@massaudubon.org

Programs, Classes & Activities

Summer Camp Sessions & Schedules

Private Functions & Upcoming Tours

Birder’s Certificate Program – College course with trips to destinations like Cuba, Kenya and Big Bend National Park.

Love

Newburyport’s Waterfront Park

You’ll be having some fun down at the boardwalk

Experience the Sunrise at Waterfront Park

Newburyport Waterfront Park is positioned in the center of downtown Newburyport, Massachusetts.

A perfect green space, Waterfront Park has a great boardwalk that runs along the Merrimack River and plenty of benches to stop and enjoy the waterfront views and boating activity.

Waterfront Park also plays hosts to a variety of exercise classes, the occasional summer wedding and plenty of live entertainment from local theater performances to world class bands during Newburyport’s Yankee Homecoming and Riverfront Music Festival.

As part of an Urban Renewal Project in the 60’s, Waterfront Park was taken by eminent domain by the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority (NRA) and is now maintained and managed by the Newburyport Waterfront Trust, a team of five Trustees appointed by the Mayor. The duty of the Trust is to, “Keep the public ways and Boardwalk “open” for the benefit of the general public.”

Some have expressed interest in a new vision for the park as seen in this Waterfront Master Plan by Union Studio Architecture and Design. In this design the park would increase in size with the addition of two three-story mixed-used buildings and more parking, costing a developer an estimated $30 million.

Citizens for an Open Waterfront remain in support of open views of the Merrimack River including recreational activities like volleyball and a wading pool, as well as improved parking, however the group rejects the proposed buildings as the centerpiece of the design.

Waterfront Park

Downtown Newburyport, behind the Firehouse Center of the Arts
Newburyport, MA 01950

 

Managed by the Newburyport Waterfront Trust

Special events that require use of any portion of the Waterfront Park require approval. Park Use Application

How many times have you driven past that old pink house on your way out to Plum Island and wondered what it’s all about?  There’s something about that house that just sets the tone as it whisks by the car.  It’s kind of eerie looking.  Kind of beat up by the weather over the years.  It certainly seems like it’s in an odd place.  I used to live out on the island and like many of us, still frequent the great natural space out there.  That house just seems to catch my eye every time I come around that bend.  Is it the remnant of a lovely estate?  Maybe a millionaire who just had to be by the airport but not too far from the beach?

Nope.  It turns out, as I never would have imagined, that the only thing it’s a remnant of is a spiteful divorce from 1925!  What??  How is that possible?  But it is as I learned from Amanda Hoover’s Boston.com article this morning.  And as a Newburyport divorce lawyer, I must say, I’m intrigued.  As Amanda’s story explained, the house is the centerpiece of a poorly drafted divorce separation agreement which required the Husband to build the Wife with an exactly replica of their downtown Newburyport marital home.  The only problems is that the agreement didn’t say where it had to be built. . . oops.  Read more about this story and why good drafting is critical in any divorce here on my Newburport Divorce Blog.

Photo by Karen Lynch.

 

Plum Island Beach

Newburyport’s Beach – Explore, Play, Relax!

 

Plum Island Beach is a beautiful New England barrier island offering locals and visitors an opportunity to explore, play and relax.  A family-friendly Newburyport attraction, Plum Island Beach offers many fun and interesting things to do. Discover amazing bird watching and the natural beauty of the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge.  Enjoy fishing, boating, kayaking or just chill out on the beach and make sure to visit the cool Plum Island restaurants. Slideshow video created by Newburyport.com, utilizing pictures taken by local photographer/resident Donna Landry. Check out Donna’s Instagram page to view more of her beautiful photos (dlandry5) or watch her perform live with her band, The Boondock Sinners.

Plum Island is named for the beach plum shrubs that grow in the dunes and is 11 miles in length. There are three popular Plum Island Beach destinations on the island: The Refuge, Plum Island Center and The North Point. As you come across the bridge towards Plum Island, turn right on Sunset Drive to reach the Refuge entrance. If you’re heading to Plum Island Center continue straight a few blocks on Plum Island Boulevard.  As you pass through Plum Island Center, follow the road as it veers to the left. Continue a few miles on Northern Boulevard to the North Point parking lot. Each area of Plum Island Beach has a parking lot and offers either public rest rooms or portable restroom options.

The Refuge, (Parker River National Wildlife Refuge) runs through Newbury, Rowley and down to Ipswich spanning 4,700 acres including 3,000+ acres of salt marsh and provides habitat for over 300 species. On the far Southern Point of the Island you will find Sandy Point State Reservation, a very picturesque Plum Island Beach located across from Cranes Beach in Ipswich, MA. The Hellcat Interpretive Trail is another very popular destination also located on the Refuge. Make sure to check the Refuge website or facebook page before planning your trip as the Refuge closes at certain points for the protection of Piping Plover breeding and nesting. The Refuge offers beach access from the following Refuge parking lots: 1, 2, 3, 6, and 7. Public restrooms are located at lot 1, lot 4 and the Refuge maintenance area and all restrooms are wheelchair accessible. Other Refuge lots offer portable restroom options.

Plum Island Center is located in Newbury and is the best choice if your priorities include being near restaurants, ice cream and convenience stores. There are a few parking lots just across the street from the the main beach entrance and portable restrooms are located on the edge of the beach.

The North Point of the Island is located in Newburyport and is where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Merrimack River at the mouth of the Newburyport Harbor. This part of Plum Island Beach offers beautiful views but swimmers are warned to stay close to the shore and not to swim out to the sandbar as the tides are known to change rapidly causing dangerous conditions. The Plum Island Light House is a picturesque historic landmark located at the Northern end of the Island, across the street from the North Point parking lot and public restrooms. If you have kids they are certain to spot the cool playground on the edge of  the beach next to the parking lot.  Captains Fishing Parties is a another popular destination located directly on the beach offering both public and private boat trips.

Although Plum Island is a popular vacation destination, the majority of residents live on the Island year round. If you’re looking to purchase a home on Plum Island you will find a very broad range of homes and price points.

Directions from Boston

Take I-95 North to Exit 86, Rt. 113 East. As you drive through Newburyport, MA Rt. 113 will become Main Street and then will turn back into Rt. 113 as you leave Newburyport and pass into Newbury.  You will pass the Newbury Town Green on  your right and take a left at the traffic light on to Rolfe’s Lane.  At the end of Rolfe’s Lane you will take a right on to Newburyport Turnpike and follow it over to the beach.  You will pass the Newburyport Airport on your right and Bob Lobster on the left.

If you want to go to the Parker River National Wildlife Reservation Beach, take a right at the Plum Island Grille, on to Sunset Drive.  Keep straight if you want to head to the main public beach.

Skip to toolbar