Our list of favorite things to do on Plum Island, MA is here to help inspire the perfect day trip or weekend getaway.
By Aimee Tucker
Jun 30 2022
The view of Plum Island beach from Blue – Inn on the Beach.Photo Credit : Aimee Seavey
Please note that businesses, attractions, and events throughout New England have been modified, closed, and/or canceled in response to the COVID-19 health crisis. Please check with individual businesses and organizations before making travel plans.
A barrier beach island located off the coast of Newbury and Newburyport in northeastern Massachusetts, Plum Island (named for the beach plums that grow wild along its dunes) is a popular summer destination — and with good reason.
At the invitation of Blue-Inn on the Beach, I made my way to Plum Island for a quick, 24-hour visit. Having never been before, I set out to see and do as much as possible during my brief stay. The island is only 11 miles long, but still manages to offer plenty of opportunities for fun, relaxation, and enjoyment.
So just what are the best things to do on Plum Island in summer? Read on for my top picks!
The first thing I did once I crossed the bridge onto Plum Island is check out the Plum Island Lighthouse, more formally known as Newburyport Harbor Light.
What can I say? I can’t resist.
Next to the lighthouse, you’ll find the first bit of evidence backing up the island’s role as a sanctuary for birds. I’m not sure if this souped-up birdhouse (one of many I saw during my stay) was designed to house a specific species, but it was certainly experiencing a lot of activity.
Need any essentials, snacks, light groceries, or adult beverages during your stay? The Cottage Island Market & Spirits should be your next stop. I stocked up on seltzer and potato chips. You know, the essentials.
Next up was my home for the evening — Blue! As the only inn or hotel on Plum Island, the 13-room Blue (the property also includes a handful of cottages) has always received a certain amount of well-deserved attention, but saw renewed interest in 2016 thanks to a fresh renovation and a grand reopening as a member of the Lark family of boutique hotels.
A NewEngland.com pick for Best Seaside Inns in New England, Blue takes the word “seaside” literally. You couldn’t get any closer to the water unless you were just about to dive in.
As the sun began to set, the inn’s beach common area (complete with fire pits) offered the perfect dose of relaxation.
But, soon enough, I was hungry. For dinner, I made the short drive to Bob Lobster, a popular fish market and seafood shack located on the turnpike connecting Plum Island to Newburyport.
There’s indoor seating, but if the weather is cooperating, I suggest sitting outside to enjoy the marsh views with your fried clams, chowder, or lobster roll.
The Bob Lobster lobster roll is served lightly dressed in mayo and heaped into a top-split New England-style hot dog roll. For extras, there’s a light bed of shredded lettuce underneath, and a bag of Wachusett potato chips on the side. That’s New England summer on a tray, right there.
Full from my lobster roll, I went for a little drive and enjoyed the sunset view (and so did a few strutting wild turkeys) from my car window. It was easy to see why watching the sunset is often named one of the best things to do on Plum Island. Have your camera ready!
From sunset to sunrise…
The next morning, I set my alarm to catch the sunrise. It was hard to resist, when the view from my very own doorway at Blue looked like this:
A few hours later, breakfast arrived at my door (it’s included in the room rate) tucked inside a wooden crate that reminded me of a lobster trap. A fragrant and very delicious lobster trap.
Inside? Fresh coffee, tea bread, scones, cinnamon and honey overnight oats with nutty, fruity toppings, and berry granola salad.
Fueled from breakfast, my plan for the day was to explore Plum Island’s beautiful great outdoors, but first, I had to get in a few more minutes of beach time. Views like this don’t come my way every day…
A half hour later, I checked out and headed towards the excellent Parker River Natural Wildlife Refuge. Home to hundreds of species of birds, plants, and animals on a whopping 4,662 acres, a visit to Parker River is arguably one of the best things to do on Plum Island for cyclists, nature lovers, and anyone seeking a little peace and quiet.
Plum Island Sound is on a migratory route for many birds and is also a thriving nesting area for piping plovers, an endangered species of shorebird. Both give the island an esteemed reputation among birders and conservationists.
After paying my $5 entrance fee, I drove along the winding road, enjoying several pull-offs with views of the island’s marshes (I should note here that much of the beach access is closed to visitors during the summer nesting season, so check first when planning your visit) before pulling into a parking lot at the start of two loop trails.
I opted for the mile-long Hellcat Marsh Loop.
My favorite part of the trail was when it suddenly opened up to reveal wide open blue skies.
After finishing the loop, I wandered over to the adjacent Hellcat cross-dike to enjoy the sweeping views (the dreaded greenhead flies were still weeks away from unleashing their annual bloodthirsty attack) of birds, Canada geese, and flitting butterflies. The sun was warm and bright, the scenery beautiful, and my spirit lifted after a 24-hour dose of Plum Island perfection. What more could I ask for?
What tops your list of favorite things to do on Plum Island? Let us know!
This post was first published in 2016 and has been updated.
My thanks to Plum Island and Mother Nature for a beautiful visit, and to Blue for hosting my stay!