Spring has nearly sprung, and with it comes warmer weather and an increased appetite to enjoy the outdoors. After a long fall and winter spent primarily indoors, the change in seasons couldn’t have come at a better time.

March 14 prompts us to “spring ahead,” giving way to an extra hour of daylight (and soon to be 8 p.m. sunsets)! Less than a week after Daylight Saving Time begins, we mark the first day of spring on March 20. Temperatures move into the 50s and 60s, calling us outside. With so many activities at your fingertips in Newburyport, you won’t have to travel far to optimize a safe, yet rewarding experience outdoors.

Downtown Newburyport & Rail Trail

Newburyport’s downtown is renowned for its quaint New England charm, and while walking the cobblestone streets is always a joy, the city has more to offer if shopping isn’t on your agenda. The Clipper City Rail Trail is a great alternative to the hustle and bustle of downtown, as it’s primarily off the beaten path and far less crowded. The nearly four-mile loop takes you around the city, offering picturesque views of the Merrimack River and a variety of local artists’ paintings and sculptures. 

There are several trailheads, and no wrong place to start: 

  • The MBTA parking lot (paid parking)
  • Washington Street (limited parking on the street)
  • High Street (free parking on street)
  • Low Street (free parking at Graf Skating Rink on Low Street, west of the trail)
  • Cushing Park (free parking at the park and on Kent Street)
  • Parker Street (limited free parking at the entrance)
Picture along the Newburyport Rail trail depicting the Plum Island sand dunes at sunset
“Sunset at Joppa Flats” by Stephanie Noah is displayed along the Clipper City Rail Trail

Maudslay State Park

Take your adventure to the next level by visiting Maudslay State Park, a less than 10-minute drive from downtown Newburyport, at 74 Curzon Mill Road (parking is $5 for Massachusetts residents). There are 16 miles of trails on 480 acres of land — great for walking, hiking and biking. Spring is a great time to visit, as you’ll be shrouded in newly blooming trees and flowers throughout the forest and surrounding fields. Keep an eye out for grazing wildlife! 

Depending on the trail you choose, you’ll be greeted with expansive views of the Merrimack River. Consider packing a picnic lunch, as there are many spots where you’ll want to stop, relax and relish in the moment. Dogs are welcome on the grounds, with select areas where they’re free to roam off leash.

Parker River Wildlife Refuge

Clipper City Rail trail pathway
Clipper City Rail Trail – Bike/Walk from the trail down Water St. to the Refuge

A hop, skip and a jump from Newburyport, is the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, (headquarters located at 6 Plum Island Turnpike, Newbury). Originally established in 1941 as a habitat for migratory birds, the area consists of 4,700 acres of diverse habitats and ecosystems, including beaches, maritime forest and freshwater marsh. 

There are plenty of trails to explore, many of which call for a lazy stroll through the different environments, like the Hellcast Interpretive Trail, which is broken into two sections: the Dunes Trail and the Marsh Trail. Both are navigated by boardwalk, with the former offering 10 interpretive stations on its more than half-mile path. The latter takes you on a nearly mile-long loop with five interpretive stations. Both are considered gentle trails, but do involve multiple staircases throughout. Enter both trails at the Hellcat Wildlife Observation Area, located 3.5 miles south of the Parker River Refuge. Parking is available.

Now, with a new season just barely upon us, the question is, where do you start first?