5 Winter Activities to Enjoy on the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway

March 1, 2023

Wintertime in New England is not over yet! There is still time to enjoy the outdoors with snowfall and brisk temperatures giving you plenty to do. Plan your own adventure with your family or friends and explore the best Essex Coastal Scenic Byway winter activities.

1. Winter Birding

The Essex Coastal Scenic Byway is known for its stunning coastal scenery, woods, and wetlands, making it the perfect place for various bird species. From migratory to year-round birds, the Byway has a diverse and thriving bird habitat to delight bird watchers of all levels.

Susan Plutsky – Salisbury Beach Reservation, Salisbury

A favorite spot is the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport, featuring more than 4,000 acres of diverse habitat including salt marshes, dunes, and forests. The Cape Ann region is also a great place, with its rocky cliffs, tidal pools, and sandy beaches that attract a variety of waterfowl such as gulls, terns, and shorebirds. There are a number of organizations and groups that can help you get started, or you can venture off on your own with family and friends. Here are just a few suggestions to get you started. 

You can also join a guided Owl Prowl hike and go with a group in the winter to see owls in nature in the Castle Neck dunes. Visit the Mass winter birding page for more information on winter birding tips and events.

2. Snow Hiking or Snowshoeing

It may be cold outside with snow on the ground, but that shouldn’t stop you from going on a hike. With the Essex Coastal Scenic Byways’ beauty, hiking the summer trails in the winter can bring a whole new experience. The snow-covered trees blended in with the white landscape along the Byway are an amazing experience in the winter. 

Karen Stahl – Plum Island, Newbury

Be sure to pack everything you need, including your snowshoes if you’d like to go off-trail. Hiking in any season is also more fun and much safer with a friend or two. See below for some of the best spots to explore in the snow along the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway. 

You can also look at the Scenic Byway’s full trail map and see what is closest to you.

3. Sledding

The Byway is a winter activities wonderland that offers a variety of options for people of all ages. If you want speed, or if you are just looking for a beginner hill, you will be able to find the best place to sled at any comfort level. For your fun-filled day in the snow, check out some of these great options to go sledding along the Byway.

Jason Kennedy – Crane Estate, Ipswich

You can go back to the snow hiking section for more sledding ideas as many parks have hills. Always be sure to check with each location for sledding rules and regulations before visiting. 

4. Ice Skating*

There is nothing like ice skating in Massachusetts during the coldest months of the year. With the number of options the towns and cities along the Byway have, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding somewhere to skate to your liking. Here are just a few suggestions to consider, including a great indoor option!

Suzanne DeGeorge – Bartlet Mall, Newburyport

*Remember, when venturing out onto the ice in the cold weather months, always follow proper safety protocols and utilize local resources to ensure that the ice is thick enough before proceeding. 

5. Indoor Recreation

Don’t like the cold or outdoor winter activities? From rock climbing to candlepin bowling, there is plenty of fun to be had indoors along the Byway as well. Whether it is a family outing or you are trying to find something fun to do solo, be sure to explore the many indoor recreation activities available. 

  • MetroRock

If you are looking for a local rock climbing gym, indoor fitness activity, a location for a kid’s party event space, rock climbing classes & training, MetroRock is the perfect place for you and your group. Some of their programs include after-school camps for all ages, private belays, birthday parties, and much more. 

  • Cape Ann Lanes

Cape Ann Lanes is a fun, family-friendly candlepin bowling alley, with an arcade with craft beer and delicious thin-crust pizza. They are a family-owned and operated small business since 1959 and always provide a fun environment for all, no matter the occasion. 

  •  Lynn Museum

The many youth and adult activities offered by the Lynn Museum/LynnArts engage and enhance Lynn’s creative community. To create a vision for the city’s future, the Lynn Museum promotes active engagement in understanding the city’s past. Visit the Lynn Museum and learn about the history of this remarkable city. 

While you are out enjoying your winter activities, you can grab a coffee or a bite to eat at some of the best Coffee Shops & Cafes along the Scenic Byway!