Newburyport & Newbury. April 18 & 19, 2022

Day/Date:  MONDAY – 4/18/22 & Tue 4/19/22
Towns visited: The city of NEWBURYPORT & the town of Newbury
Had you ever been to any of these towns before? Yes
Drive to 1st town:  54 miles   Time spent in town(s):   12 + hours

What did we do in the town(s)/area?  
Our primary mission of this town visit was to spend time with our good friends Camie, Rhys, and Gracin (age 4.9) who were visiting from Utah. Rhys grew up here in MA, so they are on an epic cross-country adventure and rented a house in Newburyport near Rhys’ family for a few days. We were so excited they invited us up for an overnight!

THE CITY OF NEWBURYPORT:  
We drove to their AirBnB through an industrial part of Newbury. Jenny saw a fox in front of an office building on the drive, carrying its dinner (a bunny). More on Newbury later!

We then entered Newburyport and found the house they rented. It was in a neighborhood full of beautiful old 1700s-style homes, tightly packed together. It’s easy to imagine fishermen living in these parts many years ago. The house was near Cashman Park, a park with fields and play structures set along the Merrimac River. We explored the park a little bit (Gracin really likes the swings there) before heading inside to have some dinner (Rhys’ famous homemade pizza). Then, we had a glow-in-the-dark party with some glow sticks that Jo had brought.  

All four of us had fun reading Gracin a bedtime story. Then, afterwards, we had a good long talk with our friend, Camie, before retiring to bed. A big wind and rain storm came through that night, so we didn’t get the best sleep. But, it was sunny by morning. After Gracin had a quick trip to urgent care (tick bite!), we all headed into the downtown area of Newburyport.

We started at the Tannery Marketplace, which has taken some old buildings (that were once a tannery) and turned them into local shops. We visited a great bookstore called Jabberwocky and a toy store as well. (Rhys’ uncle wrote a book about being a spy in the CIA, and they carried it in the local author’s section of the store.) There were restaurants, a home goods store, a dance studio, a bike shop, and many more! It was nice to see so many thriving small businesses. And, it’s really cool when old, interesting buildings get repurposed.  

We moved on, deciding to take the car to park a bit closer to the heart of downtown. We walked along Waterfront Park from the parking lot, where the Merrimac River begins to empty out into the ocean.  

Next, we searched for, you guessed it, coffee!!!! There were many great coffee shops in this city. Rhys took us toward where he had remembered Plum Island Coffee Roasters being; near the water. But, we found out they had closed. Then, later we found them again in a different location. It turns out, they merged with a cafe called “Souffle” and are now roasting beans again! We were delighted to see this as we had read about their closure (due to a greedy developer – and we know all about that 😦 ). It sounds like the town really rallied and fought to keep them open on the waterfront, but they did not win. So, when we found them in a shop located on Market Square, Jo grabbed some of their beans to go. Between these times, we stopped at another coffee shop called Battlegrounds Coffee (a veteran-owned coffee shop and roaster) for an actual cup of coffee. Their coffee was quite good!!!  

Next, we searched for, you guessed it, coffee!!!! There were many great coffee shops in this city. Rhys took us toward where he had remembered Plum Island Coffee Roasters being; near the water. But, we found out they had closed. Then, later we found them again in a different location. It turns out, they merged with a cafe called “Souffle” and are now roasting beans again! We were delighted to see this as we had read about their closure (due to a greedy developer – and we know all about that 😦 ). It sounds like the town really rallied and fought to keep them open on the waterfront, but they did not win. So, when we found them in a shop located on Market Square, Jo grabbed some of their beans to go. Between these times, we stopped at another coffee shop called Battlegrounds Coffee (a veteran-owned coffee shop and roaster) for an actual cup of coffee. Their coffee was quite good!!! 

Right in the center of town is a playground for kids! Rhys said that when he was young, it was a bit dangerous. There was a rolling log that kids would try to stand upon but would inevitably fall off. But, now it is safer, and Gracin enjoyed some time on the structure.  

Then, we hopped back in the car, and Rhys drove us to Plum Island, an 11-mile barrier island that is part of Newburyport, Newbury, Rowley, and Ipswich. It was a very windy day, and we hopped out of the car to see some pretty intense waves! These were the biggest waves that we have ever seen in MA!  

The Town of Newbury:

After a late lunch back at the Airbnb, we said goodbye to our friends 😥 and headed back to Plum Island to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge to walk the Hellcat Boardwalk Trail. It was a well-marked and well-maintained boardwalk that let you see all the features of this amazing place – the ocean, forested wetlands, and marsh. We would love to come back when all the beach plums bloom. (After all this is how Plum Island got its name!)

Then we drove the entire stretch of land to the end at Sandy Point. Along the way, we saw a bit of wildlife. We saw a beautiful great egret. Notice its black legs! We also saw a turkey and a turtle crossing the road. 

We parked at Sandy Point and walked on the beach for a bit. It was beautiful, with late-afternoon light, smooth rocks, and soft sand. The part of the beach to our left was temporarily closed for the nesting season of the piping plover. We can’t wait to see those little ones emerge soon!

We then headed into the town of Newbury. Our GPS took us to the wrong town hall, so a local pointed us in the right direction in the village of Byfield. Byfield? That isn’t on our map! Newbury is comprised of three distinct villages – Old Town (or Newbury Center, Byfield, and Plum Island). In the Old Town, we saw Old Town Church and the historic Coffin House built around 1678.  

We headed into Byfield to find the Town Hall and found out that it was located in a business park with a storage center and a fertility clinic! Some of the neighborhoods in Byfield were very rural and beautiful, with windy roads.

We also passed the “The Governor’s Academy” in Byfield, the oldest continuous boarding school in the United States. It was founded in 1763 by a grant in the will of William Dummer, an early governor of MA. In 2005, the school decided to change its name from the “Dummer Academy” so as not to deter students from enrolling! 

As the daylight was waning, we decided to call it a day. Today’s town visit was quite memorable, complete with friends, coffee, the ocean, blue skies, and much history!

Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Pawtucket, Wabanaki, Agawam

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