Where to Eat During a Day at Crane Beach

Fine seafood dining, takeout boxes of deep-fried clams, craft breweries, and chic cocktail bars await.

Brine. / Photo by Dawn Gagye

In our ongoing effort to help you make the most of the summer beach days that remain (you’re welcome!), we turn our attention to Crane Beach in Ipswich—one that plenty of seasoned surf and sand lovers cite as one of the most beautiful in the state. They’re not wrong, and luckily, it’s situated by some great restaurants for grabbing lunch, dinner, or a post-swim cocktail. Here are a few nearby favorites.

American BBQ

Before you hit the beach, hit up the good old-fashioned barbecue eats at this roadside smokehouse, where the pulled pork, Memphis-style ribs, and sides of cornbread, coleslaw, creamy mac ‘n’ cheese and more are available a la carte or as “Pig-Nic Packs” that’ll feed a whole hungry crew. Bring them to a sunny plot on the sand—or, when the sun goes down, to a night under the stars and the silver screen at the nearby Topsfield Drive-In, our Best of Boston pick for outdoor movie nights.

5 Railroad Ave., Rowley, 978-948-2626, theamericanbbq.com.

Brick & Ash. / Photo by Laura Kozlowski

Brick & Ash

There’s a fun social scene to be found at Brick & Ash in Newburyport, where the tidy menu of simple, tasty pub grub—a sandwich of fried pickle-brined chicken, a self-described “Killer Lobster Roll” tossed in brown butter mayo—is something to munch on while listening to live music or DJs, watching a Sox game, shooting a round of darts, or hanging outside at beer garden-style picnic tables. That’s where you’ll frequently find folks playing cornhole, one of the lawn games included in Brick & Ash’s upcoming Beer Garden Olympics.

10 Center St., Newburyport, 978-255-2642, brickandash.com.

Brine. / Photo by Dawn Gagye


This established, oysters- and crudo-oriented entry from Nancy Batista Caswell, the same restaurateur behind Oak + Rowan in Boston’s Fort Point, recently relocated to a historical brick building in Newburyport’s charming downtown. Now you can grab a seat at a white marble-topped bar, within tentacle’s reach of an Atlantic-blue octopus mural, and tip back summery cocktails made with rum, cachaça, and Aperol as you explore Brine’s elegant seafood and newly expanded selection of chops: say, a 12-ounce dry-aged sirloin perfect for pairing with truffled cauliflower or gourmet street corn.

17 State St., Newburyport, 978-358-8479, brineoyster.com.

The Clam Box of Ipswich

Not to be confused with the Clam Box in Quincy, a classic go-to for fried seafood for beachgoers on the South Shore, this is a destination-worthy landmark to Boston’s north—one which enjoys the excellent distinction of actually being shaped like an opened-up cardboard to-go box. Go here to get a fun Instagram photo of yourself eating lightly battered shrimp, scallops, calamari, and clams, of course.

246 High St., Ipswich, 978-356-9707, clamboxipswich.com.

Ipswich Ale Brewery

Beach days are beer days. When you need to cool off after a day in the hot sun, head to this nearby brewpub, a decades-spanning fixture in the region’s craft suds scene. Refreshing cans of Ipswich’s summer ale and blueberry shandy, among the styles made on-site, are served alongside selections from other local brands that partner with the facility to produce their beers, such as Newburyport Brewing Company’s biting Green Head IPA. Food-wise, you’ll find a thick fish chowder, bowls of mussels soaking up white wine and brown mustard, and pot roast-topped poutine among the frosty, pints-friendly fare.

2 Soffron Lane, Ipswich, 978-356-3182, ipswichalebrewery.com.

A feast at J.T. Farnham’s. / Photo by Brian J.R. via Yelp

JT Farnhams

If Ipswich’s touristy Clam Box is already a “been there, done that” experience for you, check out this similarly fried-seafood-focused stalwart in neighboring Essex. Its fried-clam plates, fish sandwiches, lobster rolls, and other beach shack-style offerings, enjoyed at picnic tables overlooking protected salt marshes, are no secret to locals. But it’s less likely to be overrun with out-of-towners, and you won’t be compromising deliciousness for the (probably) shorter lines.

88 Eastern Ave., Essex, 978-768-6643, jtfarnhams.com.

Tonno. / Photo courtesy


Gloucester, regarded as America’s oldest seaport, has a proud seafaring heritage carried on there to this day—which makes it a perfect place for a nice dinna’ out after a day on the sand. At Tonno, chef-owner Anthony Cataruno brings to seafood some of the same Italian flair and flavor he plies at Prezza, his standout restaurant in Boston’s North End. Think spicy spaghetti fra diavolo with shrimp, grilled swordfish with olives and capers, or cioppino, an Italian fish stew. To drink? There’s spritz cocktails, sangria, and a rosy selection of vinoto boot.

2 Main St., Gloucester, 978-879-4795, tonnorestaurant.com.

Woodman's of Essex fried clams

Woodman’s fried clams photo via Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism on Flickr/Creative Commons

Woodman’s of Essex

Besides co-starring in the Adam Sandler movie Grown Ups, Woodman’s has earned its fame for serving blockbuster casual seafood such as fried clams and sea scallops, fresh lobster with drawn butter, salmon burgers, crab rolls, and popcorn shrimp (oh my!) for more than 100 years. Dining trends, like tides, come and go. But after a day at Crane, it’s this kind of classic beach-day grub that never gets old.

119 Main St., Essex, 978-768-6057, woodmans.com.