Paddle through a mix of salt marsh and coastal islands, then venture ashore and explore trails on Choate Island and Long Island.
Along with Castle Hill and Crane Beach, the Crane Wildlife Refuge—a patchwork of coastal and island habitats that includes a portion of Castle Neck and seven islands in the Essex River Estuary—was once part of the vast early-20th-century summer estate of Chicago industrialist Richard T. Crane, Jr. Well before the arrival of European settlers, however, the Agawam established semi-permanent agricultural villages here, harvesting shellfish in and around the islands in the warmer months. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Choate Island and Long Island, connected by a causeway, comprised a prosperous farming community.
Rolling fields with historic structures are divided by old-fashioned stone walls, while salt marsh, vast intertidal zones, and the islands—Choate, Long, Dean, Dilly, Pine, Patterson, and Round—provide a haven for wildlife. More than 200 species of birds have been seen here and several rare species of plants and animals thrive in the refuge.
The largest of the Refuge’s islands, the 135-acre Choate Island (formerly Hog Island), supports myriad birds and mammals including deer, fisher, coyote, and otter. The spruce forest, planted in the early 20th century, now attracts golden crown kinglets and sharp-shinned hawks, while Choate Island’s grasslands provide critical habitat for bobolinks and Savannah sparrows. Gulls, sanderlings, and sandpipers feed along the Island’s shore. Explore the historic remains dotting the landscape, including the circa 1725-40 Choate House and circa 1778 Proctor Barn.
You’ll discover solitude in this immense refuge. Wander three and a half miles of gravel roads and mown foot trails that lead from the dock to the landmark barn on Long Island, past the 250-year-old Choate House, and up to the Crane burial site at the top of Choate Island. Choate Island Hikes are offered occasionally, late May through October.
Castle Neck Boat Tours run on select Fridays and weekends from June through October. Tour times are tidally dependent; see Castle Neck Boat Tours page for current availability.
Kayak trips to Choate Island and around the Crane Wildlife Refuge run from late June through October.
Choate Island Day is an annual celebration of Choate Island—the environment, people, and history that make it special.
Guided hikes, family programs, and other outdoor adventures run year-round at Crane Beach and Castle Hill. Private guided experiences, group tours, and corporate events are available upon request. Visit CraneOutdoors for more information.
Note: All programs require pre-registration online or at the Great House guest services desk.
When to Visit
Year-round, daily, 8AM to 4PM. Allow a minimum of 2 hours.
Kayaks/Canoes and other non-motorized watercraft may haul out immediately adjacent to the dock on Long Island. Motorized craft may tie up on the dock, leaving the front space open for maintenance staff.
Literature about events at the Crane Estate, other Trustees reservations to visit in the region, and membership in The Trustees of Reservations is available from the bulletin board at the Long Island dock. We recommend that you download a trail map before you visit.
We recommend that you download a trail map before you head out.
The standard Crane Estate regulations are here. Additionally, please review the following:
Dog-walking provides a great way to get fresh air and exercise—for both our furry friends and their human caretakers.
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Well before the arrival of European settlers, the Agawam established semi-permanent agricultural villages here, harvesting shellfish in and around the islands in the warmer months. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Choate Island and Long Island, connected by a causeway, comprised a prosperous farming community. The c.1778 Proctor Barn on Long Island and the c.1725–40 Choate family homestead stand as reminders of this agricultural past.
Amazing place. Lots of wild life and a nice spot to walk. You can spend hours walking and seeing the wildlife.
– Di M, TripAdvisor Reviewer
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