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Maudslay State Park is an idyllic blend of wilderness and tamed garden. On the shores of Merrimack River, in Massachusetts, Maudslay - originally spelled as Maudsleigh - was owned by a prominent citizen of Newburyport, Frederick Strong Mosley, in the late 1700s. There were once two stately homes on the grounds and a small but busy ferry spot nearby. The ferry saw heavy use during the late 1700s, but when a nearby bridge was built, the ferry fell into disuse. However, a small lane that leads up to where the ferry was situated can still be seen today. The Maudslay Manors and its grounds were passed down through the generations until around the 1900s, where it was abandoned. Fires destroyed the homes and several other buildings on the grounds. The state of Massachusetts purchased the property in 1985 and converted it into a state park.
The closest town is Newburyport, which is about three miles to the southeast. Settled in 1635, it is one of the oldest towns in America. It’s especially well known for an annual event called the Yankee Homecoming, which lasts for eight days. The homecoming has over 200 events, including concerts, fireworks, parades, and races.
At first glance, Maudslay State Park seems like a small urban park. But it might surprise some to learn that there are over 450 acres for people to explore. Stroll the paths of the once-manicured gardens or embark on one of the hiking trails that wind and weave through one of the largest naturally-occurring groves of mountain laurels in the New England Area. Intermixed with the mountain laurels are white pines that are old-growth, estimated to be untouched for several hundred years. Atop these pines are large platform-like structures constructed out of twigs and small branches. The architects of these nests, bald eagles, can be spotted peering over the edge, scrutinizing the grounds for danger or easy prey.
Although Maudslay State Park borders Merrimack River, the river is so fast-flowing and turbid that swimming is prohibited. However, watching boats and barges sail up and down the river, all day can be a relaxing way to while away an hour or two.
For even more hiking and outdoor recreation fun, head to one of the nearby state parks and state forests. Willowdale State Forest, encompassing a few thousand acres, has over 40 miles of multi-use trails that are shared with horseback riders and mountain bikers. In the heart of the forest is a picturesque 100-acre pond that teems with fish and other aquatic life. In wintertime, the bitter cold doesn’t stop people from having fun in the outdoors. As soon as the snow transforms the woods into a magical landscape, people hit the trails on cross-country skis and snowshoes. Most of these trails are not groomed, and it may be challenging if one is not accustomed to skiing in these conditions.
Being a small suburban park, there is no RV camping at Maudslay State Park. However, there are several options within a 15-mile radius. Salisbury Beach State Reservation RV Campground, in Salisbury, MA, is on the point where Merrimack River spills out into the Atlantic Ocean. With over 480 sites to choose from, all campers can make use of the electric and water hookups. There is an on-site dump station, also. Each site comes with a grill and a fire ring, which is terrific for roasting marshmallows at the end of a long day. One possible snag: this campground is open only between April and November. Reservations are highly recommended, particularly during the peak summer months.
Alternatively, rent an Airstream and go RV camping a few miles farther north in Hampton, NH. Hampton Beach State Park RV campground boasts full hookups and easy access to the sandy beach. However, because this is a smaller campground with only 28 sites, advance reservations are recommended.
Should space runs out, which does happen on occasion, consider RV camping inland. The Wakeda Campground near Hampton Falls, NH, is a family-run campground set in picturesque woods. There are over 400 sites, many of which have shade trees. Guests can choose from no hookups to full hookups, and there are several other amenities like a rec room, laundry, restrooms with showers, and an on-site convenience store.
Steeped in history and culture, renting a motorhome is a practical idea. It makes exploring the charming towns scattered alongside the Atlantic coast an effortless and fun experience. Salem, NH, has several interesting museums and historic sites. The Salem Witch Museum, made famous by several history books, movies, and fiction novels, aims to educate the public on what really happened in the late 1600s. The motto of Peabody Essex Museum, also found in Salem, is “come curious, leave inspired.” The museum highlights art and culture from around the world over the centuries.
Scattered all along the east coast like pearls on a string, the Atlantic lighthouses stand sentinel, guiding boats and freighters into safe harbor, away from the rocky dangers. Plum Island Lighthouse near Newburyport, MA, was built in 1869, and although it’s no longer open to tours, it can be photographed or painted from a safe distance.
The Hammond Castle Museum in Gloucester, MA, is one of the more modern quirks that can be found in Massachusetts. Built-in 1926 by an eccentric man, the medieval home houses a vast collection of arts and artifacts from around the world.