Travel

14 Gorgeous Orchards for Apple Picking Outside of Boston

Soak up the autumnal vibes on a fruit-filled getaway.

Russell Orchards
Russell Orchards
Russell Orchards

Fall is one of the most cherished seasons for New Englanders and visitors alike. There’s foliage to drool over, epic hikes to lace up for, and Halloween’s spooky festivities lurk right around the corner. However, at the absolute top of the list remains the obvious: good old fashioned apple picking. Across Massachusetts-and not far from Boston-you’ll find ample orchards to choose from, some with hayrides, farm stands, and other quaint features bound to melt your heart. Here are our picks for the best apple pickin’ spots within driving distance of Boston.

Carver Hill Orchard
Carver Hill Orchard
Carver Hill Orchard

Carver Hill Orchard

Stow
Distance from Boston: 1 hour
Looking to zip through the country while en route to a hidden orchard oasis? Consider Stow’s Carver Hill Orchard the perfect backdrop for picking up a cornucopia of fresh produce. We’re talking everything from squash, zucchini, blueberries, peaches, and of course, U-pick apples.
Price: $18 for a peck

Tougas Family Farm
Tougas Family Farm
Tougas Family Farm

Tougas Family Farm

Northborough
Distance from Boston: 50 minutes
With just about every kind of fruit on the menu, Tougas Family Farm doesn’t disappoint in the picking department. There’s also their popular barnyard, playground, and farm kitchen to peruse after you finish perusing the fields. Stop by the store for an order of apple cider donuts topped with endlessly creamy Tougas Farm Kitchen’s ice cream and call it a day well spent.
Price: $32 for a peck

Lookout Farm
Lookout Farm
Lookout Farm

Belkin Family Lookout Farm

South Natick
Distance from Boston: 30 minutes
Even though it’s widely acknowledged as one of the oldest farms in the country, Lookout is still kickin’ with a plentiful selection of the crispiest and sweetest apples around. It keeps things modern, too, with The Lookout, an outdoor dining escape offering up a menu of craft ciders and beers for a post-pick cooldown. Heads up-U-Pick reservations are required again this year, so be sure to check the website for rules and available times.
Price: $20 for a half peck

Dowse Orchards
Dowse Orchards
Dowse Orchards

Dowse Orchards

Sherborn
Distance from Boston: 30 minutes
With more than 50 acres of land and dozens of apple varieties to choose from, Dowse Orchards is a go-to for filling up on fresh fruit this fall. Stocked with all the seasonal favorites including sweet homemade cider, this roadside farmstand has been operating for more than 60 years. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for apple availability updates.
Price: $16 for a small bag

Brooksby Farm
Brooksby Farm
Brooksby Farm

Brooksby Farm

Peabody
Distance from Boston: 35 minutes
Brooksby Farm grows just about every fruit and vegetable you can possibly imagine. From squash to pumpkins to-you guessed it-apples, this homey hideaway has all of your seasonal cravings on lock. The famous onsite bakery also whips up some of the tastiest treats around, including apple cider donuts, muffins, and monkey bread. For updated safety guidelines, visit the farm’s website or check out their Facebook page to see what’s ripe for the picking.
Price: $10 per person (includes small bag)

Boston Hill Farm
Boston Hill Farm
Boston Hill Farm

Boston Hill Farm

North Andover
Distance from Boston: 35 minutes
This 12-generation, family-owned and -operated farm will continue offering U-pick this year without requiring a reservation. Here you’ll find all the fruit and fall harvest goodies you need, including both apples and pumpkins. And if you’re in the mood to indulge in the farmstand’s lineup of fresh baked pies, donuts, and fudge, take advantage of curbside service to keep things safe and comfortable.
Price: $30 for a peck

Connors Farm
Connors Farm
Connors Farm

Connors Farm

Danvers
Distance from Boston: 40 minutes
Now open for the season, Connors Farm is getting ready to unveil their 2021 corn maze-and it’s quite the big deal, just pop over to their website to see former iterations of the agricultural masterpiece. Elsewhere, homemade baked goods and grocery items are available to grab in-person at the farm stand as well as via curbside pick-up and delivery.
Price: $11.99 for a half-peck

Russell Orchards
Russell Orchards
Russell Orchards

Russell Orchards

Ipswich
Distance from Boston: 50 minutes
This 120-acre, family-owned and -operated farm is a one-stop-shop for all things fall. Between the 20+ apple varieties available for picking and the adjoining barnyard, bakery, and produce store, Russell Orchards provides something for everyone in your group.
Price: $5 admission; $20 for a small bag

Nashoba Valley Winery, Orchard and Restaurant
Nashoba Valley Winery, Orchard and Restaurant
Nashoba Valley Winery, Orchard and Restaurant

Nashoba Winery

Bolton
Distance from Boston: 1 hour, 10 minutes
You should definitely enlist the help of a designated driver for this weekend getaway. Nashoba Winery offers both apple picking and wine tastings on their scenic grounds. There’s also a distillery and brewery onsite, so you may as well stick around for a while.
Price: $20 for a peck

Carlson Orchards
Carlson Orchards
Carlson Orchards

Carlson Orchards

Harvard
Distance from Boston: 45 minutes
Carlson Orchards takes pride in its premium acreage, and is committed to filling everyone in on what the talented farmers are harvesting and when. To better educate yourself on apples, the farm takes you through its varieties with descriptions on their website. What’s best for a pie? No need to guess because this place has you covered. There are also six-packs of the farm’s famous hard ciders, Oak Hill Blend and Shandy Stand, calling your name.
Price: $20 for a small bag

Honey Pot Hill Orchards
Honey Pot Hill Orchards
Honey Pot Hill Orchards

Honey Pot Hill Orchards

Stow
Distance from Boston: 50 minutes
Founded in 1926, beloved Honey Pot Hill Orchards has been welcoming visitors to their picturesque farm for U-pick apples, peaches, blueberries, and other small crops for years. In addition to the freshest pickins out there, Honey Pot Hill Orchards also offers endless fall activities like hayrides to and from the orchard, mazes, and a petting zoo with goats, rabbits, pigs, and miniature horses.
Price: $20 for a small bag

Red Apple Farm
Red Apple Farm
Red Apple Farm

Red Apple Farm

Phillipston
Distance from Boston: 1 hour
You’ve probably caught a whiff of Red Apple Farm’s apple cider donuts at the Boston Public Market, but now’s the time to take a trip to the source. Not only will you find rows of trees heavy with a variety of different in-season apples, but you can also pick your own sunflowers and grab a bite (and drink) at the Brew Barn while you’re at it.
Price: $22 for a small bag

Smolak Farms
Smolak Farms
Smolak Farms

Smolak Farms

North Andover
Distance from Boston: 45 minutes
With blueberries and peaches currently in season, apple picking will soon be next at Smolak Farms. For weekly updates, check the farm’s website or Facebook page for U-pick availability. You can also take a peek at the farm stand’s special to-go meal menu if you’re craving more than fruit during your journey.
Price: $20 for a small bag

Parlee Farms
Parlee Farms
Parlee Farms

Parlee Farms

Tyngsboro
Distance from Boston: 50 minutes
This pick-your-own-farm not only has a wide variety of apples to choose from, but an option to cut your own flowers through late September. Another plus to making the trip out? The farm’s Mary’s Country Kitchen and Bakery serves up homemade baked goods. A bag of donuts and fresh cut flowers? That’s one way to win someone’s heart. Before you go, see the farm’s COVID-19 protocol and check out Facebook for updates.
Price: $25 for a small bag

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Jillian Hammell is a contributor for Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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