West of Plymouth, this bucolic town in Southeastern Massachusetts is in a swampy landscape. In fact, 50% of Carver’s area is made up of wetlands.
From the 18th century, this made the town a prime spot for bog iron, dredged from the ponds and forged at iron works.
When that industry went into decline, the town’s wetlands became cranberry bogs. By the turn of the 20th century, a fifth of all cranberries grown in the United States were harvested here.
Cranberries are still a part of life in Carver. The town’s biggest attraction is on the shores of vast cranberry bogs, and there are a few commercial operations in the area that you can visit around harvest time.
The massive pine barrens and abundant wetlands in Carver have staved off development, and allowed the town to keep its rural character—even the summer farmers’ market is in a grove of tall pines.
1. Edaville Family Theme Park
One of the oldest heritage railroads in the United States is still going strong in Carver. This is the star attraction of Edaville Family Theme Park, founded in 1947 by one Ellis D. Atwood on his sprawling cranberry farm.
Steam-powered trains chug along a two-foot gauge railroad that bends through a landscape of cranberry bogs, which become ever redder as the season progresses.
Over time the railroad has been accompanied by lots of other attractions. A big one is Dino-Land, where you’ll tour through woodlands inhabited by more than 20 lifesize dinosaurs.
The theme park also has the license for Thomas the Train, and Thomas Land USA has 11 rides based on the classic children’s TV show.
There’s indoor fun at Ellis’ Playhouse, as well as an arcade, a giant indoor model railroad, and a museum that delves into the history and culture of cranberry farming.
2. Myles Standish State Forest
On the southeastern corner of Carver and spreading into Plymouth is the largest public open space in Southeastern Massachusetts.
Named for the Mayflower passenger and military adviser for the Plymouth Colony, Myles Standish State Forest is more than 12,000 acres of pitch pine and scrub oak forest, hiding lakes, kettle ponds and cranberry bogs.
This is all a vast natural playground where you can hike, swim, fish, paddle, hunt, camp and set off on a horseback ride. Perhaps the best way to encounter the forest is on a bicycle, as there are 15 miles of easy paved trails, looping around those beautiful ponds.
3. Cranberry Bogs
Stick a pin in a map of Carver and there’s a good chance you’ll land on cranberry bog. One way you can get to know the town a little better, and understand the unique process of cultivating cranberries is to visit one of these farms.
There are two in Carver that open their doors to the public, depending on the season. You’ve got Red Meadow, which we’ll talk about a bit later.
Also here is Edgewood Bogs/Cape Cod Select, where you can purchase fresh and frozen cranberries, as well as gift boxes from the store.
Just across the line in Middleboro, Benson’s Pond allows visitors to experience the cranberry harvest first hand, and you can put on a pair of waders to become a “Cranberry Bogger for the Day” in fall.
4. King Richard’s Faire
The largest and longest-running renaissance fair in New England takes place in Carver. First held in 1982, King Richard’s Faire is on permanent property, spread across 80 acres of pine forest.
Normally taking place on weekends and Monday holidays in September and October, the fair is centered on a 16th century-style marketplace with a big cast of minstrels, magicians, fire-eaters, puppeteers, jousting knights, aerialists, and more.
There are eight performance stages here with something fresh to see throughout the day, along with artisans selling handspun pottery, unique jewelry, leather goods, and tons more. Food is at the heart of the experience, including classics like a spit-roasted turkey leg.
5. Red Meadow Farm
In the last few years this farm in Carver, with seven acres of cranberry bogs, has been taken over by a couple who had previously worked in the technology industry in Boston.
Cranberries are the main crop at Red Meadow Farm, but there’s also a pumpkin patch, apiary, and a flock of Painted Desert and Katahdin sheep.
You can call in at the farmstand, opened spring 2023, for a host of cranberry-related goodies, and a big choice of local and regional products. Eventually there will also be a wine, mead and cider operation at Red Meadow Farm.
6. Sampson’s Pond
Next door to Edaville Family Theme Park is a 310-acre Great Pond, a popular spot for water activities in the warmer months.
There’s a free paved launching ramp at Sampson’s Pond off Lake View Street, and this is a great place for some paddling with coves, little islands and interesting rocky outcrops.
The boat launch is a popular hangout on warm summer days, and the pond is one of two designated swimming locations in the town.
You may be interested to know that Sampson’s Pond was actually marshland until the turn of the 19th century when it was excavated as a source of bog iron. Even today there’s a rusty tint to the water thanks to the presence of iron ore in the soils.
7. Savery Avenue
Something well worth checking out near King Richard’s Faire is a preserved stretch of historic road, recognized as the oldest divided highway in America.
This was opened in 1860 by one William Savery, whose plan was for trees on the edge of the road and through the middle to provide “shade and ornament for man and beast”.
At the turn of the century Savery Avenue was macadamized—paved with compact layers of crushed stone—and today a long section of the road has been preserved in a parcel of town-owned conservation land.
Away from the avenue there’s a knot of trails leading off into the stunning mature pine woodland. The high canopy is the perfect nesting site for birds like black-capped chickadees, pine warblers and blue jays.
8. Shurtleff Park
Opposite the Town Hall in the center of Carver there’s a public park in a beautiful stand of tall pines. In summer Shurtleff Park is the setting for the Carver Farmers’ Market, which we’ll cover in more detail below.
At any other time this is a lovely place to pause for a moment, and maybe enjoy a coffee or picnic from one of the establishments close by.
Take a moment to admire the Soldiers and Sailors monument, erected in 1910. The park was presented to the town in 1908, and has always been a venue for outdoor events, many of which coincide with the market.
9. Johns Pond
Another place where families can cool off in the summer months is this natural pond, just over 20 acres in size.
Johns Pond has a mix of residential developments and working cranberry bogs on its shores, with a beach area on the south side. The water is relatively clear and is surprisingly warm in July and August.
In terms of fishing, the pond has decent counts of largemouth bass and panfish, despite its relatively small size. Alongside the beach there’s a gravel ramp where you can launch your cartop boat or canoe.
10. Carver Farmers’ Market
There can’t be many farmers’ markets around with a prettier location than the one in Carver. This takes place in a grove of lofty pines at Shurtleff Park in the municipal center of the town.
Held on Sundays, mid-June through October, Carver Farmers’ Market is a heartwarming community event, incorporating live music and family activities into the experience.
On a normal week you can shop for fresh produce, fresh baked breads, pastries, seasoning mixes, preserves, salsas, and a big choice of handmade crafts. A great time to pay a visit is in fall, during the cranberry season.
11. Erickson’s Ice Cream Cafe
Open May to mid-September, this ice cream stand at 287 Tremont Street has been in business since 1969, and is an integral part of summer in Carver.
Away from the roadside, Erickson’s Ice Cream Cafe has a gorgeous outdoor area where you can enjoy your frozen treat, with rows of picnic tables bordered by a lawn and tall trees.
The ice cream served here is the award-winning Richardson’s Ice Cream, made not far away in Middleton, MA. At any time there are more than 50 flavors available, with fall varieties like pumpkin and cranberry later in the season.
To mix things up there’s a selection of frappes, freezes, sundaes, lime rickeys, tonic floats, and banana splits.
12. Off the Wall Kidz
There’s a branch of this regional chain of indoor playgrounds in Carver. Off the Wall Kidz is akin to a children’s museum, combining age-appropriate play structures with experiential exhibits.
In that vein you’ve got the Pretend City, where kids can navigate streets and role-play at amenities like a supermarket and clinic.
The Arcade has all kinds of old-time carnival games, along with newer video games, while the custom-designed play complex features a labyrinth of bridges, slides, soft climbing equipment, and trampolines.
There’s also a giant ball pit with some 25,000 balls, and a separate toddler play area, ringed by a soft barrier for extra peace of mind.
13. The Cole Property Trails and Bog Roads
To see more of the area’s signature wetlands and cranberry bogs you could explore this conservation property on the Plympton-Carver town line.
The Cole Property is deceptively large, on more than 240 acres of former agriculture. The looping blue trail leads you into this beautiful tract of pine forest, and passes the edge of an active cranberry bog.
If you want to spend more time outdoors you can continue east, where the connecting white trail soon links with the orange trail, tracing the rear of a residential subdivision and some marshland, before looping back towards the cranberry bogs.
14. Carver Community Playground
Another excellent little attraction in Carver’s center is this top-notch playground that has only recently been unveiled on the King Property behind the town hall.
Completed surrounded by a fence, the Carver Community Playground has been rated as one of the best for miles around.
The space is divided into areas for children aged 2-5 and 5-12, and as well as the expected climbing structures, slides and swings there’s all kinds of additional fun.
Children can play with interactive musical installations, or make the most of the trucks and diggers in the sandbox. There are benches all around for parents, as well as a covered picnic area where everyone can take time out during the fun.
15. Camden Trail – Indian Brook Conservation Land
Near Sampson Pond and Edaville Family Theme Park there’s an unfrequented parcel of town-owned conservation land, acquired in 2003.
The entrance to Indian Brook Conservation Land is easy to miss from the roadside on Indian Street. There’s a small information kiosk here, at the start of the Camden Trail.
This heads north into the woods, before forking into several branches that have been linked by a newer trail, so you can spend about half an hour on a gentle walk. On the way you’ll pass vernal pools, and a picturesque section of Indian Brook.