This inland town on the Shore has the nickname, Cranberry City. The Ocean Spray cooperative was founded in Hanson in 1930, and was headquartered here until 1977.
Scores of cranberry bogs, many of which are now retired, make up a big slice of Hanson’s countryside.
At the Burrage Pond Wildlife Management Area you can see where the state intervened in 2002 to preserve a network of old bogs and natural wetlands.
Now, Hanson is a low-key town, with a civic heart that backs onto a beautiful pond, and a number of conservation areas where you can wander in nature along miles of trails.
1. Burrage Pond Wildlife Management Area
In 2002 the state purchased some 2,000 acres of retired cranberry bogs, cedar forest and swamps, preserving a rural landscape typical of the South Shore and Southeastern Massachusetts in the 20th century.
In Hanson and Halifax, The Burrage Pond Wildlife Management Area is laced with wide and flat paths that used to service the bogs, making it easy to explore on foot or on a bike.
If you take your time you’ll become aware of the amazing variety of wildlife, from turtles to otters, amphibians, deer, herons and ospreys.
On the Hanson side you can walk the Indian Crossway, a section of an ancient trail walked by Native Americans and connecting the Taunton River and North River watersheds.
2. Wampatuck Pond
In the civic heart of Hanson, the Town Hall is on the northern shore of this manmade 64-acre pond along Indian Head Brook.
Named for Wompatuck (c. 1627-1669), the sachem of the Mattakeesett band of Massachusett Indians, Wampatuck Pond is a real emblem for the town.
Something remarkable is that the Town Hall is one of just a handful of buildings on the shoreline.
The remainder is town forest (more later), the Fern Hill Cemetery and a small residential subdivision on what used to be a youth camp.
There’s a little patch of waterfront parkland by the Town Hall’s parking lot, and you launch a boat here and on the west shore by the cemetery.
With almost no development on the shores, this is a lovely place to go for a paddle, and you can explore a small canal system dug to irrigate cranberry ponds off the southern shore.
3. Cranberry Cove
For people who have grown up in and near Hanson, the name Cranberry Cove will conjure memories of carefree summer days.
This beach on the shore of Maquan Pond has welcomed bathers since 1940, and features a nice patch of sand, a roped-off swimming area, and little piers that kids can jump from.
Cranberry Cove is part of the town-owned Camp Kiwanee, set on almost 70 acres and boasting a campground and function venue.
Most summers there are kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals available at the beach, and you can also sign up for lessons if you want to improve your paddle skills.
4. Bay Circuit Trail (BCT)
A good way to see as much of Hanson’s nature as possible is to walk some of the Bay Circuit Trail, which passes through the town on its 230-mile course through Boston’s outlying suburbs.
The trail makes a giant arc from Plum Island in Newburyport down to Duxbury on the South Shore, and mostly uses existing sidewalks, conservation areas and public parks.
Heading west to east and marked with white blazes, the trail makes its way through Hanson’s Smith-Nawazelski Conservation Area, across Burrage Pond Wildlife Management Area via the Indian Crossway.
You’ll pass along the lovely north shore of Wampatuck Pond via Liberty Street, before heading out towards Pembroke past retired cranberry ponds at the Alton. J. Smith Reserve.
5. Oldham Pond
Hanson’s eastern boundary includes some of the shoreline of this 235-acre natural pond, which is drained by Herring Brook, a tributary of the North River.
Along with Furnace Pond to the south, Herring Pond is the spawning ground for alewife herring, which make an epic journey upstream every spring.
You can witness this migration, which has really bounced back since the 20th century, at a few locations in neighboring Pembroke.
Oldham Pond is a hive of recreation in the summer, when people launch boats, flock to the beach area on the eastern shore, and cast a line for a variety of fish species.
6. The Blueberry Farm
A summer staple in Hanson, the Blueberry Farm opens to the public in July and August for pick-your-own blueberries.
There are hundreds of bushes on this spacious property, and you soon get into the rhythm of picking, with the help of a blue bucket that hangs from your neck.
As well as the satisfaction of picking one of the healthiest fruits you’ll get to enjoy the farm’s pastoral scenery on the bank of Poor Meadow Brook. Be sure to wear a hat on hot days, although the owners offer free cold water to all pickers.
7. Veterans Memorial Town Forest
The stand of hardwood and pine forest on the eastern shore of Wampatuck Pond was acquired by the town in 1938 to become its first conservation area.
Accessed via the trailhead opposite Indian Head School on Route 58, Veterans Memorial Town Forest is a blissful piece of nature within shouting distance of the town’s civic functions.
The mile-long warren of trails includes a stretch of the Bay Circuit Trail and takes you to the water’s edge for a gorgeous view later in the day when the sun starts to go down. One of the sights to check out during your walk here is a massive yellow birch tree.
8. Channell Homestead Family Farm
This farm is run by a couple who bought the property in 2014 and have gradually expanded to offer a variety of products, events and services.
The Channell Homestead raises Nigerian dwarf goats for milk and to sell, but also has an apiary, Wyandotte chickens, Swedish blue ducks, Flemish giant rabbits and more.
You can visit the farmstand for a wealth of products, from organic goats’ milk soaps, balms and lotions to bath bombs, room sprays and honey.
Usually in the warmer months you can also visit the property for ticketed events, such as goat yoga or the opportunity to pet newborn kid goats.
9. Rocky Run Conservation Area
There’s a small but spectacular conservation area in the far northeast of Hanson, where Rocky Run Brook flows into the Indian Head River.
The Rocky Run Conservation Area is one of a sequence of protected spaces allowing you to walk for miles along the banks of the Indian Head River in Hanson, Pembroke and Hanover.
What you’ll find on the Hanson side is a small network of trails, leading to rocky ledges for stirring views over the river.
These cliffs are completely unique in Hanson, and at the foot you’ll be standing at the lowest elevation in the town, at just 25 feet above sea level.
Away from the river old cart paths lead into the forest where you’ll discover the remnants of a stone and earthen dam, harking back to the area’s early industrial past.
10. Boston Skydive Company
Cranland Airport, in Hanson’s southeast corner, is home to the Boston Skydive Company, which specializes in tandem skydiving.
These jumps, in which you’re attached to an experienced and qualified instructor at four points, require no prior skydiving experience.
The company uses the most advanced tandem systems on the market (United Parachute Technologies SIGMA and Micro SIGMA), and performs its jumps from a trusty Cessna 182 jump, which is maintained to the highest standards.
For an additional fee you can order photos and/or video recordings of your jump. Including check-in, safety briefings and gearing-up, the entire experience will take about four hours.
11. Plymouth County Hospital Meadows
Finally demolished in the late 2010s, the Plymouth County Hospital (1919-1992) in South Hanson had been a prominent part of the town’s 20th-century history.
One of the first hospitals to have a modern heating system, this facility opened as a tuberculosis sanatorium, and evolved into a place for chronic care.
You can hike on the former property, starting at The Last Meadows, which were maintained as an agrarian farm by the hospital.
A trail, nearly a mile long, leads through woods before opening out onto a large meadow. Additional trails take you around the old grounds of the hospital, past a cranberry pond and swamp, both of which are privately owned.
12. Smith-Nawazelski Conservation Area
Another parcel of nature that is crossed by the Bay Circuit Trail, the Smith-Nawazelski Conservation Area is just west of the Burrage Pond Wildlife Management Area.
Purchased by the town in 1989, this swath of old farmland is in fact the largest conservation property in Hanson, covering more than 100 acres.
There are about two miles of trails in woods made up of pine, oak, beech, cedar, maple, and blueberry.
One beautiful feature is a flourishing stand of holly, while there’s also red maple swamp, several large glacial erratics, and vernal pools that brim with wildlife in spring.
13. Heidi’s Hollow Farm
Up to 2020 this cherished seasonal ice cream stand in Hanson had been run by the same couple for more than 30 years.
Now enjoying a well-earned retirement, the founders Tony and Lynda Quigley have passed the business over to new owners.
A quintessential New England ice cream shop, Heidi’s Hollow Farm is open April to October, serving some 40 flavors of Richardon’s ice cream, along with soft serve, fro-yo and sherbet. There’s also a lineup of sundaes, and you’re free to come up with your own sundae creation.
14. Hanson Bowladrome
The Hanson Athletic Association runs this candlepin bowling alley, one of the oldest and best facilities of its kind for miles around.
If you’re new to candlepin bowling, it’s a variation on ten pin bowling that broke through in Worcester in the 1880s.
The pins are longer, narrower and, partly thanks to a smaller ball, they are more difficult to knock down.
Strikes are very rare in candlepin bowling, but you do get three rolls each time. Generations of bowlers have learned the ropes at the Hanson Bowladrome, which has 12 lanes and still uses manual scoring.
15. Old South Hanson Station
Next to the current MBTA commuter rail on Main Street in South Hanson there’s a fascinating remnant from the mid-19th century in the form of the old South Hanson station.
This was built in 1845, the same year the Old Colony Railroad started operations, and has been out of service since the line shut down in 1959.
Even in its abandoned state, with some windows boarded up, it’s a beautiful building, with large eaves, carved corbels and sash windows.
There has been plenty of debate about the future of the station, but when we wrote this article the building was unused.