IPSWICH — Terese Cefaioli considers herself a "regular" at Crane Beach, as you might suspect when looking at her Crane Beach hooded sweatshirt.
So when the North Shore's most iconic beach reopened on Wednesday, the Woburn resident made sure she was there.
"I love this place," said Cefaioli, as she packed up her beach chair after a couple of hours of sun-drenched relaxation. "I call it the jewel in the crown."
Cefaioli was among the hundreds of people who took advantage of Crane Beach's re-opening, one of the first signs of the North Shore slowing coming back to life from the coronavirus pandemic.
The emphasis, however, is on 'slowly.' The Trustees of Reservations, which owns Crane Beach, restricted access to members and permit-holders who had reserved a parking pass online. The goal was to limit capacity to less than half the normal volume, according to Peter Pinciaro, director of the Crane Estate.
At 2 p.m., there were about 200 cars in the parking lot and 600 people on the beach, Pinciaro said. On a normal busy day, there could be 1,800 cars and 4,600 people.
Pinciaro said people were generally respecting the rules, which were posted on signs on the one-way boardwalk leading to the beach. People were required to set up at least 12 feet apart from other groups on their towels; limit groups to no more than 10 people; and wear face coverings except when swimming or settled on their spot at the beach. Bathrooms were open, but staff was on hand to ensure social distancing while waiting in line.
Annemarie Strong said it felt great just being outdoors again. She and her husband, who live in Reading, were at the beach with two of their children.
"We've got three kids, so the ability to be outdoors and get some fresh air is great," Strong said. "It's nice to see the sun, see the ocean."
One family drove three hours from their home in upstate New York. Another family, Alvin and Jessica Gonzalez and their 2-year-old daughter, Sydney Rose, came from West Roxbury.
Sydney Rose didn't mind jumping in the ocean despite water temperatures in the high 40s. "She had a blast," Alvin Gonzalez said. "This was a nice escape."
Gonzalez and other beach-goers said there was plenty of room to set up more than 12 feet from other people. Pinciaro noted that the beach is four miles long.
"You could've tripled the number and I would've been comfortable," said Cefaioli, the Woburn resident.
As of Wednesday, all of the dates available for parking passes, through June 9, were sold out, according to the reservation website. More dates will become available, and will be opened up to non-members as well. Ipswich residents can continue to go to Crane and park in the town lot.
Pinciaro, who has worked at Crane since 1981, said he was not surprised by the "pent up" demand to return.
"This place means so much to people," he said. "They're excited to get back on."
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535 or firstname.lastname@example.org.