If you’re a metal detector enthusiast and love the history a good find can unravel, there’s almost no better place to go than Massachusetts.
Not only home to the infamous Salem witch trials and nearby old Burying Point cemetery, but also a treasure hunter’s dream vacation.
Between the popular beaches where treasure hunting experts search for old coins of lost historical significance, and the annual celebrations held at the best locations New England has to offer; you’ll revel in the fun year-round.
Places for metal detecting in Massachusetts are abundant. There’s no shortage of outdoor recreation from Western Mass to Boston and the beaches.
But if you don’t know the rules and plenty of them, you could get yourself in a real pickle.
To make the most of your New England adventure in the Bay State, read on as I unlock the dos and don’ts of metal detecting in Massachusetts.
Are Metal Detectors Allowed in Massachusetts?
Yes, metal detectors are allowed in Massachusetts. But there are some limitations in using them depending on a given area. It’s why you should check the local government regulations before treasure hunting.
Some cities, towns, or counties may have unique statutes on metal detecting and metal detecting finds.
For example, the town of Ipswich, located in Essex County, does not allow metal detecting in any of its parks. But this is not the case state-wide.
Whether a treasure hunter is looking to unlock some history in a nearby state park, an abandoned settlement, or one of the national forests, the bay state has something for you.
With that in mind, let’s discuss the metal detecting laws and policies for some of the most popular destinations for metal detecting in Massachusetts.
Metal Detecting Boston Commons
Let’s start with metal detecting Boston Commons.
Boston Common History
Before we begin, a little history lesson.
First, there’s no “s” at the end of the name. Local Bostonians probably won’t appreciate the verbal butchering of one of their local gems.
It’s called the Boston Common. Or you can refer to it as the Common, like many others.
But what is Boston Common?
It’s the first park established in the United States, dating back to 1634!
The 50-acre park is located in downtown Boston and is a starting point for many of the Freedom Trail walks.
The rich history doesn’t stop there.
Over the years, Boston Common was more notably a cow pasture, a public hanging site, and a gathering place for political protests.
Now, it’s a beautiful park used by locals and tourists alike.
Boston Common is cared for by the Friends of the Public Garden, an organization that partners with the City of Boston to maintain the history of the first city park in America.
Can You Metal Detect in Boston Common?
The City of Boston’s Parks and Recreation department clearly states that the act of metal detecting in Boston Common is not allowed.
While they don’t specifically cite detectors, you can read between the lines.
Below is the Boston law on the use of public grounds.
No person shall, in the Common, Public Garden, or other public grounds of the City, annoy another person; or utter profane, threatening, abusive, obscene, or indecent language or loud outcry; or do any obscene or indecent act; or have possession of, drink, or be under the influence of, intoxicating liquor; or play any game of chance or have possession of any instrument of gambling; or dig up, cut, break, deface, defile, ill-use, handle, take or remove any turf, flower, plant, bush, tree, rock, sign, fence, structure or other thing or part thereof belonging to the city.
Can You Metal Detect in Boston Outside of The Common?
Now that we know metal detecting in Boston Commons is a no-go, you might be wondering about the rest of the city.
The good news is, there are plenty of other places to metal detect around Boston!
There are a number of exciting locations like Deer Island, home to sunken ships and possible buried hoards of gold. You can head out to Dungeon Rock Cave only 10 miles away and learn all about Hiram Marble.
Or take a day trip to Nickerson State Park. The almost 2,000-acre forest is loaded with campgrounds, hiking trails, and more areas to discover.
But if you want to stay local and go metal detecting on private property in Boston, you only need to ask for permission.
Just be sure to get written permission. You don’t want to be that lucky (or unlucky) Digger who finds something unique only to have the land owner adjust the terms of your agreement.
I know it’s a little frustrating to feel restricted within the city limits, but it’s for a good reason.
Boston is a town full of vibrant history. And with metal detecting comes the potential to disrupt that history.
So while you might be unable to go metal detecting in Boston Common, there are plenty of other places to explore.
Metal Detecting Western Massachusetts
The western part of Massachusetts, referred to as Western Mass, is a region in Massachusetts.
The area comprises Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties.
Metal detecting in Western Mass is a great way to explore the area’s extensive history. It’s known for being the site of the first shots fired during the American Revolution, among other interesting tidbits.
For instance, Western Mass was home to notable authors Emily Dickinson and Dr. Seuss. It’s also the place where basketball was invented (Springfield College).
But for those interested in metal detecting, Western Mass is also a great place to break in a new detector.
Its hilly areas draw tourists and locals to experience the outdoor wonders that this beautiful landscape offers.
Particularly the Berkshires, which consists of 2,100 square miles of hiking trails, endless woods and waterfalls, and iconic state forests waiting for an explorer.
If you’re in need of a good place to set up camp, try North Adams. This quaint Berkshires town is nestled in a valley, just off the Appalachian Trail.
The vast unknown wilderness makes Western Mass one of the best places to go metal detecting in Massachusetts.
So how are the metal detector laws different here than in Boston?
Well, in the case of metal detecting on public land, you’ll be following the guidelines set out by the Bureau of Land Management.
The BLM states that metal detecting on public land is permissible as long as anything found that is older than 100 years is turned into the local BLM office.
Metal Detecting Massachusetts State Parks
As for state parks throughout Massachusetts, this is a bit trickier.
In many states in the US, metal detecting is allowed in state parks as long as you obtain permission from the Area supervisor or Park Ranger.
For Massachusetts, this policy is muddy.
Nickerson State Park, located on Cape Cod, can be a great place to metal detect, but only under the right conditions. Check with the DCR first to see if you are limited to campgrounds, shorelines, or simply not allowed at all.
The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) states that using a metal detector is prohibited except for coastal and inland sandy beaches. And even if you receive permission from a DCR official, you may only use a metal detector to retrieve a lost item belonging to you.
Here is a link to all the registered properties the DCR has governance over.
However, I reached out to someone at their office to clarify, and I couldn’t get a straight answer.
At the end of the conversation, it seemed like I could still apply for permission to metal detect, even if it were only recreational. But I’d still have to abide by other laws, like those outlined in ARPA.
And just some fair warning to you.
I know there are a lot of blogs out there telling you where the best places are to metal detect in Massachusetts.
Well, do your research. I’ve seen some of these articles, and the suggestions are outdated.
I won’t call anyone out because there’s some good information available. But you may have read somewhere that Halibut Point State Park is an excellent metal detecting spot.
As of the publishing of this article, Halibut Point doesn’t allow metal detectors on site.
So be cautious before making any plans. And when in doubt, ask one of the local metal detecting clubs for advice.
Can You Metal Detect on Beaches in Massachusetts?
Ah, the beach!
Who doesn’t love digging up some pirate treasure?
Well, treasure hunters, you’re in luck.
According to Massachusetts law, metal detecting on a Massachusetts beach and campsite areas are allowed. Although, you will need the permission of the Park Supervisor for that property.
Some well-known beaches for treasure hunters in Massachusetts looking for a relaxing weekend include Revere Beach and Crane Beach (just north of Cape Ann).
Revere Beach is a beautiful New England town with a fascinating history. It’s the final resting place for the people who settled in Rumney Marsh in 1630.
Revere Beach is also home to the legendary Fenno’s Tavern. Travelers making their way up to Boston would stop and rest and at this halfway point, coming from Lynn Woods Reservation.
There is no direct mention of a metal detector policy on the Revere Beach website. In this case, I don’t see any reason why treasure hunting would be restricted.
Besides Revere Beach, you also have the option of visiting Crane Beach. While it’s a great place to relax, converse at the picnic areas, and walk along the sand dunes, don’t plan on treasure hunting along the parks property.
I’ve seen many suggest that Crane Beach is a good place to break out your best beach metal detector. But it’s just not true.
According to the Trustee’s regulations of the Crane Estate, metal detecting is off limits.
Can You Metal Detect Cape Cod Beaches?
In April of 2022, Massachusetts passed a new law that banned metal detecting on the Atlantic coastline of Cape Cod.
However, you can still metal detect Cape Cod beaches on the opposite shoreline without penalty.
Even with the new ban, you’ll still spot some metal detectorists out combing the beaches.
Another area within the Cape Cod community is the beaches at Dennis Town. Treasure hunters will be happy to know that using your detector on the beach is allowed. As long as the area isn’t designated as wildlife conservation land.
If so, you’ll need approval from the Department of Natural Resources.
Best Metal Detector Finds in Massachusetts Waiting to Happen
Massachusetts has a depth of history with pirates and all kinds of lost treasure. Whether its origins date back to colonial times or something more recent, like the early 1900s, there is no shortage of mysterious adventure.
I won’t tease you with the promise of a treasure you can’t claim.
Instead, learn a bit of history and uncover a prize lying in wait. Dungeon Rock Cave looks like a good place to start.
Below are 3 of the more well-known metal detector finds in Massachusetts that haven’t happened yet.
FAQs About Metal Detecting Massachusetts
Metal detecting in new places always brings a sense of adventure with it. But it also brings questions. So let me answer your questions.
Do You Need a Permit to Metal Detect in Massachusetts?
Nope! You don’t need a metal detecting permit on your property or public land in Massachusetts.
However, as mentioned earlier, if you’re looking to go metal detecting on state land or other protected locations, you will need verbal or written permission from the area supervisor or park ranger.
Depending on which organization oversees the grounds.
Massachusetts Metal Detecting Laws: A Reminder
Ok, here we go.
You and I bounced around Massachusetts’s many agencies and laws. It can be a lot to digest and figure out where you stand.
So, how about we quickly recap what to remember when planning your hunt?
Here are the primary entities you should check with and the major regulations affecting your dirt digging adventures.
Private Property Guidelines
For private property, ensure you get permission to metal detect from the property owner. Include how you and the owner will handle any valuable or nonvaluable finds.
Is there an even split? Does the owner not care?
Did you get a written agreement to those terms?
Public Property Guidelines
When detecting metal on public property, you must check for pre-existing ordinances that restrict specific actions. Just because the property is on public land doesn’t mean a larger entity isn’t governing it.
For instance, much public land is cared for by the BLM.
While the Bureau of Land Management does allow metal detecting on public land (BLM land), they prohibit the removal of any historical items.
Essentially anything older than 100 years.
City Property Guidelines
You’ll have to check with the local government for city property, including small towns. Usually, the mayor’s office can tell you what regulations are in place and if a permit is needed.
If the local government doesn’t outright disallow metal detecting on public property or have a clear policy, you can assume to follow the BLM or national protection guidelines.
State Property Guidelines
State parks, forests, and other recreational areas usually have metal detecting regulations in place.
These are recorded on the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation website.
I would go right to the source for current laws and regulations. Policies can change often. And you don’t want to rely on outdated information.
But as of now, it looks like you need permission to detect on state land. Getting that permission for recreational use may be difficult.
One example is Horseneck Beach. This is a state park where recreational activities are permitted. But for metal detector use, be sure to reach out to park officials for the latest policy.
National Law Guidelines
There are two national protection Acts you should know of and how they impact you.
The first is the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA).
This law protects any archaeological or historic sites on federal land or Native American land from metal detecting and looting.
You can only metal detect for historical purposes with a permit.
If you go metal detecting in national parks or on a preserved site without your knowledge and dig up a find not deemed to have historical value, you are allowed to keep it.
But that’s if you didn’t know you were supposed to be on the land in the first place.
The second national law that applies to a metal detectorist is the 1966 National Historic Protection Act (NHPA).
This other law provides a support system for other local governments and agencies to help protect historical sites and artifacts.
The NHPA clearly states the federal government’s stance on preserving cultural history and charges federal agencies with responsible stewardship.
If you aren’t exactly sure how you fit into all the enforceable guidelines, look into joining one of the metal detecting clubs in your area. Experienced metal detectorists and treasure hunters will know how to navigate all the rules.
As you and I know, metal detecting can be a fun and rewarding hobby. But it’s essential to stay aware of the laws and regulations that apply to your area. In Massachusetts, you’ll need to check with various agencies to ensure you don’t make up your own rules.
But don’t get discouraged too early.
Even with Massachusetts’s firm protection laws for historical integrity, you’ll always find places to go dirt fishing.
With incredible stories like that of Hiram Marble and the Dungeon Rock Cave, you’re only scratching the surface of what the Bay State has to offer.
There are plenty of colonial coppers and lost treasure still out in the Western Mass hills and buried on the shores of Cape Cod.
So, get permission, a permit, or precise verification that you are A-OK to dig, and grab your best Garrett metal detector.
And have fun metal detecting in Massachusetts!
Until next time, keep those coils swinging!
And before you go, head to my beginner’s guide if you want to learn more about metal detecting.