Thousands of tourists vacation on Cape Ann every summer. One of the most popular activities enjoyed by visitors to our community is whale watching.
Visitors can taste the salty air as they cruise out of beautiful Gloucester harbor past jetties, lighthouses and even a historical castle on the way to Stellwagen Bank, home to many kinds of wildlife, including the beloved Humpback Whale.
Gloucester is located eight miles from Stellwagen Bank, a National Marine Sanctuary and even closer is Jeffreys Ledge, and Tillies Bank, all prime whale feeding grounds. Gloucester is the ideal place to whale watch because of its proximity to these fertile feeding grounds. Gloucester’s whale watch companies are the only ones in New England who can easily reach these feeding grounds on any given trip.
The ledges and banks of these feeding grounds create a rich and productive marine habitat that attracts numerous species of whales. Whale watching season on Cape Ann begins when the whales return to Cape Ann in early May, seeking our rich offshore waters, and ends sometime in early November, weather permitting.
Each of Gloucester’s whale watching companies hosts an onboard naturalist to help identify the whales and describe their behaviors. All are committed to education and environmental awareness and all guarantee whale sightings. Every journey is unforgettable and awe-inspiring, from the first sighting of a breaching whale to the voyage home. A narrated tour of historic Gloucester Harbor is included on every trip.
Minke, Sei, Northern Right and Finback whales are regularly seen off Gloucester, but the beloved Humpbacks are the whale watchers’ favorites. Rolling, tail slapping, breaching, even playing with the whale watch boats are everyday activities for these majestic beauties. Mothers bring their new calves to Cape Ann’s feeding grounds to teach them to hunt and feed. The Humpback whales that return each year are among the world’s most thoroughly researched whale populations. Naturalists have been tracking them off Cape Ann for years.
Other species of whales and sea life that may be seen while whale watching include:
North Atlantic Right Whale (extremely endangered)
Long-finned Pilot Whale
Beluga (White Whale)
Atlantic White-sided Dolphin
Grampus (Rizzo’s Dolphin)
For bird lovers, these bird species are often seen:
Gulls & Terns
Shearwaters and Petrels
Jaegers and Skies
Wayward Land Migrants
Here are a few hints to help you enjoy your trip: Don’t pack anything larger than a daypack. You won’t want to keep track of a large bag while trying to watch whales. Boats do have heated cabins where you warm up and can buy snacks, but you will want to be out on the deck where the whales are! Wear sensible shoes or sneakers for good traction on the decks. During early April, May and June ocean temperatures are still very cold and any breeze over the ocean can make it uncomfortable if you’re not dressed appropriately. Even gloves are a good idea. During July and August don’t forget your sunglasses, sunblock and a sweater or light jacket. It can be 10-20 degrees cooler offshore. It is also a good idea to make advance reservations during July and August. And most importantly don’t forget your camera!
The Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism is working with Scandinavian Traveler, inflight magazine for Scandinavia Airlines – SAS, by assisting with the organization of the press visit of lead journalist Anna-Lena Ahlberg who is travelling to Boston to produce articles and films on Boston, with the focus on lobster fishing and seafood restaurants. She will also be writing guides for tourists visiting the city.
(Pictured: Anna-Lena Ahlberg, Journalist, Fredrik Östling, TV producer, John Porter of Roy Moore Lobster Co., Darlene Foley of North of Boston CVB and Nicklas Gustafsson, Photographer)
On Wednesday the group visited Rockport for an article being written for the in-flight magazine of SAS (Scandinavian Airlines). They are pictured here at Roy Moore Lobster Company on Wednesday with John Porter, son of owner Kenny Porter, and Darlene Foley of North of Boston CVB. After their visit to Rockport they were hosted by Blue Shutters Beachside Inn for an overnight stay, and also went on a lobstering trip out of Gloucester Harbor coordinated by Maritime Gloucester and the Gloucester Department of Community Development.
Each June, on the weekend closest to the Feast Day of St. Peter, the Italian-American fishing community of Gloucester comes together to celebrate the patron saint of fishermen, St. Peter. The Fiesta opens this year in St. Peter’s Square on the Gloucester waterfront on Wednesday, June 22nd and ends on Sunday, June 26th.
(Photo Credit: David Cox)
At the turn of the century many Italian families settled in Gloucester. Having been fishermen in Sicily, these families were attracted to this famous fishing port. When they arrived here they brought many customs from the old country including paying homage to their patron saint. In 1927 one of the local Italian-American fishing captains had a life-sized statue of St. Peter enshrined in the heart of the Italian district. It wasn’t long before the wives and mothers of the fishermen began formulating plans for a religious procession to be held annually in honor of St. Peter. Gradually, this annual procession grew into the internationally renowned celebration we have today.
The St. Peter’s Fiesta of recent years provides a varied program certain to be of interest to all. The entire Italian-American section of Gloucester is decorated with flags, bunting, colored lights and streamers. An enormous altar and bandstand form the focal point of the celebration. The life-sized statue of St. Peter, lavishly decorated with hundreds of flowers, is carried to the altar in a huge procession that moves through the neighborhoods of the city. Music is played on the bandstand every evening of the Fiesta and on Sunday morning an open air mass is conducted in the square. Later in the afternoon, the crowds witness the blessing of the fishing fleet. Street vendors and a small carnival create a festive experience.
Various sporting events are held each day. The Greasy Pole is a contest where brave young men run across a grease-covered pole high above icy waters of Gloucester Harbor trying to capture a flag. The winner is the first to capture the pole. Thousands watch from Pavilion Beach off Commercial Street right behind the Chamber of Commerce.
Another event is the Seine Boat Race. Here, twelve-man crews prove their strength and stamina by rowing against each other in old seine boats in a grueling mile long race.
St. Peter’s Fiesta is a long-standing Gloucester tradition and a feast for the senses.
Last weekend was Motif No. 1 Day in Rockport, MA. Shops were open, vendor tents were set up and visitors filled the downtown area for a day of festivities. Here are just a few shots of the day.
Rockport is a quaint seaside village just an hour’s drive north of Boston. Here you can enjoy a romantic getaway, exquisite dining and a unique shopping experience—all in a single day. Visit us any time of year!
(Photo by Cape Ann Photography)
Unlike the “other Cape” in Massachusetts of Cape Cod, the peninsula of Cape Ann is truly a hidden gem whose qualities and attractions just keep getting better. With wide scale preservation efforts of marshlands, beaches, and historic areas; limited development, signage or unruly changes, the fine points of Cape Ann are quickly surpassing other tourist destinations. Our region is – in fact – so pristine that Cape Ann has become a favorite location for Hollywood movie productions because of its unspoiled landscapes and beauty.
Visitors find that they can both savor a relaxing porch front view of the Atlantic Ocean at an historic Inn along the Rockport shore, walk along pristine, wide open beaches or dine at quaint, family-owned restaurant. Cape Ann has by far the best clams in the region and guests have many options from clam shacks to gourmet eateries. They can shop at unique boutique stores, they can cast off a dock and sail around spectacular harbors, see world class art, dig into history and enjoy the stories of our earliest settlers whose homes remain intact to this day.
So, turn your wheel toward Cape Ann this season – it is both easier to reach by car or train than other New England destinations and it offers the best of all worlds.
By road, the best way to see Cape Ann is to travel along our scenic roadways. Starting – for example – by exiting route 128 or major highways and traveling along a famous coastal road locals simply call rte. 127. This road takes one past beautiful estates that lead to the sea and give an unprecedented view of our region.
Rte. 127 passes through the town of Manchester-by-the-Sea with its fine 17th and 18th century homes along its historic downtown area. By road, visitors can stop at Masconomet Park and enjoy the view of Manchester harbor or lunch at a number of great bistros and established restaurants and finish that off with a homemade ice cream from Captain Dusty’s. Many visitors like to park and walk to famous Singing Beach – where the sand literally “sings” and the gradual sloping beach gives way to beautiful views of the rocky Cape Ann coastline. From Singing Beach, continue back to rte. 127 and pass the community of Magnolia – famous for its coastal views, artist colony and summer dwellers. Rte. 127 veers off at famous Hammond Castle in Magnolia which is well worth a visit. Back on the route, one passes Ravenswood Park which offers unspoiled woods to walk in and a nature center that caters to children. Veering off rte. 127 at the Gloucester city line gives way to the magnificent overview of Gloucester harbor, seen from historic Stage Fort Park. The route takes tourists along the famous Gloucester boulevard which overlooks Gloucester’s eastern shore and outer harbor. In summer, the outer harbor is full of sailing craft and fishing boats – and three schooners that take passengers sailing: the Thomas E. Lannon, the Schooner Ardelle and the Schooner Adventure.
After stopping to see the sights in Gloucester, continue along rte. 127A to either beautiful Good Harbor Beach and the eastern shore of Gloucester or on to historic Rockport. Rockport remains the quintessential artists’ retreat and quaint coastal New England town. It is a perennial favorite and its penny candy store, art galleries, and boutiques along the roads of historic Rockport and Bearskin Neck give way to exquisite seaside Inns and bed and breakfasts tucked along the rocky shore – far from the bustle of downtown.
From Rockport, this same route leads visitors around the peninsula of Cape Ann passing Halibut Point National Park, the laid back town of Lanesville and the historic harbor at Annisquam. Halibut Point is unique geographically and offers wonderful flat rocks – left over from the days of the granite quarries – which make a perfect picnic spot by the sea.
Exiting the Cape Ann peninsula – there is still more to see by traveling along rte. 133 towards Essex . Rte. 133 (which literally connects the Cape Ann peninsula with the river towns of Essex and Ipswich along Ipswich Bay) is where visitors can stop at both Wingarsheek Beach and the historic town of Essex, famous for its shipbuilding and Essex clams. Drop by the Essex Shipbuilding Museum and learn about this town’s rich contribution to our colonial history – whose ships built along the riverbanks populated the Gloucester fishing fleet from the 1600s to the days of Captain’s Courageous written by Rudyard Kipling and to the present day with three Essex-built schooners plying the tourist trade in Gloucester harbor.
Although not technically considered Cape Ann, if you continue on to historic Ipswich with both its gorgeous Crane Beach reached along rte. 133, historic apple orchards, historic homes and great local restaurants.
Cape Ann is not only a perfect place to see by road, it also offers its share of water tours including river and kayak tours of the pristine Essex River and its outlying beauty that features Hog Island and Crane Beach. The famous movie the “Crucible” was filmed on Hog Island and there is are two river boat companies as well as kayak rentals on rte. 133. Whereas in Gloucester one can sail on an Essex built schooner, in Essex one can paddle or poke along a tidal river viewing marsh birds, seals, and unspoiled vistas. It is the best of both worlds.
Cape Ann offers an abundance of great options for families, couples, singles and retirees seeking just the right place for their vacation stay any time of year. From old world elegance and wicker rocking chairs on a classic New England hotel porch overlooking the ocean to intimate in-town B&Bs, Cape Ann has a full range of choice accommodations.
Along the rocky coastline of Gloucester’s back shore, there are several fine inns offering many amenities and sweeping views of the Atlantic surf, nearby Good Harbor Beach and the twin lighthouses of Thacher Island. Several more beachside inns and motels, many open year-round, offer easy beach access to Long Beach and Good Harbor Beach.
Both Gloucester and Rockport offer a wide selection of in-town B&Bs, elegant historic seaside inns with sweeping vistas, modern inns and vacation rental properties, each unique and independently owned and operated. Visitors have a wide variety of types and sizes of accommodations among which to choose, from a 3-room family run B&B in a historic Rockport home to a 79-room inn with indoor pool, tennis courts and wedding and conference facilities.
While Cape Ann’s accommodations are principally located in Rockport and Gloucester, the lovely village of Essex offers great accommodation options along its scenic Essex River, just a short walk from the town’s delightful and delectable array of antique shops, boats and restaurants. And Manchester-by-the-Sea’s historic Old Corner Inn is conveniently set on scenic coastal Route 127, at the southern gateway to Cape Ann and this beautiful seaside community filled with great shopping and dining and home of renowned Singing Beach and the magnificent Manchester Harbor.
Cape Ann’s visitors are indeed fortunate to have such a diverse array of accommodations from which to choose throughout the year, whether one’s stay is for just one night, a long weekend, a week or two or for an entire season. There truly is something for everyone here. We invite you to examine the many options described in detail in the following section and come stay with us on Cape Ann!
Author: Laurie Fullerton
You already know you can enjoy the freshest seafood around when dining on Cape Ann. But, what dining experiences might surprise and delight you?
In Rockport you can expect to buy a freshly steamed whole lobster at Roy Moore Lobster Company. But, why not enjoy it while sitting on the rocks at the end of Bearskin Neck? The chefs at Roy Moore’s make it easy for you by cracking the lobster, and throwing in melted butter and lemon. Once settled on the rocks, surrounded by the deep blue waters of the Atlantic, you’ll never want to leave.
Just a few minutes away in Gloucester, you’ll find culinary adventure at every corner. Stop by the Azorean Restaurant for Portuguese style cuisine, a full bar and a diverse menu. Ever try octopus? Now’s your chance. They brush the octopus with olive oil, grill it, and drizzle with garlic spiced oil. It only takes one bite to convince diners that it’s a good thing to be adventurous when dining out.
What about a dining adventure on the water? Gloucester offers dinner cruises on the Beauport Princess. You can find out more information by visiting cruiseportgloucester.com.
Essex is the home to America’s first fried clam. But where might you want to stop before your clam dinner? How about enjoying a before dinner drink? Just across the street from Woodman’s is Shea’s Riverside Restaurant & Bar, where you can sit on the deck, and watch the Essex River wind towards the Atlantic. The peaceful scene will relax your mind and soul.
What if you’re looking for a guaranteed good dinner and a livelier night, but nothing too crazy? You might be surprised to hear 7 Central in Manchester by-the-Sea not only offers some of the best comfort food around (Shepherd’s Pie, Macaroni and Cheese, Braised Spare Ribs) but also trivia nights, acoustic music and karaoke–all in the atmosphere of an old New England inn.
Visit Cape Ann for the reasons you always visit, the fresh seafood, beautiful coastline, family friendly beaches, and authentic people. Just remember to keep your minds and appetites ready, for the unexpected culinary adventures of Cape Ann.
Author: Terry Weber Mangos
The Headlands and Old Garden Path.
From Dock Square, proceed up Mount Pleasant Street, passing T-Wharf with its view of Motif#1 on your left. You will soon pass the Hannah Jumper House, a small white house with blue shutters just before turning left onto Atlantic Avenue. While strolling up this Avenue, pause for scenic views of the Rockport Harbor and the Yacht Club. Straight ahead, enter a paved path called “Way to Headlands”. Hannah Jumper House: This white house with its blue shutters was the home of Hannah Jumper, who led the women of Rockport in the famous Hatchet Gang Raid of July 8th, 1856. Subsequently, Rockport became a dry town, and remained so until 2005, when voters approved the sale of alcoholic beverages in local restaurants. Headlands: A Rocky outcrop offering spectacular views of the harbor and the town. This is a famous place for artists and a great spot for a picnic at sunset or for viewing sailboat races on weekend afternoons. Leave the Headlands out the back side onto Old Garden Road; continue several hundred yards to Old Garden Beach. Old Garden path is accessed from the beach when sandy by going up the wooden stairs on the rock wall to the right of the beach. If not easily accessible walk past the beach and onto the foot path between the second and third house on the left, this will bring you between the private homeowners’ land and the ocean along a short 1/2 mile seaside walk to Marmion Way. At this point you can turn right to South Street and follow the sidewalk back to town. For an extended walk turn left onto Marmion Way and meander through this neighborhood of oceanfront homes, B & B’s, and gracious Inns with beautiful flowering gardens. At the intersection of Marmion Way and South, turn right and follow sidewalk back into town.
Stroll from Dock Square, to Bearskin Neck, with its many colorful shops, restaurants, and art galleries. Explore Bradley Wharf and Tuna Wharf, the first and second rights along your way. Proceed to the end of the Neck for a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean and the breakwater. Return to Dock Square via Doyle’s Cove Road and either Middle Road or North Road. At the end of North Road, take a right on Old Harbor Road to Sea Fencibles Park and White Wharf for a view of the Old Harbor. 20 minute walk, or if you shop? Bradley Wharf: The former site of a schooner boat building yard. Throughout its history, the wharf has been used primarily by fishermen. Motif #1 is located on Bradley Wharf. Motif #1: The ultimate artist’s subject of the New England coast. This humble fishing shack was built in 1884. Artists began painting this shack in the mid-19th century and was it dubbed Motif #1 by Lester Hornby. In 1945 it was purchased by the town as a monument to Rockporters in the armed services. In 1978 a blizzard destroyed the Motif but the town rebuilt it. The distinctive red paint was no longer available so a new formula was developed to replicate the character of the building. In 1992 a series of storms weakened Bradley Wharf and Motif #1 was moved back so the granite pier could be repaired. Whenever you paint or photograph Motif #1 you are honoring the spirit of Rockport. Tuna Wharf: Built in 1884 for the landing and processing of cod fish. Around 1950, large catches of tuna fish were being landed, which gave the wharf its present name. Sandy Bay Breakwater: Visible from the end of Bearskin Neck and 1.5 miles out to sea. This partially completed breakwater was an unsuccessful attempt by the Government in 1885 to make Rockport a major Atlantic shipping port.
Main St. Beach St. and Millbrook Meadow
From Dock Square walking up Main Street stop for a visit to Lumber Wharf on your right. You will pass the Rockport Art Association and the Congregational Church on your left, followed by the new Shalin Liu Performance Center on your right. Take a right onto Beach Street, passing Front Beach and then Back Beach, crossing the street to the Bandstand. Return on Beach Street and take a right on King Street. Proceed past five houses on left to a set of granite stairs. Cross over the footbridge and enjoy your time in Millbrook Meadow, Upper Pond, and the Old Burial Grounds and follow the gravel footpath onto Beach Street and return to Main Street. To extend walk to Historical Society, exit Meadow and walk further up King Street to the Sandy Bay Historical Society. Follow Railroad Ave. to Five Corners, and then return to Dock Square via Main Street or Broadway. Old Sloop Congregational Church: (1803) During the War of 1812, a British frigate in the harbor fired at and missed the bell (which had been rung to alarm the town). The shot landed in the tower support instead, and, if you look closely, can still be seen! Old Tavern Building: (now the Rockport Art Association & Museum, since 1929) Built before 1787, this building has served the town as a residence, an inn, and restaurant terminus for the Rockport/Salem stagecoach run. Shalin Liu Performance Center: Rockport’s intimate 330-seat oceanside music hall, opened in 2010, is a center for cultural events year round. Specially designed for chamber music, the Shalin Liu offers audiences superb acoustics, clear sightlines, and a close connection to performers. A floor-to-ceiling glass window serves as the stage’s backdrop, with magnificent views of the ocean and Rockport’s coastline. Millbrook Meadow: A lovely green park with specimen trees, shrubs, and plants, a granite keystone bridge, and granite stairs in memory of the quarry workers. There was once a pump organ factory, and even a grist mill in the Meadow. There are two ponds to sit and relax by and a small playground for the children. Historical Society: This Granite building erected in the mid-1800s by a quarry owner features a beautiful center stairway, original pump organ from Rockport, historic artifacts and a “must see” kitchen!
Dogtown Common Walk via Summit Avenue
From the parking lot at the top of Summit Ave, go through the white gate and follow the trail through the Forest for 1/2 mile until you reach a T-Junction at which you turn left. The trail narrows; take the left fork after about 400 yards and the right fork after crossing the brook. After about 500 yards you reach a dike at trail marker #14. Either cross over the dike, or take the boardwalk to the right to join Luce Trail at Marker #15. Turn right on Luce Trail for about 300 yards to trail marker #16. Turn right over the stream and after 100 yards reach marker #17 at the Whale’s Jaw. Continue on the main trail, still Luce Trail, from Whale’s Jaw for another 1/3 mile or so until you reach the junction at marker #18. Stay right and look out for a trail after about 100 yards that heads into the woods to the right; it’s narrow but it’s marked with a painted rock at the intersection and then paint blazes on the trees. After about 600 yards, this trail meets the T-junction 1/2 mile from the start. Take the left here to walk back to the parking. A little over two miles or about 1 hour of walking. The Dike: Built in 1930 to prevent the red water of Briar Swamp permeating the Babson Reservoir which serves as the main water supply for Gloucester. The Boardwalk: Built by the Essex County Greenbelt Association and the Dogtown Advisory Committee in 1987. It provides a rare chance to walk through a wooded swamp. Whale’s Jaw: A huge split granite boulder that used to look like a humpback whale rearing out of the ocean with its mouth agape. It has inspired many artists including Marsden Hartley (1877-1943). Unfortunately in 1989, allegedly after a fire was lit under it, the lower jaw broke free and now lies on the ground. Dogtown: Turning left at marker #15 leads after a mile (including a left turn at marker #5) to the center of Dogtown (at marker #7). Built in the 1600s and abandoned by the 1830s, it is one of America’s oldest ghost towns.
The Atlantic Path
A two mile walk or drive from the Village Center out Granite Street, past many historic homes and ocean views. Turn right at Phillips to Cathedral Avenue. The Atlantic path begins at a break in the wall on the left side of the street, just past the Emerson Inn. You will want to consider proper walking shoes as the Atlantic Path takes you over rocks that slope down to the ocean as well as dirt foot paths. Follow the marked trail and enjoy the awesome vistas. If driving be aware that parking is very limited in this neighborhood, and you may need to park and walk to the entrance. So watch the parking signs carefully; we don’t want you to get ticketed and towed.
(Photo Credit: Brianna Cox Photography)
Halibut Point State Park
Just 2 1/2 miles from the Village Center out Granite Street to Gott Avenue, the Park lies at the northernmost tip of Rockport and has an expansive view of the Eastern seaboard. On a clear day you can look across Ipswich Bay and up the coast to NH and Maine. The Park is a paradise to many, from the casual walker and historian to the avid birder. Self guided walking tours of the granite quarry are available; be sure to stay on the marked trails. Parking is available in a lot on Gott Avenue; parking fee may apply.
To Cape Hedge and Long Beach
Take a beautiful walk along Mt. Pleasant and South Streets Historic District, past some of Rockport oldest homes and B and B’s. Cape Hedge Beach is just a 2 1/2 mile walk, at the end of South Street. Stroll across the beach and over the stone sea wall to the foot bridge which will gain you access to Long Beach. A few parking spaces are available between Camborne Way and Penzance Way. Fifty minute walk to the beaches, Cape Hedge Beach is 1/2 mile long, Long Beach extends 3/4 mile.
Tompson Street Reservation is a free 302-acre reservation in Gloucester. It is the largest owned by Greenbelt, Essex County’s Land Trust. You can hike its wooded trails through lowbush blueberry and pitch pine, and climb a large granite ledge, Eagle Rock, for stunning views of Cape Ann and the Great Marsh.
Sunset Mountain, at the southern end, offers another spectacular vista, perfect for catching the sunset. Bring a picnic. Your kids can hunt for many geocaches, and your dog can run off leash, one of the few places allowing this in the summer. Several trailhead entrances, on Bray, Concord and Fernald Streets in Gloucester.
Find more information and download a map at ecga.org.
Written by Patricia Mandell
If you’re looking to experience Cape Ann by getting out on the water, look no further! North Shore Kayak Outdoor Center offers tours of beautiful Rockport Harbor, a paddle to Thacher Island, or an overnight camping adventure. You’ll see five islands and three lighthouses. Two hour tours head to Straitsmouth Island and the 3 ½ hour tour lands on Thacher Island where you can explore the trails, enjoy the views from the top of a 124 foot lighthouse, or just relax at the landing site.
Noth Shore Kayak Outdoor Center is located at 9 Tuna Wharf in Rockport. 978-546-5050. northshorekayak.com
Written by Patricia Mandell