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
Harbor & Lighthouse Tours: In a couple of hours or less, you can cruise around Gloucester Harbor and Cape Ann and see its scenic splendor, in several ways.
Lighthouse Cruise: A fascinating 2-1/2 hour narrated tour of Cape Ann’s scenic coastline, aboard the King Eider. Up-close views of six lighthouses, fishing and lobstering fleets, and the Annisquam River.
Lobstering & Harbor tours: On this 1-1/4 hour tour and demonstration, you’ll learn all about lobsters and lobstering aboard the King Eider. You’ll also enjoy a narrated tour of historic Gloucester Harbor.
Harbor Shuttle: On this 1-hour narrated tour, your day-long pass allows you to get on and off the vessel to explore different locations within Gloucester’s inner harbor.
Harbor Tours is located at 66 Harbor Loop in Gloucester. 978-283-1979. capeannharbortours.com
Written by Patricia Mandell
Halibut Point State Park & the Atlantic Path are a must-see for anyone visiting Cape Ann.
Halibut Point State Park: On Saturdays, from Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day weekend, quarry tours are offered which include a granite-cutting demonstration. Other programs spotlight the park’s natural history, including wildflower walks and tide pool programs during the summer and seabird walks during the winter. Halibut Point is a uniquely beautiful coastal seascape. Looking seaward on a clear day, the view stretches from Crane Beach in Ipswich to Mount Agamenticus in Maine and the Isles of Shoals off the coast of New Hampshire.
State Park entrance and parking lot located on Gott Avenue, Rockport. 978-546-2997. Find more information at mass.gov/dcr.
The Atlantic Path, a three-hour public pathway along Rockport’s rugged northerly coastline, extends from Halibut Point State Park and Reservation to Cathedral Avenue in Pigeon Cove. Andrews Point, located along the Atlantic Path and accessible via a public right of way, offers panoramic vistas and is a noted bird-watching site. (Very limited on-street parking for Andrews Point is available on Point de Chene Avenue.)
Rockport Guide to Public Paths and Town Landings, available at Toad Hall Bookstore, 47 Main Street, Rockport
Written by Patricia Mandell
The Get Outside Center in Gloucester is where kids get to go on adventures in the wilds of sea and shore, woods and fields, ponds and streams, getting wet and muddy in the process. In July and August, the center has daily summer drop-in programs for kids of all ages, even teenagers. The staff doesn’t script everything, letting kids learn how to deal with what happens in nature when you’re out there.
The little ones, ages 4-7, will get to “experience the world through the eyes, ears, nose and paws of a different animal each morning,” in “Being Animals.” Older kids, 8-12, can learn about outdoor survival: how to build shelters, which wild plants are edible, and how to make tools and track animals. Preteens and teens get to go on “Travel Adventures,” planning day trips each morning to explore the wilds of Cape Ann: woodlands, beaches, marshes, lakes and streams. The center also has nature exhibits and books.
The Get Outside Center is located at 186 Main Street in Gloucester. 978-633-7100. kestreleducation.org
Written by Patricia Mandell
Maritime Gloucester is hands-down the best place to show kids what Gloucester is all about: four centuries of fishing. You can spend hours here, enjoying the vibrant hands-on and interactive exhibits, indoors and out. Your kids can handle oilskins and fog horns, sail maker’s tools and handmade nets. They can pick up all kinds of sea critters in the touch tanks, from sea stars and periwinkles to whelks and lobsters.
Out on the pier stands a giant lobster trap, so big that kids can walk inside it and pretend to be a lobster, and figure out how it works. Inside the Dory Shop, they can watch a real boat builder at work on sailing and rowing dories. The Diving Locker holds all sorts of scuba gear, including a 1949 rig. Take a sail on a real schooner, the Ardelle, a 55-foot traditional pinky schooner built in Essex by a fourth-generation boat builder.
Daily drop-in summer programs start in June, such as Catch of the Day, Creature of the Week and Plankton Safari.
Maritime Gloucester is located at 23 Harbor Loop in Gloucester. 978-281-0470. maritimegloucester.org
Written by Patricia Mandell
We are lucky to have so many wonderful historical sites and museums on Cape Ann. The Essex Shipbuilding Museum tells the extraordinary story of a small New England village that built more two-masted wooden fishing schooners than any other place in the world. It is a must on the Cape Ann to do list!
How can you build ships with wooden nails? Learn how at this very special small museum, interpreting four centuries of wooden boat building in Essex.
The Essex Shipbuilding Museum is located at66 Main Street in Essex. 978-768-7541. essexshipbuildingmuseum.org
Written by Patricia Mandell