(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
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