Good Harbor Beach
Route 127A (Thatcher Road)
With shining white sand stretching out into the Atlantic and picturesque views of Thacher Island’s twin lights, beautiful Good Harbor is one of the most popular beaches on Cape Ann. At low tide, one can take a leisurely stroll out to Salt Island while at high tide one can enjoy body surfing or styrofoam boogie boards (all other floatation devices and surf boards are prohibited). Lifeguards are on duty daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.
- Carry In – Carry Out policy for trash, so all visitors should bring
a trash bag with them.
- Alcohol is prohibited. Concession stands are open during the summer so patrons may purchase food, drinks, toys and other items as needed.
- Restrooms and showers are open from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm each day.
- Parking (buses prohibited) is available during the week at a rate of $20 per vehicle, and on the weekends and holidays at $25 per vehicle. Non-resident parking is limited so arrive early in order to get a parking space, especially during the summer months. Gates open at 8:00 am and are locked at 9:00 pm. The beach is handicapped accessible.
- Directions: Take Route 128 North into Gloucester. Follow the signs for East Gloucester/Rockport, and continue on through two rotaries. At the first traffic light take a left onto Eastern Avenue (Route 127 N) and follow for approximately ½ mile to the Shaw’s Plaza on your right. Turn right at the end of the plaza onto Barn Lane. At the end of Barn Lane turn left onto Thatcher Road and the beach lot will be approximately ¼ mile on your right.
#1 WATCH THE BIGGEST MAMMALS ON THE PLANET
Make sure whale watching goes on your bucket list. People say: “It’s a lifelong dream fulfilled,” “It’s the best thing I ever did,” and “It made me cry,” reports Paul Frontierro of Gloucester, who has never tired of running whale watches for almost 30 years. Every single day is different. You might see mothers and calves, or whales breaching, flipper slapping, blowing or tail lobbing. On an extraordinary day, you could see 40 or 50 whales. Seasoned whale watchers go out several times a year.
#2 SOAK UP CULTURE AT THE SHALIN LIU
Like a fairytale palace with perfect acoustics, the Shalin Liu Performance Center rises from the Rockport waterfront. Its huge oceanfront windows let you watch the sun set over the harbor behind the performers while enjoying concerts of all stripes, plays, high def Met simulcasts and film festivals. What’s not to love?
#3 DIG DOGTOWN
A wild, mysterious wood blankets Cape Ann’s vast middle, a place of storied ghosts, pirates and murder. All that’s left are cellar holes and words painted on boulders: “Courage,” “Never try, never win.” So you don’t get lost, join a tour (contact the Chamber), or park on Cherry Street at Dogtown Road in Gloucester and follow the fire roads in and back. Don’t go late in the day. Bring your cell.
#4 VISIT “THE ANTIQUES CAPITAL OF AMERICA”
So many antiques shops crowd Essex’s waterfront on Rt. 133 that you’ll have to pick and choose: Americana, white elephants, fine art, European imports, something for everyone’s collection. When you weary of shopping, sample the seafood establishments also lining Rt. 133.
#5 BEACH IT UP
We have them all: spectacular barrier beaches like Wingaersheek and Good Harbor; shallow, child-friendly beaches like Rockport’s Front Beach; a beach with a dune made entirely of rocks, and even a beach that sings. Take your pick. Just don’t forget your camera.
#6 DINE WITH A VIEW
If you love seafood the way we do, you’ll love it even more with a view. You can have lobster in the rough at a rocky cove, elegant linen service overlooking the ocean, and everything in between. Bon appétit.
#7 COME FOR CHRISTMAS, STAY FOR WINTER
Nothing stops Rockport’s town tree lighting, not even a nor’easter. Santa comes by lobster boat, you can watch candy canes being made by hand, and see a live nativity with real animals, a torchlight procession, and a community carol sing. In Gloucester, Santa parades from the State Fish Pier all the way down Main Street to Stacy Boulevard for their tree lighting, and the Middle Street Walk shows off period houses. A Christmas tree made entirely of lobster traps glows above Main Street.
Essex has a Toy Land Parade, Santa’s arrival at the town landing, and breakfast with Santa.
Christmas by the Sea in Manchester finds open houses in the shops, the Jingle Bell Walk,
and the lighting of the Friendship Tree.
Rockport hosts an alcohol-free New Year’s Eve celebration throughout downtown, with clowns and puppets for children, and every kind of musical concert imaginable, from jazz, rock and roll and country and western to classical, Cajun and sea chanteys.
Between New Year’s and spring, you can enjoy some spectacular winter birding, snowshoeing, and walks in the woods. Others enjoy mountain biking in the snow, surfing the winter waves, or just plain storm watching. The less adventurous might prefer to book an inn and curl up in front of a toasty fire, hot mulled cider in hand.
Author: Patricia Mandell
Many colonial New England towns have their historic claim to fame but for the town of Essex, located on a winding salt marsh tidal estuary, there is no disputing that claim is its shipbuilding legacy. From this unlikely location, the town of about 1,500 souls launched nearly 4,000 vessels over 400 years and set the standard in North America for fishing vessel construction throughout the great age of sail.
In1668, the shipbuilding industry was important enough to the town that an acre of land was set aside “for the men of Essex to build vessels and employ workman to that end,” and that land remains available for the same purpose today. In fact, it was used most recently by Essex-native Harold Burnham for the construction of the schooners Thomas E. Lannon and Lewis H. Story.
After WW II, some historians mistakenly assumed that shipbuilding ended in Essex. True, the industry moved away from the waterfront and into shops that better accommodated the smaller vessels being built at the time. Essex natives Nick Hemeon designed and built more than a score of vessels, and Brad Story built 52 in his shop before he retired. Story, in part, mentored Harold Burnham as a young man.
At 29 years old, Burnham was given the opportunity of a lifetime by neighbor and friend Tom Ellis. He designed and built the 65-foot Thomas E. Lannon owned by Ellis over the winter of 1996/ 1997 and cemented his position among the best traditional wooden boat builders in the country. Although not the first or last vessel built in Essex, the construction of the Lannon created a renaissance in town as she was the first vessel built outside along the waterfront and in view of the general public in nearly fifty years. Because of her size, many long dormant shipbuilding techniques were used including sawn frames and trunnel fastenings. As important as the Lannons’ construction was to the shipbuilding industry, it also reconnected many townspeople to their roots and brought them together around a heritage they all share in a unique way. Some believe that the neighbor helping neighbor atmosphere of Essex today may have begun centuries ago when it was a credit society built between the shipwrights and shipyards, shipyards and boat owners and between the smaller shops that depended on the overall industry.
Today, located between the town’s shipyard of 1668 and the working shipyard Harold Burnham is now operating on the other side of the creek is the Essex Shipbuilding Museum. The museum promotes the methods, craftsmanship and ingenuity that support the industry as well as running tours, educational groups and programs through the shipyards.
“Either the industry is alive and vibrant and is real and people can earn a living at it or the industry is not preserved,” said David Brown, rigger, instructor and a board member of the Essex Shipbuilding Museum. “If the industry is not vibrant, than it is simply remembered and only pieces of it are preserved.”
Burnham still relies on local shipwrights and tradesmen to help build his schooners. Since he finished the Lannon, Burnham has gone on to build the Lewis H. Story, the Fame of Salem, the Isabella and is currently constructing the 50-foot schooner Ardelle. The Ardelle will be owned and operated by Burnham and be available for day and group charters out of the Heritage Center in Gloucester starting this summer.
“It has become something of a mission of many of us to preserve the shipbuilding industry in Essex,” Burnham said. “And, for me personally, I am eternally grateful to all of those whom have been so helpful to this end in so many ways.”
Author: Laurie Fullerton
Cape Ann is filled with fabulous places to go and things to do and see. Made up of the wonderful coastal communities of Essex, Gloucester, Manchester-by-the-Sea and Rockport, Cape Ann certainly offers a variety of fun things to experience both indoors and outside. Though it can be hard to narrow it down, today we have a list of 10 family-friendly things to do in the area.
- Cape Ann Cinema & Stage in Gloucester – A great after dinner or rainy day activity. Families can relax and enjoy a film in a cozy atmosphere with couches and armchairs. You can even bring in food from local restaurants.
- Cape Ann Lanes in Gloucester – This bowling alley is fun for all ages! There is even an option for bumpers for small children and an area with arcade games.
- Coolidge Reservation in Manchester-by-the-Sea – This is a beautiful spot for families who love spending time outdoors. A Gorgeous setting along the water with wide-open stretches for kids to run and play.
- Essex Shipbuilding Museum in Essex – Learn about the history of wooden boat building. Stop in this museum on the Essex River and see how boats are put together piece by piece.
- Maritime Gloucester in Gloucester – Families can spend time indoors and outside at Maritime Gloucester. Families can see local sea critters in the “touch tanks” and experience the interactive exhibits to understand what Gloucester is all about!
- The Get Outside Center in Gloucester – During the Summer months drop-in programs are offered that take kids on adventures throughout Cape Ann.
- Halibut Point State Park & Atlantic Path – If your family enjoys hiking and exploring, this is a wonderful place to visit. Beautiful vista views in every direction and a quarry smack dab in the middle. Pack a lunch for the family and enjoy the day!
- Harbor Tours, Inc. in Gloucester – If you’d prefer to spend the day on the water with your family, this is a great option! There are different options for tours around Cape Ann.
- North Shore Kayak Outdoor Center in Rockport – You can also get out on the water and explore on your own! Families often enjoy renting kayaks for the day.
- Tompson Street Reservation in Gloucester – Another great option for a family hike. Many different paths to explore and quiet areas for picnics. Dogs are even welcome!
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.
Ever wonder about the rich history of all of the beautiful lighthouses that line the coast of Cape Ann? Centuries later, lighthouses still remain a treasured maritime history icon. Mariners on Cape Ann to this day still view them as a symbol of safety and security during their ventures out to sea.
(Photo Credit: Arlene Taliadoros)
Annisquam Harbor Lighthouse
With its white light flashing every 7.5 seconds the Annisquam Light was originally built in 1801 to mark the start of the Annsiquam River. Today the lighthouse is owned and maintained by the U.S Coast Guard, still adding to the rich maritime history of the area. Local Wingaersheek Beach provides some of the best views of Annisquam Light.
Straightsmouth Island Lighthouse
This quaint little lighthouse is located on Rockport Harbor right off of Bearskin Neck. It was built in 1896 with a flashing green light every 6 seconds. This lighthouse attracts variety of visitors as it owned by the Massachusetts Audubon Society and is now a bird and wild life sanctuary.
Thatcher Island Twin Lighthouses
The Twin Lights are not only two of the oldest lighthouses in the U.S, but also the only multiple lights left standing on the coast. The two lighthouses were constructed to have one North and one South so that sailors could easily fix their compass to point true North.
Eastern Point Lighthouse
This beautiful light was built in 1890 with a white light flashing every 5 seconds. Eastern Point Light also has a lighthouse station attached to it which houses the U.S Coast Guard. Famous artist Winslow Homer also resided at the lighthouse for a year in 1880.
Ten Pound Island Lighthouse
Located right in Gloucester Harbor on Ten Pound Island, the lighthouse was originally built to help sailors navigate the harbor. Ten Pound Light is recognized as America’s first housing site for the Coast Guard. The light can be viewed from a variety of locations in Gloucester including Stage Fort Park, Stacey Boulevard, and Pavilion Beach.
The carefree hot summer days with warm sand, surf and endless ice cream may have come to an end but with the abundance of beautiful beaches on Cape Ann, the colder months are still great for a crisp beach walk or sightseeing. You may find a new hidden gem to keep coming back to all year!
Good Harbor: Rt. 127 A Thatcher Rd
One of the most popular beaches on Cape Ann for its spacious size, soft white sands, and view of the Atlantic, Good Harbor Beach is a great beach for anyone to enjoy!
Wingaersheek Beach: Rt. 133 to Concord Street Exit 13 to Atlantic Street
Nestled by the Ipswich bay and Annsiquam River, Wingaersheek Beach hosts spectacular views of Cape Ann. The beautiful large terrain of the beach makes for tide pools and large rocks that children and adults can all enjoy.
Cressy’s Beach and Half Moon Beach, Stage Fort Park: Western Ave (Rt. 127) to Hough Ave
What better way to spend a day than at both Stage Fort Park and the beach. Cressy Beach encompasses a spectacular view of Gloucester Harbor with its rocky coast. The park area by the beach has large grassy lawns that make for great picnics in the summer months. Half Moon Beach is a more quaint, quiet area with an abundance of shady spots. This is the perfect beach to view the harbor and park in a more secluded way.
Pavilion Beach: Western Ave, the end of Stacey Boulevard
Located central to downtown Gloucester and many famous historic landmarks, including The Man at the Wheel, Pavilion Beach is the perfect place to unwind and relax after a day of exploring everything Gloucester has to offer!
Niles Beach: Eastern Point Rd
One of the quieter, less crowded beaches in Gloucester, Niles Beach is a nice hidden gem. Although it is a resident only beach, if parking can be found elsewhere you can walk on. The beach boasts views of Gloucester Harbor and the Boston skyline in the distance.
Plum Cove: Rt. 127 near Lanesville
This quaint little beach located right on Ipswich Bay is ideal for children and families. Resident stickers are also required at this beach for parking.
Front Beach: Off of 127A take Main St. to Beach St. to downtown Rockport
Surrounded by an abundance of Inn’s and B&B’s Front Beach is in the perfect location. This is a great spot for swimming, especially during high tide as much of the beach is overtaken by water. Also in close proximity to downtown with tons of restaurants and shops!
Pebble Beach: Penzance Rd
This beach stays true to its name as it is covered in a variety of smooth pebbles and stones. Pebble Beach is the perfect place to search for seashells and view all of the sea birds that fly about. The Boston skyline can also be seen in the Southwest direction.
Cape Hedge Beach: South Street
Cape Hedge Beach is a very quiet beach with a long rocky shore. The beach sits about 2.5 miles from downtown Rockport.
Long Beach: Thatcher Rd to Rockport Rd- 127 A
Long Beach is the perfect quintessential New England beach with views of the Twin Lights on Thatcher Island. The beach is also surrounded by a variety of Inn’s, B&B’s and beautiful New England style homes.
Singing Beach: Beach Street, off Rt. 127
This beautiful spacious beach is one of the hidden gems of Cape Ann with its soft sand and deep blue waters. Although parking requires resident stickers most park at the train station and walk on ($5 walk on fee).