Traveling to a new destination is like rolling out a treasure map in front of you. And while Cape Ann’s riverside town of Essex may be small in size, you’ll discover a mountain of treasures and a trove of surprises. Love antiquing? Antiques with secrets and stories to tell are plentiful and found in wonderful shops throughout the town. “Once you see a piece that hits your heart and hits your soul—that’s the antiques experience,” says Tom Lang, Perim Lang Antiques. Vintage collectibles, wheel-thrown pottery and fine art, handcrafted sculpture, jewelry and children’s boutique goods add to the delights that await.
All the best treasure hunts include a water voyage so take a scenic cruise down the meandering Essex River to get to know the local lore. If standup paddleboarding piques your interest, rent a board or take a lesson from Cape Ann SUP. If fishing is your passion, stripers are a favorite catch aboard local charters. Treasure hunters in search of nature can birdwatch, hike or mountain bike on miles and miles of conservation trails. If golf is your jam, and you’re looking for a challenge, play the nine holes at Cape Ann Golf Club. The par 3, 7th hole has been recognized in North Shore Golf Magazine as one of the “Top hardest holes on the North Shore.”
After an eventful day of exploring, quench your thirst and savor your conquests in the Taproom at Great Marsh Brewing Company to enjoy their latest craft beer, or dine beside panoramic views of the marsh at any one of Essex’s wonderful restaurants. Like Cape Ann itself, Essex is a magnet for seafood lovers and fried clam aficionados – Woodman’s is the actual birthplace of the fried clam – yet there’s something for every taste in “New England’s Restaurant Capital.” And with three-season ice-cream shops scattered about, indulging is easy.
Essex has a fascinating history. You can travel back in time on the self-guided Historic Essex Walking Tour where 16 interpretive signs feature historic photos and stories connecting past and present. The Essex Shipbuilding Museum chronicles how this small New England village built and launched close to 4,000 vessels dating back to the mid-17th century. And there’s charming Cogswell’s Grant, a 165-acre coastal farm and home to an extraordinary collection of American folk art. If you’re an artist and have come to paint, this his-toric farm is also a favorite spot for plein air painters.
Treasure hunting takes time, so book your stay, relax and take your time. Shea’s Riverside Inn & Motel offers unrivaled views of the Essex River and spectacular sunsets; or enjoy the 14 acres of Cedar Hill Farm Bed and Breakfast, a 1695 farmhouse featuring modern amenities. As you’ve figured out by now, on any greater Cape Ann traveler’s map, Essex marks the spot.
What to see in Essex:
- Essex: America’s Antique Capital
- Essex Greenbelt & Cox Reservation
- Essex River & Salt Marsh
- Essex Shipbuilding Museum
- Cogswell’s Grant Museum
- Hog Island & Stavros Reservation
- Home of the Fried Clam