I love Rockport and although I hadn’t been back for years before this recent trip, I used to live in the area and spent many a’ summer and fall day and night biking, hiking and eating in her peripheral vision. This charming predominantly summer town lies about an hour’s (depending on traffic) drive northeast from Boston on the Massachusetts North Shore. (approximately 40 miles)
It had been 9 or 10 years since my last visit to the North Shore, so it was a welcome treat to get to spend so much time there this past summer. There are plenty of things to take in both in the main town of Rockport itself, the charming artist colony in Gloucester nearby (see our separate write up on Gloucester), any of the neighboring beaches or Plum Island which is a stone’s throw away.
Located at the tip of the Cape Ann peninsula, Rockport is not short of stunning views and charming landscapes regardless of which direction you look. You’re surrounded by the ocean with its ever so picturesque port where boats pull up after a lazy excursion on Atlantic waters.
In the town itself, dozens of shops, restaurants, creameries, fudge and ice cream shacks, jewelry and clothing specialty stores and more line a pedestrian walking street called Bearskin Neck that eventually takes you out to a point bathed in cliffs which jet out into the ocean.
It’s a great place to take in the sunset. The below shot was taken at one of the most charming and delicious restaurants in Rockport – My Place by the Sea, where we had dinner one night – be sure to read our write up on this fabulous establishment as it also includes lots of scrumptious photos of their dishes. Let’s just say you won’t be disappointed by the views, ambiance, the service or the food.
Along Bearskin Neck during the day, there are many things to do, from getting lost in one of the fudge shops to ordering a steamed lobster or a fresh lobster roll at one of the take out places where you’ll find freshly caught lobsters swimming around in a massive glass rank as they bring them in regularly throughout the day to keep up with incoming visitor orders.
Take a look at our video we shot of Ray Moore, showing them unloading the lobster into the tanks. Here, you can get a sense of what you’ll experience. You can get fresh clams, oysters ($2 a pop), lobster and fish. It doesn’t get much more fresh than this — and delicious. They also have picnic tables in the back where you can eat. (see the video for more).
There are also quaint pottery shops and numerous art galleries that house some fabulous works of art from local artists in the area.
The above two shots are the ever so unusual but charming 8 Bells Shop, which we loved – it has lots of quirky things that are all so beautifully New England.
You can also go kayacking which we opted to do from North Shore Kayack located on 9 Tuna Wharf Road in Rockport Harbor.
The shop is located on one of the turnoffs from Rocky Neck, so is conveniently located and easy to find. They have paddling equipment, sandals, and summer footwear for your outdoor adventures, as well as touring, recreational and sit-on-top kayaks. You can rent them on your own or go on one of their fabulous tours, which take you to the nearby islands. They also rent bicycles, pedal boats and stand-up paddle boards.
While their tours hit several islands in the vicinity and range in duration (their site has all the details), the one that we are eager to do at another time is the tour that heads to Thatcher Island, which is a beautiful little island about 2.5 miles from Rockport Harbor.
It hosts a National Wildlife Refuge and has twin lighthouses, erected in 1771, which align North to South and pointed the way to Gloucester Harbor and Boston for whalers and seafarers returning from afar. Thacher Island has been mentioned in literature and films over the years – everything from Rudyard Kipling’s “Captains Courageous” to a brief mention by George Clooney as Captain Billy Tyne in the movie “The Perfect Storm”. They offer daily trips at 1:30 pm and also can take groups of 10 or more for an overnight camping trip.
The owner and staff are incredibly helpful and can help you determine which is the best option for you. We’d recommend this adventure excursion be added to your North Shore agenda.
Just on the outskirts of town, you can find many spots to get to the water’s edge, whether that be one of more classic beaches nearby or just a mile or two outside. (below, taken in front of Emerson by the Sea, where we stayed for a couple of nights – see our hotel write-up in the Massachusetts Hotels section).
Nearby beaches worth mentioning include:
- Cressy’s Beach at Stage Fort Park – great for summer cookouts, picnics and playing frisbee on the park’s open laws.
- Half Moon Beach at Stage Fort Park – quiet, crescent shaped, which is surrounded by a rocky hill and ample shady spots, it offers a lot of seclusion from the rest of the park.
- Pavilion Beach — Near Gloucester’s famous Fisherman’s Memorial Statue, is great for beachcombing and watching watercraft as they head out to the channel.
- Back Beach — home to one of the best scuba diving areas in the region.
- Niles Beach — tucked away from the crowds, it’s great for a quiet family beach day.
- Plum Cove Beach — this is the perfect beach for families with small children.
- Front Beach — Sandy Bay acts as the perfect backdrop for Front Beach and great for swimmers.
- Pebble Beach — mostly smooth stone popples and pebbles stones blanket this long beach.
- Old Garden Beach — a small sand and stone beach with an adjacent municipal park offers a beautiful view over the bay and grassy areas for picnics.
- Cape Hedge Beach — long, secluded rocky beach separated from Long Beach by a short, seasonal foot bridge.
- Long Beach – about a mile long, it offers one of the best views of Thatcher Island (mentioned above under the kayack tours).
- Singing Beach — an immaculate beach with clear blue waters and white sands.