(WGGB) — It’s considered America’s oldest seaport and art colony. This week, we head north of Boston for a trip to Cape Ann.
Between Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester-by-the-Sea, and Essex, it’s home to over a dozen beaches, shops, live music, festivals, and more.
First stop on our trip was to Essex.
The town has a history of shipbuilding and it’s conveniently located right on the river.
To get the best view, hit the water for a 12 mile ride on the Essex River Cruise Tour, which offers a 90 minute sightseeing tour aboard two charter boats.
“We go through the great salt marsh which actually is about 30,000 acres in the North Shore. We go through a small part of it. There are ten islands. We see hundreds of species of wildlife. Birds, deer, foxes. We have expert tour guides who will give you all of the history of the region and will tell funny stories along the way as well,” says Dylan Murphy of Essex River Cruises.
The cruise boats can also be used for private charters.
“We do a lot more weddings. People like the beach option wedding. There’s the option to rent out both boats. You can have up to 100 people. We are very popular with company outings. People love to do beach clam bakes. We pull the boats right up to the beach – lobsters, steamers, corn on the cob. It’s really the quintessential New England experience,” Murphy adds.
Cruises are $25 for adults, $14 for children ages 12 and under. They also offer Saturday and Sunday coffee and muffin cruises.
It’s been a fixture of Cape Ann for nearly 100 years and it’s also where the fried clam was created. A trip to the area isn’t complete with taking in some savory seafood at Woodman’s of Essex.
“We offer fresh sea food. Fried clams, lobster, scallops. Anything that you think of good summertime eating. We are famous for our fried clams. Back in 1916 actually, my grandfather invented the fried clam,” says Steve Woodman of Woodman’s of Essex.
You can also enjoy those summertime culinary classics with a view.
“We are on the Essex river. If you look across the street, that’s the Essex river with the salt marsh. It’s a beautiful spot. You can come in and eat inside the restaurant. We have a tent in back of the parking lot that sits right on the Essex marsh, where you can eat on picnic tables underneath the tent,” Woodman notes.
After filling our bellies full of whole-belly clams, we head to Gloucester, America’s oldest seaport. The town is full of beautiful vistas of water and landscapes, but also a stunning estate.
Owned by Historic New England and overlooking Gloucester Harbor, the Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House in Gloucester was the home of Henry Davis Sleeper, one of the country’s first professional interior designers.
“It started as a summer home and became a showcase for his clients. He opened his professional offices in 1921. Today, the house has over 40 rooms. He really expanded and changed the house over a 27 year period. So I like to call it a “confection.” It’s such a visual house. Each room has a different theme. Literary, historical, based on colors or where the rooms are located. He really connects the progression of light and dark throughout,” says Pilar Garro with the Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House.
Looking through the home, you may find your own decorating inspiration.
Garro adds, “What sleeper was doing was interesting. His use of color was incredible. He wasn’t a purist. If he didn’t find period pieces, he would buy them. They could be anything from very expensive to something he just found and purchased for a low prices. It was all about his composition and how he put things together. I think color and light is very inspiring for people.”
Gloucester has over 60 miles of coastline for visitors to enjoy. One favorite activity is to get off that coastline and out onto the water on a whale watching tour.
“We are a family based business. We offer whale watching tours twice a day throughout the summer until October. They head down south for the winter season. We have two feeding grounds off the coast of Gloucester. I would say we see whales about 98-percent of the time. They are here feeding. all summer.” says Heather Daigle of 7 Seas Whale Watch.
The sight of the majesty of the whales leaves observers simply in awe.
Daigle adds, “Everyone who comes is amazed. It’s just enormous beautiful, creatures, everyone that has seen them loves them.”
Gloucester is the whale capital of New England with those two feeding grounds and makes it a favorite spot to see humpback whales
The town is also synonymous with the fishing industry, being known as one of America’s greatest fishing port.
“Gloucester is a big fishing community. It’s morphing into a tourist industry, wspecially with new fishing regulations. We still offer a ton of fishing knowledge. We have a maritime center, fisherman’s statue, beautiful scenic harbor, an art colony. There’s lots to do in Gloucester,” Daigle adds.
That statute, the Gloucester Fisherman’s Memorial, is an eight-foot high bronze statue that honors those who have lost their life at see while working in the fishing industry.
The memorial, designed by English sculptor Leonard Craske, is positioned on the town’s Stacy Esplanade so that the fisherman is looking out over the harbor.
Also situated on Cape Ann, the town of Rockport is home to quaint shops and a great arts scene.
“We come here often because it is the most beautiful spot on the East coast, especially the northeast. Artists have been coming here since the 19th century. It’s relatively similar back in 1955, 60 when we started coming here. People just come back over and over again,” says artist Charles Straub.
Its coastal location makes it a draw from people from Mass. and around the world.
“Rockport is just beautiful. People come from all over the world. Where we stay…we always have foreign guests at the inn. There are always people from around the country staying at the inn just to stay in Rockport and motif is symbolic of Rockport,” Straub adds.
If you are planned to stay in Rockport, why not stay in one of the quaint cottages in town.
“I have 4 cottages that are efficiency units with kitchens and two bedrooms. They allow people to come and stay near the seashore. It allows people to come and stay at a little house and not eat out every night,” says Laurie Parrott of Lighthouse Lane Cottages.
“The ocean is right across the way. There’s a fishing pond in the back. The light houses that the road is named after are across the water on an island. They are not all visible on my property but they are within walking distance of my property…five minute walk to the beach. There’s also seaside seating. People enjoy the area for biking and all that,” Parrott notes.