Gloucester, Massachusetts, sits 40 miles north of Boston on the rocky peninsula of Cape Ann, the lesser-known, laidback cousin of Cape Cod. A working fishing town and America’s oldest seaport, Gloucester celebrates the 400th anniversary of its settlement by English colonists this year. The city’s dramatic coastline features beaches strewn with granite boulders and fishing boats passing from the sea and back to the docks again where they unload some 50 million pounds of seafood – including lobster, bluefin tuna, halibut and sea bass – each year.
First settled as a fishing outpost by 14 men from England’s Dorchester Company who were later joined by Pilgrims from Plymouth Colony, Gloucester eventually attracted Portuguese and Italian fishing families searching for new opportunities in the 1800s. Their influence is still evident in the city’s Italian and Portuguese restaurants and bakeries, and fresh seafood features heavily on the menu.
Good Harbour Beach, voted one of the top 25 beaches in the US, is a popular spot with locals looking to cool off from sweltering summer temps of up to 30C, though a dip in the water will remind you that beaches here sit on the chilly North Atlantic. At low tide, take a walk on the sandbar out to Salt Island, a small rocky outcrop on the shore known as a habitat for wintering and migratory birds and wildlife.
Wingaersheek Beach sits on the shores of the Annisquam River, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean. The beach is bordered by boulders and features tide pools perfect for spotting hermit crabs, minuscule shrimp, snails and sand dollars. With its long beachfront and boulders suitable for careful climbing, it’s also a popular spot with walkers.
Harsh winters here mean summer on Cape Ann focuses on the outdoors. Multiple tour operators offer whale watching cruises from April through October (depending on the weather); 12 miles off the coast of Gloucester is Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, which the World Wildlife Fund have named one of the top five whale watching destinations in the world. A variety of whales, including humpback, minke and northern right whales, plus dolphins, porpoises and other marine wildlife, come here to feed.
Enjoy an afternoon sail or sunset cruise on schooner Thomas E….
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