S’Wanderings: Cape Ann, Massachusetts – Gloucester Sights

Posted by on Sep 9, 2013 in Art, Greeting Cards, S'Wanderings, S'Wicked Blog, Travel

This week, I’m featuring my first series of “S’Wanderings” posts. S’Wanderings feature sites, lodging, good eats, and of course, stationery shops, book stores, toy stores, galleries, and other points of miscellaneous interest.

For those of you who’ve never heard of Cape Ann: geographically, it could be considered Cape Cod’s baby sister. It sits on the Massachusetts coast, just north of Boston, and juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. Cape Ann consists of Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester-by-the-Sea, and Essex, as well as a smidge of Beverly. (I’ll be focusing on Gloucester and Rockport.)

My husband and I made the trip up to Cape Ann in early June. We had far too little time to spend exploring—isn’t that always the case?—but we still managed to pack a lot into a single-overnight trip. A storm had just passed through the area, so the whale watch we’d planned to go on was cancelled. That meant more time for toodling around the area, so we just started driving, and soon stumbled upon Stage Fort Park in Gloucester—a remarkable park steeped in history and gorgeous scenery. (Fate smiled upon us: the parking booth was closed, so we didn’t have to pay any parking fees.)

Stage Fort Park scenery

Stage Fort Park scenery

After talking with a friendly volunteer at the visitors’ center, picking up some pamphlets, and using the onsite restrooms,* we started our wanderings around the park. According to the City of Gloucester Massachusetts site, Stage Fort Park “is the historic site of Gloucester’s first settlers in 1623.” For a small park, it packs a lot in—two beaches, sports fields, a Welcoming Center, paths and trails, beautiful vistas, the cannon area of the old fort, and massive rock formations that are fun to clamber around on. One of the beaches—Half Moon Beach—reminded us of Hawai’i of all places: it’s a pretty little crescent beach inside a secluded cove.

Half Moon Beach, Gloucester

Half Moon Beach, Gloucester

Stage Fort Park cannon

Stage Fort Park cannon

* Why would I include a detail such as using the restrooms in this post? Because, I have a young child. Because, I’ve done a lot of traveling over the years. Because, I know there’s no quicker way to spoil a day than to have a bathroom emergency, with no restroom in sight. At one point, I even considered the possibility of writing a series of travel books dedicated solely to public restrooms across the globe—rating how accessible they were, how clean, how crowded, how creepy. The scope of the project was too daunting for me, but I would have made millions on it, I’m sure. (Now, you can sometimes find that info online.)

After a good hour and a half of turning down little paths and exploring fun nooks and crannies, all of which seemed to lead to sweeping vistas, we hopped back in the car and decided to head out to find some lunch. On the way, we drove past the iconic Gloucester Fisherman’s Memorial, which was commissioned in celebration of Gloucester’s 300th anniversary, and to honor and remember the thousands of Gloucester fishermen who’ve died at sea. We didn’t stop on this trip—I’d visited the Memorial, before—but it is well worth the time to park and visit it.

Gloucester Fisherman's Memorial

Gloucester Fisherman’s Memorial

For lunch, we searched out the Causeway Restaurant, based on reviews online. If you want stunning views and a soothing atmosphere, this is not the place to stop. However, if you want excellent seafood served piping hot at not-outrageous-prices, work hard to get your parking spot. Again, we lucked out: we got a spot right out front, and the last table available. The Causeway is a busy place. It’s bustling and a little noisy, and the waitstaff is polite, but definitely no-nonsense. They’re interested in getting food to people as quickly as possible. And, boy, do they turn out some food. The portions are giant. My husband got the fish and chips. I got the chowder and the fried scallops. Everything was excellent. But, if I went back, I probably would have simply ordered a bowl of chowder. It was that darned good. (By the way, their “cup” of chowder is bigger than most other restaurant’s “bowls.” Their bowl is practically a small tureen. So, order accordingly.)

After stuffing ourselves, we decided to start to make our way to our hotel, hugging the shoreline as we went. And not too far down the road, I saw a sign for the Rocky Neck Art Colony. We detoured and soon found a big parking lot dedicated to the colony. On one side is a beautiful view of Smith Cove, and beyond that, Gloucester’s Inner Harbor. Across the street is a perfect view of Wonson Cove.

Smith Cove, Gloucester

Smith Cove, Gloucester

Wonson Cove, Gloucester

Wonson Cove, Gloucester

After admiring the view, we ambled deeper into the Rocky Neck peninsula, an eclectic artists’ community, filled with quirky buildings and art, all framed by glimpses of the working harbor behind them.

Rocky Neck art fish

Rocky Neck art fish

Rocky Neck art car

Rocky Neck art car

We ended our amble at the Rocky Neck Gallery—a large space filled with works for sale from a number of Rocky Neck Artist Colony members. The art is well above-par, and there are price points to match every budget. They offer everything from greeting cards to glassware to wire sculpture to oils, acrylics, and water colors. It’s a neat old building, too, with beautiful stamped-metal doors, and a view from the street right through to the cove behind it.

Rocky Neck Gallery view

Rocky Neck Gallery view

It’s staffed by volunteers and members. We were lucky to chat with Kate Somers, who was friendly and informative, and whose own watercolors were on display, and for sale.

After perusing the wares, we made our way back to the car, and headed out in search of our hotel…which I’ll introduce you to, next time.

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