Rockport is a quintessential sleepy New England seaside town. The town is located just an hour outside of Boston, so it’s perfect for a day trip or weekend escape from the city. Between sandy beaches, charming sights, adorable little bed and breakfasts, and delicious fresh seafood, there’s something here for everyone to love year-round.
Why You Should Visit Rockport
The town of Rockport has been inhabited since 1680, and while it’s smaller than the neighboring Gloucester, Rockport occupies a fascinating place in New England history. The town was a key spot for granite quarries, which fed into the industrial revolution. However, as the demand for granite slowed in the Great Depression, Rockport became home to a flourishing artists community due to its picturesque landscape, and grew to symbolize the quintessential New England fishing village in modern American art.
We were originally planning to visit Gloucester or Manchester by the Sea for the day but we heard that Rockport was more walkable without a car, so it’s a better destination if you’re arriving by train. All three are beautiful small New England towns on the cape, and you’ll find the same peaceful scenery wherever you go. It was about a 10-15 minute walk from the Rockport train station to the beach, has some of the best seafood spots, and loads of adorable souvenir shops, so it’s hard to beat in terms of accessibility without a vehicle.
Rockport, Gloucester, and Manchester by the Sea are all on the same train line, so in theory, you could make a weekend trip out of it and hit more than one if the weather cooperates and you’re in the mood to explore.
By train: Head to Boston’s North Station and hop on the Newbury/Rockport Line commuter rail. It’ll cost you around $26 per person (round-trip) to take the train all the way to the end of the line, but be sure to check the prices before you go to make sure nothing has changed. The entire trip takes a little over an hour and fifteen minutes on the train, and the trains run every 1-2 hours so you have a decent amount of flexibility in when you go.
By car: Once you get out of downtown, it’ll take you about an hour on the Yankee Division Highway (MA-127) to get out to the cape. If you have a car, you’ll have a little more flexibility in exploring the town of Rockport and surrounding areas, but it may be difficult to find parking, especially during the busy summer season.
Things To Do
Eat all the seafood: The best part about being close to the water is the proximity to fresh seafood, in my opinion. When in Rockport, be sure to visit Roy Moore’s Fish Shack or Roy Moore’s Lobster Company, and any other Roy Moore properties, which are the most well-known spots in town to grab a lobster roll.
However, you really can’t go wrong with the fresh, affordable seafood at any of the restaurants in town. We visited Ellen’s Harborside for some classic New England clam chowder and cocktails and found this picturesque view of the harbor.
Take in the sights: Rockport’s most famous landmark is Motif Number 1, one of the most recognizable sites in New England. The red fishing shack was painted by Lester Hornby and many other American artists due to the location and lighting, and it has come to represent New England maritime life. The “most painted building in America” was originally built in 1840, and rebuilt in 1978 after the structure was destroyed in a blizzard.
If you’re interested in learning more about the role Rockport plays in art history, be sure to check out the Rockport Art Association Museum to discover more about the vibrant Cape Ann artist community.
Stroll down Bear Skin Neck, a row of old fishing and lobster shacks that have been restored and are now home to dozens of adorable art galleries, restaurants, and souvenir shops. Once you get to the end of the rocky outcropping, you’ll be met with some incredible 360-degree views of the surrounding harbor, Motif Number 1, and the sea.
On the way, be sure to pop into the Fudgery for some delicious homemade fudge, saltwater taffy, and other yummy treats, and pick up some unique gifts and souvenirs to bring back home.
If you’re visiting during the summer months, you can spend the whole day lounging at Front Beach. While the water will definitely be cold, even in the summer, due to its protected position in the harbor, the water at Front Beach and the neighboring descriptively-named Back Beach is supposedly warmer than the other public beaches in the area.
If you’re feeling adventurous and the weather cooperates, you can rent a kayak or rowboat and paddle out to the Thatcher Island Twin Lights. Known activity on Thatcher Island dates back to Samuel de Champlain in 1605, and the twin lighthouses were built in 1771 to mark the dangerous Londoner Ledge to caution sailors in the area. The island is protected as a National Historic Landmark and only accessible by non-motorized boats, making it a unique experience and a great opportunity to take in views of Cape Ann from the water.
If you arrived by car, you can head up to Halibut Point State Park to explore the tide pools and catch some incredible views. On a clear day, it is possible to see all the way to Mt. Agamenticus in Maine (81 miles away) and the Isles of Shoals in New Hampshire. If you arrived by train, it’s possible to catch the bus from downtown Rockport, although the bus runs infrequently and doesn’t run at all on Sundays. Be sure to check with the Rockport Visitor Information Center for the most up-to-date transit information.
While the town of Rockport is relatively small, it’s the perfect destination for a relaxing weekend getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life in Boston. Peak tourist season in Rockport is during the summer months for obvious reasons, however, if you don’t mind facing the cold, you might just get the town and its picturesque sights all to yourself during the offseason.
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