Rockport Massachusetts – A Sparkling Coastal Gem

Rockport, Massachusetts, known as the “Crown Jewel of the Massachusetts Coastline,” reflects the sparkle and charm of its generous, well-lit carets in the mirror-clear waters of its shoreline and beaches. Facing east is Front Beach, an active, popular spot on Sandy Bay. Off Thatcher Road you’ll find Long Beach-a well protected and lengthy stretch of inviting ocean-teased sand. Located on Beach Street between Main and Granite, Back Beach provides a breathtaking ocean view as you bask in the radiance of its near-white sunlight. Known for its quiet solitude, Cape Hedge Beach at South Street invites you to leave all else behind. A convenient walk from town, yet private and somewhat secluded, is Old Garden Beach-a rather small, intimate and welcoming retreat. For all those who cherish the benefits of reflexology, Pebble Beach (at the end of South Street) is completely covered with smooth, round pebbles and stones. Here, you can walk safely and healthfully, rejuvenated and renewed from the seaside stroll.

Thatcher Island’s Twin Lighthouses, built and first lit in 1789, stand tall as the longest surviving multiple lighthouses on the entire U.S. coastline. Built in 1835, the Straitsmouth Island Lighthouse announces the entrance to Rockport Harbor. Its stalwart beam can be sighted easily from the end of downtown Rockport’s Bearskin Neck. As in many historical seaside communities, lighthouses play major parts in both factual and legendary reports and accounts.

Rockport is home to many charming Bed & Breakfast / Inns. For example, as a guest at the Seven South Street Inn B&B, you’ll enjoy friendly, warm hospitality in a calm, relaxed atmosphere. At the Old Farm Inn located on Granite Street on Cape Ann’s rugged coastline, you’ll find yourself surrounded by five acres of lush green landscape enhanced by plentiful birch trees and flowers. Nearby is the breathtaking coastal terrain of Halibut Point State Park. Or, you may prefer The Inn on Cove Hill in the center of town. This historical site was built in the late 1700s and provides its guests with vivid memories of its colorful past.

Nestled on Pigeon Hill Street is one of Rockport’s major attractions-the Paper House, built in 1922 by Elis F. Stenman. A mechanical engineer and designer, Mr. Stenman’s paper house project began as a hobby. Although the paper was intended for insulation, the entire structure and its furniture were constructed of paper.

Located on Bearskin Neck, the well-known fishing shack has become one of the world’s most famous and easily recognizable structures, especially to artists and arts enthusiasts.

Artists and photographers are plentiful among Rockport residents, and many more visit frequently to capture the brilliant coastal color scheme enhanced by the crisp, pristine New England seaside sunlight. A stroll through town will delight art lovers, as galleries abound displaying works from a multitude of artistic schools and styles-all depicting the awesome splendor of this jewel-lined, charismatic coastline and community. Main Street is home to numerous galleries, including An Artful Touch, Anderson Gallery of Fine Art, Ken Knowles, Mercury, and Mosher. On Bearskin Neck, you’ll find the Kanegis, R. Lerch, and Muse galleries. Also located on Main Street is the Rockport Art Association, devoted to the preservation and development of the visual arts.

The new Shalin Liu Performance Center, named for its generous donor, will be the creative home to many excellent, exciting and innovative performances, including those of the highly acclaimed Rockport Chamber Music Festival, led by Artistic Director David Deveau since 1995. This new venue will facilitate new additions to the festival, such as a jazz series, world music performances, children’s concerts, and extended educational partnerships with local schools.

The story of the Windhover Center for the Performing Arts on Granite Street is truly one of artistic innovation. In 1967, Herbert and Ina Hahn bought the last remaining farm in Pigeon Cove, two miles north of Rockport. In less than a year, they transformed the land and buildings into a beautiful miniature New England village-a performing arts camp for teenage girls. The camp was named “Windhover,” the title of a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins about a falcon airborne and hovering against the wind, symbolizing man’s soaring imagination and art’s spiritual quest. Windhover became a non-profit foundation in 1983, and in 1986 completed the transition from arts camp to performing arts center. Along with focusing on creating dance and dance/drama reflecting the community, Windhover Dance Company is devoted to re-constructing and performing the works of two pioneer choreographers in the field of modern dance-Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman.

Rockport restaurants, famous for their splendid waterfront views-especially at sunset-serve fabulous fresh seafood, as well as a varied menu to please many palates. The Greenery at Dock Square offers a gorgeous harbor view along with a versatile menu, excellent grilled fish and lobster, and delicious homemade desserts. At Brackett’s Oceanview Restaurant on Main Street you’ll choose from a large menu while enjoying the refreshing ocean breeze. Ellen’s Harborside, located on Historic T Wharf with its panoramic view of Rockport Harbor, serves highly acclaimed chowders and seafood, as well as Tender Pit BBQ Ribs. Also, along with your meal, Ellen’s is currently offering your favorite wines and spirits. (As history tells it, back in 1856, the “Hatchet Gang” organized by Hannah Jumper, a spinster and seamstress, ran the “demon rum” out of town. This event left Rockport a dry town until April, 2005, when a vote by Rockport residents overturned this 149-year-old “tradition.” At present, several Rockport restaurants are licensed to offer alcoholic beverages along with meals.)

Of course, after lingering over food and drink at seaside, you’ll want to stroll through town and browse in its many unique and enchanting shops. At Bearskin Neck Leathers you’ll be delighted with the large selection of fine leather goods, including jackets, handbags and footwear. Nearby is Earth’s Treasures, with an appealing display of international products such as handcrafted jewelry, Himalayan salt lamps, incense, candles, gemstones, books and CDs. Then, visit the Blue Gate Gardens on Main Street where the florist and greenhouse provide the very finest choice of plants and flowers.

The two main early industries of Rockport on Cape Ann were fishing and the stone quarry business. This rock-bound cape, once host to countless ship wrecks, now warmly welcomes visitors as its treasured guests-whether they arrive by land, by sea or hydroplane. You really must visit soon! Until then, this sparkling jewel glistens from the golden crown of its sunlit beaches, teasing you toward a taste of its rocky, rugged legends; smooth sifting sand; cool, soothing sea tides; and its own very special brand of New England coastal charm. General source: Rockport Chamber of Commerce (a division of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce): Travel Guide for Gloucester & Cape Ann, MA, 2006-2008.

Copyright 2008 – Ellen Gilmer