During the summer, you may look forward to a short boat ride and a picnic at Rockport’s famous twin granite lighthouses, rising 124 feet above Thatcher Island and guiding ships safely around the cape for more than 150 years. For higher adventure, summer visitors can enjoy whale-watching boats and those of us who are land-bound can enjoy hiking the scenic trails of Halibut Point State Park. But a visit to Rockport on a wet late-autumn week-end calls for staying in the town, exploring shops and galleries, and enjoying a cozy bed at a Rockport B&B.
On our autumn visit to Rockport, we stayed close to Rockport Harbor, hopping from shop to shop and having a great time.
Rockport Harbor is the location of a famous red fishing shack festooned with lobster pot buoys known as “Motif Number 1”. An artist’s colony established in the mid-1800’s tended to make the building a frequent subject of paintings, so frequently that it is considered the most frequently painted building in America. The building, sitting prominently on the end of Bradley Wharf, was destroyed during the infamous Blizzard of ’78 and then rebuilt, technically making it a replica but no less iconic.
Over the years, the fishing shacks and maritime businesses have Bearskin Neck meets Upper Main Street at Dock Square, not exactly a square, but a junction that at least makes a good reference point.
With a chill wind blowing, you don’t stroll, you scurry along onto Bearskin Neck for shopping.
Some of the shops focus on t-shirts and nautical knickknacks, as would be expected in a New England coastal town popular with tourists. Some of the shops have distinctly Asian merchandise.
We sought out for the shops that focused on the artisans crafting specific media – in one case, the Village Silversmith, right on the square. My wife’s taste in jewelry tends toward silver, and when she saw that not only did they create jewelry with gemstones, but also with fossils so it was hard to get her to choose one necklace over another.
Farther on the Neck, we found Bearskin Neck Leather, with high-end leather goods, like Minnetonka moccasins and Taos Footwear boots, along with purses, belts, and hats.
We also found the Pewter Shop with fun bangles and charms and Earth’s Treasures with bright colors and beads in its jewelry.
Of course we found the shops with fudge, sweatshirts, and refrigerator magnets, then we sought out the galleries and studios. Art is subject to personal taste, so it’s good that there are so many galleries. Most tend toward landscapes – the kind of work you’d expect where Motif Number 1 is a regular feature of inspiration. Look for the galleries all along Main Street and all the way up Bearskin Neck, sometimes shoulder-to-shoulder with other galleries.
We sought out food too. Right at the end of Bearskin Neck is My Place by the Sea, a fine dining restaurant focusing on the bounty of the sea.
Our amazing meal started with clam chowder and the chef’s daily seafood tasting – a trio of delicious appetizers, then continued with a delicious salad with roasted beets and heirloom tomatoes with Maytag bleu cheese. For our entrees we enjoyed swordfish with spicy pecans and béarnaise sauce and a pan roasted cod with braised leek sauce.
When the weather is rough, the outdoor and upstairs seating is closed – and if you wait too late in the season, the restaurant closes for the winter.
Roy Moore Lobster Company is another great choice for dining. There are actually two locations – within 500 feet of each other. First is the very casual, order at the counter and eat outside on the patio restaurant – on a windy, cold, wet weekend only the heartiest of diners attempt dinner there. If it’s that cold, the Roy Moore Lobster Company right on the square is a warmer choice. That more traditional restaurant is sometimes called “The Fish Shack”, despite having the Roy Moore sign out front.
There I enjoyed steamed mussels and my wife was delighted with swordfish steak, all the while being served by a happy an attentive staff, in a family dining atmosphere.
For our home base, we stayed at the 7 South Street Inn, a very well-appointed B&B a short stroll from the Square. The inn was built in 1766, before the Revolutionary War, and added onto since, giving it three guest rooms, each with its own electric fireplace, bathroom, and amazingly comfortable bed. Innkeepers Deb and Nick Benn have created a very welcoming atmosphere in a place with charm, history, and the right kind of coziness for a blustery day.
During the summer, the Inn has a pool for their guests, and it’s a very short walk to Davis Park, overlooking the shoreline, and the Headlands overlooking the Harbor. But during a cold and blustery evening, it’s a lot more fun just to snuggle up, enjoy the fireplace, and remember the great food and the shops and galleries of Rockport.
For more information:
• Rockport (Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce) www.rockportusa.com
• Seven South Street Inn www.sevensouthstreetinn.com
• My Place by the Sea www.myplacebythesea.com (978) 546-9667
• Roy Moore Lobster Company (978) 546-6696
Paul not only writes many of the articles in the pages of this magazine, he is also the publisher and editor of all of the magazines in the Amygis Publishing’s family of travel magazines. He loves exploring, traveling the back roads, experiencing the world, and finding what is unique and memorable about the places he visits.
And he loves writing – poetry, short stories, essays, non-fiction, news, and. of course, travel writing.
For over 20 years, he has shared his explorations with readers in a wide variety of outlets, from groundbreaking forays into the first stirrings of the dot-com boom to travel guides, local newspapers, and television, including Runner’s World, Travel Lady, Providence Journal, and Northstar Travel Media. He currently publishes and writes for Amygis Publishing’s magazines Jaunting, Northeast Traveler, and Rhode Island Roads.