Written by Holly Perry, Project Coordinator, North of Boston CVB
My birthday is on March 22, which is normally a pretty regular day. This year, it happened to fall at the beginning of a period of time we would refer to later as ‘the quarantine’. We were told to stay at home, not see friends or family and not to dine-in at restaurants.
The morning of March 22 arrived as a bright and sunny (but chilly) Sunday. My husband suggested a drive around Cape Ann. I agreed and we packed up the car with coffees-to-go, mittens, coats and hats. We live close to Essex so this was our starting point. I gazed out the window, still sleepy from the early wake-up, and spotted familiar spots like Woodman’s and Shea’s.
Shortly after, we made our way down to Manchester-by-the-Sea and stopped to grab bagel takeout at a local cafe. We walked to the water’s edge and gazed out at Manchester Harbor. Memories of coming here on boats as a kid to get ice cream filled my head and made me smile. It was cold so we shuffled back into the car and headed towards the beautiful Magnolia district. This windy stretch of coast is dotted with gorgeous homes, quaint coves and lookout spots to the crashing waves below.
A Tour Around Gloucester
With Magnolia behind us, we passed the iconic Man at the Wheel statue and drove through Gloucester’s busy downtown area. Familiar signs for whale watching excursions and Gorton’s headquarters passed us on either side. We turned down Rocky Neck, home of many artisan shops and a few great restaurants. In the summer months we love coming down here for dinner and to look at all the boats in the harbor.
As we twisted and turned around the coastline into the Back Shore, I couldn’t help but wonder, “why don’t we do this all the time?” I silently agreed to myself that we would. We came upon The iconic Vista Motel, an accommodation I have heard a lot about but have never seen in person. It was still winter but I imagined how it would be a fun place to stay in the summer. The motel is close to the beach but also isolated and private.
Next on the horizon was Good Harbor beach, identified immediately by some of my favorite New England homes nestled up in the cliffs. At the time, this beach was open for walking so we joined a few other brave souls for a brisk winter beach walk. Laughing kids and tail-wagging dogs passed us as we strolled along the shore, enjoying the sun and the sounds of crashing waves.
After getting back in the car with rosy cheeks and noses, we passed Rockport’s downtown area where the famous Motif No. 1 lives and arrived at Pigeon Cove, another part of Cape Ann I had never been. This bustling little area did not seem to have slowed down at all for winter. Our surroundings included fishing boats, colorful buoys and lobster traps stacked high along the road.We sat in the parked car and watched seagulls hover overhead, scouting out their next snack. We passed historical inns and more pretty houses and finally arrived at our last stop, Halibut Point State Park.
If you have not been to Halibut Point State Park, you absolutely must go! (Please visit their website to see if they are open prior to your arrival and know that public restrooms may be closed.) The beginning of the trail leads you to rock quarries with a pristine pool in the center where ducks and other wildlife enjoy swimming and sunbathing. The trail goes on for 2.5 miles of moderate walking along the sea cliffs. On this clear day we were able to look across the water and see Plum Island, Newburyport and even New Hampshire. We hiked the full loop and got back to the car, satisfied with everything we had seen and done in a short few hours.
On the way home I knew this was going to be a birthday to remember. My husband and I both felt grateful that we live in this unbelievable area. I was so glad we took the time to drive around the entire Cape – something we had never done even though we both grew up 30 minutes away. This trip reminded me that there’s a ton of things to see and do in our own backyard and I can’t wait to see where we go next.