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The Beaches of Cape Ann

 Lighthouse on Cape Ann's Annisquam River. 

Good Harbor Beach — Gloucester, MA

The beaches here are a main attraction for obvious reasons. The experience of walking or relaxing on an ocean beach, listening to the sound of the waves and taking in the salt air is well worth the trip. Cape Ann is fortunate to have a number of sandy swimming beaches. Some are large and sandy; others are hidden away and more intimate. Whatever your beach pleasure, you'll find it on Cape Ann. Here is a brief description and some helpful hints in hitting the beach.

Stage Fort Park Beaches, Route 127, Gloucester
There are two beaches here as well as a large wonderful park. This is a great family picnic area, with plenty of room (acres) to roam around. There are walking trail, picnic areas, rocks to walk on, a ball field, bathrooms, lifeguards and a large parking lot. Parking is free for residents and paid for visitors. The fee is $10 weekdays, $15 weekends and holidays. Stage Fort Park is a great place to take the kids to walk around and amuse themselves for a few hours even if it's not a beach day. There are two beaches here:

 Lighthouse on Cape Ann's Annisquam River. 

Half Moon Beach — Gloucester, MA

Half Moon Beach
Facing Gloucester Harbor, this is a relatively small sandy beach with good swimming. It's a very pleasant setting with a high rocky knoll behind. Because the park surrounds the beach you can get out of the sun easily if you want. The view across the harbor as you sit on the beach is picturesque and constantly changing with a parade of distant whale watch, fishing and sailboats going by.

Cressy's Beach is a bit different. This beach is a combination of sand a rocks, and is underused because it isn't visible and it's a bit more of a walk from the parking lot. If you want to be on a less crowded beach, this is for you. This is a better place to go for reading and relaxing than swimming, but the water is clear and many people do swim here.

Quick Review: Stage Fort Park Beaches: Half Moon and Cressy's

  • Picnic tables and picnic areas nearby
  • Parking fee: $10.00 weekdays, $15 weekends and holidays.
  • Beach surface: One sandy, one mixed sand & stones
  • Play area: Lots of playground equipment, places to run around
    Snack bar: Inside the park, across the park access road, 1-2 minutes walk.
  • Lifeguards are on duty in the high beach season.

Pavillion Beach, Stacy Boulevard, Gloucester
Located just off of Stacy Boulevard, the location of the famous "Fisherman Statue." As you face the statue, turn right and you'll walk onto the beach by staying close to the water. Most visitors don't come to know of this small downtown harbor beach because it's not one of the most popular. However, this is a good place to relax and the swimming is good, although the surface is a mix of sand and cobbles along the water's edge. If you get shut out from the major beaches, you can have this place almost to yourself. The ambiance is not as "away from it all" as other beaches. Here you'll enjoy a beautiful harbor view and a parade of boats, but behind you is a residential neighborhood and commercial buildings. There is no parking lot and no facilities. You can park on the Boulevard near the Fisherman statue and walk a short distance to the beach. The Boulevard has ice cream, variety shops and a couple of restaurants if you get the munchies.

Overview: Pavillion Beach-Stacy Boulevard, Route 127, Gloucester

  • This is a good alternative beach, never crowded except for the Fiesta in late June, and then it's mobbed. No charge to walk on.
  • No parking, but you should be able to find a spot nearby
  • Mostly sandy, nice views of the harbor, clean water.
  • No services or facilities

Wingaersheek Beach, West Gloucester
This and Good Harbor are the two most popular beaches around. Wingaersheek is long, wide, sandy and flat. Surrounded by Ipswich Bay, the Annisquam River and sand dunes, this is a beautiful setting that includes a view north to the New Hampshire shoreline. At lower tides there is a gradual drop off for a long distance that allows kids to walk and play for a distance in shallow water. 

Quick Review:

  • About 1/2 mile wide
  • No picnic tables or picnic area
  • Parking fee: $20 m-f, $25 weekends and holidays.
  • Sandy and flat
  • No designated play or sports area
  • Snack bar, lifeguards, other services in season.

Directions: Take Route 128 to Exit 13 (Concord Street). Turn left and follow Concord Street to Atlantic Road. Turn right and follow to the beach.

Good Harbor Beach, Route 127A, Gloucester
This and Wingaersheek Beach are the favorites. Good Harbor is one of the most popular in New England. Even on very hot summer weekends the beach is not overly crowded because of it size. Additionally, the parking lots cannot handle enough people to allow the beach to become too crowded. The dunes and marshes that surround the beach make it walk-able from only a few hotels, and a couple of small neighborhoods. The parking is another story. The problem getting to Good Harbor isn't the beach-it's the parking lot, which fills up early on hot summer weekend days. If you're not a Gloucester resident, get there early or go later in the afternoon on hot summer weekend days.

Directions: From the end of Route 128 (the first set of lights) turn left, then right after the shopping plaza, then left. See the beach entrance a short distance ahead on the right.

Overview: Good Harbor Beach

  • About 1/2 mile long
  • Picnic tables at the rear, near the concession stand
  • Parking fee for non-residents: $20 m-f, $25 weekends and holidays.
  • Beach surface: raked clean sand-a really beautiful sprawling beach
  • No designated play area for volleyball, etc.
  • Located on Rte. 127A, Thatcher Road
  • Snack bar, showers, bathrooms, lifeguards all in season.

Long Beach: Gloucester and Rockport
Located off Route 127A and running across the Gloucester/Rockport line off Thatcher Road, this beach is long (of course), flat and sandy. The beach faces east, with a nice view of the twin lighthouses on Thacher's Island.

From Gloucester you drive by Good Harbor Beach and when you get to Rockport Road you'll see a fork with an ice cream stand. In this area there are a few small private paid parking lots a short walk from the beach. There is no public parking on the Gloucester end.

To approach from Rockport, keep going on Route 127A to Seaview Street, where there is a parking lot. If you plan to spend time at Rockport beaches, consider buying a seasonal pass, which is a good deal. For $25 per season you'll receive a parking sticker good for anywhere sticker parking is available at Rockport beaches. You can purchase it at the Rockport Chamber of Commerce (Main Street) or Rockport Town Hall (Broadway). Be aware that there are two types of parking, "Resident" parking, which the sticker doesn't qualify for, and "Sticker" parking, which it does qualify for. Read the signs. Parking is limited so get there early on hot days.

The Rockport end of the beach has its own lifeguards. Gloucester lifeguards patrol the Gloucester end. You can walk from Long Beach and pass a large rocky outcropping onto Cape Hedge Beach. This is a long, beautiful beach walk from either direction.

Cape Hedge Beach, Rockport
Continuing down Route 127a into Rockport, if you turn right at the Turk's Head Inn you can find your way down to a small parking lot for Cape Hedge Beach. Again, unless you're a resident you'll need a seasonal sticker, and parking here is very limited. However, this is a beautiful beach, not found by many people. There are no services here.

 Lighthouse on Cape Ann's Annisquam River. 

Front Beach — Rockport, MA

Front Beach, Rockport
Front Beach is a nice, beach on Sandy Bay, pointing toward the east. There is only street (metered) parking here, so you park someplace walk (not easy in Rockport) or have somebody drop you off. Or, if you're really clever you can drive your car to the Park & Ride lot on Route 127 near the Rockport Information Booth, park and pay the ridiculously small fee, and ride the trolley to the beach. The beach is also within an easy walk from the Rockport village, and from many of the inns and hotels nearby. There are lifeguards in the high season and public bathrooms are nearby. Another nice thing is that it is near a number of restaurants, eateries and shops, so you can combine some beach time with browsing and dining.

Quick Review: Front Beach, Beach Street, Rockport

  • About 200 yards
  • No picnic tables
  • Metered parking, aggressive ticketing
  • Beach surface is sandy — good swimming
  • Play area: Not on the beach, but there is a park across the street. 
  • Snack Bar: None, but lots of eateries and restaurants around.

Back Beach, Rockport
Located on Route 127, just north of the Village area, this is more of an explorer's beach than a swimming beach. Scuba divers often dive from here, and the surface is generally a combination of rocks and sand. If you want a place to sit and enjoy the breeze, but not necessarily diving in the water, this is a really nice spot.

If you buy a seasonal sticker, it is valid for parking in this area, as there is sticker parking available along the street near the beach.

Old Garden Beach, Rockport
This intimate, very small beach is more secluded, small. There is a small parking area, but don't count on it being available. It is walk-able from town. The directions can be complicated-ask your innkeeper, or call the Rockport Chamber of Commerce at 978-546-6575 for directions. There are picnic benches with a great view. This is a beautiful place, but small and not very accessible.

You can find more things to do on Cape Ann in our Find Attractions search engine.

 

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