Rockport, a seaside village on Cape Ann, is a great option for a day trip or a weekend getaway. Located an hour north of Boston, Rockport is home to parks, art galleries, bookstores, local restaurants and candy shops. For those coming from Boston, the MBTA Newburyport/Rockport line goes to Rockport several times a day.
Travel Time (each way): 1 hour
Mileage round-trip: 90 miles
Rockport’s busiest tourist season begins Memorial Day weekend and stretches through the end of August. From a local’s perspective, the best time to visit Rockport is just off peak season – in May or September. In May the tulips are beginning to bloom, the air is still slightly brisk, and the streets and shops are not as crowded as they can be during the peak of summer. September is also a less-crowded month, as students have gone back to school; yet the water is still warm enough to wade in.
But even as the year winds down there are plenty of things to do. In October, many restaurants and shops are still open and Harvest Days are in full swing, with events such as the Chowder Competition. December in Rockport is known for its Christmas Pageant, which takes place along Main Street and has caroling, animals, inn tours, and a restaging of the walk through Bethlehem.
Rockport is known for its rich artistic community and has been home to many musicians, artists and writers. For local paintings, go to the Tidal Edge Gallery, known for the work of Heidi Caswell Zander, whose watercolor, pastel, oil and encaustic paintings capture the essence of Rockport. Zander also crafts different textiles, jewelry, stationery, and wooden bowls. She is often commissioned by local residents and tourists to do custom work.
The Toad Hall Bookstore on Main Street fits perfectly with Rockport’s historic and artistic community. The bookstore has committed to giving all its proceeds to environmental projects. It also works with the local schools and libraries on a series of Meet the Author programs to get kids interested in books and reading, and has an extensive children’s department. The bookstore’s manager, Amy Pierson, says the staff comes from varied backgrounds, which includes a historian who participates in Civil War reenactments, a professor of psychology, and a certified organic gardener.
If you plan on staying for a night or two, one of the most charming hotels to stay at is Emerson Inn by the Sea. Located at Pigeon Cove, Emerson Inn by the Sea is a turn-of-the-century hotel with an ocean-view cottage, historical decor, an award-winning restaurant called the Grand Cafe, a seasonal swimming pool, and a local day spa for facials and massages. The Grand Cafe is open year-round, but call beforehand to check the hours, as they vary with the season. Emerson Inn by the Sea is also a top choice for wedding venues and other special events.
On a Saturday night, you will find many of the locals at Brackett’s, an oceanfront seafood restaurant on Main Street. Friday and Saturday nights are prime rib nights at Brackett’s and maintain a devoted following. Chef Charles Brackett is also known for some excellent specialties such as the Mates Combo, a mixture of scrod and scallops baked into a casserole. Salmon, swordfish, and chicken teriyaki are also frequent specials.
For anyone traveling with kids, a casual, fun place to have lunch is Top Dog, a hot dog and seafood shop just a short walk down the historic Bearskin Neck. Famous for grilled and steamed hotdogs and limitless toppings, Top Dog is also known for fried clams, lobster salad rolls, chili cheese fries, and Grammy’s potato salad.
For those with a sweet tooth, a visit to Rockport is not complete without trying Rockport’s saltwater taffy. You can watch taffy being made at Tuck’s Candy Factory, a landmark that turned 80 in 2009. For chocolate lovers, try a piece of fudge at the Rockport Fudgery, known for its whipped country kettle fudge.