By Walter Brooks with photos by Patricia Brooks
If you're looking for a nearby excursion to a part of the New England seacoast sadly overlooked, I highly recommend spending a few days at the tip of Cape Ann in the bustling seaport named Gloucester.
Local wags here refer to Cape Cod as the "the other cape."
Like so many other attractions right at our backdoor (have you taken a whale watch or train ride recently here?), Gloucester was a pleasant surprise when we spent a weekend there this month.
Even though it's a few miles as the seagull flies north of Cape Cod, Gloucester resembles closely the rocky coast of Maine.
Gloucester, at the tip of Cape Ann,was founded only three years after Plymouth , and it was the first settlement in Massachusetts Bay Colony by the Dorchester Company, the first fishing expedition sent from England.
In 1624, the Plymouth Council for New England (successor to the Plymouth Company) established a small fishing village at Cape Ann under the supervision of the Dorchester Company (Thomas Gardner (Planter) as Overseer). This company was originally organized at the urging of the Puritan Rev. John White (1575–1648) of Dorchester, in the English county of Dorset. White has been called “the father of the Massachusetts Colony”
In 1693, this area was settled, sparsely farmed and kept clear for 200 years. The area became known as Dogtown, for the widows of fisherman lost at sea kept dogs for protection before they turned to witchcraft. The last inhabitant died in 1830 and the settlement has gone to ruin. Scattered with stone walls, old root cellars and mysterious messages carved into the rocks, Dogtown has become a challenging venue for hikers, mountain bikers, historians and nature lovers.
Gloucester is geographically perfect for fishing. There is a deep and protected harbor. We are close to abundant fishing grounds of Georges Bank, Grand Banks, the Gulf of Maine and more. One of the top ten ports in America, Gloucester fisherman land cod, haddock, halibut, swordfish, flounder, sole, bluefish, bass, scallops, mussels, clams, lobster and more. Different methods of fishing make for a varied scene in our harbor. Some boats go out for a few hours, some for a few days and some for weeks at a time. Two movies filmed in Gloucester show the fishing industry in the 19th century and the 20th century, Captain's Courageous and The Perfect Storm.
They also show the dangers of going out to sea. Over 10,000 Gloucester fishermen have been lost to the sea.
We stayed at a lovely inn only a few feet from the sea
The Bass Rocks Inn was a short drive out of the downtown area.
Located just 35 miles north of Boston, on the rocky coastline of Cape Ann, Massachusetts, this oceanfront Gloucester hotel has welcomed summer visitors for over 100 years.
All 51 rooms look out to the ocean, some with sweeping coastal views of Rockport, the beaches and the Twin Lights of Thacher's Island and some with views of the open Atlantic Ocean and the occasional lobster boat.
Relax by the pool, enjoy a round of golf, walk to the beach, or just read a book. Bikes, billiards, movies, and games are at your disposal. Choose from the contemporary Oceanfront House and Seaside House or the historic Stacy House.
Click on Rooms and Suites to find your perfect escape accommodations.
Three great restaurants
Man (or woman) does not live by scenic views alone - the palate must be pleased as well, and we discovered three local restaurants which were worth the drive alone.
The first night we found Passports which had a completely original menu.
The mussel stew on right was really amazing, and my wife said her Thai Carmeized Duck was the best she'd ever had of this fowl, and the house favorite, Sister's Haddock, was memorable.
Lunch the next day was at the The GloucesterHouse, world renowned for its lobster dishes, clam chowder, andother fresh seafood specialties. The third-generation owner is a walking, talking history of Gloucester.
My wife loves Buffalo Chicken and I love the sauce but I'm bored with chicken, but Gloucester House makes a seafood twist on that recipe and serves a dynamite Buffalo Scallops.
We learned more from Lenny Linquata in fifteen minutes than we could have from a history book in a week.
His best tale was the derivation for the term "bash" which we all use to describe an especially lively celebration,
Pat had their Pan Seared Mahi Mahi of toy box tomatoes, mint, capers, pine nuts and raisins while I "oooohed" over the Skirt Steak on the right.