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Explore Cape Ann via the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway

Essex Coastal Scenic Byway - Gloucester MA
27 Sep 2017
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Things to Do

The Essex Coastal Scenic Byway winds its way along the coast through fourteen North Shore communities in Essex County, Massachusetts. Situated within the Essex National Heritage Area and covering 90 miles from Lynn, MA to Salisbury, MA, the Byway passes many notable historical sites, cultural districts, recreation areas, and spectacular coastal scenery. 

The map below highlights the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway and pins indicate attractions and significant sites along the way.

The Essex Coastal Scenic Byway's Cape Ann Loop

The Byway's loop around Cape Ann is the midpoint of the scenic drive. There are 40 miles worth of scenic vistas and and popular attractions in Cape Ann alone. Or, starting from Cape Ann as your base, you can design your own day trips by following RT 127 south through Manchester-by-the-Sea toward Beverly and Salem or head northwest on Rt 133 through Essex, Ipswich and Newburyport. The scenery is stunning at any time of year, but if you visit in autumn, the fall foliage will offer an extra treat.

Essex Coastal Scenic Byway - The Essex River
A stretch of the Essex River.

In Essex, the Byway will take you through the heart of the village, with the Essex River and its salt marshes as a scenic backdrop. You'll want to spend time exploring the river and the plethora of restaurants, antique shops, galleries and boatyards that make up the Essex River Cultural District.

From Essex, you can pass into West Gloucester, where RT 133 meanders toward the sea and the junction to RT 127 at Stacy Boulevard. In wooded West Gloucester, you'll find Ravenswood Park and the Tompson Street Reservation, both popular spots for hiking, mountain biking, trail running, and bird-watching.

Essex Coastal Scenic Byway - Man at the Wheel
Man at the Wheel Statue, Stacy Boulevard.

The Byway follows Stacy Boulevard alongside Gloucester Harbor, where you'll find the famed "Man at the Wheel" statue and the Fisherman's Wives Memorial. At the end of the Boulevard is Stage Fort Park, with its sweeping views of the harbor and Gloucester's downtown in additional to a playground, recreation fields, two beaches and several historical markers. Following Stacy Boulevard in the opposite direction takes you into Downtown Gloucester, with many shops, restaurants, the Cape Ann Museum, and the Gloucester HarborWalk.

 

Essex Coastal Scenic Byway - Bearskin Neck in Rockport
Bearskin Neck in Rockport.

If you are coming from downtown Gloucester, turn right at East Main Street to head out towards the Rocky Neck cultural district and Eastern Point. Spend a morning or afternoon browsing the many art galleries and shops on Rocky Neck and enjoy fresh seafood at one of its restaurants. As you continue on to Eastern Point, stop to take in the Boston skyline from Niles Beach before taking a stroll along the Dog Bar Breakwater and the Eastern Point Light. From there, take Atlantic Road around the other side of Eastern Point, towards Bass Rocks and Good Harbor Beach.

From Good Harbor, you can take RT 127A along the coast and into the village of Rockport. Sights long the way include Long Beach, Thacher Island's Twin Lights, and a rocky and rugged shoreline. In Rockport, catch a concert at the Shalin Liu Performance Center in the heart of the Rockport Cultural District, browse a stunning number of galleries and shops, get an ice cream on Bearskin Neck and enjoy a walk on Granite Pier.

Essex Coastal Scenic Byway - Folly Cove
Folly Cove is at the western Gloucester & Rockport border.

After exploring the village, meander up RT 127A (past Front Beach and Back Beach) until it rejoins RT 127. Explore Pigeon Cove and its views of Sandy Bay, and make your way to Halibut Point State Park to take in the beauty of the old granite quarry against the backdrop of Ipswich Bay. The next stop on your route is Folly Cove, a popular spot for scuba divers and snorkelers, followed by the neighborhoods of Lanesville and Plum Cove. RT127 will bring you back downtown and to Stacy Boulevard, from which point you can continue your exploration West into the neighborhood of Magnolia and on to Manchester-by-the-Sea.

Just the Cape Ann section of the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway could easily take 1-2 days to explore, depending on how many stops you make along the way. If you can extend your stay, you'll find an endless number of scenic vistas and panoramas, historical sites, entertainments, the freshest seafood, and other gourmet delights along the full route of the Byway.  

Where to Stay

Atlantic Vacation Homes offers a wide variety of vacation rental homes across Cape Ann that would be perfect for your North Shore getaway. To book your accommodations, simply view available rentals and enter your desired dates to get a quote. You can also call toll-free at (855) 853-9143 to speak with a Guest Experience Specialist.

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Atlantic Vacation Homes (AVH) is the premier vacation home rental & real estate company on Boston's North Shore, with over 30 years of creating dream vacations for our guests. Situated a little more than a half-hour’s drive from downtown Boston, the North Shore is the ideal spot for an east coast vacation. We specialize in coastal vacation rentals for families, large groups, and anyone else who wants a beach vacation in Massachusetts.