Cape Ann was featured in an article on the telegraph.co.uk site that directly brought tourists here last month! Read the persuasive article below!
“Cape Ann, home to the most oft-painted building in the US [Motif #1] – celebrated in a festival on May 18 – deserves to be better known in Britain, says Paul Wade.”
By Paul Wade
11:42AM BST 14 May 2013
“Thar she blows!” shouts a would-be Cap’n Ahab. Off the starboard bow, a humpback whale surges into view. And Moby-Dick has company. As we watch, another 20-tonner breaches, leaping clear out of the water. To a background of “oohs”, “aahs” and camera clicks, the on-board whale expert ensures that we are educated as well as entertained.
“We are above the Stellwagen Bank; it’s like a smorgasbord for whales,” she explains. “They feed on sand eels and scoop up these tiny fish the way humans eat candy. But a handful for us is a ton for the planet’s largest mammals.” I have been whale-watching many times, but spotting two dozen in one afternoon is a personal best.
Surprisingly, I am close to shore, only a dozen miles from Gloucester. That’s not the inland city in England, but the American seaport 3,000 miles across the Atlantic on Cape Ann, in Massachusetts. Most visitors to New England have heard of Cape Cod, with its long sandy beaches and colonial villages. Fewer know about this “other” cape. Not only is it closer to Boston, an hour north-east of the city, but it is also much smaller, only 15 miles long and five miles wide.
For me, there are echoes of childhood holidays in Cornwall here: the rocky scenery, snug harbours, art galleries and net lofts; renowned painters and magical light. But here, the summer sun is hot, and Cape Ann’s lobsters are both plentiful and affordable.
Gloucester, the main town, was founded in 1623 by cod fishermen from the west of England. It was – and still is – one of America’s leading fishing ports. On the harbour, the bronze statue of the Man at the Wheel has his eyes fixed on invisible sails. A memorial to the hundreds of Gloucestermen who have been lost at sea, this is a permanent reminder that deep-sea fishing is a dangerous occupation. As recently as 1991, the Andrea Gail, a local fishing vessel, went down. The story was told in The Perfect Storm, first a book, then a film.
This gritty town also has a cultural tradition, centred on the Rocky Neck Art Colony, among the oldest in the United States. Painters who were attracted by the shimmering light include one of my favourites, Edward Hopper. Yes, the man whose New York scenes are the essence of urban loneliness summered here back in the Twenties. Using a different palette, he captured sun-drenched vistas of cottages and lighthouses. Some of these works hang in the Cape Ann Museum; many of his original subjects still stand, identified on the museum’s self-guided walking tour.
Cape Ann is proof that good things come in small packages. The 25-mile long shoreline offers 18 contrasting beaches. Some are straight and open, others in sheltered coves. Then, there is Singing Beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea. Both names are wide of the mark: walking on the fine sand produces more of a squeak than a song; and this tidy village is a far cry from its English namesake.
Five miles to the east is Hammond Castle. With towers, stained glass and an 8,200-pipe organ in the Grand Hall, it all looks medieval. And in a way, it is. The masonry, furniture and sculpture are ancient – but they were shipped over from Europe only 80 years ago. This eccentric pile was both home and laboratory for Dr John Hays Hammond, one of America’s most prolific inventors and an expert on radio waves. His top-secret experiments were for the US military, but one device is familiar to us all. “Next time you switch television channels,” a guide tells me, “thank the man we call the father of the remote control.”
North America’s first sailing ships were built along this coast; and that 400-year-old tradition survives in Essex. Better known nowadays for its antiques shops, this village saw the launch of 4,000 fishing schooners. At the H A Burnham boatyard, Harold is the 28th Burnham in a business that dates back almost two centuries. “In 1997, we constructed the Thomas E Lannon. What looks like a typical two-masted Gloucester fishing schooner was actually designed for passengers.” Touristy it may be, but a sunset cruise clutching a cold beer is one of the best ways to appreciate Cape Ann’s rugged beauty.
The prettiest town on the cape is Rockport. Like some Cornish fishing villages, it could be filed under “quaint”, but it still has bags of character. I stroll past red, yellow and green clapboard houses and poke about in shops and galleries. At the end of Bearskin Neck wharf stands one of the art world’s best-known subjects: a rust-red fish house. So often has this wooden shack been painted and photographed that a despairing art teacher nicknamed it “Motif No 1”. Today, this waterside cliché even has its very own festival to open the town’s summer season.
Rockport was named for the surrounding granite that provided wealth in days gone by. After the Depression, one abandoned quarry was recycled as a state park. Popular with picnickers and birdwatchers, Halibut Point offers wide-open panoramas. “On a clear day, you can see all the way to Maine,” a ranger tells me. These Atlantic waters are full of life, from crabs and sea anemones in the tide pools to lobsters just offshore, where lobstermen “pull pots”, as they have for 150 years.
No visit to New England is complete without a taste of lobster. You can order it in a bisque, on linguine or with fancy sauces. I prefer to eat it “in the rough”: sitting outdoors at a wooden picnic table, cracking open the shell by hand and dipping the meat into melted butter. Looking silly in a plastic bib and making a mess are all part of the fun. At the Lobster Pool, a no-frills self-service seafood shack just outside Rockport, the crustaceans are boiled to order, so the meat is sweet and tender – perfect with a beer or glass of wine.
Which brings me to Hannah Jumper. Back in 1856, this feisty temperance activist galvanised her women friends and, armed with hatchets, they smashed every barrel of booze in Rockport. And the town remained dry for the next 150 years. Restaurants are now licensed to serve drinks, though some, such as the Lobster Pool, are “BYO” – “bring your own”. However, there are still no liquor stores in town, so, before you head for the Lobster Pool, remember to buy a bottle in Gloucester.
America As You Like It (020 8742 8299; americaasyoulikeit.com) offers two nights in Boston and five nights at Cape Ann’s Blue Shutters Beachside Inn, including return flight, five days’ car hire. From £1,135, based on two sharing.
American Airlines (0844 499 7300; americanairlines.co.uk) in conjunction with British Airways fly up to four times a day from London Heathrow to Boston.
Rhinocarhire.com (0845 508 9845; rhinocarhire.com) has one week’s hire from Boston airport from £122.
Blue Shutters Beachside Inn. A short walk from the harbour, this retreat has 11 unpretentious rooms. Three overlook Good Harbor Beach, one of the area’s best stretches of sand (001 978 283 1198;blueshuttersbeachside.com; double rooms from $125/£77, including breakfast).
The Emerson Inn By The Sea. With lawns running down to the sea, this stylish 150-year-old hotel has 36 recently renovated rooms and the Grand Café restaurant. (546 6321; emersoninnbythesea.com; double rooms from $159/£100)
£ The Beech Tree Bed and Breakfast. This 125-year-old Greek Revival mansion is now a family-run b & b with three bedrooms (546 2864;beechtreebb.com; double rooms from $140/£87).
Where to eat
The Franklin Cape Ann. This neighbourhood restaurant features well-prepared Modern American comfort food: bowls of sautéed clams (£7), hearty pan-seared cod bouillabaisse (£14), house made butternut squash ravioli (£11) (118 Main Street; 283 7888; franklincafe.com).
Duckworth’s Bistrot. Ken Duckworth, the chef/owner, is passionate about New England produce, from locally caught lobsters to cheeses made minutes away. Well-priced main dishes, such as seared sea scallops with honey-braised turnips, cost about £16 (197 East Main Street; 282 4426;duckworthsbistrot.com).
The Lobster Pool. Family dining on Folly Cove, serving lobster “in the rough”. Unlicensed; bring your own beer or wine (329 Granite Street; 546 7808; lobsterpoolrestaurant.com).
My Place by the Sea. On a peninsula surrounded by water, sit under white umbrellas, watch the sun set and order Kathy Milbury’s seafood dishes: steamed lobster, Portuguese fisherman’s stew and planked salmon (£17 and up) (68 Bearskin Neck; 978 546 9667;myplacebythesea.com).
The Grand Cafe. This elegant dining room looks out over the sea. Italian-influenced dishes include sautéed shrimp with basil on penne (£14) and lobster risotto (£18). In the Emerson Inn (1 Cathedral Avenue; 546 6321; emersoninnbythesea.com).
What to do and see
Take a four-hour whale-watching cruise with 7 Seas Whale Watch; spot humpbacks, minkes and finbacks (283 1776; 7seaswhalewatch.com; adults £30, children £20).
Enjoy a two-hour cruise aboard the Schooner Thomas E Lannon (978 281 6634; schooner.org; from £25).
Take the unusual Cape Pond Ice tour (283 0174; capepondice.com) featured in The Perfect Storm film. The old ice house still produces 350 tons of ice a day for Gloucester’s fishing fleet.
Download the Rocky Neck Historic Art Trail (rockyneckarttrail.org) and follow in the footsteps of painters such as Edward Hopper, Winslow Homer and Fitz Henry Lane.
At North Shore Kayak Outdoor Center (northshorekayak.com), rent bikes or join a sea kayak trip (no experience needed) to Thacher Island, a mile offshore; climb one of the 124-ft tall twin lighthouses.