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Visiting the Harbors in Massachusetts’ ‘Other Cape’

Everybody knows about Cape Cod. It’s the main ‘Cape’ in Massachusetts.

But there’s another Cape in the state, the one known only to crossword puzzlers and those who live on Boston’s North Shore.  That’s Cape Ann, home to ancient ports like Gloucester and Rockport. Though not as big or as famous as Cape Cod, Cape Ann is filled with scenic beauty and wonderful old towns, and it’s easily accessible to boat owners.

Cruisers heading Down East to Maine often plan on an overnight somewhere on Cape Ann–it’s a natural stopping point before or after a run through the Cape Cod Canal and a traverse of Massachusetts Bay.  Other boaters plan for a long weekend stay to soak in the history, the views and the great seafood.

Here are some of the more popular spots for transient boaters visiting the North Shore.


This old port has been a major commercial fishing center almost since it was founded in 1623.  The city’s symbol is still the rugged “Gloucester Fisherman”—forever clad in his sou’wester hat, black boots and yellow oilskins, struggling to stay upright on a slanted, heaving deck.

But as the commercial fleet has decreased over the years, the pleasure boat contingent has grown, and there are plenty of places to find a mooring or a slip for a quick visit.

The city offers some 35 transient moorings for visiting boaters. These can be found in both the outer and inner harbors, including 15 in Southeast Harbor, five off Stage Head in Western Harbor, and nine in the Inner Harbor. For those who wish to anchor, the best anchorage in the outer harbor is Southeast Harbor, which features a soft mud and clay bottom with depths of 23 to 30 feet. Western Harbor is a good option in westerly or northerly winds. A 26-passenger launch delivers boaters to the three primary public landings, all within minutes of downtown, or to the waterfront establishment of their choice.

Boaters who prefer a slip can contact one of Gloucester’s local marinas. One of the newest and largest in town is the Cape Ann’s Marina Resort ((978)-283-0806,  which caters to transients and offers a host of amenities, including a fuel dock, pool, restaurant and bar.

Pier 7 Marina is located at the head of South Channel and is just a short walk from the restaurants and shops of downtown Gloucester.  Pier 7 offers transient and full time dockage, free pump out, on-site showers, laundry, kitchen and grocery service.   Our lounge is a unique gathering spot and the view from our deck grilling area makes whatever  you are cooking taste even better.  (781-858-5279,

Once docked or moored, boaters are minutes from a bustling waterfront and downtown filled with hip restaurants, historic buildings, art galleries and shops. Exotic waterfront homes built in the 19th century have been transformed into museums and popular historic attractions, such as Beauport, Hammond Castle and the Sargent House. The HarborWalk—a series of informative granite signposts—guides visitors along a free walking tour of Gloucester’s waterfront and downtown district, including public art exhibits, gardens, scenic views and special events.

If you’re feeling hungry, the downtown area offers myriad options, for boaters and landlubbers alike. One of the harbor’s most popular dock-and-dine spots is the Mile Marker One restaurant, at the aforementioned Cape Ann’s Marina Resort. Bands perform on the so-called “bridge deck,” and the bar specialty is a mean Pain Killer cocktail. Captain Carlo’s, on the working waterfront, is owned by Gloucester natives and has a sparkling reputation for fresh seafood. The quirky Latitude 43 is the place to go for sushi lovers and live music, while Passports offers classic seasonal seafood dishes sourced daily straight from the Atlantic.


Tucked at the bottom of Cape Ann with its quaint downtown and picturesque harbor, Manchester-by-the-Sea is often overlooked by visitors to the North Shore.

With no hotels or major attractions to speak of, this is a quiet little seaside community, and that’s exactly what makes it special. For boaters, the entrance to Manchester Harbor may look formidable on the chart, but the dangers of a shallow channel are all well marked. 

From Boston Harbor, you can enter Salem Sound from the south through the Cat Island Channel, or from the east, keeping Bakers Island and its rocks to port. The Cat Island Channel is more direct, but on a racing weekend, of which there are many, the area between Tinkers and Cat Island will be full of small boats. 

Coming into harbor, Manchester Yacht Club is on the port side. You’ll continue in past the second narrowing of the channel to find Crocker’s Boat Yard and Manchester Marine. 

Manchester Marine offers restrooms, showers, fuel, ice and picnic tables on site as well as holding tank pumpouts. 30A and 50A shore power is available at no charge for weekend dockage visitors.  (978-526-7911 | VHF Channel 72)

Crocker’s Boat Yard is a working marina and storage facility with access to a limited number of moorings in the Manchester harbor. To inquire, call (978) 526-1971 or hail on Channel 78A.

The Manchester Yacht Club, founded in 1892, sits at the head of the harbor. A limited number of transient slips and moorings are available. For information, call (978) 526-4595 or hail Channel 78A.

The town itself is very strollable, with galleries, shops and an old inn or two.  The Manchester By The Book bookshop is renowned for its antique and rare collections and the lovely Masconomo Park on the outskirts of downtown is a nice place for a picnic.  Don’t miss Singing Beach on the Bay side: it’s said the sand sings to you when you walk on it!

For dining, Cala’s, Black Arrow and Allie’s Beach Street Cafe are all recommended and the ice cream at Captain Dusty’s is a don’t miss.


It is the determined boater who visits the town of Essex, tucked away on the winding Essex River some five miles from the open sea.  But making one’s way carefully down the channel markers will reward the captain and crew with a well-protected anchorage amid the beauties of the salt marshes, creeks and crannies and excellent fishing in the protected waters of Essex Bay.

Not far away are some of Massachusetts’ most beautiful beaches: Crane’s Beach in Ipswich and Wingaersheek Beach outside of Gloucester.  In addition to the sand and surf, the birdwatching in and around this part of Cape Ann is world class.

Boaters will have to depend on anchorages in and around the town of Essex–there are some marinas and boat yards (so fuel is available), but most claim their moorings and slips are spoken for by seasonal members.  

The Town of Essex maintains four transient moorings: two are located directly off of Conomo Point, and the other two are located in a very popular spot between the backside of Crane’s Beach and Hog Island. Both locations are hot spots for fishing, overnights, and for taking in some of the most beautiful scenery in the state. Hog Island was the location where the movie “The Crucible” was filmed.  Contact the Harbormaster at (978) 768-6628.

Among the restaurants in town with high ratings, try the Windward Grille, Shea’s Riverside Restaurant, Marlin Grille, Essex Seafood, Woodman’s of Essex The Boat House Grill or C.K. Pearl.


Located due east of Gloucester, Rockport has become famous as an artist’s colony, summer escape and home to some great restaurants.  It’s chockablock with visitors during the summer months, including those who arrive by boat.

Because Rockport is mostly open to the sea, it is recommended that visiting boaters arrange for a secure mooring or slip, most of which are located in Rockport Harbor and Old Harbor at the center of town. Harbormasters Scott Story and Rosemary Lesch oversee Rockport’s four harbors—Rockport, Granite Pier, Pigeon Cove, and White Wharf—and can be reached on VHF Channel 9 or by calling 978-546-9589. For transient moorings, if space is available, visitors are welcome at the Sandy Bay Yacht Club at the end of T Wharf in Rockport Harbor. Contact Ron Petoff at 978-546-9433 or on Marine Channel 9.

There are plenty of great dining choices in and around Rockport. Nestled high atop the rocky cliffs of Bearskin Neck is the aptly named My Place by the Sea ((978) 546-9667). This stunning little food lover’s dream specializes in local seafood dishes prepared by owner/chef Kathy Milbury. The French-inspired decor makes this one of the most romantic spots on the North Shore.  Helmut’s Strudel Shop ((978) 546-2824)serves up flakey Austrian strudel, sweet and savory croissants, and espresso to die for on their harbor front deck. Pack a sweet cheese or apple strudel to go—just don’t be surprised if it never makes it back to your boat. 

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