Rockport, a pretty seaside village is one of the unmissable coastal stops when visiting Massachusetts. A fishing village turned artists’ colony, there are plenty of things to do in Rockport, Massachusetts. With 30+ art galleries, Rockport MA is a delight to browse. A fishing shack, Motif 1 Rockport MA, is one of the most painted subjects in the USA. You’ll find plenty of shopping in downtown Rockport MA converted from the original fishing shacks. The Rockport Massachusetts beaches are justifiably lauded for their attractiveness. Its prime location by the ocean means there are great restaurants in Rockport MA, too.
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Rockport MA is one of the towns located on Cape Ann peninsula which juts into the Atlantic Ocean north of Boston. Rockport itself lies on the tip of Cape Ann in North Shore Massachusetts.
The first Europeans settled in nearby Gloucester in the 17th century and turned it into a maritime port. While Gloucester grew bigger, Rockport stayed a fishing village and summer home destination.
With the advent of the industrial revolution, there came a boom in the need for granite of which Rockport had a steady supply. In the 19th century, Rockport MA shipped granite to destinations around the world.
When concrete became the preferred building material after World War 1, the need for granite slowed down. Rockport MA reinvented itself as an artist’s colony in the early 20th century. Nowadays, it is a mix of fishermen, artists and tourists.
Rockport is a great place to stop if you are driving the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway.
Where is Rockport Massachusetts?
Rockport is also easy to reach by rail on the commuter train from North Station in Boston.
Things to Do in Rockport MA
There are plenty of things to do in Rockport MA, especially for a small town. One of the favorite things for visitors is to just stroll and enjoy the charm of this seaside town.
Motif 1 Rockport MA
Even though Motif Number 1 is only a little red fishing shed in Rockport’s harbor, it is one of the most pained buildings in the USA. The name comes from an early 20th century artist who recognised that the shed had captured the imagination of artists for decades.
Although the original shed built in 1840 was destroyed in a 1978 blizzard, thanks to its cultural significance, the townsfolk decided to build a near-exact replica of the building. Motif #1 really is impossibly photogenic so you can see why it’s so beloved.
Art Galleries Rockport MA
One of the best things to do in Rockport MA is browsing the art galleries Rockport MA seems to have in abundance. There are over 30 galleries located near each other in Rockport MA under the umbrella of the Rockport Art Association.
The town gained fame as a haven for artists looking to capture the whimsical nature of a charming New England town. Since the 19th century, world-famous artists like Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper have all found artistic inspiration in Rockport MA.
Whether you are in the market for a new work of art or simply want to see the abundance of local talent, Rockport has a gallery for everyone. Some of the cool art galleries to look for are The Art Nook and Scott Tubby located in Bearskin Neck and, David Arsenault located at Dock Square Rockport MA.
Dock Square Rockport MA
1 Dock Square was formerly known as Canterbury Hill Studio & Gallery. More than 50 artists are featured in their collection which includes paintings, sculptures, and all manner of whimsical gifts.
Downtown Rockport MA
Downtown Rockport MA has a fascinating history as a former fishing village turned artists’ colony which is now a tourist enterprise. The fishing shacks are now businesses catering to the booming tourist trade. The whole are is only a short walk but there is so much to see and to do in Rockport that it will take you a few hours.
If you would like to bike around downtown Rockport MA or go kayaking, check out the North Shore Adventure & Outdoor Center. They do guided sea kayak tours of Bearskin Neck during the summer months.
Note that parking is difficult, and parking spots limited. Although a small town, a great way to get around Rockport MA is by bike.
Rockport Massachusetts Shopping
Rockport’s main street is loaded with charming shops filled with hand-crafted goods and local wares.
Bearskin Neck Rockport MA is a quarter-mile stretch that runs from Dock Square into Rockport Harbor and is lined by restaurants, galleries, and shops that are authentic, humble, and outrageously charismatic.
Among the Bearskin Neck shops you will find The Glass House which sells artsy glass objects and jewellery. The nearby One Ocean One Love Shop sells eco-friendly clothes and accessories. Also on Bearskin Neck, Carol Lee’s Cottage is a treasure trove gift shop full of artwork and home accessories.
As you would expect in New England, there is that Martha’s Vineyard stalwart – The Black Dog Company selling casual clothing for the whole family. Other places to check out include:
Kids will love Tuck’s Candy Factory on Dock Square Rockport MA which has been selling candy for three generations.
Arts and Culture Things to do in Rockport
Where there are art lovers, there is bound to be a plethora of cultural events too. The Shalin Liu Performance Center is a performing arts venue and the Windhover Center For The Performing Arts is for dance and theater.
Rockport MA attractions include one of the more curious places in Massachusetts. Mr. Elis F. Stenman, an engineer and inventor, created a summer home in Rockport made completely out of rolled-up newspaper which were glued and varnished to withstand the elements. Begun in 1922, the house took 20 years to complete.
The house is still standing today and filled with all sorts of curiosities, all made from newspapers. There is even a paper piano in the living room and a desk made of copies of the Christian Science Monitor (the daily newspaper of the Church of Christ Scientist, founded by Mary Baker Eddy of nearby Amesbury).
Address: 52 Pigeon Hill Street, Rockport
Ice Cream Rockport MA
It wouldn’t be a vacation in New England without enjoying ice cream. Rockport MA has you well covered with plenty of choice in ice cream shops.
The Ice Cream Store on Bearskin Neck has such great flavours as Cookie Monster Cookie Dough, Winter Solstice Peppermint and Gram’s Butter Pecan.
Sunday’s Ice Cream (also on Bearskin Neck) also has great flavour choices like Orange Pineapple and Salted Caramel Chocolate Pretzel.
If you prefer gelato or sorbet to ice cream, you will love Robin’s Nest.
Cape Ann is known for having some of the best sunsets in New England.
Crowds gather at the end of the day by the Rockport MA harbor to watch the sunset. A great spot to watch and to wait is along the large boulders that shelter the harbor. (And, bonus! antsy kids can clamber over rocks and kept busy).
Another popular spot in Rockport MA where the sunset is glorious is Motif No. 1.
Restaurants in Rockport MA
Whether you want something authentic and homey or upscale and exclusive, Rockport has a restaurant for everyone. It’s a little town with a lot of food choices!
Get your caffeine fix at Brothers Brew Coffee Shop (27 Main Street).
For breakfast and lunch, the Red Skiff Restaurant (15 Mt. Pleasant St) is highly rated among casual restaurants in Rockport MA.
For fancy dining in Rockport MA, try the award-winning restaurant My Place by the Sea. Bonus: Fabulous views over the Atlantic Ocean!
Located nearer Halibut Point State Park, The Lobster Pool has casual meals as well as fabulous ocean views. If you can snag a table for sunset views, you will not be disappointed.
Roy Moore’s Fish Shack has two locations in downtown Rockport MA. There’s a take-out and small shack as well as a larger restaurant which overlooks Sandy Bay. The lobster roll at Roy Moore Lobster Co. is justifiably famous. I can also attest that the clam chowder is delicious.
Try the locally brewed craft beer at Rockport Brewing Company, a family-owned brewery with two flagship New England IPA’s. You can find their beer at local restaurants including Feather & Wedge, Blue Lobster and Fish Shack.
Beaches in Rockport MA
There are several sandy beaches in Rockport MA that are worth visiting. In addition to the three beaches mentioned below, there is Pebble Beach (with ocean-smooth pebbles), Cape Hedge Beach (for people who want to escape the crowds) and Old Garden Beach (a small beach and family-friendly).
If you fancy a quick dip, a few of the beaches are more popular than others.
Back Beach Rockport MA
This is one of the most popular beaches in Rockport thanks to its proximity to bustling downtown Rockport MA. It is a popular area for sunbathers and for scuba diving. There is sticker packing available nearby.
Front Beach Rockport MA
Front Beach Rockport MA is also close to downtown Rockport MA and is surrounded by quaint inns and restaurants. This is a great swimming beach, especially when the tide is high, and there is tons of space to frolic in the water and on the sand.
Lifeguards are on duty in the summer months. There is metered parking as well as a parking lot. Another parking lot further away offers shuttle service to the beach.
Long Beach Rockport MA
Long beach is the kind of beach you would come to expect from a New England town with a long sandy stretch surrounded by sea-facing summer cottages. From the beach, there are great views of the Twin Lighthouses in the distance.
Long Beach stretches from Gloucester MA to Rockport MA. The Long Beach Rockport MA section has lifeguards in season. Get there early though because parking is limited.
Things To Do Rockport MA Nearby
Things to do in Rockport Mass tends to be clustered together in the Downtown Rockport MA area. There are several places to visit nearby as well which are only a short drive away such as Newburyport, Plum Island and Amesbury.
Lighthouse Rockport MA
For lovers of a pretty lighthouse, Rockport MA has three good options.
The Twin Lighthouses on Thatcher Island are the only surviving structures of their kind on the east coast and are among the oldest lighthouses in the country. They are located about a mile offshore from Rockport, but their gleaming lights can be seen from all-over.
Straitsmouth Island Lighthouse also marks the entrance to Rockport Harbor Massachusetts with a bright green light. The lighthouse is operated by the U.S. Coast Guard but the island itself is owned by the Massachusetts Audobon Society. The only way to get close to the lighthouse is on kayaking trips to the island run by Mass Audobon.
Halibut Point State Park
The Halibut Point State Park is actually a former granite quarry that is now run by the Trustees of Reservations. Get close to nature at this stunning coastal Massachusetts state park with rocky outcrops and shady picnic spots. There are hiking trails to explore inland and tidal pools near the shore.
If you have the time, be sure to check out the rest of Cape Ann. There’s the fishing village of Gloucester next door, Manchester-By-The-Sea (made famous in the 2016 film of the same name) and Essex (known for its fried clams and antique shops). There are fabulous beaches all along Cape Ann such as Crane Beach and Wingaersheek Beach.
Map Rockport MA Things To Do
Here’s a map of Rockport MA to help you with your trip planning. This Rockport Massachusetts map shows what to do in Rockport Massachusetts, beaches in Rockport MA, and restaurants in Rockport MA
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