Few coastal towns manage to fit in quite so much charm. Here’s what to do in Rockport, MA, including where to eat, shop, and more.
By Bethany Bourgault
Jun 29 2022
Motif No. 1 | The Story Behind the Little Red ShackPhoto Credit : Bethany Bourgault
Please note that many establishments throughout New England have modified their hours and/or operations in response to COVID-19. Please check with individual businesses and organizations for the latest information before making travel plans.
Rockport, MA, is a coastal town of food, shopping, and seaside charm. It’s the perfect place to relax by the ocean, browse the work of an incredible number of artists, and of course, eat a lobster roll.
There’s something special about this little town. In all of my New England exploring, I’ve yet to encounter a place that captures the essence of coastal life quite like Rockport. After all, Rockport is the inspiration behind so many works of art (it’s been an artists’ haven for almost a century — most notably thanks to Motif No. 1, pictured above) that it’s no wonder Rockport is the physical embodiment of our ideas of life by the water. And with its next-door neighbor to the north, south, and east being the Atlantic Ocean, I can’t help but feel like Rockport would rather be a part of the sea anyway.
As the tip of the Cape Ann peninsula, Rockport, MA, is in historic Essex County. It began as part of the nearby town of Gloucester, and together these areas got their start in the fishing business. Pine harvested from the vicinity was used for shipbuilding, and locally quarried granite (they didn’t call it “rock” port for nothing!) was shipped all up and down America’s east coast. It wasn’t until much later that tourism appeared on the local economy’s radar, but now that it has, there are plenty of dining, shopping, and cultural experiences for the sea-seeking explorer to enjoy.
I arrived in town just before noon — just in time to visit one of my favorite seafood restaurants, Roy Moore’s Fish Shack. I remember eating here with my family as a little girl, and trust me, the menu looks just as delicious now as it did back then. Roy Moore’s has two locations in the Bearskin Neck area to suit the preferences of any and all lobster lovers. One, a sit-down nautical-looking restaurant at 21 Dock Square, is perfect for dinnertime or taking a break from the outdoors, and the other, a more casual eatery at 39 Bearskin Neck, is a great option for diners on the go.
Ocean-side dining complete, it was time to head to the shops and galleries, where you can find everything from prints, pottery and photography to original paintings, hand-crafted jewelry, and more. Most of these are concentrated on Bearskin Neck itself, though there are several that have spilled over to the adjoining streets. Wear your walking shoes! Here’s a quick sampling of some of my favorites.
Of course, Rockport’s main attraction is the ocean that surrounds it. Every turn showcases the great blue Atlantic from a different angle, and each breeze carries the refreshing, salty air characteristic only of oceanic proximity. Several beaches dot the Rockport coast, so be sure to dip your toes in the water at least once before going home. Or, take a moment to stand at the very end of Bearskin Neck to take it all in. After all, everyone needs a breath of ocean air once in a while.
Have you ever visited Rockport, MA?
This post was first published in 2016 and has been updated.