motif #1 sits on the rocky shoreline of rockport, ma

43 Best Things To Do In Rockport, Ma & Nearby

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Looking for the best things to do in Rockport, Ma? Look no further, as we have tons of options for every traveler’s style!

As frequent globetrotters and avid explorers, we’ve enjoyed spending cherished moments in the charming coastal town of Rockport, Massachusetts.

Nestled on the tip of the Cape Ann peninsula, Rockport truly is a gem waiting to be discovered, and we are excited to share our favorite finds with you.

In our travels, we’ve come to appreciate that every town has its own unique rhythm, and Rockport is no exception. The pace here invites you to slow down, breathe in the salty sea air, and enjoy the moment.

Whether you’re planning a leisurely weekend getaway, a family vacation, or a solo adventure, we have an array of recommendations to help you make the most of your time in Rockport.

After all, there’s nothing like local knowledge and insider tips to transform a good trip into an unforgettable experience!

Table of Contents

45 Best Things To Do In Rockport, Ma (& Nearby)

Let’s get straight to our list so you can plan your upcoming visit.

1. Stop By The Famous Motif #1

One of the town’s most iconic features is Motif #1, a red fishing shack that has been a hallmark of the Rockport waterfront for over a century.

The shack was initially built in 1840, but a replica stands there today. The original, unfortunately, was destroyed in the winter of 1978 during a blizzard.

Today the shack is a reminder of Rockport’s rich maritime heritage and is one of the most painted buildings in the US. You will find versions of it displayed throughout the galleries all over town.

Why is it called Motif #1? Apparently, a painter named Lester Hornby referred to it in this way in the early 1900s, as it was the town’s favorite subject to paint. And the name stuck.

motif #1 fishing shack sits in the harbor as is one of the best things to do in rockport, ma

2. Relax In Millbrook Meadow and Mill Pond Park

Millbrook Meadow and Mill Pond combined are a 4-acre park in downtown Rockport.

The large pond takes up nearly half of the park and is a great place to find turtles, ducks, beavers, and more. It also has a wide variety of aquatic plants to enjoy. The meadow takes up the other half and has a lovely little brook, garden space, a frog pond, and a beautiful stone bridge.

It is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the outdoors. There are often community events, and it is a popular spot for picnics and outdoor games.

In the spring, the meadow has wildflowers. In the fall, the leaves of the trees turn a beautiful golden color. This park is a cherished community resource that everyone should enjoy.

3. Wander Along Bearskin Neck

Bearskin Neck is a rocky peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. It is one of the top destinations that all tourists want to visit while in Rockport.

The area is home to quaint shops, art galleries, and locally-owned restaurants and is an excellent place to find a souvenir. It also features various scenic views of the coast, including the famous Motif #1 discussed above.

This picturesque area has also been in several films, including The Proposal, which we have seen and enjoyed.

How did Bearskin Neck get its name?

The myth is that a bear attacked a gentleman named Ebenezer Babson. Babson placed the bear between himself and the incoming tide and took down the bear with just a knife. He then skinned the bear and laid it out on the rocks for all the fishermen to see, who then gave it the name Bearskin Neck.

sign about bearskin neck peninsula

4. Visit Some Of The Rockport Quarries

There are several Rockport Quarries located around town. The quarries were once an essential source of granite for the region during the Industrial Revolution. As the need declined, many of the quarries closed.

Our suggestion is to do the Rockport Quarries hike.

This trail takes you on an 8-mile loop starting at Rockport train station and passes by popular spots in town like Motif #1 and Bearskin Neck, as well as many of the quarries.

The quarries are a combination of public and privately owned, so views of what you can see at each one will vary during the hike.

Locals are known to use several quarries for swimming and cliff jumping. But we don’t advise this as many that allow swimming are private.

Instead, enjoy getting out in nature and see if you can’t spot something picturesque.

5. Take A Bike Ride

Renting a bike and cruising around town is one of the best things to do in Rockport, Ma.

Rockport is relatively small and super easy to get around. So a car is not needed to see most of the tourist attractions.

But renting a bike is a fun way to spend some time here. There are several places to rent bikes in town, including North Shore Adventures.

You can bike the Rockport Quarries hike we suggested in #5 instead of walking or head up to Halibut Point State Park.

We also recommend riding along the coastline with no destination to get some fresh sea air and enjoy the beautiful views.

a bike with a basket of flowers

6. Swing By Headlands Scenic Overlook

Headlands Scenic Overlook is one of the most beautiful places in the area, with incredible views of the harbor, Bearskin Neck, and Sandy Bay.

To the west, you will have spectacular views of the harbor. To the north, you will find Sandy Bay and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. And if you look east, see if you can’t spot the Straitsmouth Island lighthouse.

You will have a short walk from Bearskin Neck to the Headlands. Find Mt Pleasant St and head south until you find Atlantic Ave. Take Atlantic Ave to the end, where you should see a trail leading to the rocky outcropping known as Headlands.

There are a few places to sit at the overlook where you can rest your feet, pack a lunch, and watch the boats go by.

7. Visit Straitsmouth Island Lighthouse

Straitsmouth Island is a small island located just off the coast of Rockport.

A 2-acre portion of the island is owned by the town of Rockport itself and holds the lighthouse and keeper’s home. The original lighthouse was built in 1835, but the current one seen today was built in 1896. The lighthouse serves to show the entrance of Rockport Harbor.

The Massachusetts Audubon Society owns the rest of the island and it is a bird sanctuary. You will likely find gulls, cormorants, osprey, and more.

Once on the island, you can take a closer look at the lighthouse and buildings and wander down a few of the trails that lead into the sanctuary.

There are a couple of ways to get to the island. In our opinion, the best way is to go by kayak as you have more flexibility. There is a fee to access the island upon arrival.

If you don’t want to kayak but still want to see the island, you can reserve a spot on the Thacher launch. This small boat will take a max of 6 people over for a 2-hour visit. The tickets are only available on Tuesdays during the summer months (June-August). If you go this route, your fee for the boat gets you onto the island; there are no additional fees.

the rocky coast with straitsmouth lighthouse seen in the distance, straitsmouth island is one of the best things to do in rockport, ma

8. Take A Photography Tour

Rockport is a dream come true for photography enthusiasts with its stunning landscapes, iconic architecture, and charming seaside character.

A photography tour around Rockport can be a rewarding experience, offering countless opportunities to capture the essence of this quintessential New England town.

You might start with the most famous subject, Motif Number 1.

From there, you could head towards the charming streets of downtown Rockport. The art galleries, quaint shops, historic buildings, and eateries, all set against the Atlantic Ocean backdrop, offer beautiful street photography opportunities.

For a bit of nature and wildlife photography, consider a visit to Halibut Point State Park. The park offers panoramic views of the Atlantic, interesting geological features, and a variety of birds and wildlife.

Finally, don’t miss the chance to photograph the historic lighthouses. The Straitsmouth Island Lighthouse and the Twin Lights on Thacher Island can create truly captivating photos, especially during the golden hour.

9. Go Kayaking

Head onto the water for a different perspective by renting a kayak for a few hours.

We mentioned North Shore Adventures in #5 as a place to rent a bike, but they also rent kayaks.

While you are welcome to rent a kayak and head out alone, we suggest you take one of their tours if you aren’t familiar with Rockport or the Cape Ann area.

They have plenty of options, from tours that stay close to the harbor for beginners who aren’t used to ocean kayaking to 2-mile tours that take you out to Thacher Island or the Dry Salvages to spot some seals.

colorful kayaks line up along the rocky shore in rockport

10. Climb The Lighthouse On Thacher Island

Lighthouse enthusiasts and history buffs will want to add Thacher Island to their list of must-see destinations in Rockport. This small island off the coast of Massachusetts is home to two historic lighthouses.

The original lighthouses on the island were built in 1771 and were only about 45 ft tall.

In 1861, the towers were replaced with 124 ft granite ones. Today they are some of the only surviving twin lighthouses along the coast.

Similar to Straitsmouth Island, some of the island is set aside for wildlife. The Thacher Island National Wildlife Refuge allows you to enjoy hiking trails and bird watching.

And you have the same options to visit the island, including kayaking and taking the small launch boat on certain days of the week.

If you can only pick one of the islands to visit, we recommend this one because, unlike Straitsmouth, you can go inside these lighthouses and climb to the top for jaw-dropping views of the Atlantic Ocean.

11. Enjoy One Of The Many Beaches

Rockport has several beaches to enjoy if you want to spend time along the shoreline.

If you want sandy beaches with calmer water you can swim in, Front Beach and Long Beach are both popular options.

Pebble Beach is also an interesting beach to visit. The name says it all; it is more of a pebble beach but is perfect if you want to wander rather than sunbathe.

No matter which beach you choose, visiting is definitely on the list of fantastic things to do in Rockport, Ma.

📎 Tip: Since we are on the east coast, we suggest getting up early and watching the sun rise as it comes up over the Atlantic Ocean.

a sandy beach just after dark with the whole scene being a blue tone with lights in the distance and water on the beach in a puddle, going to the beach is one of the best things to do in rockport, ma

12. Learn Some History In Sewall-Scripture House

The Sewall-Scripture House is a historic house that is now a museum.

The two-story granite house was built in 1832 by a local granite quarry owner, Levi Sewall, and features classic federal-style architecture (a rectangular box two stories high).

This is the only house in Rockport still standing built from native granite, though there are a couple of commercial buildings.

The museum houses a collection of antiques, items with local history attached, and furnishings and artifacts from when the home was built.

If you want to see what a well-to-do quarry owner in the 1800s lived like, this is the place for you.

13. Explore Nature In Halibut Point State Park

Halibut Point State Park is next on our list of best things to do in Rockport, Ma. This state park contains a former granite quarry, Babson Farms, active in the 19th century.

The park features hiking trails, picnic spots, and scenic vistas.

Perhaps the most popular attraction at Halibut Point State Park is the tidepools. These shallow pools are home to marine life, including sea urchins, crabs, and starfish. You can explore the tidepools at low tide when the waves are gentle and the water is clear.

During the summer months, the park offers a variety of guided tours, including wildflower tours and tours of the quarry.

Birding walks are also a great way to see and learn about some local birds that call Cape Ann home.

On a clear day, you can see Mount Agamenticus in Maine and the Isles of Shoals in New Hampshire.

flowers, like this purple one, can be seen at halibut point state park which makes our list of best things to do in rockport, ma

14. Marvel At The Paper House

The Paper House is truly the strangest structure in Rockport.

Built entirely out of newspaper in 1922, it was the brainchild of Elis F. Stenman, a man with a passion for engineering.

Built as his summer home, he slowly created it from newspaper before adding paper furniture. You will find everything from a paper piano to tables and chairs.

The exterior walls are covered in a patchwork of different newspapers, all with a clear varnish to protect them from the elements.

Today, the house is a popular tourist attraction, drawing visitors worldwide eager to see this one-of-a-kind home.

Although it has aged over the years and become quite fragile and brittle, the Paper House stands as a testament to human ingenuity and creativity.

15. Walk Along Rockport Breakwater

The Rockport Breakwater, also known as the Rockport Harbor breakwater, is one of the town’s unique attractions that shouldn’t be missed.

It’s a man-made stone barrier extending into the Atlantic Ocean, designed to provide a calm harbor area by preventing large waves from entering.

A walk along the breakwater offers a wonderful opportunity to appreciate Rockport’s nautical charm and natural beauty.

Starting from the granite-lined shore near Bearskin Neck, the breakwater takes you almost half a mile to sea. The walk isn’t always easy, as it involves balancing on large, uneven granite blocks, but the views it offers are truly rewarding.

The unobstructed views of the vast Atlantic on one side and Rockport’s picturesque coastline on the other are awe-inspiring.

The experience becomes even more mesmerizing if you time your walk around sunset when the sky is awash with orange, pink, and purple hues, creating a stunning backdrop to the tranquil harbor scene.

sunrise coming up over the ocean

16. Watch Sunset From Back Beach

Experiencing a sunset from Back Beach is truly a sight to behold.

Back Beach, located near the town center, is a local favorite and is particularly revered for its mesmerizing sunsets that bathe the sky and sea in breathtaking hues.

As the day winds down, find a comfortable spot on the sandy shore or on the stone wall bordering the beach. The beach itself, with its scattered rocks and occasional driftwood, adds a rustic charm to the scene.

As the sun begins its descent, the entire landscape transforms.

The sky becomes a canvas of ever-changing colors, with shades of pink, orange, purple, and gold stretching as far as the eye can see. The calm waters reflect these colors, creating an almost mirrored image of the spectacle above.

Remember to arrive early to find the best spot, and don’t rush off as soon as the sun disappears below the horizon. The post-sunset sky can sometimes offer the most dramatic views.

17. Explore The Cape Ann Trail

Exploring the Cape Ann Trail offers an immersive experience of the region’s unique beauty and diversity.

This 25-mile trail network traverses through Rockport and its neighboring communities, providing visitors with a wonderful opportunity to appreciate the scenic coastline, wildlife, historic sites, and cultural landmarks.

You can stroll through serene woodland, navigate rocky shorelines, cross salt marshes, and climb hilltops offering panoramic views.

These natural areas promise peaceful solitude and are home to an array of wildlife. Bird watchers, in particular, will delight in spotting a variety of seabirds, songbirds, and perhaps even raptors.

But the Cape Ann Trail isn’t just about natural beauty. It weaves through the heart of Cape Ann’s communities, each with its own unique charm.

Whether you hike, bike, or even cross-country ski in winter, the Cape Ann Trail offers a unique way to appreciate the charm of Rockport and its surroundings.

antique cameras sit on a shelf on an antique shop

18. Go Shopping For Antiques

There’s something incredibly rewarding and nostalgic about shopping for antiques.

Imagine spending a day wandering from shop to shop, each one a treasure trove of items carrying stories of the past. The possibilities are endless for antique furniture, vintage jewelry, old books, art, nautical artifacts, porcelain, and silverware.

Whether you’re a seasoned collector, an interior design enthusiast, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty and history of old objects, antiquing in Rockport is an adventure you won’t want to miss.

One of the joys of antiquing is the thrill of the hunt.

Maybe you’re looking for that perfect mid-century coffee table, a vintage brooch to complete your collection, or perhaps a nautical artifact to commemorate your trip to this coastal town.

Each shop has its unique assortment, and you never know what you might stumble upon.

19. Have A Picnic At Loblolly Cove

Loblolly Cove is a tranquil inlet nestled between rocky outcrops.

The scenery is quintessential New England, with a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean, the charming Twin Lights of Thacher Island in the distance, and often, boats lazily bobbing on the water.

With its pebbly beach and stunning ocean views, this little coastal gem makes for an idyllic picnic spot.

Pack a blanket and a basket full of your favorite foods when planning your picnic.

Perhaps some local cheese, fresh fruits, sandwiches, or even a seafood salad to match the seaside setting. Don’t forget a thermos of hot coffee or cold lemonade, and of course, a sweet treat for dessert.

As you enjoy your meal, appreciate the beauty around you. Breathe in the salty sea air, watch the gulls glide overhead, and if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of seals frolicking in the waters.

the word "rockport" in black letters on a weathered door

Things To Do In Rockport, Ma, In Winter

Summer is the most popular time to visit Rockport. But that doesn’t mean a winter visit is out of the question.

While it is a bit too cold for us personally, those willing to brave the temperatures will be rewarded with fewer crowds and a beautiful setting.

20. Admire Artwork In The Art Galleries

Rockport is home to many art galleries, more than 30 in fact. The town is filled with New England charm, and the galleries reflect this.

Many of the galleries are small, intimate spaces with various art installations. You can find paintings, sculptures, photography, and various other media.

Depending on what you are looking for and your price point, we are sure you can easily find several pieces you would like to take home with you. But if you just want to look, you can do that too.

Spending some time at the art galleries in Rockport is a great way to get a taste of the town’s culture. Plus, if you love Motif #1, we are sure you can find a version of one to take home with you and support a local artist in the process.

📎 Tip: Most galleries are located along Bearskin Neck and Main St.

the shops along bearskin neck are some of the best things to do in rockport, ma

21. Catch A Performance At Shalin Lu Performance Center

The Shalin Lu Performance Center is a spectacular venue for concerts and other performances. Nestled in the heart of downtown Rockport, the center has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking picturesque harbor views.

The acoustics are superb, and the intimate setting ensures that every seat in the house is great. The intricate wood and stone interior gives off a calm demeanor, making it an incredible place to see a show.

Whether you’re a local looking for a night out or a tourist to Rockport, the Shalin Lu Performance Center will surely impress you.

22. Enjoy Seal Watching

Seal watching during winter offers an exciting opportunity to witness these fascinating marine mammals in their natural habitat.

Winter is particularly special as the colder months draw harbor seals and, occasionally, gray seals closer to the shore for sunbathing, making it an ideal time for seal watching.

Rockport provides numerous spots for seal sightings, with Loblolly Cove and the area around Bearskin Neck being popular locations.

Often, you can spot seals from the shore, their sleek bodies basking on rocks, or their curious heads popping up from the water.

Consider taking a guided boat tour for a closer look. These tours are led by knowledgeable guides who can share insights about the seals’ behavior, diet, and their role in the marine ecosystem.

We were there during the summer, so seals were not prevalent during our visit. If we had been there in the winter, a tour to see them would have topped our things to do in Rockport, Ma, list.

a seal hangs out in the waters of Cape Ann along the New England coast, just the head can be seen above the waterline

23. Participate In Holiday Events

Winter in Rockport brings a special kind of magic.

The town transforms into a festive wonderland and offers a series of holiday events that add warmth and cheer to the chilly season.

One of the most beloved events is the annual Christmas Pageant, a tradition dating back to 1947. The town center becomes the backdrop for a live nativity scene on one special December night each year.

Holiday events, combined with the season’s natural beauty – think snowy landscapes, ice-glazed harbor, and cozy fires – make winter in Rockport a truly enchanting experience.

Participating in these holiday events is a fantastic way to engage with the community, learn about local traditions, and make the most of the festive season.

24. Watch The Winter Birds At Halibut Point State Park

With its unique coastal habitat, this state park becomes a haven for various bird species during winter, offering wonderful opportunities for birding.

One of the key highlights of winter birding at Halibut Point is the chance to spot seabirds.

The park’s position jutting into the Atlantic Ocean makes it an excellent location to watch for sea ducks, loons, grebes, and gannets. Occasionally, you might even spot the magnificent Snowy Owl, a winter visitor to this region.

Watch for local and migratory songbirds that frequent the woodland and marsh areas as you traverse the park’s trails. Species such as the Northern Cardinal, Blue Jay, and Black-capped Chickadee add color and melody to the winter landscape.

a boat in buoy seen from above

Places To Visit In Rockport, Ma: Food & Drink

We’ve told you what to do in Rockport, Ma. Now let’s get into all the yummy food and drink you should indulge in during your stay.

25. Visit The Farmers Market

The Rockport Farmers Market is a weekly event every Saturday morning from late June through mid-October at Harvey Park.

The market features various locally grown fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, bread, and other baked goods. Many artisanal vendors also sell handmade jewelry, pottery, and other crafts.

The market is a fun place to shop for fresh, local produce and a great way to support the local Rockport community.

26. Eat Fresh Seafood

Rockport may be a small coastal town but has a big reputation for fresh seafood. You really shouldn’t leave town without trying some.

The town’s fishermen go out each morning to bring in the day’s catch, and the lobster rolls and clam chowder served at the local restaurants are among the best you’ll ever taste.

One of the most popular spots is Roy Moore Lobster Co, but plenty of other great options exist.

If you want a truly memorable dining experience, sample some of the freshest seafood around.

the sign for roy moore lobster co can be seen at sunset, eating fresh seafood makes our list of best things to do in rockport, ma

27. Grab Some Joe At Brothers Brew

Brothers Brew is a coffee shop serving up some of the best coffee in town. The coffee here is made with care and attention to detail, resulting in a rich and flavorful cup of joe.

The beans are roasted to perfection, and the baristas know exactly how to brew each cup. Whether you like your coffee black or a bit more complicated, you’ll find that Brothers Brew always hits the spot.

The shop itself is cozy and inviting, with an old-school feel. Black and white checkered flooring, high swivel stools, and plenty of seating for enjoying your coffee on-site are just some of what you can expect.

But if you’re in a hurry, the to-go cups are just as delicious.

In addition to coffee, you can find options for tea as well. And if you like to eat some breakfast and not just drink it down, the shop also serves muffins, doughnuts, and a variety of pastries.

28. Taste A New England Ice Cream Cone

If you’re looking for a delicious way to cool off during your visit, why not grab some refreshing ice cream?

With its New England charm and beautiful ocean views, Rockport is the perfect place to enjoy a cold treat.

And there’s no better place to get ice cream than a charming little place called The Ice Cream Store.

Whether you’re looking for a classic flavor like chocolate or vanilla, or something more unique like graham cracker or salty caramel truffle, you’ll surely find something you’ll love at The Ice Cream Store.

It is located right on Bearskin Neck and has incredible harbor views from its back picture window or side patio. The views at sunset are to die for.

Be sure to stop by and enjoy a scoop (or two!) of deliciousness.

a tiny ice cream shop sits between two larger buildings along bearskin neck

29. Get Some Fudge At Rockport Fudgery

Rockport Fudgery is the place to go for delicious fudge. This family-owned shop has been making mouth-watering fudge for over 30 years.

Using only the finest ingredients, they carefully handcraft each batch of fudge on-site.

Hang out and watch them make it a few minutes, as the process can be tedious, and fudge is notoriously challenging to make.

There’s something for everyone, with more than a dozen flavors to choose from at any given time. From classic chocolate to more interesting flavors like pumpkin spice and maple walnut, there’s sure to be a flavor that will satisfy your sweet tooth.

30. Snack On A Salty Delight At Tuck’s Candy Factory

This family-run candy store opened back in 1929. So it has been perfecting its sweets for a long time.

They use the best ingredients and produce some excellent chocolate and candies that will have any candy lover drooling for more.

If you are in a chocolate coma from the fudgery and not ready for more, Tuck’s Candy Factory makes some incredible saltwater taffy. You can watch it being pulled and wrapped right there at the front window.

📎 Tip: Locals recommend trying out one of the many options of “patties.” Whatever you choose, we know you won’t go wrong.

wooden buoys hang as decorations on the buildings in bearskin neck

Things To Do Just MINUTES Away In Gloucester

So far, we have discussed 30 incredible things to do right in Rockport!

But there are even more things to do just a few minutes away in another great seaside location, Gloucester.

31. Go Scuba Diving In The Atlantic Ocean

For those looking for an adventure, scuba diving is a great option.

The area off the coast of Gloucester is home to various marine life, including seals, dolphins, and whales. Several shipwrecks in the area provide an opportunity to explore history underwater.

Scuba diving is a great way to get close to marine life and coral reefs and see things you couldn’t experience from the surface.

Several businesses offer lessons, certification, and diving excursions.

Don’t forget your wet suit, or be prepared to rent one, as the waters off the coast are pretty chilly. And be sure to keep your eyes peeled for lobsters.

32. Photograph Whales

Whale watching is an exciting way to see some of the world’s most majestic creatures up close.

The best time to go whale watching is from April to October when humpback whales can be spotted feeding in the nutrient-rich waters off the coast of Massachusetts.

During a whale-watching trip, you’ll have the chance to see these giant animals possibly breach, spy hop, or feed. You will undoubtedly see them come up for air and see plenty of tail flukes (which is how individuals are identified).

During our excursion, a 3 yr old humpback spent about 15 minutes right next to the boat, watching us from just under the water.

It is an unforgettable experience that will leave you with a new appreciation for these fantastic creatures.

➡️ Grab your tickets for a whale-watching excursion

a whale's tail fluke can be seen during a whale-watching excursion

33. Take A Boat Tour Around Cape Ann

Set out to sea aboard one of the many boats that offer tours of the coast. Enjoy the fresh, salty air as you cruise past the picturesque scenery.

Marvel at the rocky cliffs and crashing waves while keeping your eyes peeled for birds and marine life. Learn about the city’s rich maritime history from your knowledgeable captain.

And don’t forget to enjoy the views of Gloucester’s working waterfront, including the iconic memorial statue.

Whether you’re a local looking for a new perspective on your hometown or a tourist seeking an authentic experience, a boat tour is sure to please.

34. Set Sail On The Open Water

If you want to set sail on the high seas, look no further on our list of best things to do in Rockport, Ma, than this.

A few companies offer public and private chartered schooner sails from mid-May to mid-October.

Sailing on a schooner is a truly unique experience. The vessels give you a glimpse of what it might have been like to sail a fishing schooner more than 100 years ago and are often made by hand right in Gloucester.

During the sail, you are welcome to help with the rigging or simply sit back and enjoy your time on the water. Take in the views as you pass by castles, beaches, lighthouses, and more.

The schooner Lannon seems to be the most popular choice, but you can also book a ticket for the schooner Ardelle.

upclose photo of some sails on a sailboat

35. Visit The Fisherman’s Memorial Monument

The most recognizable landmark in Gloucester is the Fisherman’s Memorial.

The statue’s design was part of an art competition in 1923 for the city’s 300th birthday, though the statue wasn’t installed until 1925.

It can be found along the waterfront and consists of an 8-foot bronze statue on a tall granite base. The figure depicts a fisherman steering a boat wheel and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city.

Though the words say “they that go down to the sea in ships, 1623-1923,” it is seen today as a monument dedicated to the more than 5000 fishermen who have lost their lives at sea since Gloucester was first settled until the present day.

36. Travel Back In Time To Hammond Castle

Nestled atop a rocky cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Hammond Castle is a fascinating example of medieval architecture.

Built in the early 20th century by eccentric inventor John Hays Hammond Jr., the castle was designed to resemble an Old World castle from Europe.

Complete with a drawbridge, stained glass windows, and narrow passageways; the castle is now a museum that displays many of Hammond’s antique collections.

You can also explore the sprawling gardens during a visit and enjoy breathtaking ocean views.

While it may not be an authentic medieval castle, Hammond Castle is worth touring for anyone interested in history or architecture.

We highly suggest taking the tour here as the guide provides a lot of background on Hammond and his quirkiness. After the tour ends, you can stay as long as you wish to continue looking around.

hammond castle with its unique old world castle structure had to be on our best things to do in rockport, ma

Things To Do Near Rockport, Massachusetts

If you will be in the area for a few days, why not visit one or two locations nearby?

From large cities like Boston to coastal scenic drives, there are tons of ways to get out of Rockport and immerse yourself in the surrounding area.

37. Drive The Essex Coastal Scenic Byway

The Essex Coastal Scenic Byway is one of the most beautiful driving experiences in the Northeast. From the moment you start your journey, you are greeted with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean.

The 90-mile byway takes you along the coast, past sandy beaches and lighthouses, and links 14 coastal towns from Lynn to Salisbury (including Rockport).

Along the way, you can stop as much or as little as you want to photograph the coast, pop by some local shops, grab a bite to eat, and more.

The byway is a great way to see some of the best that New England has to offer.

38. Find Witches In Salem

Just a 35-minute drive from Rockport, Salem, is famous for its 1692 witch trials, making it an intriguing destination for a day trip, especially for history enthusiasts.

Start your trip with a visit to the Salem Witch Museum, which brings the infamous witch trials to life through exhibits and historical interpretation.

Continue your exploration of this dark period of American history at the Witch House, the only building in Salem with direct ties to the trials.

But Salem isn’t just about witches. The Peabody Essex Museum, one of the oldest and fastest-growing museums in the country, houses a vast collection of art and cultural artifacts from around the world.

A stroll around the Salem Maritime National Historic Site offers insight into the town’s prosperous maritime history.

For a break from history, wander along the cobblestone streets of the pedestrian-friendly downtown area, brimming with unique shops, cafes, and restaurants. Be sure to explore the boutiques on Essex Street and indulge in local cuisine at one of the many dining establishments.

a viewfinder sits along the coast to take a closer look for a quarter, behind you can see boats floating in the water along the rockport, massachusetts, coastline

39. Birdwatch At The Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

We love spending time at refuges as we are wildlife nuts here at Traveling In Focus.

So our next suggestion on our BEST things to do in Rockport, Ma, is visiting the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, about 50 minutes from Rockport.

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to enjoy the outdoors and see some incredible wildlife Massachusetts offers.

The refuge is home to various animals, including deer, foxes, rabbits, squirrels, and more than 300 birds.

You can explore the different habitats that the animals live in, such as wooded areas, salt marshes, and beaches.

Several hiking trails and boardwalks wind through the refuge as well, providing beautiful views of nature.

40. Hunt Down History In Boston

About an hour away, Boston offers an exciting day trip with its rich history, world-class museums, and vibrant food scene.

Begin your journey by walking the Freedom Trail.

This 2.5-mile route takes you through 16 historic landmarks, including the Massachusetts State House, Paul Revere’s House, and the Old North Church.

Art lovers should stop at the Museum of Fine Arts, home to an extensive collection of artworks from around the world.

Enjoy a stroll through Boston Common and the Public Garden, the oldest public park in the U.S., or walk the Boston Harbor area for fantastic views of the city’s waterfront.

End your day sampling the city’s culinary delights, from New England seafood in the Seaport District to Italian cuisine in the North End.

a scooter sits along a white fence with the rockport breakwater behind along the water, the breakwater is one of the best things to do in rockport, ma

41. Set Your Sights On Newburyport

A short 45-minute drive from Rockport, you will find Newburyport, a charming coastal city offering a blend of rich history, stunning architecture, and a thriving food scene.

Start your exploration at the heart of the city – Market Square.

Historic Federal-style buildings surround this bustling area and are a short walk from the scenic waterfront. Nearby, the Customs House Maritime Museum showcases the city’s shipbuilding and maritime history.

The city’s waterfront is a picturesque spot for a stroll and teeming with restaurants serving fresh seafood – a must-try when in town.

Finish your visit by exploring the unique shops and boutiques offering everything from antiques to local crafts in the city’s downtown area.

42. Go To The Beach In Ipswich

Just a 30-minute drive from Rockport, the quaint town of Ipswich offers a delightful mix of natural beauty and historic charm.

Begin your day at Crane Beach, a stunning four-mile-long sandy beach renowned for its picturesque landscapes and excellent bird-watching opportunities. Its rolling dunes and clear waters make it a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and hiking.

A visit to Castle Hill on the Crane Estate is a must.

This 59-room Stuart-style mansion offers breathtaking ocean views and is surrounded by beautifully manicured gardens, perfect for spending a bit of time.

For history enthusiasts, the Ipswich Museum offers an insight into the town’s past.

Finally, no trip to Ipswich would be complete without tasting its famous clams. Visit the iconic Clam Box restaurant to savor fresh, locally sourced seafood in a unique building shaped like a clam box.

boats sit in the rockport harbor at sunset as orange light spreads along the sky among dark clouds

43. Head To The Harbor In Marblehead

Located approximately 45 minutes from Rockport, Marblehead is a charming seaside town rich in maritime history.

Start your visit at Marblehead Harbor, once considered the world’s yachting capital.

The harbor, filled with sailing boats, offers stunning views and a sense of the town’s seafaring legacy. The Marblehead Lighthouse, an iconic town symbol, is a short walk away and well worth a visit.

Explore Old Town’s narrow, winding streets, where colonial-era houses and buildings provide a glimpse into the town’s historical past. The Jeremiah Lee Mansion, a grand Georgian-style house, is particularly noteworthy.

Stroll around the local boutiques, galleries, and antique shops that populate the downtown area. Enjoy a meal at one of the many local restaurants, with seafood being a specialty.

rundown of Things To Do in Rockport, Mass

Whew! There you have it, our list of the incredible things to do in Rockport, Ma, and nearby.

Because we discussed so many options, let’s do a small recap and map.

Our Top Recommendations For What To Do In Rockport, Massachusetts

While we have provided a ton of things to do in Rockport, Mass, we know that you often have limited time in a certain place when you travel.

So to help narrow down all the choices, we are providing the top 11 things that personally top our list. With just a day or two, we would start with these items and see what you can accomplish!

a chart showing the top 11 things to do in Rockport, according to Traveling In Focus, in case you have limited time.  our complete list is 30 things

Map Of The Things To See In Rockport, Ma

We are visual learners and know how helpful a map can be.

If you are using your phone, click the top right square, and this map will open directly into your google maps to help you find your way around.

Where To Stay In Rockport

With so much to see, you will definitely want to stay at least one night in the area. We recommend these accommodations.

Luxury 💵 💵 💵 – Emerson Inn By The Sea

  • Rocking chairs on the front porch
  • Beautiful property ocean views
  • Garden and a library

➡️ Check Availability & Prices at Emerson Inn By The Sea

Mid-Range 💵 💵 – Sally Webster Inn

  • B&B with a yummy breakfast in the morning
  • 0.5 miles (0.8 km) from downtown
  • Rooms are charming and cozy

➡️ Check Availability & Prices at Sally Webster Inn

Budget 💵 – Lantana House

  • Close to downtown and the beach
  • Victorian style ambiance
  • B&B with breakfast

➡️ Check Availability & Prices at Lantana House

the shops along bearskin neck in rockport, ma

Where Is Rockport, Ma

Rockport, Massachusetts, is located in the northeastern part of the state, on the Cape Ann Peninsula.

It’s approximately 40 miles northeast of Boston, the state’s capital.

The Atlantic Ocean borders it to the east, Gloucester to the south, and Ipswich Bay to the north.

How To Get To Rockport

The easiest and most convenient way to get to Rockport, Ma, is with a personal vehicle driving yourself.

If you have flown in, you have most likely landed in Boston. If you have time, it is also worth spending a day in Boston sightseeing.

From there, you can rent a car to get to Rockport. We always recommend Discover Cars to compare prices because they carry all the big rental companies in one place, like Hertz and Dollar.

🚙 Book your ride with Discover Cars

The other option is to take the MBTA train.

It leaves regularly, and you can book your ticket through their website. Once in Rockport, you could rent a bike or Uber if you wanted to head to Gloucester for any of the activities we mentioned.

some buoys and colorful glass decorate a building in bearskin neck which makes our best things to do in rockport, ma list

What You Should Bring To Rockport

If you’re planning to visit Rockport, Massachusetts, during the popular summer season, here are a few items you may want to bring with you:

  • Sunscreen: Summers in Rockport can be quite sunny, so protecting your skin from harmful UV rays is important. Bring a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF rating to keep your skin safe.
  • Comfortable Walking Shoes: Rockport is a beautiful coastal town with charming streets and scenic walking trails. Bring comfortable shoes for exploring the town, as you’ll likely be doing a fair amount of walking.
  • Lightweight Clothing: The summer months in Rockport can be warm and humid. Pack lightweight and breathable clothing, such as shorts, T-shirts, sundresses, and skirts, to stay comfortable during your visit.
  • Hat and Sunglasses: Along with sunscreen, don’t forget to bring a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to shield your face and eyes from the sun. These items will provide additional protection and help you stay cool. Jenny has this wide-brimmed hat and loves it because she can still put her hair up.
  • Swimsuit: Rockport has lovely beaches and swimming areas, so don’t forget to pack a swimsuit. Whether you plan to dip in the ocean or relax by the water, having a swimsuit handy will ensure you can make the most of the coastal beauty.
  • Water Bottle: Staying hydrated is important, especially during the summer months. Carry a refillable, insulated water bottle with you to ensure you have access to water wherever you go. There are often water fountains and refill stations available in public areas.
  • Camera: Rockport offers picturesque coastal views, colorful buildings, and stunning natural scenery. Capture your memories by bringing a camera to photograph beautiful sights.

Remember to check the weather forecast before your trip to Rockport, as weather conditions can vary. It’s always a good idea to pack according to the expected weather during your visit.

How Many Days Do You Need In Rockport

To truly savor the charm and beauty of Rockport, it’s recommended to spend at least 2 to 3 days in the town.

This allows ample time to visit key sights and soak in the town’s relaxed maritime ambiance.

A day could be spent exploring Rockport’s historic downtown area, lined with quaint shops, art galleries, and seafood restaurants.

You can stroll down Bearskin Neck, a picturesque shopping area leading to a stunning view of the harbor. Here you can visit the iconic Motif Number 1, the most-painted building in the U.S.

Reserve another day to enjoy the town’s natural beauty. Relax at the beaches like Good Harbor Beach or Front Beach, perfect for a swim or picnic.

If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, you could take a boat tour to see seals and other marine life.

In addition, Rockport’s vibrant arts scene deserves attention. You could visit the Rockport Art Association and Museum or catch a performance at the renowned Shalin Liu Performance Center.

buoys hang on an old shingle building

FAQs For What TO See In Rockport, Ma

Let’s answer some common questions about Rockport.

What Is Rockport, Massachusetts, Known For?

Rockport, Massachusetts, is renowned for its scenic beauty, maritime history, and artistic heritage. It’s famous for the red fishing shack, “Motif Number 1,” one of the most painted buildings in the U.S. The town also features beautiful beaches, seafood restaurants, and a vibrant arts community with numerous galleries, making it a popular tourist destination.

Is Rockport, Massachusetts, Worth Visiting?

Rockport is absolutely worth visiting. It uniquely blends stunning coastal scenery, historic charm, and an artsy atmosphere. Visitors can enjoy sandy beaches, seafood eateries, art galleries, and iconic sights like the Motif Number 1. Plus, its proximity to Boston makes it an easy day trip for those exploring the New England area.

What Is The Best Time Of Year To Visit Rockport, Ma?

The best time to visit Rockport is during the late spring, summer, and early fall. The weather is typically pleasant from May to October, ideal for beach visits, outdoor dining, and exploring the town. Summer is particularly vibrant with numerous festivals and events. However, autumn offers a quieter experience and the stunning spectacle of New England’s fall foliage.

Does Rockport, Ma, Have A Beach?

Yes, Rockport boasts several beautiful beaches. Front Beach, located near the town center, is perfect for families and swimming. Back Beach is popular for scuba diving and sunsets. Or you can head to the smaller Cape Hedge and Pebble Beaches for more secluded relaxation.

Where Can I See Seals In Rockport, Ma?

You can often see seals off the coast of Rockport, particularly during the colder months when they come closer to shore. A popular spot to see them is around Rockport Harbor and the breakwater near Bearskin Neck. Boat tours also offer a chance to see the seals in their natural habitat around the Cape Ann area.

lobster traps with the sun setting behind sit along the dock near motif #1 in rockport

To Finish – Best Things To Do In Rockport, Ma, & Nearby

From its storied fishing history to the vibrant art scene, serene beaches, and an array of recreational activities, there are plenty of things to do in Rockport, Ma.

Whether you are seeking a peaceful retreat, exploring the local art and history, craving delectable seafood, or hunting for the perfect antique, Rockport invites you to slow down and savor the simple joys of coastal living.

So pack your bags, bring your curiosity, and let Rockport’s charm unfold before your eyes. Come for a day or stay for a week; there’s plenty to see, do, taste, and explore.

As you drive away, you’ll be planning your next visit because Rockport, Ma, truly is a place that captures your heart and keeps you coming back for more.

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