Summertime in Rockport
Take a walk around this quintessential coastal New England town.
Now that the wildly uneven winter (and spring) are gone, my thoughts have turned to ways I may melt away my winter bulk. As a lapsed marathoner with a surgically repaired left knee, I decided to walk instead of run. And I decided I’d walk Rockport, based on recommendations from friends—and my editor.
Alas, there is something in Rockport that is the enemy of a slimmer waistline: fudge. It is abundant there (and heavenly). But there are nonfudge reasons for visiting the town, too, such as the bounty of wonderful art, much of it produced by local artists and displayed in galleries throughout town.
To get to Rockport, I suggest driving as little as possible. (To paraphrase Jack Lemmon paraphrasing Edmund Gwenn: Driving to the Rockport station is easy; parking there is hard.)
Take the MBTA commuter rail to Rockport, or drive and park at 2 Blue Gate Lane off of Route 127 (the parking is free). From either location you can take the Cape Ann Transportation Authority shuttle and be in Dock Square, ready to walk, in minutes.
If you must drive downtown, pack a lunch. You’ll be waiting, nearly endlessly, for precious metered spots. Meters take coins or credit cards and are in operation seven days a week. Trust me: Leave the car at home.
A good place to start an art/fudge walk is Dock Square. Bearkskin Neck, with plenty of spots to stop and take in local art, is around the corner to the northeast, and Main Street is due west.
But don’t leave Dock Square without stopping at Tuck’s Candy Factory (7 Dock Square) for fuel. Owner Dan Tuck makes fudge according to the family recipe. “In the summer I’ll make a few hundred pounds a week,” he says.
My favorites are the penuche and vanilla. If fudge isn’t in your wheelhouse, first ask yourself, “What’s wrong with me?” Then take a gander at the saltwater taffy and other candies on display. (Tuck also makes fudge for Tuck’s Candy and Gifts on Main Street, though other family members own that location, he says.)
After you’ve successfully loaded up on sugar, mosey up Bearskin Neck. Take a right onto Bradley Wharf from the Neck and you’ll find Motif #1, a rustic fishing shack that, according to local legend, is the most painted building in the U.S. The original shack was destroyed by the blizzard of 1978. This building is a replica. (You can get a different, and possibly better, look at it from T-Wharf, which begins just southeast of Dock Square.)
Rockport at Night
If you’re looking to take in Rockport’s nightlife, there are plenty of events planned for the summer at Shalin Liu Performance Center. “We have a little of everything,” says director of marketing for Rockport Music Karen Herlitz.
The 36th Rockport Chamber Music Festival begins Friday, June 2. The opening night gala features violinist Joshua Bell. The festival closes on Sunday, July 9, with the Deveau-Cárdenes-Shiffman-Williams Quartet. In between there are performances by the Handel and Haydn Society, pianist Russell Sherman, and more.
The folk, pop, and world music season starts up in July, and features Jim Messina on July 23 (no word on whether he’ll perform “Lahaina”), Paula Cole on July 28, and the one and only Maceo Parker on August 3. For much, much more, visit rockportmusic.org.
For fine dining, Pigeon Cove Tavern offers a recently revamped dining room, and executive chef Ameer Wahid has made some changes to the menu. Wahid was previously the sous chef, says Meghan Oakley, Pigeon Cove’s food and beverage manager. “This menu is similarly styled, but with his touches [added] to it,” she says.
In addition to its new-ish menu, Oakley says the restaurant will soon be revamping the wine and craft beer lists. “We’re focusing a lot on the bar,” she says, adding that they’re working on new infusions, too.
Pigeon Cove Tavern opens at
5 p.m. for dinner Thursday through Saturday. The bar and lounge open at 4 p.m. for drinks and light appetizers. For reservations, call 978-546-6321 or visit Open Table.
Back on Bearskin Neck, it’s a short walk to the water, where you’ll find a picturesque view of Rockport Harbor and Sandy Bay. There’s a walkable jetty at the end of the Neck with a sign that reads “Pass at own risk.” If you venture out onto the jetty, be careful. It’s rugged and windy.
A stroll back down Bearksin Neck toward Main Street provides several opportunities to take in art by local artists. At The Art Nook Gallery (58 Bearskin Neck), there’s work on display by Stefan Mierz, Kathleen Miller, and Lawrence Martin-Bittman.
Mierz, who was raised in Rockport, says, “My aunt gave me a box of paints when I was 15 and I never looked back.” At The Art Nook you’ll find his ongoing series of sunflower paintings, a style he calls “dollopism” or “extreme impasto.” He says, “The petals stick two inches off the canvas and they’re made of solid oil paint so they can take six months or a year to solidify.” Another nice local touch: Miller mixes in local beach sand into her paints.
There’s more art, but first, there’s more fudge. A trip to Bearksin Neck wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Rockport Fudgery (4 Tuna Wharf Road). “It takes a full day to make our fudge,” says manager and fudge maker Peter Fox. “That’s why it’s so creamy.” In addition to the fudge, he recommends an elephant ear, this puff pastry is a favorite of locals and tourists.
As you walk back toward Dock Square, stop in at Scott Tubby’s airy gallery (26 Bearksin Neck). Like Mierz, Tubby is working on an ongoing series. If you’re there at the right time, you’ll find him painting what he calls the “Skiff Series,” paintings featuring boats modeled on the skiffs lobster fishers use to get from the dock to their moorings. Tubby is also a potter. His gallery features pottery and paintings.
Before hitting Main Street, there’s one more art stop. David Arsenault’s gallery is in Dock Square (8 Dock Square) and features his realist work. On a recent stop at the gallery, I spoke with his wife, Susan, who chairs the Rockport Cultural District and the Rockport Art Colony galleries.
“You walk into these galleries and you get to meet the artists,” she says. “Rockport is really special that way.”
That’s true. I met Mierz and Tubby in their respective galleries, and when I stopped in at the Tusinski Gallery (2 Main Street), Karen Tusinski was there and ready to talk about her art, from the way she manipulates perspectives, or simply what motivates her. One series on display is locally flavored, paintings featuring pebbles inspired by Pebble Beach.
There’s plenty more art to see in Rockport. Try designing your own walking tour up Bearksin Neck and down Main Street. Just don’t forget the fudge.