Photos by Robert Boyd
"I don’t know if there’s another place that has all that Gloucester has," says Joe Ciaramitaro, creator of the acclaimed blog Good Morning Gloucester and co-owner of Captain Joe and Sons Wholesale Lobster Company.
Dating back to the early 1600s, when Gloucester became the first settlement of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, this town by the sea quickly became the center of the fishing industry. Home of America’s original seaport and the oldest working art colony in North America, Gloucester was previously a one-dimensional fishing town. The waterfront town has since diversified into a tourist and travel destination rich with art, culture, music, food, and a strong sense of community.
The fishing and tourism industries have become a symbiotic duo here, drawing people from all over the world to experience Gloucester’s cultural riches and acclaimed restaurants. It all started about 14 years ago with what is known to locals as the "Restaurant Renaissance," which welcomed a plethora of esteemed eateries. Soon following the restaurants was the barrage of coffee shop and museum openings to caffeinate and stimulate the masses, along with these other opportunities that make Gloucester unique.
For breakfast, pop into Pleasant Street Tea Company in the morning for a selection of fresh-baked goods on top of their uber-tasty organic coffees, over 100 varieties of tea, and freshly pressed juices and smoothies. For a fruitful historical experience, the Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center takes you back into the prevalent fishing times with hands-on activities and aquarium touch tanks. At downtown Gloucester’s famous waterfront, you can embark on a once-in-a-lifetime whale watching experience aboard the 7 Seas Whale Watch, or hop onboard the schooner Thomas E. Lannon for a sail while listening to tales of fisherman Thomas Lannon’s adventures at sea—one of which includes the infamous Gloucester Sea Serpent.
The abundant offerings don’t stop there. Located on Rogers Street overlooking the boat-filled harbor, the Minglewood Tavern has a variety of mouth-watering pizzas and calzones, oven-roasted favorites, and an eclectic music scene. In warmer months, stick your toes in the sand at one of Gloucester’s 10 beautiful beaches. If you feel like taking in the scene with a leisurely stroll, park your car for free on the grass outside of the Gloucester House Restaurant, or sit on one of the waterside benches on Western Avenue and watch the boats go by under a beautiful harbor sunset.
Gloucester block parties give yet another reason for locals to stay and travelers to visit. Founded in 2008, the popular affairs take place on the third Saturday of every month during the summer. Known as one of Gloucester’s best attractions, some of the town’s favorite restaurants set up shop outside so that people can enjoy their delicious dishes alfresco. Activities range from classical circus shows to performances by a variety of musicians that grace the Hancock and Porter stages.
Another crowd pleaser is the Cape Ann Farmers’ Market, which hits the streets of Gloucester every Thursday from June through October. For the last six years, the farmers’ market has provided Cape Ann with local goods while supporting small-scale production and sustainability. The Cape Ann Farmers’ Market has also organized the Backyard Growers program (BYG), which helps low- to moderate-income families and residents create and maintain sustainable backyard gardens. The BYG provides all of the necessary goods (installation included), like compost, seeds, and raised beds. Not only does the program provide low-income residents with the opportunity to grow their own fresh produce, but it also helps to build and grow the community. The organization also trains and mentors growers to make sure the gardens are maintained with the utmost care.
Gloucester’s delectable restaurants, lively music, rich history, strong sense of community, breathtaking beaches, friendly residents, and ample attractions are just a few reasons that this rejuvenated fishing town has made its mark on the North Shore.
Gloucester’s Ryan & Wood Distillery keeps spirits high on the North Shore.
Founded in 2006 by Bob Ryan and Dave Wood, Ryan & Wood Distillery is a highlight of Gloucester’s growing food-and-beverage scene. The inspiration for the distillery, which produces Knockabout Gin, Fully Cove Rum, and Beauport Vodka, was drawn from the traditional treasures of historic Gloucester. With Ryan’s extensive background working as a waterfront seafood processor and Wood’s knowledge of business and law (he’s a lawyer by trade), the two have come together to produce "small-batch, handcrafted spirits" in the heart of Gloucester. The spirits are meticulously distilled in very small batches in a 600-liter alembic copper pot, which has been used for hundreds of years in the distilling business to ensure superior quality of handcrafted spirits. Coming straight from Germany, the Ryan & Wood still (an apparatus for distilling) is custom-made and of the best international quality. The Ryan & Wood team unabashedly enforces extra effort and consistent monitoring to turn out top-notch products, and your taste buds will agree. 15 Great Republic Drive, 978-281-2282
WHAT TO DO
Gloucester’s waterfront and beyond.
Latitude 43 Restaurant & Bar serves up a variety of delicious dishes in its eco-friendly building, while live music draws crowds to its backroom bar. 25 Rogers Street, 978-281-0223.
Alchemy, in the heart of downtown, offers a variety of tasty tapas like crispy local calamari, housemade ravioli, and arancinis in a chic ambiance and at affordable prices. 3 Duncan Street, 978-281-3997.
Virgilio’s Italian Bakery has been owned and operated by the Virgilio family since 1961. Virgilio’s breads are prepared daily and sold to dozens of local markets and restaurants. Stop in for a St. Joseph sandwich, with fresh Italian meats, imported provolone cheese, oil, and oregano. 29 Main Street, 978-283-5295.
Catch 22 Bistro serves up a large selection of beer and wine. With a variety of delicious courses on its menu (think fig-and-walnut ravioli), Catch 22 has certainly made a name for itself in town. 14 Rogers Street, 978-283-0247.
Alexandra’s Bread Company touts hearty breads and to-die-for scones, as well as retro oilcloth bags that are perfect for toting a fresh loaf to a picnic or a dinner party. 265 Main Street, 978-281-3064.
The Cape Ann Museum is rich in art, history, and cultural heritage. Also known for its inexpensive admissions, the museum offers a rotation of special exhibits throughout the year. 27 Pleasant Street, 978-283-0455.
Gloucester Stage Company, co-founded in 1979 by Geoff Richon, Denny Blodgett, and Israel Horovitz, has produced more than 35 world-premiere productions. Youth acting workshops, play readings, and other special events are also on offer. 267 Main Street, 978-281-4433.
The Schooner Thomas E. Lannon offers sails and charters along Gloucester Harbor, the perfect way to get a taste of what it was like to experience the open sea on a fishing schooner decades ago. 63 Rogers Street, 978-281-6634.
Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center offers hands-on activities for all ages. Dip your hands into the touch tanks filled with sea urchins and star fish, sound a 100-year-old foghorn, or take in a panoramic view of Ten Pound Island. 9 Harbor Loop, 978-281-0470.
7 Seas Whale Watch, a high-speed vessel, runs daily with a variety of times to choose from and has been featured on the Discovery Channel and National Geographic. 7 Seas Wharf, 888-283-1776.
Toodeloos on historic Main Street has a plethora of toys for kids, and the goods keep rolling in with daily shipments. 137 Main Street, 978-281-2011.
Village Silversmith is filled with gems from around the world that are mounted in sterling silver settings. Recently begun mining in Northern Mexico means plenty more treasures to come. 138 Main Street, 978-283-8811.