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Mary Lhowe, Visit New England
Gloucester, near the end of Cape Ann as it arcs northward and eastward above Massachusetts Bay, is an old city that was once a center of shipbuilding and still has a dynamic fishing industry. Visitors love the place for its interesting downtown historic district and parks, seafood and Italian cuisine, whale-watch and other boating excursions, and its lively cultural activities.
The city is famous for its Fisherman’s Memorial and Fishermen’s Wives’ Memorial statues and for the image of the Gorton’s Fisherman, based on a seafood business here. Movie audiences got a taste of the Gloucester spirit through the books “The Perfect Storm” and “Captains Courageous,” both remade into major movies.
A great introduction to the city, especially for people who love strolling historic downtowns, is the Gloucester HarborWalk, a one-mile marked trail that moves along the waterfront and through public parks, and then swings northward to City Hall. On the walk, 42 granite pillars tell the stories of people and events of Gloucester’s history.
Starting at St. Peter’s Square on Rogers Street, the HarborWalk passes through the working waterfront to Harbor Loop around Captain Solomon Jacobs Park. The walk then dips inland to head toward City Hall and the civic center, then turns back down through the historic district to St. Peter’s Square. Markers direct walkers to beautiful parks, beaches, and monuments slightly outside of the downtown circuit, like Gloucester’s Fisherman’s Memorial, (Man at the Wheel) and the Fishermen’s Wives Memorial statues along the shore, and Stacy Boulevard, leading to Stage Fort Park and Half Moon Beach.
The HarborWalk is a circuit, so you can begin anywhere. But the first story posting, called “St. Peter,” is at St. Peter’s Square at Washington and Rogers streets. Look for the large green ocean buoy in front of the Cape Ann Brewing Co. (Peter is the patron saint of fishermen, and is revered by the traditional Italian and Portuguese immigrants who have muscled seafood from Gloucester’s waters since the late 19th century.)
Here is a nice bonus: the HarborWalk website includes locations of at least nine public restrooms along the way, as well as a map showing local restaurants and at least one local brewery. It probably goes without saying, but brace yourself for fresh seafood, much of it prepared in Mediterranean style.
Glenn Collins of the New York Times described HarborWalk as
“An intimate view of the harborfront, giving access to the town’s history — and the water itself — without disturbing the working port, or cutesifying it.”
The HarborWalk experience is enhanced by mobile technology that brings expanded storytelling and explanations to visitors. This tech requires a modern smartphone (Apple iPhone or Android) with an active mobile service plan and the ability to scan a QR code scanner. Many locations offer free WiFi.
Beach lovers may already know that Pavilion Beach, Cressy Beach, and Half Moon Beach are all an easy walk from downtown Gloucester. During Phase 2 of the reopening of Massachusetts following COVID-19, the governor asks everyone to limit their time on Massachusetts beaches to transitory activities like walking. Sitting, sunbathing and picnicking are now allowed in June 2020.