Massachusetts - Exploring the North Shore

Massachusetts - Exploring the North Shore

October 7, 2015

The last two weeks of our month in Massachusetts were not exactly what I expected, but they were none the less quite memorable and turned out to be right up my alley. I had originally planned to spend them exploring what’s known as the North Shore with my gal pal from California, but when life’s unexpected twists and turns prevented her from coming and I suddenly found myself in the dentist chair after loosing 2 dental crowns in 2 days, the itinerary I had envisioned quite suddenly evaporated into thin air.

What is it they say about best laid plans?

A few days later the dental crowns were successfully cemented back in place by a lovely dentist named Lisa who kept apologizing for her singing while she worked on me, something I actually found to be quite endearing and relaxing in this unexpected situation. I allowed myself exactly one day to give into feeling a bit sorry for myself and eat as much ice cream as I wanted, but then it was time to let it go and come up with a new plan.

Once I had recovered from the ordeal I realized that I still had more than a week on my own to head out with my camera in tow and see what there was to see. Richard would be around and working from home which meant I could leave Lulu with him and explore unencumbered to my hearts content. As much as I would miss my girlfriend, and Lulu too for that matter, this was actually perfect. Heading out with no particular plan and getting lost for hours at a time in my explorations is absolutely one of my most favorite things ever.

First up was a visit to Salem which was just a little to the south of where we were staying in Ipswich. Once again I found myself having to let go of expectations as I had thought it would be the highlight of my week and it just didn’t turn out to be that for me. Salem is best known for the Witch Trials that happened here back in the late 1600’s, so visiting the Salem Witch Museum or taking part in one of the many reenactments are big tourist attractions and can be kind of fun, but other than that I didn’t find the town itself to be particularly captivating. As I write this however with Halloween just around the corner, it does make me think that being there at this time of year would be an interesting experience for sure.


The town of Essex was just a hop, skip and a jump from our little cottage in Ipswich and we found ourselves there often during our stay. We’d head over there to enjoy the peace and beauty of this little river town and perhaps enjoy some seafood, but to be totally honest a big part of the draw was DownRiver Ice Cream, one of the best places for ice cream I’ve ever been to. And if you know me at all, that says a lot! Made on the premises with locally sourced ingredients their website says:

      preservatives (ew!)    chemicals (yuck!)    or gluten (yikes!)

My absolute favorite was the blackberry chocolate chip yogurt made from fresh
local blackberries but check out some of the other cool flavors on their menu. And then there were the adirondack chairs out back where you can just sit awhile and enjoy the company as well as the ice cream. Oh those adirondack chairs … my favorite. 

Remember the Gorton’s Fisherman ads that used to be on TV? Well Gorton’s just happens to be in Gloucester much to my surprise, a town a little to the north of us and next on my list. I didn’t end up spending a whole lot time there but it was an interesting seaport town and worth a visit. It’s clearly the center of the fishing industry in this area and is much bigger than many of the other nearby towns. I couldn’t help but notice too that this town is filled with pubs and breweries that in turn appear to be filled with local fisherman!

Manchester-by-the-Sea is all about New England charm and was the next town I had the privilege of getting to spend some time in. Located on Cape Ann just 20 miles north of Boston it’s the kind of town that seems perfect for raising a couple of kids and enjoying the pleasures of a simple small town life. The people are friendly, the downtown is cute a s a button and somehow life just seems good when you are there.

Saving the best for last brings us to a magical little town called Rockport, a place that wasn’t originally even on my radar. I had never even heard of it before we happened to stumble upon it one afternoon while Richard, Lulu and I were out exploring and I fell in love instantly. This little gem was so intriguing to me that I went back several times at different times of day just to study the light. Rockport is your quintessential little New England town with as Richard would say, and extremely high “cuteness factor”. That alone would be enough reason to want to spend time there but what really caught my attention was a old barn-red fish warehouse which sits proudly at the end of a wharf jutting out into the harbor. It’s known as Motif No. 1 and is a stunning sight surrounded by a truly breathtaking coastline. If you lucky enough to be there at sunset it truly doesn’t get much more beautiful than this.

Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so. As it turns out, it's one of the most painted buildings in the US and maybe even the world. It has appeared in movies, on magazine covers, and was even on a US postage stamp at one point. Who knew.

I became a little obsessed with trying to get the “perfect shot” and went back numerous times in pursuit of the “perfect light”. I’m not sure my perfectionist nature was ever 100% confident that I had accomplished either, but I am quite happy with several of my final images.

Here are a few of my favorites …

Towards the end of town there is a small peninsula which juts out beyond the wharf and into the sea known as Bearskin Neck, so-named for the bears that were hunted here by the early settlers. They say it has the highest concentration of gift shops anywhere and all on this one tiny street, in this tiny little town, somewhere on the north shore of Massachusetts. Wow, and I’d never even heard of it before. It’s crammed full of shops, art galleries, places to eat, and of course ice cream shops and a few fudge factories too.

But one of the reasons I found it to be so beautiful is the surprise that awaits you as you reach the end of the peninsula. Being surrounded by water on both sides as you walk makes for absolutely amazing views and photo ops every where you look, and the rocky jetty at the end of the street is perfect for taking in the sunset or perhaps just sitting awhile.

It’s lovely, absolutely lovely, and all I can say is that it just doesn’t get much better than this. As I sat out there on jetty with ice cream in hand, I was able to reflect on how perfect the ending to this week with the not so perfect beginning truly was, and I was grateful. 

If you enjoyed this story and would like to see more photos of Ipswich you can find them here:


Until next time and Portland Maine!

XOXO, me and lu