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Manchester by-the-Sea — Cape Ann's Quiet Community
Manchester-by-the-Sea is a beautiful New England town with a quaint downtown area, picturesque harbor, and a wonderful beach. Manchester is often overlooked by Cape Ann visitors simply because there are no "major attractions" such as harbor cruises, art colonies, hotels, or other large traffic generators. It's quiet, and local residents like it that way. So what can you do here? There are a few things to see and it's worthwhile to investigate the quietest of the Cape Ann communities.

Manchester-by-the-Sea Harbor 

Manchester-by-the-Sea Harbor

If you are staying in Gloucester or Rockport or coming from other parts of the North Shore, we recommend taking scenic Rte. 127 rather than Rte. 128, which gives you a chance to drive along the scenic shore road past beautiful homes, ice cream stands and other roadside attractions. If you come from Rockport or Gloucester you'll travel through Magnolia, a pleasant section of Gloucester with an interesting history, and the home of Hammond Castle. If you come from the North Shore (Beverly, Danvers) you'll drive through Prides Crossing and Beverly Farms, also scenic drives worth going out of the way for. 

From either direction Rte. 127 takes you directly into the center of town. You can find street parking (non-metered, two hour limit) in the downtown area, but during summer weekends the parking will be more challenging.

Our tour fits into a couple of hours, so you'll be back to your car in time, or can move it if you decide to go to a restaurant or take in another activity. A walk of about two miles round trip allows you a tour of the village and shows you the beauty of this town's harbor, homes and beach. The walk is circular, but you can start and end anyplace, or skip any part you want.

Beginning In the middle of downtown, where School Street ends and intersects with Central and Union Streets, you will see the Congregational Church. If you're lucky enough to be standing there at 12:20 p.m. on any day, you'll hear the carillon playing tunes in the bell tower.

Trask House 

Trask House Museum

There are 15 to 20 shops and restaurants, so you can browse as much or as little as you like. A good first stop to get oriented to Manchester and its history is the Trask House Museum on Union Street. They are open Monday through Friday, 10-12 a.m., and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. during July and August. Other times are available by appointment. There will be special programs this summer, tour guides are available and admission is free. Look in our Find Attractions search engine for more information. 

Walk on from this point and you'll pass a few shops, bakeries and other small businesses, then come to a railroad station, and the beginning of the Manchester "beach walk". If you're here on a summer weekend morning, you'll see lots of "commuters" getting off the train in their "suits"-bathing suits that is-and walking a half mile to one of the nicest beaches in Massachusetts, Singing Beach.

Manchester-by-the-Sea Harbor 

Singing Beach

The reason these people are taking the train is because parking is limited. There is a parking lot at the beach for town residents only. There is one good place for visitors' beach parking, but it fills up fast on hot days. Just beyond the train tracks, turn left into the train station and you'll see a sign for a paid parking lot that is run during the summer by the Boy Scouts, who will collect your parking fee ($10-$15 per car, depending on the day of the week). This is the closest spot to the beach (slightly over half mile) and have your money go to a good cause.

Captain Dusty's 

Captain Dusty's

Here near the train station there is a restaurant and coffee & donut shop, but don't make your decision too quickly, because just beyond you'll happen upon a popular Manchester stopping point, Captain Dusty's ice cream shop. Captain Dusty was a popular Manchester resident, who, for a number of years, sold lobsters from this location. The view of the harbor from here is very nice, especially in the late afternoon and early evening, which is often when the place is crowded by people returning from the beach. You can sit and enjoy your indulgence here, or just walk across the street to Masconomo Park and find a seat with an even better view of the harbor. The park also has a playground and softball field, and concerts and events are held there during the summer.




Manchester-by-the-Sea's Name Change...

The "by-the-Sea" extension of Manchester is actually part of the town's name. Several years ago a movement started up by a group of residents who felt that every mention of Manchester was associated with the much larger New Hampshire city of the same name. So the group promoted a campaign to change the name of the town to Manchester-by-the-Sea — it was approved by a close margin in a town meeting vote.



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