Head To Head – Cape Ann, Massachusetts vs Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Cape Ann is better than Cape Cod.
Now the reader of this statement may be thinking that we’re mischievously taking this stance for the sake of argument, for fun, or simply for clickbait, and that it will be tempered as the article wears on.
We can assure you that this viewpoint is inaccurate, and we would further discourage the reader from forming such definitive conclusions after reading one short sentence.
For this is not merely an article but more properly viewed as a manifesto that unapologetically, unequivocally, and scientifically proves that Cape Ann is, in fact, the better Massachusetts Cape.
Our fervent desire is that this Manifesto will provide Cape Ann a platform to rise, like a phoenix from the ashes, shed its disparaging moniker of “The Other Cape” and take its rightful place as the best Massachusetts tourist destination.
So, come along for the journey as we delve into the 10 Reasons Why Cape Ann is Better Than Cape Cod.
Let’s start our discussion off with the names of the Capes in question. Cape Ann vs Cape Cod.
Cape Cod is named after a common species of fish. While it’s a nice mild flaky white fish that’s fun to catch on deep sea outings, and produces some healthy liver oil, we think that it pales in comparison to real royalty.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson may disagree as he is a strong Cod proponent consuming approximately 821lbs of the fish each year. But for purposes of this analysis we are going to consider him an outlier.
How was Cape Ann named? Well, it was initially dubbed Le Beauport by Samuel de Champlain in 1606 and later renamed Tragabigzanda by Captain John Smith after a Greek mistress of a Turkish nobleman that he had met while in captivity in Turkey (typical Captain Smith). The better Cape was finally named Cape Ann by King Charles I in honor of his mother Queen Anne.
Now Queen Anne is famous for, among other things, lovingly and patiently uniting England and Scotland (sorry Braveheart fans). So, it comes down to a battle between a nation builder and a fish. We are going to side with the Queen on this one.
While we like the alliteration of Cape Cod it’s not enough to win the day. We think that had the species been a little cooler Cape Cod may have had a better shot. Something like Cape Hammerhead or Cape Mako may have done the trick. But as it stands the advantage in this critical category clearly goes to Cape Ann.
It’s been said that the original is better than a copy. It’s why art is so expensive and why no one watches the 2015 remake of the Reeves-Swayze masterpiece, Point Break.
The same holds true when it comes to fried clams. It’s not very well-known outside the north shore, but Cape Ann is actually the birthplace of the fried clam.
The story goes as follows: At the suggestion of a friend on July 3rd 1916, Woodman’s of Essex, founder Lawrence “Chubby” Woodman made the world’s first fried clam. Since then, Woodman’s has remained the gold standard for this fried seafood deliciousness in New England.
They also make a mean lobster roll, but we digress.
Now we’re not knocking Cape Codders’ fried clam prowess. Cape Cod certainly has its fair share of classic clam shacks including Arnold’s in Eastham, Sesuit Harbor Café in Dennis, Lobster Pot in Provincetown and Cobie Clam Shack in Breweter. But the OG Fried clam comes from Cape Ann and Cape Ann alone and authenticity matters.
The trip up to Cape Ann is worth it just to experience the OG fried clam and take a bite of history.
Now we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention a few of the myriad other clam shacks spread across the north shore including JT Farnham’s in Essex, The Clam Box in Ipswich, Lobsta Land in Gloucester, as well as Roy Moore’s & Lobster Pool in Rockport. They are all fantastic spots to get your fried clam fix.
Ok so it’s a Friday in July and the weekend is looking beautiful. Bluebird skies, a light breeze, hot but not oppressive. A perfect weekend to enjoy catch some rays and get a healthy dose of that vitamin sea.
You’re thinking I’ve rearranged my meetings, caught up on my email, and I’m going to cut out early and head for Cape Cod. Karen will be none the wiser. The only problem is that you and everyone else in Massachusetts had the same idea.
That’s because every Summer weekend the Bourne & Sagamore Bridges become a massive bottleneck for the droves of beleaguered beachcombers barreling toward the Cape like Tulip buyers in the Netherlands circa 1636 who found a new hook up.
Enjoy wasting away your Friday afternoon in a traffic jam listening to Glenn Ordway yammer on about the plight of your beloved Red Sox who have somehow found a way tank again. You could have avoided this plight had you decided to head up to Cape Ann. Compared to Cape Cod it is still a hidden gem and therefore you will not have to contend with the monumental levels of traffic but you will still be able to enjoy world class beaches on a beautiful summer day.
Of course, no matter which Cape you choose, we recommend taking Friday off and heading out to your destination in the morning. It should be your best chance of keeping your blood pressure in the optimal zone.
It is at this point in the article that we urge the reader to take a brief intermission.
We find that 1,000 words in is the perfect time to take stock of the foregoing prose, decide whether it is of any value to you and whether you should bother reading on at all. Let’s face it you probably have better things to do with your time.
We know that this Cape Cod vs Cape Ann rivalry can be infuriating. Deep breaths. Those who are still with us, let’s forge forth into the abyss.
“Y’know, the thing about a shark, he’s got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes. When he comes after ya, he doesn’t seem to be livin’ until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white, and then – aww, then you hear that terrible high-pitch screamin’, the ocean turns red.” – Quint, Jaws.
We have found movies like Jaws, Finding Nemo, Deep Blue Sea and Sharknado quite instructive. They have correctly taught us that sharks are evil (or at least really mad dolphins) and should be viewed with intense fear and scorn.
Interestingly, Jaws was filmed off Cape Cod in Menemsha on Vineyard Sound. These days that seems like a fitting location for the quintessential movie about the psychology of sharks.
Over the last decade, there have been more shark sightings than ever off Cape Cod and in 2018 the Cape saw its first fatal attack since 1936.
The problem has become so serious that the Cape that the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy and Division of Marine fisheries has piloted a new app called Sharktivity that allows for rapid communication between beachgoers, boaters lifeguards about sharks that are in the area.
While we can’t promise that you won’t have any run-ins with sea creatures on Cape Ann, we can promise you that your odds are decidedly better than if you visit the other cape.
One of the best parts about Cape Ann is the variety of world class beaches within close proximity to each other. In Gloucester you have Wingaersheek and Good Harbor, in Manchester you have Singing Beach, in Rockport you have Cape Hedge and Long Beach and in Ipswich you have Crane Beach. And, this is just scratching the surface!
The great thing about the Cape Ann beaches is that they are all in reasonably close proximity to one another. Too crowded at Good Harbor? No worries, drive 90 seconds down the road to Long Beach.
Cape Cod certainly has its fair share of great beaches as well. From Race Point Beach in Provincetown to Nauset Beach in Orleans, Cahoon Hollow in Wellfleet and Old Silver in Falmouth there is a beach for every taste and activity.
But the thing about Cape Cod is that it is so spread out. From Falmouth to Provincetown is 68 miles, that’s about a 90 minute drive. For context, a 90 minute drive from Gloucester would put you past Worcester or in Kennebunkport, Maine.
We just think that once you land in your vacation destination you shouldn’t have to drive halfway across the state to explore the local “Cape” beaches, especially after spending hours in traffic to get onto the other cape.
Cape Ann is home to one of the first art colonies in the United States. Drawn by the beautiful landscape and alluring light, artists flocked to the Rockport coastline to paint outside, en plein air.
By the early 1900’s many artists spent their summers in Rockport Studios. Talented painters such as Edward Hopper, Winslow Homer and Childe Hassam all found inspiration for their work on Cape Ann.
In 1921 the Rockport Art Association was formed to support the local arts and today it serves as a wonderful museum and showcase of talented local artists. In Rockport alone there are over 30 galleries showcasing the works of over 400 artists.
Some of our favorite galleries can be found here: Top 7 Art Galleries in Rockport
In addition to the galleries in Rockport, art lovers can also visit Rocky Neck Art Colony and take a tour of the Rocky Neck Historic Art Trail. For more than 150 years Rocky Neck has served as an enclave and inspiration for painters, poets and visionaries and you can follow in their footsteps, visiting 15 different sites. Learn more.
Follow in the footsteps of the greats like Fitz Henry Lane, August Buhler, Frank Duveneck, and Edward Hopper.
Like Cape Ann, Cape Cod has an historic art colony. After the arrival of the railroad, Provincetown became more accessible and the Provincetown Art Colony was formed in the Summer of 1899. Famous visitors included Jackson Pollock in 1944, Milton Avery in 1958 and Franz Kline in the 1950’s.
But Cape Cod does not have Motif#1, one of the most photographed, painted, and inspiring subjects in history. We think that Motif paired with the rich art history of Rockport tips the scales in Cape Ann’s favor.
It’s no surprise that one of the favorite activities on both Capes is fishing. The New England coastline and the rivers and estuaries provide some incredible opportunities to relax, unwind and cast a line.
But fishing on Cape Ann is still a way of life. From the Lobstermen in Rockport to the commercial docks in Gloucester the industry is still a significant revenue generator for the local economy.
Established in 1623, Gloucester is actually America’s oldest fishing port. Home of Captain Courageous, the Perfect Storm and the Fisherman’s Memorial, no one takes fishing more seriously.
Cape Ann is also home to the Wicked Tuna fishermen. With home ports for a number of the vessels located right in town at the Cape Ann Marina: https://capeannmarina.com/resort/things-to-do/wicked-tuna/
So if you are looking to visit an authentic, working New England fishing port, the north shore is the place to visit. You can even belly up to the bar at Crow’s Nest in Gloucester, the original bar from the Perfect Storm.
Let’s face it, George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg didn’t film down on Cape Cod.
Take a spin down to Cape Cod in the winter and you’ll think that you are in an actual ghost town. The beaches are desolate and the streets and motels are empty, except for some locals taking advantage of long-term rentals.
The north shore, by contrast, has more infrastructure and activities available throughout the year.
From Christmas shopping in the adorable village of Rockport to world class performances at the strikingly beautiful the Shalin Liu Performance Center, exhibits at the Cape Ann Museum, tours of Hammond Castle, and incredible First Night Celebrations. Cape Ann really stays alive much later into the winter.
Just a short drive from Cape Ann you can explore the Witch City of Salem, Massachusetts, Visit the Peabody Essex Museum, take in a concert at Beverly’s historic Cabot Theatre or take a stroll on the Essex Antique Trail.
There is so much to explore on the north shore even after old man winter grips the region. Cape Cod, by contrast, is an eerie shell of its former self that makes you want to run far far away as quickly as you can.
If you love antiquing you will love Cape Ann. The coastal town of Essex, Massachusetts is known as America’s Antique Capital.
With an incredible variety of shops all housed in close proximity in beautiful 18th and 19th century homes it’s a great undertaking.
There is truly something for every collector and every budget. On The Essex Antique Trail you can find everything from 17th century marine artwork to authentic Queen Anne furniture, to Native American jewelry, midcentury modern pieces, and even some rare vinyl to add to your collection.
Taking a day to stroll through Essex and neighboring Ipswich to hunt for hidden treasures is always a fun undertaking.
After you make your glorious find you can celebrate with a delicious meal at Woodman’s, The Village Restaurant or perhaps enjoy a microbrew at the newly opened Great Marsh Brewery.
If you are looking for a quintessential New England afternoon take a stroll on Rockport’s Bearskin Neck.
A neck that juts out into Atlantic at the tip of Cape Ann, Bearskin Neck features a mix of eclectic shops, art galleries, restaurants, clam shacks, candy stores, and adorable ice cream stands.
You can take a stroll down to the end of the neck and scuttle out along the rocks of the Jetty that overlooks Rockport Harbor. It’s also a fantastic location for some spectacular photos.
All of the shop owners and artists are incredibly welcoming and happy to discuss their work with you and point you in the right direction.
Of course, when hunger hits there are some fantastic spots like Roy Moore’s, Salty’s and Blue Lobster where you can get your fix with of oysters, lobster rolls, fried clams and more. And, the Ice Cream Store on Bearskin Neck has to be in the running for the most adorable ice cream shop in New England.
There are many coastal villages in New England that are incredibly special such as Kennebunkport, Newburyport, Newport and Provincetown. But Rockport has that Yankee authenticity that harkens back to an earlier, simpler time. That’s something we could use a little more of these days.
Cape Ann is better than Cape Cod. That is the thesis that we presented at the outset of this journey. We are confident that we have proffered sufficient evidence to meet our burden of proof.
To recap, Cape Cod = common fish, traffic jams, shark infested waters, inconvenient travel, overcrowded beaches, and overpriced accommodations.
I rest my case.