It really is one of the Baystate’s hidden gems. And we’re not talking about a golf course here. This is about the town Essex, MA – a mecca for antique shopping and seafood lovers.
Oh, and there’s golf for the taking too.
The Essex River, home to the best clam flats in the world (the very first fried clam was cooked here), forms the contours of this tourist town. The ‘River’ has also played a significant role in shaping the history of Essex.
Shipbuilding was the primary industry in Essex, as attested to by the construction of over 4,000 schooners. Many of the schooners built in Essex were constructed for its neighbor, Gloucester.
Essex still maintains the unique nautical feel from its ship building heritage. Today, Essex attracts thousands of visitors to its many antique and specialty shops, fine dining establishments and beautiful scenery.
The dozen or so restaurants of Essex serve probably the finest seafood in the entire world. Plus a trip to Essex isn’t just about food. It’s one of the most picturesque towns in all of America. There are also dozens of antique shops, a nautical museum, and boating on the Essex River.
But the perfect day starts with golf, naturally, at Essex’s own Cape Ann Golf Course and winds up with dinner at one of the many local restaurants.
Golf With a View
Cape Ann Golf Course, with its real estate overlooking the tidal marshes of the Essex River, offers nine holes of outstanding views.
In particular, from the 4th tee box there’s a panorama that stretches from Cranes Castle in Ipswich, across Essex Bay, all the way to Gloucester. It may be one of the most picturesque views in on the east coat.
Aside from the surroundings, it’s a challenging, neat 9-hole layout with a decent price point – $26 for 9 holes, extra $11 for cart.
After your round take in the many sights and antique shops that make up this picturesque New England town. History may be at your fingertips with bygone treasures just waiting for your discovery. From novice shoppers to expert collectors, the variety of items and shops make Essex an antique paradise.
New England Seafood
A trip to Essex isn’t complete without a sampling of the fried clams.
Woodman’s of Essex has been serving fried clams for over 100 years (they claim to have invented the succulent delicacy).
The Woodman family (now in its fifth generation) still serves up hearty portions of award-winning seafood to generations of loyal customers. The informal setting of this one-time roadside stand adds to the delight of enjoying New England seafood at its best.
Another excellent restaurant is the Village Restaurant. This family-run establishment has fantastic seafood dishes that are moderately priced. It’s worth the trip just to see the nautical artwork hanging all around restaurant and lounge. Hint – you’ll see plenty of locals dining here.
If you’d prefer fine dining then pay a visit to Shea’s Riverside Restaurant and Bar. Overlooking the Essex River and marina, Shea’s has excellent seafood, steaks, and a nice wine selection.
Need more picks? Give Periwinkles a try. With reasonably priced entrees, panoramic river views, and scrumptious seafood, this may be one of the best dining values in the area. Don’t miss the award winning clam chowder or one of their famous frozen Margaritas.
Other restaurants are the Blue Marlin Grille, J.T. Farnham’s Seafood & Grill, and the Windward Grille. They’re all winners.
So hurry up. Make those plans. Then slow down and enjoy. Because a day in this quiet, picturesque town is what summer in New England is all about.
Cape Ann Golf Club
Route 133, Essex, MA
Vitals: 9 holes, par 34, 2,900 yards (mid)
Rating/Slope: 67.2/110 (mid)