The scenic route to Cape Ann from points south is Route 127, which runs through Manchester-by-the-Sea, an enchanting village incorporated in 1645. Now a prosperous suburb, it was the setting for the 2016 film Manchester By The Sea. It’s known for Singing Beach. Commuter trains from Boston ($10 one-way) stop in the center of the compact downtown area, where there are shops and restaurants. Nearby Masconomo Park overlooks the harbor.

The home of the Manchester Historical Museum is the Trask House, 10 Union St. (tel. 978/526-7230), where Abigail Trask ran a general store and millinery in the early 1800s. Tours ($5 suggested donation) show off the period furnishings and artifacts from the town’s maritime history. The museum also operates the Seaside No. 1 Fire House Museum, which holds two antique engines and memorabilia of the town fire and police departments. Both buildings are open Saturdays in July and August from 10am to 1pm (with additional winter hours for the Trask House), and by appointment. The museum also has information on three self-guided walking tours around town.

Early Birds Get . . . a Spot at the Beach 

Cape Ann is almost as well known for its sandy swimming beaches as it is for its rocky coastline. Keep in mind that the water is cold and that parking can be scarce, especially on weekends. If you can’t set out before breakfast, wait until midafternoon and hope that the early birds have begun to clear out. During the summer, lifeguards are on duty from 9am to 5pm at larger public beaches. Keep the tide schedules in mind since high tide can seriously shrink available towel space. Many beaches post tide schedules, parking updates, and insect info on Twitter. The beaches listed here all have bathhouses and snack bars. Parking can cost up to $30.

The best-known North Shore beach is Singing Beach (tel. 978/526-7276), in Manchester-by-the-Sea, off Masconomo Street. Because it’s so accessible by commuter rail, it attracts a diverse array of beach bunnies up from Boston. From the train station, walk half a mile on Beach Street to find squeaky sand (which gives the beach its name) and lively surf. It costs $7 per person to walk on, cash only.

Nearly as popular is Crane Beach (tel. 978/356-4354), in Ipswich, off Argilla Road. It’s part of a 1,200-acre barrier beach reservation, with fragile dunes and a white-sand beach leading down to Ipswich Bay. The chilly surf is calmer than that at less sheltered Singing Beach. Also on Ipswich Bay is Gloucester’s Wingaersheek Beach (tel. 978/325-5600), on Atlantic Street off Route 133. (Take exit 13 off Route 128). Wingaersheek has beautiful white sand and a glorious view.

Most other good beaches in Gloucester have almost no nonresident parking. Two exceptions are Half Moon Beach and Cressy’s Beach, at Stage Fort Park, off Route 127 near Route 133 and downtown. The sandy beaches and the park snack bar are popular local hangouts.

Whether you’re swimming or not, watch out for greenhead flies in July and August. They take little bites of flesh and are miserable company. Bring insect repellent.

Exploring Essex 

West of Gloucester on Route 133 lies a beautiful little town known for Essex clams, salt marshes, a long tradition of shipbuilding, a plethora of antiques shops, and one celebrated restaurant, Woodman’s of Essex.

Water views here are of the Essex River, a saltwater estuary. The offerings of Essex River Cruises, Essex Marina, 35 Dodge St. (tel. 978/768-6981) include narrated 90-minute tours of the salt marshes that put you in prime birding territory. They run daily mid-May through mid-October. The pontoon boat, which allows for excellent sightseeing, is screened and has restrooms. Tickets cost $26 adults, $24 seniors, $14 children 4 to 12; reservations are suggested.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.