From Salem, follow Route 1A across the bridge to Beverly, pick up Route 127, and take it through Manchester-by-the-Sea (near, not on, the water) to Gloucester. From Boston, the quickest path is I-93 or Route 1 to Route 128, which runs directly to Gloucester. Use exit 14 and follow Route 133 east to go straight to the Stage Fort Park visitor center. Route 128 is mostly inland; to take in more scenery, leave Route 128 at Manchester and continue to Gloucester on Route 127. There's street parking (metered and not), and a free lot on the causeway to Rocky Neck.
The commuter rail (tel. 617/222-3200; www.mbta.com) runs from Boston's North Station. The trip takes about an hour; the round-trip fare is $15. The station is about 8 blocks from the waterfront area. The Cape Ann Transportation Authority, or CATA (tel. 978/283-7916; www.canntran.com), runs buses from town to town on Cape Ann and operates special routes during the summer (except Sun).
The city's Visitors Welcoming Center (tel. 800/649-6839 or 978/281-8865; www.gloucesterma.com) is at Stage Fort Park, off Route 127 at Route 133. It's open during the summer daily from 9am to 5pm; closed in winter. The Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, 33 Commercial St., Gloucester, MA 01930 (tel. 978/283-1601; www.capeannvacations.com), is open year-round (summer Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 10am-4pm; winter Mon-Fri 9am-5pm). At either place, the helpful staff can offer insider tips and advice; be sure to grab a free copy of the annual Cape Ann Guide. For an entertaining look at the city through the eyes of a lobster dealer, visit www.goodmorninggloucester.com.
Gloucester holds festivals and street fairs on weekends throughout the summer. Check in advance to find out what's up when you'll be in town. The best-known event is St. Peter's Fiesta, a colorful 4-day celebration at the end of June. The Italian-American fishing colony's festival has more in common with a carnival midway than a religious observation, but it's great fun. There are parades, games, music, food, sporting events, and, on Sunday, the blessing of the fleet. The Schooner Festival, a floating party with plenty of land-based revelry, including fireworks, takes place over Labor Day weekend.
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.