IDEAL NEW ENGLAND GETAWAY ~ Emerson Inn by the Sea
Seeking an escape from heat and humidity to an oasis of calm where sea breezes keep you comfortable during the day and refresh you at night, we went to the Emerson Inn By The Sea in Rockport, Massachusetts for a 3-day retreat from big-city life. By the end of the first afternoon, I was already mellow and felt at least 5 years younger (!) The sea always soothes my soul, and the historic Emerson Inn By The Sea — under new ownership and beautifully renovated to complement its magnificent setting on Cape Ann’s Pigeon Cove Harbor along the north shore of Boston — offers the perfect ambiance for relaxation and rejuvenation along with an unforgettable view, superb hospitality and memorable food.
What else is special about the Emerson Inn By The Sea? Why the name of course! The story goes that Ralph Waldo Emerson, while walking with his good friend Henry David Thoreau along the Cape Ann coast, was so inspired by the beauty of Pigeon Cove that he brought his family several times to vacation at what is now the Emerson Inn By The Sea. Throughout the years since Emerson visited, the room which Emerson occupied – Room 207 — has been considered sacred, as many guests have requested to stay in it, perhaps hoping to derive inspiration from Emerson’s lingering creative spirit. In 2015 when the Inn was purchased by the Migis Group, the new owners infused the spirit of Emerson into their renovations, enhancing the same vista which attracted Emerson to the property as well as providing the ideal ambiance for Emersonian introspection. Of course, Room 207 is still a favorite among guests.
Imagine entering this 19th century inn from the Atlantic side of the property, you find yourself in a spacious sunny hallway connecting the expansive ocean-side deck with the cozy front porch, both with the iconic New England rocking chairs inviting you to sit, stop and enjoy the view. Comfy armchairs along with parlor tables and chairs await you in the grand parlor with its magnificent winding staircase and sweeping views of the Atlantic. The parlor also features the first full-service bar opened in Rockport after the repeal of the town’s infamous prohibition law, enacted in 1856 and enforced except for a brief respite in 1933 until 2005. Paintings by local Cape Ann artists (trident.gallery/artists) enhance the decor of the salon and dining room, and soothing music plays quietly in the background. Colors harmonize with the sea and nature, and an outdoor pool overlooks the Atlantic, all helping you to shed your stress and restore your inner harmony.
Perhaps the most spectacular feature of the recent Emerson Inn renovation is the treatment of light. Minimalistic window treatments allow light to pour in from the many windows and glass doors throughout the Inn, from the common rooms on the main floor to the bedrooms throughout the top floors, offering you stunning views of the sea for as far as your eye can see.
Spectacular ocean-side dining, either in the charming dining room or al fresco on the deck, is a prominent feature of the Emerson Inn’s popular Pigeon Cove Tavern restaurant. Open to the public as well as catering to the guests of the Inn, the restaurant features a carefully curated wine list, craft beers, and an American bistro farm-to-table style menu created by the North Shore’s popular Executive Chef, Doug Papows.
Among other dishes we enjoyed, Papows’ lamb chops — marinated in citrus, garlic, rosemary and olive oil, and drizzled with a citrus and dill yogurt sauce – were quite simply the best I have ever had. Sourced from a nearby farm in New Hampshire, the large yet very tender chops were served with house-made spinach gnocchi along with braised fennel and caramelized onions and cherry Heirloom tomatoes. Divine with a glass of Malbec.
My husband enjoyed a very flavorful and perfectly cooked Steak Frites dinner with a favorite Beaujolais.
For dinner the second night at Pigeon Cove Tavern we chose the Salmon and Chicken entrees, each cooked along with their accoutrements to perfection and perfectly paired with a dry Chardonnay.
Breakfast at the Emerson Inn is a beautiful buffet with a menu that changes daily and includes many Emerson Inn favorites. Prepared by Chef Gail MacDonald, breakfast features a variety of delicious options including freshly baked pastries. Gail is devoted to pleasing her customers, so if you want something that is not offered at the buffet, you need only to ask your server and Gail will happily prepare you a breakfast to your specifications. The dining room is scheduled to open for lunch as well in the coming year.
And remember … either outside on the deck, or inside the dining room, your table at Pigeon Cove Tavern offers you a glorious view that will feed your soul as you savor and enjoy all that superb food!
Just outside the entrance to Pigeon Cove Tavern is the Inn’s bar. Besides its ocean-view location and excellent selection of the Tavern’s wines and craft beers, the bar features creative cocktails prepared by Bartender Franz from 3pm onward throughout the evening. Franz will also serve you some chilled oysters or anything else you desire from the restaurant’s fine selection of “Starters” or platters for “Sharing”, from which I enthusiastically recommend the awesome Artisanal Cheese selection with house made preserves or the Sasquatch sampler of Smoked Fish with mustards and house pickles.
In this high-tech do-it-yourself era, you will be treated to old-fashioned hospitality by the staff at the Emerson Inn By The Sea. We really enjoyed their friendly service and efforts to respond to all our needs which creates the kind of warm environment that inspires you to return again and again. Of course, modernity has its rightful place as well. The 36 rooms of the Inn have been renovated and furnished to be as cozy and comfy as possible, each with wide-screen TVs, individual AC units and the ideal combination of artificial and natural lighting in the bathrooms as well as a top-notch hairdryer with an outlet for use right by the mirror. Excellent WI-FI is available in the rooms and throughout the Inn. The Emerson offers six categories of rooms and is open year-round with seasonal pricing. Chef MacDonald’s delicious hot breakfast is included in the price of your room.
So la vida e Bella at Emerson Inn By The Sea, but we were also enchanted by Cape Ann and in particular, the very charming and beautifully maintained historic town of Rockport, just a little more than 1 mile from the Inn. There is a myriad of boating and water sports, adventure sports, hiking trails, gorgeous vistas, art galleries, shops, restaurants, and so on to explore in Rockport and surrounding communities on Cape Ann. Here are a few things we did and places we visited that I highly recommend…
Watch a Sailing Regatta on a beautiful sunny day
Take a Walking tour of Rockport’s Cultural District. Hour-long free walking tour departs 10am from Dock Square every day in July and August, and weekend in Spring and Fall. Our tour was expertly led by Peggy Coonley ( Serendipity Traveler ), a 30-year resident of Rockport who seems to know most everybody in the town.
Go see Motif #1. If you don’t go on the Rockport Walking Tour which includes a visit to the Motif, be sure to go take a look at the town’s iconic Motif #1 … a red fishing shack on Bradley Wharf considered to be the most frequently painted building in America.
Eat lunch or dinner at My Place by the Sea. Owners Chef Kathy and Colleague Barbara offer superb New American cuisine with a European twist. Specializing in fresh, local seafood, the restaurant features breath-taking views both indoors and out, with multiple levels of seating outside. At the tip of Bearskin Neck. Reserve at noon the day you plan to go.
Whale Watching: If you are an animal-lover like me, this is a must do. I recommend a tour with either 7 Seas or Captain Bill and Sons out of Gloucester. We had the thrill of at least 30 sightings, including a Humpback mother and calf, several Finback whales – the second largest animal on the planet after the Blue whale – and many other Humpbacks, some of whom our Naturalist on board narrating the tour recognized by name, thanks to the natural markings on the underside of the tail flukes which she likened to human fingerprints. We also had several sightings of a pair of Basking sharks. This species is the second largest fish after the Whale shark and eats only plankton.
Shalin Liu Performance Center: Renowned for its “perfect” acoustics and glass wall backdrop showcasing a breathtaking view of the ocean, this strikingly beautiful theater features more than 100 concerts per year, almost all of which play to a full house, including a diverse series of classical, jazz, pop & folk concerts.
Rockport Art Galleries & Shops: There are many in this bustling little town. Here are a few of my favorites from among those I saw … George Anderson Gallery which also features the work of Scott Tubby, Ken Knowles Fine Art, The White Seagull Gallery, DeLouise Studio, Cynthia Curtis Pottery, The Art of David Arsenault, The Fudgery – try the triple chocolate fudge, Tuck’s Candy Shop for a wide selection of traditional homemade candy and many all-time favorites, The Ice Cream Store in the old fishing shack at 14 Bearskin Neck – try the Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffle, La Provence for a beautiful selection of products from Provence and the Côte d’Azur, The Paper Mermaid for a charming collection of children’s gifts and books as well as gifts cards illustrated by the talented illustrator/owner Mary Faino who also illustrated the ideal souvenir book for children, “a day in Rockport” on sale at her shop.
If you are looking for an ideal New England getaway with the ultimate in relaxation and enjoyment, the Emerson Inn By The Sea, with its extraordinary view, hospitality and cuisine, is notably Cape Ann’s only historic, grand hotel. “Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air” (Emerson, Merlin’s Song).
Stay tuned to BonVoyageurs.com for our writings about other Countries of the World as we share our joie de vivre from around the world. Luxury escapes, cruises and city breaks to Quebec City, New York, Washington, Buenos Aires. In Europe and the Mediterranean, places like Paris and Nice in France, Florence, Rome, Napoli and the Amalfi Coast in Italy, Tel Aviv in Israel. In Asia, countries like China, India, Nepal and so much more!