Walk Into History on the Gloucester Maritime Trail
In an effort to organize and explain many aspects of Gloucester Heritage to visitors, the Gloucester Tourism Commission, with assistance from the National Park Service, created the Gloucester Maritime Trial. The Maritime Trail is actually a series of 4 short trails, and is a great way to see and learn about Gloucester. You could walk them all in one day. Originally the Trail was marked by a red line along the sidewalks. Over the years it was decided not to repaint the line (you may see faded remnants of it in some areas), but in 2008 there are a series of new signs marking the trail. In cooperation with the Gloucester Tourism Commission, we are presenting you with the actual Trail maps right here. You can print this article our and use it, or pick up a Trail map at the Gloucester Visitors Welcoming Center at Stage Fort Park, which is the first point on the trail. In addition to providing you with the trail map, we are also adding some of our own local knowledge that you'll also find useful in walking the Trail.
Stage Fort Park and Stacy Boulevard - Stage For Park is historically important, but is also a great place to walk around and admire the beauty of the harbor. The Welcoming Center is here, two beaches, picnic areas, a gazebo where concerts are performed Sunday nights in summer, and a fabulous playground for kids, restrooms and a restaurant adjacent to one of the beaches. But first, some background:
Just as it says on this sign that welcomes you at the Route 128 traffic rotary, Gloucester is America's oldest and original seaport. In 1623, only three years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, a splinter group searching for favorable fishing grounds found Gloucester Harbor. The early settlers had to rely on farming, hunting, and fishing for survival. Here they found a sheltered, deep water port — a safe place to keep a large vessel, even in harsh winter storms. It is also located within a day's sail of George's Bank, one of the richest fishing grounds ever known. In later years, fishermen were heard to say that the water was so thick with fish you could simply reach down and scoop them out with your hand. With these natural advantages, Gloucester soon became America's premier fishing port. The settlers erected what we called fishing "stages", where fish were laid out to dry, and the park later became a fort in the Revolutionary War, and the remnants of cannons are still here, thus the name of the park is a combination of two important uses in history.
Trip Tips: Stage Fort Park has a large parking lot with a fee for non residents. You can park free for a few minutes at the Welcoming Center, but that's just for stopping in to pick up brochures. You're going to want to park for a couple of hours or more. If you don't want to pay to park, try finding a spot on Route 127 near the park entrance, or along Stacy Boulevard in the area around the Fisherman Statue, which is non metered. Wear comfortable shoes, definitely bring a camera and light jacket unless it's a hot day, the ocean breeze can be cool. Stacy Boulevard is a great place just to walk, sit and admire the view, and you will want to come back at night or another time just to enjoy being there. Downtown Gloucester is just beyond Stacy Boulevard and is the second walk on the trail, so keep right on going after the Fisherman Statue. Follow the road left, then right down to St. Peter's Park, or walk straight along Monument Beach (at the end of Stacy Boulevard) and then walk left at the large open space on the left. This takes you to the Chamber of Commerce building and St. Peter's Park, just across Commercial Street, where the next trail begins. For directions to Stage Fort Park from your inn or hotel, click here.
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