Folly Cove is the quintessential Cape Ann lunch stop. It may not be as dramatic as Brace Cove; certainly the entrance is less exhilarating. But while Brace Cove is ringed by beach and surrounded by the low flat terrain of Eastern Point, Folly Cove is all Cape Ann granite.
Halibut Point to the east and Folly Point to the west are high and steep, lending a sense of protection to the cove. The region’s history as a granite quarry, from the early 1800s though the early 1900s, has left the point surrounded by thousands of irregularly shaped waste blocks. They make a strangely attractive addition to the natural landscape.
With its location halfway between Annisquam and Rockport, Folly Cove is a convenient stop on most Cape Ann itineraries.
The massive grout pile at the tip of Halibut Point is an accumulation of years of quarry rubble.
The entrance to Folly Cove is unmarked, but it’s also free of hazards. If you head down the middle and don’t hit the side walls, you’ll be clear. We usually favor the right-hand (western) side, both because it’s closer to the best anchorage, and to avoid the little shallow spot off the stone wharf in the south east corner.
Sailing around Halibut Point can be a little disorienting, since the adjacent points and coves all have a similar rocky appearance. Adding to the confusion, most paper charts still show the flashing green “1AHP” buoy about a half mile north of Halibut Point. The buoy was removed at least as far back as 2007, and as of 2009 no longer appears on current NOAA raster charts. Taking a bearing or two on the observation tower can help distinguish one granite headland from the next.
Folly Cove is a popular spot for divers. It’s an unusual visit if you don’t see a dive boat or two, as well as individual divers with their small personal buoys working off the beach.
Folly Cove is exposed from the west to the north and all the way around to the east, so it’s unsuitable as an overnight anchorage. In summer southerlies, it makes an appealing and typically popular lunch stop.
The outer portion of the cove is a little deep (50 – 60 feet) to anchor comfortably. As you work in closer towards the beach in the southwest corner, the depths drop off, somewhat quickly, down to the 20s. There is room for a half dozen or so keelboats to swing.
Hoop Pole Cove
To the east of Halibut Point, Hoop Pole Cove looks on the chart like an intriguing alternative to Folly Cove. The name alone invites a visit. From the water, though, it’s far less of a cove than the chart suggests. The bottom slopes up shallow enough to make anchoring feasible, and the Cape provides a nice lee in a southwesterly, but otherwise Hoop Pole is completely exposed.
The old observation tower on Halibut Point is easy to identify both on the chart and on the shore.
Not for navigation. Charts are not updated.
Most cruising sailors who stop in Folly Cove anchor for lunch and maybe a swim. There isn’t much civilization ashore, but if you’ve got an extra hour or two, there are a handful of reasons to get the dinghy going.
At the head of the cove is a town beach. It’s small, hemmed in by the road and has no facilities. But if you need to get the kids off the boat for an hour, it’s got the indispensable attribute — sand.
In the cove’s southeast corner is the Lobster Pool, a classic waterfront seafood shack that feels like a throwback to the 1950s. That’s a recommendation. Clams, lobsters, chowders, and fried seafood platters are all served on picnic tables indoors or on the lawn overlooking the cove.
With a bit more time and ambition, you can walk about a mile to Halibut Point State Park. There’s a self-guided walking tour of the old quarry and a worthwhile little museum on the history of Cape Ann’s granite industry.
Looking north over the old quarry on Halibut Point.
Stone carving, Halibut Point State Park.
One Hour Ashore
Lunch at the Lobster Pool would make for a well-executed cruising day.
The Rockport harbormasters have this link to an article from the late 1800s describing construction of the since-aborted Sandy Bay breakwater. A whole lot of Halibut Point got laboriously dumped into Sandy Bay to no good purpose.
Most sailors would prefer to sit out bad weather in Rockport or Gloucester.
You can dinghy in to the beach. Otherwise there are sloping rocks between the Lobster Pool and the granite bulkhead to its east where you could pull a dinghy up. With the right sea-state, you could drop crew members off directly on the rocks on Halibut Point.
The Lobster Pool has restrooms for patrons. There are also restrooms at the state park.
Folly Cove has no facilities, supplies or services.