Massachusetts : Safety by City
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“Gloucester. They’re always from Gloucester.”
Those words from the 2000 movie The Perfect Storm summed up the rugged nature and tough-spirited fisherman from Gloucester, Massachusetts.
This Cape Ann community of 30,000 people swells two to three times higher during the busy tourism months before Memorial Day and Labor Day.
However, the city doesn’t hang its hat on just tourism dollars.
Fishing, shipping, marine conservation and research are also big businesses too.
To get into the spirit for a trip to Gloucester (“Glaa-str,” but with the Massachusetts accent, it will sound more like “GLOSS-tuh,” as pronounced Rs are hard to come by), watch the National Geographic series, Wicked Tuna.
You’ll see that this isn’t fishing on your grandpa’s pond.
It’s tough work in dangerous conditions and, at times, freezing temperatures and water.
This active seaport is filled with some of the best seafood you’ll find, along with the “Bread of the Fisherman” that will make you forget about carb counting.
The Gorton’s Fisherman icon is from a Gloucester business.
Gloucester is a fun and safe town to visit, but the Gloucester Fisherman’s memorial and Fishmeran’s Wives Memorial serve as a solemn reminder of the sacrifices made to keep this community flush since 1623.
Warnings & Dangers in Gloucester
OVERALL RISK: LOW
Gloucester might seem like a roughneck town, but it's a safe community by crime standards. The real risks await in the water if you're not careful. It's also a unique experience you shouldn't miss if you have the chance.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
Cape Ann Transit Authority has fixed-route bus service through Glocester and the surrounding cities, going as far west as the North Shore Mall in Peabody. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MTBA) offers train service to Boston. Summer ferries are available too. Taxis and rideshares are easy to find. Car rentals are also available.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
Four pickpockets were reported in 2021, on top of a theft rate that is 1/3 of the national average. The risk is low, but don't let that make you be lax with personal safety measures.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
Gloucester faces the ocean on the north and south and has water carving a path right through the center. The risks of flooding are high during inclement weather. Hurricane season brings the potential for hurricanes or tropical storms while overlapping with Nor'easter season, which runs through May. Heavy snow and wicked winds can stress the infrastructure of the city, causing power outages. This is a medium risk, but if a storm is approaching, treat it as a high risk.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
Gloucester averages about five robberies a year since 2011, but just two were reported in 2021. Just eight were reported in the three years before that. The risk is low, but don't turn your back on the sea, or else you might be robbed of your belongings left lying around.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
Lone wolf attacks are the biggest concern in America in 2023. There's no reason to think a small fishing town would be a better target than a larger city like Boston, but always be aware of suspicious activity and report it. The risk here is low, and there are far bigger threats in the water.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
Gloucester has faced scams involving people posing as police officers over the phone and demanding money. Rental scams should be avoided by using the local Chamber of Commerce to find rentals if you aren't going directly through a hotel or inn. Avoid third-party websites like Craigslist, and even sites like Airbnb or VRBO don't mean you should let down your guard.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
The risk for women is low, like any other visitor. However, if you think this is a quaint, charming fishing village, you're thinking of Hyannis - not Gloucester. This is a great working seaport, but it's rough-and-tumble sometimes with friendly but blunt people.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
Gloucester's 2021 Annual Water Quality report shows full compliance and no violations. If you're looking for beach water quality, that's through the Massachusetts Health Department, and those statistics are only available during the summer tourist season.
Safest Places to Visit in Gloucester
DiscoverGloucester.com is the official tourism website for Gloucester.
If you venture outside of that website, please confirm you’re looking at Gloucester, Massachusetts, as even I got lost in New Hampshire or England before finding my way back to the tourism website.
An updated blog gives great information about events in each season.
The city’s website is a great resource for safety information, too.
Start at the Cape Ann Museum downtown to get detailed information about “America’s Oldest Seaport.”
You’ll appreciate the places you see along the way so much more.
A self-guided tour of the Harborwalk is available, with 42 stories told along the way through markers and kiosks.
This does include the Fisherman’s and Fisherman’s Wives memorials.
One of America’s first interior designers lives at Beauport, a historic stone mansion on the harbor.
The home is fully restored and open for tours seasonally.
The rooms are as colorful and unique as the stories of people who frequented this home.
Check out the Essex Heritage website for a full list of historical attractions on the Cape.
Gloucester has a list of tours, from fishing to scenic lighthouse tours to whale watching to ghost tours.
You don’t want to miss the haunted stories of this old seaside town, even if you’re not much of a ghost believer.
The ill-fated Haskell and ghosts that haunted it right back to shore, never to sail again, is one of the most popular stories.
The tour vendors line the harbor, giving you plenty of options, even in high season.
Schooner tours are also one of the most in-demand, so book reservations early.
Five lighthouses can be found between Gloucester and Rockport next door.
Many lighthouses are owned and operated by the Coast Guard, so they won’t be open for tours.
Several can only be enjoyed from a distance, lacking any land passage or dock.
- Dog Bar: Cross the breakwater at low tide to enjoy great panoramic views. Closed to tours.
- Annisquam Harbor Lighthouse: No public access.
- Eastern Point Lighthouse: Closed to the public. You can walk on the nearby breakwater.
- Straitsmouth Lighthouse: Located in Rockport and only accessible by boat. Lighthouse is closed to the public.
- Ten Pound Island Lighthouse: Accessible by boat only, but there’s no dock.
Just to be clear, a breakwater is “a barrier built out into a body of water to protect a coast or harbor from the force of waves.”
They are usually walkable rocky and narrow paths but can partially or fully be covered with water during high tide.
Check out the Cape Ann Marina to see where the Wicked Tuna team docks.
The tourism website has a downloadable map to find the boats.
Winter tourists might get a special treat, as the show is recorded from mid-January until mid-February.
Fans of The Perfect Storm will be happy to know the Crow’s Nest bar made iconic in the movie still stands and doesn’t look much different than it did in 2000.
Don’t take anything from there other than memories.
In 2021, someone stole the photo album with pictures from the movie.
It was returned with a note saying:
“I just wanted to return this. It was taken by a drunk friend, and I do not feel that was right. SORRY.”
Virgilio’s Bakery Deli and Italian Groceria have been feeding people “Bread of the Fisherman” since 1961.
It’s a must-see lunch spot with large portions and great camaraderie.
Places to Avoid in Gloucester
There aren’t dangerous neighborhoods or high-crime areas to avoid.
You can feel safe visiting this community, and you should still use personal safety steps like locking cars and being aware of your surroundings.
Gloucester is a very busy summer town, but many major attractions close down for winter.
The shoulder season of early spring or late fall can be a great time to visit with smaller crowds, but with more places open and beaches still active.
The holidays are vibrant, with an iconic lobster trap Christmas tree.
Since this is an active seaport, you’ll find businesses open downtown, and the Harbor Walk is always open.
Hiking is open throughout the year, and you can visit the Cape Ann Trails Stewards website to get a list of options.
One note on this – there’s a path to the Red Rocks hiking area.
Red Rock(s) is a common name for some U.S. attractions.
Colorado has Red Rocks Amphitheatre, and Las Vegas has Red Rock Canyon.
Avoid going out to sea or near the sea when a storm is approaching.
Storm surge is one of the biggest dangers from tropical storms or Nor’easters.
If you want to see what a storm surge can do, check out the damage from Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers, Florida.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Gloucester
1. Gloucester has its own police force, and there’s a section for the department on the city’s website. However, the department also has its own website, Gloucesterpd.com. They send a clear message on the landing page “Call, email, Tweet, or Facebook us anytime,” so you can ask specific questions 24/7.
2. Several cities or counties in America and abroad are named Glocester. Here are three Facebook page handles you’ll want to follow to weed through some of the potential confusion.
- Gloucester Police Department: @GloucesterPoliceDepartment
- City of Gloucester: @City of Gloucester
- Gloucester Beaches: @Gloubeaches
- Gloucester Dept. of Health (air/water quality): @GloucesterMAHealthDepartment
3. You need to stay informed about potentially dangerous or risky weather approaching, and you can do so by signing up for emergency notifications through the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) website.
4. During the hurricane season, which runs from June through November, you should follow the National Hurricane Center on social media to stay informed about the tropics. Find them on Twitter @NHC_Atlantic and on Facebook @NWSNHC.
5. During the summer of 2022, a woman and her son were paddleboarding when an ebb tide mixed with stiff winds pushed them out to sea. They could not get back to shore, but luckily, the woman’s husband saw this happen and called 911. This is the very reason you should carry a VHF marine radio, which gives a 60-mile range to connect with the Coast Guard.
6. If you want to park at any of the city beaches during your summer visit, you MUST have a reservation through Yodel (yodelpass.com or download the app). Reservations can be made up to 10 days in advance, and no day-of parking will be allowed.
7. Beach parking is open annually from April 1 to October 31, and the gates will be locked from November 1 to March 31. You can still visit the beaches, but you’ll want to be extra cautious because there are no lifeguards on duty or crowds of people to help you if you get into trouble.
8. Harbor Tours, Inc. is a business that will help you bury a loved one at sea. Reservations for trips up to three hours can be made, and the team there will help you plan music, flowers, and ceremony if you’d like. I bring this up because I am one of the people who instruct the executor of my will to spread my ashes on the sea. Reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
9. I cannot stress enough the importance of knowing the tide schedules here. Tide charts are available two years in advance, and the high and low tides happen twice every 24 hours and 50 minutes. As the tide lowers, it’s called an Ebb Tide. When the tide is rising, it’s a Flood Tide. A King Tide is the highest tide of the year and can happen as often as twice a year. You don’t want to be anywhere near the shore when King Tide is coming during a storm. NOAA offers more information about tides and how to check schedules. Download the Tide Alert NOAA app to have the information readily available.
10. Breakwaters are not built as tourist attractions. They are for controlling the power of the sea and allowing ships a safe harbor, even during rough weather. While you can walk on these, there’s no guarantee it’s safe or easy to tackle. Expect a long walk on uneven boulders and slipped rocks prone to ocean spray. Always know how the tide impacts a breakwater. I guarantee you that the Coast Guard would rather answer your questions than rescue you.
So... How Safe Is Gloucester Really?
Gloucester seems to have avoided the surge of violent crime many American cities faced since the pandemic.
While the national average is 396 violent crimes per 100,000 people, Gloucester has a rate of 168 violent crimes per 100,000.
With two robberies, four sexual assaults, and no homicides in 2021, the remaining 44 crimes were aggravated assaults.
Just 14% of those crimes happened against strangers.
50% of violent crimes here happen in homes.
Motor Vehicle thefts were at the highest since 2011, which is another nationwide trend.
However, the raw data shows that 21 cars were stolen, so it’s not an imminent risk.
The end of 2022 saw a rash of car break-ins, mostly due to people who left their cars unlocked or left personal items valuable enough for thieves to break the window.
The weather, beach, and water risks are the main education areas for a first-time tourist.
The people of Glocester are tough, and they’ll stay open through a storm sometimes or scoff at the notion of evacuating.
Do not follow that lead.
Follow all instructions from the city and the guidance of the National Weather Service.
Always wear a life vest when you’re on a kayak, paddleboard, or boat.
The water’s average temperature is 51°(F), with summer waters only reaching 66°(F), which can cause shock for some people not wearing a wetsuit.
How Does Gloucester Compare?
|New York City||67|
|Santiago de Chile (Chile)||71|
The U.S. State Department dealt with backlogs to get visas for international travelers in 2022 and vows to do better moving forward. You should still start the process as soon as possible, giving at least three months' leeway. Check the Visa Wizard module on the department's website to get the right visa. Travel visas take the longest, but if you apply for the wrong one, you'll get rejected and have to start over.
The U.S. Dollar (USD) is the only currency here. With several businesses being cash-only, you should exchange currency before you arrive to get the lowest fees and carry small amounts of cash with you each day. Use credit cards for tours or attractions to get protection against fraud and unexpected closures.
Since storms can happen here any time of the year, always have waterproof outer layers and rain boots or snow boots. The trails here can be challenging if you're going hiking, so bring hiking boots that protect your ankles. Water shoes are a good idea for beach days, especially if you're looking for sea glass or seashells.
Boston Logan International Airport will be your best bet, as it's the closest and biggest airport. There isn't a commercial airport in Gloucester. The drive takes about 45 minutes to Boston, but plan for more time if you're taking the train or driving during rush hour.
Any Gloucester tour will require you to sign a waiver, and you should know what rights you're signing away and get travel insurance that supplements the gap. When you purchase travel insurance, it goes into effect immediately, offering longer protection and better value the sooner you make the purchase. Some vacation rentals or inns here will offer travel insurance options, so you don't lose non-refundable deposits.
Gloucester Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Massachusetts - Safety by City