Search This Blog

Monday, August 28, 2017

Diving Folly Cove- Gloucester, Massachusetts

New England diving usually goes a little something like this.... Rocky shores, zero to there-are-my-dive-buddies visibility (10 feet?), and marine life typical of the Atlantic shores ranging from a hue of brown to brown.  It isn't always the most exciting of marine life or best visibility, but I will say this without a doubt, it makes you a better diver.  We are all used to "brail diving" as we like to call it, when the visibility is so bad you just sort of feel around with your hands to find the bottom or things around you so when things get mucked up or the vis is low, we don't panic. 

Before I go on, know I am not complaining, that diving these sometimes murky Atlantic waters is how I love to spend a Wednesday afternoon (and many a weekend).  You should also know not all New England waters are treated the same.  Where Stonington Point usually sees visibility in the 5-10' range, many lakes, quarries, and areas of our coast get visibility ranging from 20 to 30+' which to us New Englanders is amazing.  We can travel around the NE coast to find some better visibility and abundance of critters.

Photo Cred:  Finding Corey
Diving the northeast peninsula of Massachusetts in the towns of Gloucester and Rockport, you can usually find some spectacular New England diving with an increase in visibility and marine life.  These sites, known for their spectacular fishing grounds have the usuals like the American Lobster and flounder but in numbers we just don't see back in Connecticut or in the Sound.  You also get some more variety in sea stars (aka starfish), sand dollars, nudibranchs, and various types of fish. This area is also home to some New England "boat diving", where you can hop on a dive charter and dive historic ship wrecks and motor out to scuba with Atlantic Seals.  However, if you don't want to be restricted to boat departure times and space, extra costs, and seasickness (whelp), there is an abundance of shore diving from rocky shorelines to sandy beaches along Rockport and Gloucester's coast.

View northwest at Folly Cove

On a sunny Sunday in August we (a group of four of us) loaded up our cars with our scuba gear and headed north for some spectacular shore diving in the beautiful Towns of Rockport and Gloucester, Massachusetts.  Back when I first got my open water certification, my dive buddy Tom and I headed to Folly Cove for our first Gloucester dive.  I remember being blown away by the amazing visibility (somewhere near 30') and the abundance of marine life.  Lobsters, sand dollars, beautiful sea stars and so many species of fish everywhere I looked.  I remember thinking to myself "am I still in New England?".  When friends wanted to visit Folly for their first time, I jumped at the chance to visit this spectacular dive site once again. 

Three lady divers on our Gloucester Dive Day-  Thanks for the photo, Chris (our fourth diver) 
Signage at Folly Cove 

"A deep rocky cove in the Lanesville section of Gloucester, Folly Cove has been a recorded landing since 1902.  At one time, the cove was known as Gallop's Folly, named after a skipper who mistook the mouth of the cove for a larger harbor and lost his vessel on the rocks.  Folly cove looks to the northwest, affording spectacular views of Ipswich Bay, New Hampshire, and Southern Maine.  It is a popular place to scuba dive and snorkel, and also a good spot to picnic, sketch and paint".  --Signage at Folly Cove 


Folly Cove is a well known and favorite local dive site in the area.  It is often packed with scuba divers, from beginners getting their certification to advanced divers.  While it offers a spectacular chance to experience some classic New England diving, it does come with its challenges.  First off, there is no on-site parking as you have to unload your gear, park your car 1/4 to 1/2 mile down the road and walk back.  Second, the entry can be tricky as there is no sandy beach, just large boulders that are often very slick, especially during low tide (this entry can only really be done at high tide so planning is a must).   You can expect to see flounder, sea stars, sand dollars, crabs, lobsters, and various fish.  Some people reported seeing the infamous torpedo ray, nudibranchs, and an anemone.  There were a lot of boats in the harbor when we were diving so be aware of boat traffic and keep your dive flag close.

Map showing the parking areas and the cove

  • Average Depth:  30-40 feet, can reach up to 70' 
  • August Report:  15 to 20' viz. Temp was 64 surface and 55 at depth.  
  • Parking:  FREE but cannot park on-site unless you are a Gloucester resident.  Drop someone off at the site with your gear and park down the road 
    • Parking option 1:   little restaurant up the street Lobster Pool. [Its 1/4 mile away, please park across the street from this establishment and not in their parking lot].  
    • Parking Option 2:  If Lobster Pool is full, park at Halibut point state park a little further down rte 127. [1/2 mile away).  This will require a fee.
  • Directions to the Site: Along Route 127, about a half mile past Halibut Point State Park.  Eventually you'll see 2 restaurants one on the water one on the road. Folly is the next cove on the right.
  • The Dive: After descending, follow the sandy bottom over to either the LEFT or RIGHT wall.  The left wall seems to be more popular but you can dive both sides.  This is a really nice place to explore, with its abundant marine life and various invertebrates.  The topography of this dive makes navigation simple, even on a night dive, with its sheer cliff on one side. [it's on your left heading out going out northwest, and on your right heading in.  The rocks and ledge have various holes and chasms where you can find various New England critters.  We saw the most sea life at the end of our dive at the turnaround point, a place I called Flounder City where all the flounder were hanging out. 
  • Red Tape:  Entrance is not easy as it is across a boulder beach.  Must be done at high tide for safest entry/exit from the water.  There were a lot of boats in the harbor when we were diving so be aware of boat traffic and keep your dive flag close.
  • Common Critters: torpedo rays, dog fish, flounders, lobsters, crabs, anemones, sea stars, sea urchins, stripers, skates, and more!
  • No Facilities - no bathrooms, running water, etc.  
  • Extras:  Enjoy lunch at the BYOB Lobster Pool (where you parked your car) between dives.  A flashlight is helpful on your dive to explore the nooks and crannies along thew all.  Do a second dive here (other side of the cove) or try one of Gloucester's many shore diving locations (will be blogging about Back Beach later in the week).  
  • Forget something?  The local dive shop, Cape Ann Divers, is located 3.5 miles away and is open 7 days a week. 

Parking across from the Lobster Pool

The busy "beach" 

Sea star along the wall
"Gloucester /ˈɡlɒstər/ is a city on Cape Ann in Essex County, Massachusetts, in the United States. It is part of Massachusetts' North Shore. The population was 28,789 at the 2010 U.S. Census.[2] An important center of the fishing industry and a popular summer destination, Gloucester consists of an urban core on the north side of the harbor and the outlying neighborhoods of Annisquam, Bay View, Lanesville, Folly Cove, Magnolia, Riverdale, East Gloucester, and West Gloucester.

Gloucester was founded at Cape Ann by an expedition called the "Dorchester Company" of men from Dorchester (in the county of Dorset, England) chartered by James I in 1623. It was one of the first English settlements in what would become the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and predates both Salem in 1626 and Boston in 1630. 

The town was an important shipbuilding center, and the first schooner was reputedly built there in 1713. The community developed into an important fishing port, largely due to its proximity to Georges Bank and other fishing banks off the east coast of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Gloucester's most famous (and nationally recognized) seafood business was founded in 1849 as John Pew & Sons. It became Gorton-Pew Fisheries in 1906, and in 1957 changed its name to Gorton's of Gloucester. The iconic image of the "Gorton's Fisherman", and the products he represents, are known throughout the country and beyond. Besides catching and processing seafood, Gloucester is also a center for research on marine life and conservation; Ocean Alliance is headquartered in the city.

In the late 19th century Gloucester saw an influx of Portuguese and Italian immigrants seeking work in the town's flourishing fishing industry and a better life in America. Some present-day fishermen of Gloucester are descendants of these early immigrants. The strong Portuguese and Italian influence is evident in the many festivals celebrated throughout the year.  

The book, The Perfect Storm, which recounted a massive storm of 1991, had figures based in the town. Scenes from the film adaptation by the same name were filmed here."   Read More

View of Folly Cove 

Check back in later in the week as I share our second dive in Rockport (Back Beach) and some fun sites to visit around the area after your dive. 


  1. Sea star Katie... you should know better =)

    1. While I am aware they are sea stars (and not fish) starfish is the common name anyone looking at this blog would refer to this critter as (and these posts are written for the general public). I have updated the proper name to sea star to keep the marine scientists happy, and included a notation on starfish. #everybodyishappy

  2. Good post, love this sharing so much, thank you!


Let's Chat!