Old Garden Beach is located in scenic Rockport. It is one of the many options on Cape Ann available to divers, but it is favored for its easy entry. Residents have preferential parking, but if you time it correctly, it’s not a problem. Featuring a sandy beach that leads to a rock reef, Old Garden Beach is a dive site for all experience levels. Depths greater than 30 feet can be attained, but the beginning of the rock reef lies in the 18-20ft range.
The site is favored by beach goers, boaters, sailboaters, and more; be sure to bring a flag and follow the Massachusetts regulations. Divers enjoy the site for the aforementioned easy entrance, but also for the easy dive. You’ll find the regulars critters (crabs, lobster, cunner, and more) but you also might be gifted with a Sea Raven or Goosefish.
From the sidewalk, you’ll find stone walkway that drops you off directly onto the beach. In the summer there is a metal gangway, but it is removed for the colder months. From there, it’s a short walk across the sand and into the water. Depending on the tide, you might find a few rocks at the waters edge, but it’s a mostly a sand dominated entrance. There are a few dive paths you can take. If you head straight out from the beach, you’ll cross a sandy bay where crabs and snails abound. Big rock crabs can be seen buried in the sand, while hermit crabs scurry about. You also might find a flounder or two. Keep an eye out for the juvenile ones you are frequently found in this area. After ten minutes or so, you’ll reach the rock reef. You can also enter to the right of the beach; from there you’ll follow the rock piles until you find the rock reef. In the summer, this path leads from a Rockweed dominated area to the Kelp dominated reef. In the colder months, much of the algae covering is gone.
Old Garden is an appropriate name, as you immediately feel like you’ve entered a garden once you’ve found the rock reef. Covered in red and green seaweeds that gently move through the waves, it truly feels like a secret garden under the sea. Once you’ve breached the first few feet of rocks, you’ll find giant fronds of Kelp hanging off the boulders. Swimming in and amongst the seaweeds you’ll find Cunner of all sizes – they tend to be a little camera shy. Each rock will be teeming with crabs ranging in size from that of your thumbnail to big enough to eat. Though you don’t want to mess with the grumpy big ones, you might get a finger pinched! Under the rocks, you’re almost guaranteed to spot a Lobster or two. Some are curious as to who’s making that bubbling sound, while others simply back further into their hiding spot.
Even during the winter months when the seaweeds are gone, it still has the secret garden feel. Still plenty of life to see from the small crabs to the bigger Sculpin and Sea Ravens.
Parking along Old Garden Road is not allowed on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. However, if you visit during the week, you can park right along the beach. During the weekend and holidays, simply drop your gear off at the beach (there’s a small grassy park next to the entrance) and park a block or two away (metered parking).