On the Surface, Cathedral Rocks is a formidable place. A 40-yard slope of steeply carved and undulating granite leads from the road to the water. This is one of the best dives in New England but naturally, there’s a catch. The exit is dangerous if conditions are not calm. This site has claimed the lives of several experienced divers.
From the moment you head underwater, the bottom is a wonderful mix of rocks, boulders, and ledge cut with large cracks and chasms. Invertebrate life covers the rocks. Fish — both bottom and schooling — are everywhere. Depths reach 75 to 80 feet within 50 yards of the shoreline and the bottom doesn’t turn silty until approximately 400 yards offshore. This is a great dive.
The walk from the road to the water is down the aforementioned slope and is very strenuous. Entry and exit are made over a rock slab extending into the water at the bottom of the slope (to the right of the diver in the photo). To exit, pull yourself up on the rock, then move away quickly from any oncoming swells. The shoreline is all rock so there's no soft place to land if you're being tossed about by swells. Do not dive here if you have any doubts about your ability to exit safely.
This site can become rough when the wind blows out of any easterly direction. Exit can be difficult and dangerous.
Site access is via a narrow path that cuts from Cathedral Ave to the rocks across the street from the eastern border of the Emerson Inn's property. The path is due east of the swimming pool. There are several parking spaces on the side of the road next to Inn's rock wall at the bend in the road but Rockport has been known to restrict parking here. You can find alternative fee-free parking right across the street from the Inn on Cathedral Ave or nearby side streets.
Note: Cathedral Ave becomes a narrow private road past the entry path and Inn property line so make sure to drive in and out via Philips Ave off RT 127. Do not attempt to navigate to the site via Breakwater Ave.
Jerry Shine provided much of the written dive site content on the shore diving sites around New England from his 2005 publication: A Shore Diving Guide to New England which is currently out-of-print. His 2017 publication A Year Underwater: Twelve Months of Diving, Fraternizing with Marine Life, and Just Having a Great Time, from the St. Lawrence River to West Palm Beach is available for purchase on Amazon.
If lobstering be sure that you are licensed, have a gauge for the area you are lobstering in, have your numbers on your cylinder and flag, and don’t land any shorts, longs, notches, or eggers. For more information please reference the mass.gov regulations site here.