In the early 1600s, John Gallop, sailing through fog but believing himself to be well offshore, suddenly ran aground. When the fog lifted, the rocks of Gloucester rose up on either side of him. Not only was he not offshore, he had sailed right into an unnamed cove — a cove his friends promptly christened “Gallop’s Folly Cove”. Nearly 400 years later, the name, though shortened, remains. Folly is a beautiful place on the surface, with a 75-yard rocky beach sandwiched between two long rocky points. This is a great dive, perhaps the most popular in New England.
Underwater, the right side of the cove is a boulder-strewn pasture. The left is a sheer rock wall covered with frilled anemones, urchins, and sea cucumbers. The bottom in between is mainly sand, with one rock outcropping in the middle. There’s almost always something worth seeing here, from the water’s edge out to the mouth of the cove, where depths reach 75 feet on the left side, 50 feet on the right. Because the bottom topographies of the two sides are so different, it’s possible to bring two tanks, dive each, and come away with two very different experiences.
The walk from the drop-off area to the beach is down a dirt path on a short slope. Entry and exit are made over rocks and, depending on the state of the tide and sea conditions can range from easy to moderately difficult. High tide is the easiest time because there are fewer exposed rocks to cross. Low tide presents you with a longer walk over rocks but at least you can see them. At mid-tide, chose your path carefully through the exposed rocks, then be careful not to slip on submerged rocks in the shallows. This can be difficult if silt and seaweed make them impossible to see.
North and Northeast wind makes this dive challenging as the cove channels powerful swells up to the beach and limits visibility.
Diving at mid-tide requires extra caution with entry and exit. Keep your fins on your wrists while you navigate the shallows in case you lose your footing.
On Summer weekends the cove may fill up with recreational boats with potentially inexperienced pilots creating a hazard for divers. If there are boats in the area be sure to stay low and as close as possible to your flag. Make sure to carry and deploy an SMB before surfacing in case of dive team separation.
There's a small dirt pull-off/parking lot with a sign identifying Folly Cove. Parking at the lot is limited to Gloucester residents only so stop just long enough to unload your gear, then go back onto 127 North, for 0.1 miles into Rockport, passing Marchant Road twice (it's a loop). There is room to park on the right side of the road, with more legal spaces, farther down on the left in a small parking area past the Lobster Pool restaurant. There is no fee to park here but Rockport has been known to restrict parking. If you cannot find parking here, try side roads past the cove to the South.
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.