Halibut Point

Skill Level:
Advanced
Max-Depth:
100 FSW
Best Time:
Before High Tide with light winds out of the S/SE
Notable Features:
Dramatic topography well worth the long walk from the parking lot
Address:
Gott Ave
Rockport, MA 01966

Description

Halibut Point State Park is well known in New England dive community for its natural beauty, challenging entry/exit, and the long walk from the parking lot. The site is worth the effort for experienced divers when conditions are right. With near-shore access to deep water, abundant marine life, Halibut is in a class of its own.

The Dive

The topography of the Halibut shoreline is mirrored underwater, with a mix of granite slab and boulders cascading into the depths. Within a quarter-mile of the shore, you can reach depths of 100 FSW. The area attracts schools of large fish from striper to dogfish and larger species, such as basking sharks, have been reported here. On the rocks and sand, you can find ample fish and invertebrate life including the Northern Red anemone (Urtcina felina). Due to the exposure, this site can become washed out quite easily but when conditions are right this is a great dive.

There are several places to enter the water along the boulder-strewn granite coast of the park. The entry is over hard and often slippery rock and can be challenging when the tide is low or there is any surge present. Challenges are exacerbated by the remote nature of the site. This site is considered one of the most challenging shore dives in New England and should not be attempted by divers who lack relevant experience of rocky, cold-water entries without an expert guide.

Entry #1:

 

The easiest shore access that doesn't traverse private land is about a half-mile straight down Garfield Ave (the road that runs perpendicular from Gott Ave from the south side of the parking lot). Garfield turns into Halibut, and then Bayview before hitting the single track path to the sea, the key is to stay straight on that road until you get to the rocky shore. Down the path, you'll see Folly Point to the west/SW and several slabs of rock that support an approach to the sea ahead.

 

Entry #2:

The alternative entry point involves a more circuitous route past the quarry and around the overlook to the northern point of Cape Ann where the heaped boulders give way to Granite Slabs. The walk is longer and less direct but this entry may be easier than Entry #1 and the underwater topography is more dramatic with a steeper drop to the sand.

 

At either entry, take care to make sure you are properly weighted and outfitted for your dive before approaching the water. Stow your gear above the high tide line. Gauge the wave action and time entry for a lull between waves. Enter the water with your gear clipped off, reg or snorkel in, air in your BC, and fins on your wrists; these preparations should prevent you from being separated from your gear in the event that the surge pulls you out.

The exit can be even more challenging and potentially dangerous as the winds and seas may shift during your dive. Prepare by coming in with a solid reserve of gas in your tank in case you need to wait offshore for a gap in the waves while managing large swells.

 

The site is highly exposed to wind and swells from any northerly or westerly direction and can be stirred up when winds are strong from the east or south. Entry #2 is exposed to the east.

This is one of the more complex and challenging shore dives in the region for several reasons.

Exposure:

The shoreline in Halibut is highly exposed to wind and waves and can be quite dramatic when winds blow out of the north. It is wise to avoid this site on all but the calmest days. You should always take the time to walk up to shore to scout the site before committing to a dive here. You can always bail out to nearby Folly Cove if conditions are not ideal and the wind/waves are not out of the NE.

Shore Access from Parking/EMS:

The walk from the parking lot is about a half-mile on an uneven gravel road. During the summer, you may overheat on your approach if you're not careful. Consider bringing a wagon or cart to help schlep your gear. Make sure to bring plenty of water and sun protection in order to stay hydrated and safe. If issues occur, you may be a long way from support so be prepared and, if possible, have non-divers or surface support on hand to assist with the unforeseen emergency.

Entry and Exit over Rocks:

As described in detail in the Entry/Exit section, the rocky entry here is a challenge, even for experienced divers. With a steep approach, surge, and slippery surfaces to contend with, take it slow to ensure your footing and make sure your gear is well secured.

Depths:

The area off Halibut point features some of the most dramatic underwater topography in the region with depths quickly reaching 100 FSW close to shore. You will need to pay close attention to your gauges to monitor no-decompression limits (NDL) and gas consumption to ensure a safe dive. This is a site where you may consider increasing your gas reserve in case you run into any issues during your ascent or exit approach.

 

Parking is at the Halibut Point State Park lot on Gott Ave. There is a fee to park here, $5 for the day as of Summer 2020. This is about 4/10 of a mile from the shoreline at Entry #1 on a well-graded gravel road. The distance to Entry #2 is only slightly further but is windy and traverses more uneven terrain.

Note: There is potentially alternative head-in parking with no fee on Rt 127 South by the bend in the road west of Gott Ave. These spaces are approximately 1/4 mile from the shore near (1/10th mile southwest of) Entry #1 but access here potentially traverses private property and is along a narrow and uneven path.

Gallery

Disclaimer:

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.