Travel Destinations

New England Towns

New England
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March 2021
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By
Lisa
Carruthers

During the past six years of living and cruising aboard our boat MV TAPESTRY, we explored beautiful and historically significant harbors alongthe eastern seaboard of the United States and Canada. We also encountered fellow boaters who hadn't yet ventured north of Chesapeake Bay. Perhaps an introduction to New England's quintessential waterside towns will tempt them to head north. Some of these New England towns date back to the 1600s; none have lost their timeless allure.

CONNECTICUT

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Mystic Seaport - historic towns - marinalife

Mystic Seaport | Jason Condon[/caption]

EssexAlong the Connecticut River a few miles up from its mouth in Old Saybrook lies the graceful town of Essex, which was settled in 1648. The lucrative Triangle Trade (see sidebar p. 112) from the New England colonies lured men from this area to the sea and shipbuilding industry. A British attack in 1814 burnt 28 vessels at anchor or under construction, leading Essex newspapers of the time to call this raid the worst disaster to befall the new country since the War of 1812 began. Today, this New England gem is composed of three villages Essex, Ivoryton and Centerbrook which offer lovely places to explore for food, drink and entertainment.Things to See & Do: Connecticut River Museum, The Griswold Inn (serving travelers since 1775), Essex Steam Train & Riverboat, Pratt House(17th century home museum), historic pubs such as the Black Seal, art galleries on Main Street, and classic colonial-era architecture.Where to Dock: Saybrook Point Resort & Marina

MysticThis quaint town along the Mystic River resides in the towns of Groton and Stonington. The area was settled in the 1600s after experiencing conflict with the Pequot Indians and Massachusetts Bay Colony, who wanted to keep the riverfront land for itself. Shipbuilding was a significant endeavor, with more than 600 ships built in the late 1700s. Visitors now flock to the historic downtown area near the bascule bridge to find quaint shops, restaurants and charming New England buildings and street life.Things to See & Do: Mystic Seaport and the whaling ship Charles W. Morgan, Mystic Aquarium, Mystic Museum of Art, and the famous movie, Mystic Pizza.Where to Dock: Mystic River Marina

RHODE ISLAND

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7 Seas Whale Watch - historic towns - marinalife

Chepstow Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island | Wikimedia Commons[/caption]

NewportOn Aquidneck Island in Narragansett Bay, Newport was founded in 1639. In 1658, Jews fleeing the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal were welcomed to settle here. Newport colonists earned their living in the whaling industry and related manufacturing trades, such as sperm oil and candles. The area also garnered riches in the Triangle Trade. This coastal community comes alive in the spring with historic mansion and garden tours, events at local wineries and breweries, and strolls along the Cliff Walk to witness the picturesque shoreline.Things to See & Do: Mansions of the Gilded Age, Touro Synagogue (oldest synagogue in America), Fort Adams State Park, Bowen's Wharf, harbor cruise to Jamestown and Rose Island Lighthouse, Naval War College Museum, International Tennis Hall of Fame, Newport Vineyards, Seal Watch Tours, beaches, red brick streets downtown, dinghy around the harbor.Where to Dock: Bowen's Wharf

MASSACHUSETTS

SalemLocated on Massachusetts' North Shore, Salem was settled in 1626 by a group from Gloucester seeking better land for farming. Despite a rich maritime heritage, its most famous history revolves around the Salem Witch Trials, which began in 1692 and resulted in the hanging of 19 innocent women. While 17th century stories of alleged sorcery attract visitors, the quaint town also offers a variety of good restaurants, pubs, shops, galleries and Federal-style mansions.Things to See & Do: Salem Heritage Trail, Salem Witch Museum. Salem Witch House, Old Burying Point Cemetery and Witch Trials Memorial, Salem Maritime National Historic Site, historic buildings, wharves, replica ships, beaches, walking trails, Harbor Sweets factory tours, and Punto Urban Art Museum.Where to Dock: Pickering Wharf Marina

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7 Seas Whale Watch - new england towns - marinalife

7 Seas Whale Watch in Gloucester, MA | Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism[/caption]

GloucesterAbout 40 miles north of Boston on Cape Ann, Gloucester was founded in 1623 (before Boston and Salem) and is one of the first English settlements in what became the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Early Gloucester residents subsisted on logging, farming and later fishing. A thriving granite industry also existed for a time. A visit here would not be complete without sampling the region's fresh seafood, enjoying a day at the beach, strolling around art studios and galleries, and exploring quaint buildings.Things to See & Do: Whale watching at Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, distillery and foodie tours, museums, Rocky Neck Art Colony, Ravenswood Trail, Stage Fort Park, Halibut Point State Park, Gloucester Military Heritage & War Memorial Trail, Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum at Gloucester's historic docks, Fisherman's Memorial, Good Harbor Beach, Maritime Gloucester and Hammond Castle Museum.Where to Dock: Cape Ann's Marina Resort

NEW HAMPSHIRE

PortsmouthPortsmouth lays at the mouth of the Piscataqua River, which forms the border between Massachusetts and New Hampshire. American Indians inhabited the coastal area for thousands of years before Europeans arrived in 1630. Incorporated in 1653, its principle businesses included lumber, fishing and shipbuilding. Portsmouth participated in the Triangle Trade, and slaves were integral to its prosperity. The Industrial Revolution created opportunities for wealth from relationships with the mills located up river. Known as a foodie haven, Portsmouth hosts eateries for grab and go meals to take along on biking or hiking trails and other outdoor attractions. The art and music scenes are exceptional, as are places to shop, golf, swim and enjoy family-friendly activities.Things to See & Do: Strawberry Banke Museum, unique small businesses, sales tax-free shopping, Portsmouth Brewery, gardens at Prescott Park and its arts festival for live concerts, movie nights, and outdoor musicals, Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, boat tour to Star Island on the Isles of Shoals.Where to Dock: Marina at Harbour Place

MAINE

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Stonington, CT - new england towns - marinalife

Stonington, CT | Wikimedia Commons[/caption]

Stonington & Deer IsleStonington is on the southern part of Deer Isle on Penobscot Bay in the Mount Desert area of Maine's coast. Its first inhabitants were the Abenaki Indians, dating as far back as 6,100 years ago. The town was settled by Europeans and incorporated in 1897. Stonington was named for its quarries that produced granite for important U.S. structures including J.F.K. Memorial, Yankee Stadium, Boston Museum of Fine Arts and The Smithsonian. Lobstering contributed to its booming economy, and the town's seafaring reputation grew by providing full crews for America's Cup Races in 1895 and 1899. Other major attractions: local lobsters, a nice selection of restaurants and pubs, and artists' galleries, studios and shops that often stem from Haystack Mountain School of Crafts.Things to See & Do: Deer Isle Lighthouse Trail, Deerinature self-guided nature trails, Deer Isle Village walking tour, harbor tours, Waterfront and Fox Island Thoroughfare, Lobster Boat Races in the Thoroughfare, Crockett Cove Woods Preserve and Barred Island Preserve hiking trails.Where to Dock: Billings Diesel & Marine

BelfastBelfast is situated in Maine's upper Penobscot Bay. Once a territory of the Penobscot Tribe, Belfast was first settled in 1770 by Scots-Irish proprietors from Londonderry, NH. The town has experienced hardships and rebounds throughout its history. Mostly abandoned during the American Revolution, it was rebuilt as a shipbuilding center. Wealthy maritime barons erected Federal, Greek Revival and Italian style mansions around town. The advent of refrigeration in 1900 shifted the economy to harvesting seafood for Boston and New York markets. Shoe manufacturing and the poultry industry employed many until the 1970s. Credit card giant MBNA established a call center in the 1990s, and shipbuilding was reestablished on the waterfront. Outdoor and indoor music venues, galleries, boutiques, fresh lobsters, and hiking trails overlooking the sea are just a few reasons to visit this town.Things to See & Do: Belfast Harbor Walk, Belfast City Park, Passy Rail Trail, Belfast Historical Society & Museum, Cuckold Lighthouse, Belfast Farmers Market, Main Street, Celtic Festival in July, and Young's Lobster Pound.Where to Dock: Front Street Shipyard

Monhegan IslandMonhegan Island is about 12 nautical miles off the mainland in Maine's mid-coast region. The island's colorful past includes a 1614 visit from Captain John Smith and pirate ships in 1717. A trading post was established to conduct business with the Indians selling cod and furs. Fishing still dominates the island's economy, and since the 1890s artists established a colony with active studios and galleries around town. Shops, restaurants and gorgeous scenery complete this bucolic getaway.Things to See & Do: 17 miles of rustic trails in the rocky headlands with spectacular views, the Lighthouse, the Ice Pond, Monhegan Museum of Art & History, local artist galleries, beaches, The Meadow (gathering place and public water supply) and Tercentenary Tablet commemorating John Smith's visit.Where to Dock: Monhegan Island Harbor

Related Articles
Lyman-Morse: Breathes New Energy into a Coastal New England Town
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The buzz of construction at the docks of Camden, ME, is finished, and it’s been replaced with an air of excitement among residents and visitors who watched a beautiful new development emerge along the waterfront.

The rebirth of Camden’s harbor started in 2015 when Lyman-Morse bought Wayfarer Marine. Based in nearby Thomaston, Lyman-Morse has run a successful boat-building business since the 1970s. More than 120 vessels have been constructed in the yard, located in the same site where Malabar schooners, Friendship sloops and other fine vessels have been built for nearly two centuries. Lyman-Morse has expanded beyond custom sailing and motor yachts, now offering high-quality refits, and other services.

Lyman-Morse’s boatyard and nine-acre facility enjoy a long maritime tradition on Camden’s shoreline, ranging from building schooners in the 19th century to U.S. minesweepers and troop transports in World War II, and servicing vessels from high-end yachts to recreational boats.

The location of this acquisition is idyllic. Nestled in a lovely cove on Penobscot Bay, Camden has been a bastion of seafaring activity and a world-
wide nautical travel destination for centuries. The scenery is dramatic, with forested mountains that meet the ocean and offshore islands that are an explorer’s
paradise. The 1830s Curtis Island Lighthouse near the harbor keeps watch over the town’s quaint homes, shops, restaurants, opera house and galleries.

Inspired by the area’s natural beauty, the new development’s designers also understood Camden’s historic role in the region and wanted to carry that forward in modern form. They studied vintage photos, matched the style and created 33,000 square feet of new buildings for marine services and mixed-use commercial space.

Lyman-Morse’s Camden boatyard attracts maritime professionals and boaters with essential services for carpentry, mechanics, electronics, rigging and more, and brings the general public back to the working waterfront with amenities such as restaurants, a distillery, a few overnight accommodations, and a boardwalk big enough for a morning stroll or brisk dog walk.

Added bonus: Sensitivity to the environment was not overlooked in construction. Engineers took a sustainable approach when they elevated all structures above the flood plain, installed LED lights and upgraded all systems to today’s energy-efficient levels.

Read More
Camden, Maine
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True boaters say the real Maine coast doesn’t start until you reach Penobscot Bay. This is “Down East” from Kennebunkport and Portland. The dramatic stretch of coastline from Camden to Mount Desert Island sparkles with granite shores, dotted with archipelagos of pine-tree covered islands and mountains cascading into the sea. This region offers some of the best cruising ground in the world.

Camden is a magical little seaside town in the heart of Maine’s mid-coast. It’s historic but hip. “Where the Mountains Meet the Sea” is their moniker, as Camden Hills and 780-foot Mount Battie stretch down toward the bustling waterfront where this 1769 New England village sits, creating a postcard scene.

Camden is super foot-traffic friendly, starting at Harbor Park and the beautiful brick Public Library that graces the top of the bay by the Town Docks. Enjoy a picnic on the sprawling park lawn; there’s often a craft festival or free concert at the outdoor amphitheater. From the waterfront, stroll the quaint sidewalks leading to cafés, boutiques, craft stores and art galleries, pubs, and surprisingly trendy restaurants.

You can hike, bike or drive the toll road up Mount Battie in Camden Hill State Park, which encompasses 5,500 acres and 30 miles of trails. Your reward is spectacular panoramic views of the harbor and Penobscot Bay below.

Eaton Point, at the eastern entrance to the harbor, is home to a new Lyman-Morse yacht facility. Camden remains a working harbor with lobster fishermen, boat builders, ferries and tall-masted schooners taking folks out for scenic sails.

Camden hosts festivals throughout the summer season of jazz, film and its trademark Windjammers. In winter, the U.S. National Tobogganing Champion-ships are held at Camden’s namesake Snow Bowl – our country’s only ski area with views of the Atlantic.

Camden is an ideal boater’s gateway with all the services and shops you need in walking distance from the waterfront. Excursions from this protected harbor are countless and legendary. A quick cruise brings you to quiet Lasell Island for a sunset anchorage. Farther on you reach Maine’s Maritime Academy home in beautiful Castine, and the rustic islands of North Haven, Vinalhaven and Deer Isle. Ultimately you can cruise north and east through beautiful Merchants Row, or the more protected Eggemoggin Reach, to Mount Desert Island, home to famed Acadia National Park, Northeast, Southwest and Bar Harbors.

WHERE TO DOCK

Camden Public Landing
Town Docks
207-691-4314

Contact the harbormaster for overnight slips, limited but in town, and moorings throughout the harbor.

Lyman-Morse at
Wayfarer Marine
207-236-7108

Across the harbor on Camden’s east shores, this revamped marina is a half-mile walk to town, with new docks and a marina facility, home of Lyman-Morse Boatyard and 30 slips plus moorings.

WHERE TO DINE

40 Paper
207-230-0111

Relish artful cuisine locally sourced from farmers, fishermen and “foragers.” In an historic wool mill in downtown Camden, it’s comfy but chic. Savor octopus, lamb, mussels, salmon and more with fresh produce and creative sides. Save room for dessert made from scratch.

Peter Otts on the Water
207-236-4032

Get your chowder and Maine lobster fix from Chef Peter. This classic setting overlooking the harbor is a Camden staple you “ott” not miss. Open for lunch or dinner.

Franny’s Bistro
207-230-8199

With a neighborhood feel, Franny’s serves up lobster fritters, crab cakes, shrimp dumplings and land-lubber faves, too. A fun menu in a cozy setting.

Bagel Café
207-236–2661

For fresh-brewed morning coffee and daily “boiled then baked” bagels or breakfast sammies served all day.

Read More
Jamestown, Rhode Island
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Located on Conanicut Island, Gould Island and Dutch Island, Jamestown welcomes boaters to Narragansett Bay.  Its southernmost point is on Gould Island and marked by Beavertail Lighthouse and State Park. The northernmost point is marked by Conanicut Island Lighthouse.  While Conanicut Island is the second largest island on Narragansett Bay, it is near the western mainland in Kingston, and Newport lies to the east on Aquidneck Island.  Hop on the Jamestown Newport Ferry to get the lay of the land and sea.

Jamestown was settled early in colonial history and was named for James, Duke of York, who became King James II in 1685.  By 1710, many of Jamestown’s current roads were already in place and a lot of its early architecture is well preserved. Soak up some local history at the Jamestown Fire Memorial Museum, Beavertail Lighthouse Museum and Park, Jamestown Windmill, Watson Farm, Conanicut Island Sanctuary, Fort Wetherill State Park, and the Jamestown Settlement museum.

The main town, shops and restaurants are located on the eastern shore of Conanicut Island.  But even from the western side, Dutch Harbor and other attractions are easily accessed with a one-mile walk.

WHERE TO DOCK

Conanicut Marina
401-423-5820

This full-service marina has a ships store/chandlery, gift shop, extensive dockage and a large mooring field.  It’s located in the heart of town overlooking Newport and the Pell Bridge, but bring your fishing poles for the kids.

Dutch Harbor Boat Yard
401-423-0630

Located on the west passage of Narragansett Bay, this small, local marina has good moorings, launch service and facilities.  At times, the harbor can be rolly from a SW wind up the West Passage.  The holding ground is excellent for anchoring, but the dinghy dock is by seasonal permit only.

Safe Harbor Jamestown Boatyard
401-423-0600

Jamestown Boatyard is renowned for excellent workmanship on all types of boats.  It also has a large mooring field and is in a beautiful location on the East Passage.

WHERE TO DINE

Slice of Heaven
401-423-9866

This family-owned café and bakery with an outdoor patio is an ideal spot for breakfast and lunch, especially if you’re looking for tasty gluten-free and vegetarian options.

J22 Tap & Table
401-423-3709

This lively, year-round restaurant specializes in classic American cuisine and local seafood dishes such as New England clam chowder, lobster tail and seared yellowfin tuna while accommodating meat eaters with wings, burgers and steak tacos.

Village Hearth Bakery & Café
401-423-9282

Take a seat inside this rustic eatery or outside on the patio to enjoy wood-fired bread, pizzas and pastries with a cool beer or wine.  To start your day with a smile, order a cup of the eco-friendly coffee.

Bay Voyage Restaurant
401-560-7979

Inside the Wyndham Bay Voyage Inn, this casual dining establishment presents a seasonal menu of American cuisine standards and seafood with fresh ingredients and a stellar view of Narragansett Bay.

Read More

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