The salty aroma of the ocean tickles your nose and perks up your senses as you approach the harbor. The hard-working fishing boats bob peacefully at the dock after a day out on the water. At local pubs, fishermen and women enjoy a relaxing brew and share their day’s catch stats with friends. A getaway in this charming city will take you away from your 9-5 office treadmill and send you on a path through history paired with beautiful scenery.
Cooled by ocean breezes, rich with seafaring history, and home to New England’s Whaling Industry, New Bedford, Massachusetts, is an enchanting coastal town perfect for a weekend getaway.
Things To Do In New Bedford
The whaling industry is the heart of this charming city. Explore the industry’s history, then head out and view these magnificent creatures on an exciting whale-watching expedition. Explore New Bedford’s history in the Underground Railroad, and relax in the scenic parks and nightly lit strolls along the waterfront.
The New Bedford Seaport Cultural District is the cultural and historical lifeblood of the city. Fun art shops, intriguing boutiques, wonderful restaurants, fascinating cultural attractions, and the home of the annual Seaport Art Walk can all be explored down by the water’s edge. The Seaport Cultural District showcases a quintessential New Bedford experience taking in this charming, walkable seaside city.
New Bedford Whaling Museum
Whaling may be a thing of the past for this New England Coastal town, but the New Bedford Whaling Museum is a steady reminder of her history on the water in search of these massive animals. All things whaling, including four whale skeletons, brings the history of the whaling culture to life. Beautiful artwork, whaling in other nations, scrimshaw, the history of the New Bedford area, and the study of whales come together to entertain and educate visitors.
At the museum, you can explore a half-scale model whaleship, the Lagoda. The 89-foot-long ship is a replica of the original built in 1826. You can step aboard and imagine sailing through seas chasing a pod of whales with sails unfurled and rolling waves rocking the ship stem to stern.
Studying the history of the whaling industry is fascinating, but watching these beauties in person is a thrilling experience. Captain John Boats sails out of Plymouth on a 4-hour whale watching tour out to Cape Cod Bay and Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. The captain is keen on finding a variety of whales like humpback, pilot, and minke. If you are lucky, you may even see an endangered right whale.
Spending a beautiful afternoon cruising the ocean waters, searching for whales, and encountering a dolphin or two playing in the ship’s wake should be high on your 2-day getaway to-do list.
New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park
The New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park is not your typical “green space” National Park. It is an urban cooperative partnership that preserves the history of the whaling industry, the Underground Railroad, art, architecture, and so much more. The designated park area is a section of the city that has survived the march of time. It is like stepping back over one hundred years and being immersed in the old-time whaling life of New Bedford.
Rangers offer tours of the park, which covers 13 city blocks, including the Nathan and Polly Johnson House, part of the Underground Railroad. The Johnson’s were instrumental in assisting abolitionist Frederick Douglass in his quest for freedom from slavery.
The Blue Lane
The Blue Lane is a collection of waterfront trails that offers beautiful water views that skirt the edge of the city. Two existing walks, The HarborWalk and the CoveWalk, will soon be joined by a third scenic option, the RiverWalk.
Stroll along the HarborWalk, a 2.6-mile out-and-back path that is mostly flat and paved. The walk runs along the southeastern perimeter of the city and connects with East Beach’s Bike Path (a nice addition to the 2.6-mile distance), bringing you to Fort Tabor at the tip of the peninsula. The HarborWalk is lit at night for a romantic evening walk with beautiful bay views.
The CoveWalk is on the western side of New Bedford’s peninsula. This walk is also lit at night and offers pretty views of Clarks Cove. The path is a 1.8-mile out-and-back trail that sits atop New Bedford’s hurricane barrier.
AHA! – Art, History, And Architecture
On the 2nd Thursday of each month, AHA! sponsors a free cultural event in downtown New Bedford. These theme-based adventures are supported by downtown museums, galleries, restaurants, and merchants who welcome visitors to explore the area while being entertained with performers, artists, exhibits, and interactive experiences.
Join in on the AHA! fun. Each month offers a unique and entertaining experience.
Fort Taber And Fort Rodman Park
Located on the tip of the New Bedford peninsula is Fort Taber/Fort Rodman Park. Visit historic Fort Rodman, an important coastal fortification built in the mid-1800s. Explore the walking trails along the peninsula that offer wonderful water views and a perfect place to enjoy a picnic lunch.
The Fort Taber/Fort Rodman Historical Association offers re-enactments and other historical events throughout the year and maintains a small museum with fort-related artifacts.
Best Restaurants In New Bedford
New Bedford and neighboring Plymouth have a long and rich history with the ocean and its seafood. The whaling industry drew many people to the town, including a large number of Portuguese fishermen and their families. You will find a Portuguese influence in many of the area’s wonderful restaurants. You will surely find a New Bedford restaurant to tantalize your taste buds.
Antonio’s Restaurant Uma Casa Portuguesa
Friendly, casual, and authentic, Antonio’s Restaurant Uma Casa Portuguesa offers the freshest local seafood prepared in the time-honored Portuguese tradition. Let the three-story, artfully painted rooster lead you to a trip into seafood nirvana.
Sample their classic Bacalhau Cozido Ou Na Braza (salted cod) and be instantly transported to sunny Portugal. Alternatively, the Filetes A Portuguesa, where fish fillets are marinated in wine, lemon, and garlic and then fried, offers a delicate balance of Mediterranian flavors. It is not always about the fish, and the Pork Alentejana is served with a garlic tomato sauce and little necks. No matter what you order, you will enjoy a feast at Antonio’s.
Merrill’s On The Waterfront
The picturesque views of New Bedford’s thriving, working harbor packed with fishing boats sets the stage for a dining experience where the fish is so fresh it almost jumps onto your plate. Merrill’s On the Waterfront is a bustling waterfront restaurant that offers locally caught seafood in a spectacular harbor setting.
Start with their Ocean Platter — their raw bar standout — an assortment of oysters, littlenecks, and shrimp. Next is a classic East Coast Stuffed Quahogs, a mixture of spicy linguica sausage, local quahogs, and bread stuffing. You can’t go wrong with the Seafood Casserole where shrimp, cod, scallops, and lobster swim together in a lobster cardinal sauce. Delicious!
For a great deal, dine on Wednesday for their “Dinner for two” special.
East Bay Grille Waterfront
For an elegant dinner, sail over to Plymouth to dine at the East Bay Grille. Conveniently located on the harbor, it is just the spot for dinner after an afternoon out on a whale watch.
For your dining pleasure, an expertly prepared and elegantly plated feast awaits. Start with the P.E.I. Mussels for a dip right in the ocean flavor bed. From there, the entree choice can be difficult. The Lobster Roll is fabulous, as is the Seafood Risotto. East Bay Grille also offers an extensive choice of traditional entrees like their Filet Au Poivre — peppercorn-crusted filet mignon in a cognac cream sauce with blue cheese mashed potatoes and bacon-wrapped green beans — a hearty, reward meal after a day at sea.
Ask for a seat under the tent. You can enjoy the waterfront views and a wonderful meal.
Best Hotels In New Bedford
The New Bedford hotels and rentals are as charming as the historic city. Select accommodations along the waterfront in the heart of the downtown area. The city is easy to navigate, so you can plan your getaway stay around the activities you have on your itinerary.
Luxury Penthouse Stay
The deep and rich history of New Bedford is captured in this
New Bedford Harbor Hotel
A relaxing getaway awaits you at the New Bedford Harbor Hotel. Located several blocks from the harbor, the three-star hotel includes breakfast with your stay to get your tour off to a great start.
For information on New Bedford’s neighbor, Plymouth, MA, checkout How To Spend A Fantastic Day In Plymouth, Massachusetts.