Salem Maritime National Park – Salem, Massachusetts

Salem Maritime National Park
Salem, Massachusetts

Hours: Open year round. $5/adult, $3 seniors and children.
Location: Salem, Massachusetts
Activities: Visitor center with films and exhibits, ranger-led tours of historic structures, or walk the half-mile length of Derby Wharf into Salem Harbor. Also available: biking, bird watching, fishing.
Contact: Salem Maritime National Historic Site, 174 Derby Street, Salem, MA 01970, (978)740-1650
Web site: http://www.nps.gov/sama/index.htm

Salem is a 30-minute drive to the north of Boston and, admittedly, most visitor’s flock there to visit the Salem Witch Museum and see firsthand the sites made popular by high school summer reading lists that include Arthur Miller and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

But there’s more to Salem than witches and high school English: don’t forget high school history. The Salem Maritime National Park, spread over nine acres, will have you dusting off memory molecules and recalling the basic explanations of “triangular trade” and the role of privateering during the revolutionary war.

The park is also the focal point of the Essex National Heritage Area, designated in 1996, which links thousands of historic places in Essex County around three primary historic themes: colonial settlement, maritime trade, and early industrialization in the textile and shoe industries. Okay, perhaps its not as exciting as witch trials, but link a trip to the park with a visit to the aforementioned witch museum, the House of Seven Gables and Salem’s many shops and restaurants, and you have a pretty decent day on your hands.

For the park itself, you can begin your visit at the Orientation Center – situated in a historic warehouse near the waterfront — and head over to Friendship, Salem’s own tall ship. Today’s ship is a replica of the one built in 1797 that made 15 voyages to the South Pacific, South America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Mediterranean and Russia, among other destinations.

Move away from the waterfront, passing the Custom House, the Hawkes House, the Derby House and the West India Goods Store – these are historic buildings and may be worth visiting, but if you’re pressed for time you can safely shoot your photos from the outside. Next up on your walking tour are St. Joseph Hall and the Narbonne House, which was built in 1675 by a butcher.

The tour, for now, concludes at the National Parks Visitors Center on New Liberty Street in downtown Salem, which was originally built as an armory and served as the headquarters and training facility for the Second Corps of Cadets, which traces its history back to the Salem Militia of the seventeenth century.

For more detailed information, as well as a virtual, online tour, visit the Web site. Detailed information on other Salem attractions can be found at the Salem City Guide, the Salem Witch Museum Web site and the city’s official tourism Web site.

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