Historic Plymouth Massachusetts – A Day Trip From Boston
Go to where it all started for the United States, Plymouth, Massachusetts. If you are looking for a day trip to Boston, a coastal getaway, or maybe a unique Thanksgiving vacation, Plymouth, Massachusetts offers an abundance of things to do.
Plymouth, Massachusetts- A Brief History
Plymouth, MA was founded in 1620 when the Pilgrims sailed to the new world. The town of Plymouth is a great day or weekend trip from Boston and is easily accessible. It is only 40 miles to Boston and close to Cape Cod. Many have read about it in their history classes, but in Plymouth you can follow the founders’ footsteps (that is, after the local native Americans, the Wampanoag). The first stop is the waterfront park known as Pilgrim Memorial State Park where the Mayflower II and Plymouth Rock are located. Here is perfect for a walk in the park with one of the best scenic waterfront views. Online you can find a self-guided walking tour of the area. While the Mayflower II tour has a fee, the waterfront scenic area and self-guided tour are free.
Originally the Pilgrims first stopped at Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod, but came further down to find a better place to set up a colony (and find water) with winter approaching. The first Governor, William Bradford, stepped on what is known as Plymouth Rock and started Plimouth Plantation in 1620.
You may note that the spelling of Plymouth was slightly different. The area had been named Plymouth after Plymouth in England where the ship sailed from; however, spelling wasn’t always well known by all and some did it phonetically and Governor Bradford wrote Plimouth on his journals.
What is the top attraction in Plymouth, Massachusetts?
For years, one of the top attractions in the area was Plimouth Plantation, the living history museum. However, more recently (2020) it was renamed the Plimouth Patuxet Museum. Patuxet was the name the Wampanoag called the area. Similar to Colonial Williamsburg, the village gives you a glimpse into the early settlers’ lives. Notably, the town continues to use the name Plymouth to differentiate itself from the village museum.
On the waterfront, not far from Plymouth Rock, is the Mayflower II, a great spot to visit to learn more about the long voyage from England. Also, learn about the harrowing tales of how the Pilgrims lived and survived on the ship.
After you visit the Mayflower II., walk over to Plymouth Rock and then cross the street to the steep Cole’s Hill. Cole’s Hill is where many of the settlers were buried after the pilgrim’s first winter. At the top is a granite sarcophagus erected in 1920 that holds the original settler’s remains that were unearthed during storms and reburried on the 300th anniversary of their arrival. Notably, Governor Bradford and many others were buried at the permanent Burial Hill. On the grassy Cole’s Hill is a statue of Massasoit, the Wampanoag sachem that helped the settlers survive. From Cole’s Hill you can enjoy a scenic view of Plymouth Bay.
Although the self-guided tour may be enough for some people, there are also guided tours in the area. While on Cole Hill I was able to talk with one period dressed guide from The Jenney Interpretive Center explaining to his group about the burial site, etc. This may be a great option for the history buffs or kids.
Plimouth Patuxet Museum
After this you may want to get a coffee or bite to eat along the waterfront before heading to Plimouth Patuxet Museum and walk around this unique living history museum. Wear comfortable shoes to walk along the paths. It can get a bit hilly. This is a great way for both young and old to learn more of the settlers’ lives. After this you may want to get some dinner along the waterfront and pier. Fish and lobster of course are a great local favorite. Later, you may want to walk around or go to the beach, or head on your way to the hotel, Cape Cod or Boston (or home). Or if you are staying overnight, there are charters and ships that may be a great way to spend the next day.
Pilgrim Hall Museum
If you’re a history buff, you may also want to go to the nearby Pilgrim Hall Museum built in 1824. Here you can learn more about the Pilgrims’ lives, beyond the Pilgrims, as well as more about the Wampanoag- Native Americans that lived here for 10,000 years before the Pilgrim’s arrival. Notably, William Bradford’s bible is on display here, as well as artwork, like the Signing the Mayflower Compact. As you walk around downtown you see many other churches and historic buildings. One of my favorite coffee places not far from here is The Blue Blinds Bakery (currently expanding and should reopen soon).
Whale Watching/Fishing/Ferry to Provincetown
If you stay longer in the area, there are options for whale watching and/or deep-sea fishing, like with Captain John’s Boats. The various boats are on the nearby pier along with several restaurants, fish market etc. Another great option is to take a ferry to Provincetown for the day and this would allow you to skip the Cape Cod traffic. The most exciting one I am still waiting to try is the Whale Watch, it is simply amazing to see the whales up close and personal. Make sure to check schedules and availability since it can change, depend on weather, etc.
Try a whale watching tour in Plymouth, Massachusetts
Places to Stay and Restaurants in Plymouth
Wondering where you may lay your head for a good rest? There are a myriad of places to stay in different price ranges from the Hilton Garden Inn, Fairfield Inn, and Hampton Inn, to more local places like Hotel 1620, John Carver Inn and Spa, or various bed & breakfasts, etc.
With all this sightseeing, you must be hungry. There are many restaurants, some of the waterfront ones are my favorites like Tavern on the Wharf, East Bay Grille, or Wood’s Seafood (next to Wood’s Fish Market) to name just a few.
You may want to cool off if it’s the summer, there are a number of great beaches in the area including Plymouth Long Beach and White Horse Beach to name a few. As with other seasonal places you will need to check what is open and the requirements (especially with changes with Covid).
Miles Standish State Forest
If you want to cool off in fresh water a great place for swimming is Miles Standish State Park, clear waters and cookouts make this the perfect escape to cool off. There are also many cabins for rent and it is great to escape the New England summer heat. Myles Standish State Forest is only a 12 minute drive from Plymouth, Massachusetts and is a nice spot to visit as well.
Fare thee Well
Plymouth is a great place to get a touch of history, enjoy the beauty of another great waterfront community in Massachusetts, and a great day trip or weekend trip from Boston. Between the history, fishing, boating, great food and beaches there is something for everyone and of all ages.
As the Pilgrims would say, “fare thee well”.