A Boater’s Guide to Newburyport, MA

Newburyport, on Massachusetts’ North Shore, is both alluring and challenging for boaters. The challenging part is navigating the mouth of the Merrimack River, considered by many to be one of the more difficult inlets on the East Coast, with its strong currents and heavy boat traffic.

But there’s a reason Newburyport is so popular among boaters, even with its challenges. With its scenic coastline, rich maritime history and attractive, charming streets lined with interesting boutiques and restaurants, Newburyport is one of the region’s most enjoyable boating destinations.

When navigating to Newburyport, boaters can use VHF 16 to learn the current conditions in the inlet from the Coast Guard, which monitors the river entrance. When entering the river, steer for lighted red-white buoy “MR” and proceed to lighted buoy R “2” off the north jetty. Boaters often favor the north side of the channel to avoid a shoal extending off the tip of Plum Island. Be sure to keep buoy R “8” to starboard after clearing the inlet to avoid Badgers Rocks. Follow channel markers closely as you approach Newburyport, steering clear of Half Tide Rocks off buoy GC “17.”

During the season between Memorial Day and Columbus Day, transient boaters can tie up at municipal docks along the Central Waterfront Boardwalk. Space is available on a first-come, first-served basis, and fees range from $2 an hour to $6 an hour depending on the size of your boat. The city also keeps 4 guest moorings available. For information, you can contact the harbormaster at 978-462-3746 or on VHF 12.

The Newburyport area is home to many marinas. Hilton’s (www.newburyportmarinas.com/marinas/hiltons-marina/; 978-463-3990; VHF 9) is a full-service marina with transient slips, plus gas, diesel, pumpout and more. Newburyport Harbor Marina (www.newburyportmarinas.com/marinas/newburyport-harbor-marina/; 978-462-3990; VHF 9 & 71) is another full-service marina with slips, a ship’s store, bait and tackle, and repair services. The Newburyport Boat Basin (www.newburyportmarinas.com/marinas/newburyport-boat-basin/; 978-465-9110; VHF 9 & 10) has transient slips, fuel, bait and tackle, and outboard repair. And Windward Yacht Yard on McKay’s Wharf (www.newburyportmarinas.com/marinas/windward-yacht-yard/; 978-462-6500; VHF 11) offers slips, moorings, bait and tackle, a ship’s store and an onsite restaurant.

On land, you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to just stroll along Newburyport’s attractive streets, exploring its shops, boutiques and historic buildings. The Custom House Maritime Museum (www.customhousemaritimemuseum.org; 978-462-8681) features maritime art, displays of famous shipwrecks, the history of the Coast Guard and more. The Caleb Cushing House Museum (www.newburyhistory.org/cushing-house/; 978-462-2681) houses the collection of the Historical Society of Old Newbury. And for those who love the outdoors, the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge (www.fws.gov/refuge/parker_river/; 978-465-5753) offers breathtaking scenery and is a habitat for migratory birds.

As you walk along Newburyport’s city streets and waterfront, you’re certain to find a number of restaurants that interest you. Among them is The Grog (www.thegrog.com/; 978-465-8008), popular for its great menu, drink selection and some of the best live music in the area. The Black Cow Tap and Grill (www.blackcowrestaurants.com/; 978-499-8811) has both indoor and outdoor dining, and features a diverse, mouthwatering menu. Striper’s Grille and Inn (www.stripersgrillandinn.com/; 978-499-0400) offers casual dining, a menu seafood and American fare, and wonderful views of Newburyport Harbor. And Michael’s Harborside (www.michaelsharborside.com/; 978-462-7785) is a popular riverfront restaurant and bar.

To learn more about visiting Newburyport, visit www.NewburyportChamber.org.

For more information on Newburyport, Click below to watch the Newburyport episode of New England Boating.