A Boater’s Guide to Salem, Massachusetts

salem-town-sign-bosunsMost people are familiar with Salem, Massachusetts for it being a hotbed of witchcraft, psychic arts and other mystical interests. But there’s more to Salem that its preoccupation with the supernatural. This historic seaport is also home to a vibrant waterfront, plenty of fascinating attractions and a large selection of exceptional restaurants, making this one of New England’s most enjoyable ports.

Boaters should navigate to Salem by steering toward a large power plant along its waterfront. The waters around Salem are filled with rocks and ledges, and although several marked channels lead into Salem Harbor, Salem Channel, beginning just east of Newcomb Ledge, is the most straightforward approach. While no fuel is available in Salem Harbor, gas and diesel are available nearby in Beverly and Marblehead Harbors.

Once in Salem, you can dock or grab a mooring at Pickering Wharf Marina (www.pickeringwharf.com; 978-744-2727), located at a lively wharf with shops and restaurants. Also nearby is the Brewer Hawthorne Cove Marine (www.hawthornecove.com; 978-740-9890), a full service marina adjacent to the House of the Seven Gables.

When entering Salem Harbor, you’ll see Winter Island (http://www.salemweb.com/winterisland/) to starboard. The former military installation is a marine recreational park and features camping, picnic areas and is home to historic Fort Pickering and Fort Pickering Lighthouse. In Salem is the Peabody Essex Museum (www.pem.org; 800-745-4054), the nation’s oldest continuously operated museum. Its collection includes maritime arts and history, plus a wide array of Asian, African, Native American and American arts. The National Park Service’s Salem Maritime Historic Site (http://www.nps.gov/sama; 978-740-1660) has tours of historic buildings, a visit to a tall ship and a film about Salem’s history. You can also tour the Salem Custom House (http://www.nps.gov/sama/historyculture/customhouse.htm), where Nathaniel Hawthorne worked as a surveyor from 1846 to 1849. Salem, of course, also has a large number of witch- and monster-themed attractions. For more information, you can visit www.salem.org.

Salem also has many great restaurants to choose from. Finz Seafood (www.hipfinz.com; 978-744-8485) offers waterfront dining, a raw bar, and innovative seasonal menus. Victoria Station & Vic’s Boathouse (www.VictoriaStationSalem.com; 978-745-3400) also offers waterfront dining, an exceptional menu and live entertainment. And the Sea Level Oyster Bar (www.sealeveloysterbar.com; 978-741-0555) on Pickering Wharf has an indoor/outdoor bar, incredible views and fresh seafood.