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Discovering Incredible History and Charm at New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park in New Bedford, Mass.

Articles and photos (unless otherwise noted) by Eric Hurwitz. Page updated on 9/20/17.

  Water Street in New Bedford, Massachusetts
North Water Street, Street, New Bedford - Photo by: Tim Grafft/ flickr library

The U.S. National Park Service's 13-block Whaling District resonates with charm. The cobblestone streets, and old sea captain homes, churches and brick buildings lovingly bring out the flavor of New Bedford's presence as the greatest whaling city in the world back in the mid-1800s. Today, the Whaling District is "anchored" by the marvelous New Bedford Whaling Museum, a state-of-the-art museum celebrating the glory days of the local whaling industry.

New Bedford Whaling Museum, New Bedford, Massachusetts

New Bedford was once one of the wealthiest cities in the world, thanks to a robust whaling industry starting in the mid 1800s and a thriving textile industry. The Whaling District also features many shops, galleries, boutiques and restaurants to complement an area perfect for strolling and connecting with the sea.

New Bedford Whaling District view of water
Historic buildings, working waterfront. Photo credit: flickr library

Working waterfront in New Bedford, Massachusetts
New Bedford working waterfront. Photo credit: flickr library

A charming, walkable cobblestone street in the Whaling District New Bedford, Massachusetts
A walk along the cobblestone William St.

Regarding restaurants, Freestones City Grill is phenomenal with a charming, historic look and fabulous local seafood...

Freestone's restaurant in New Bedford, Massachusetts
Freestones City Grill.

New Bedford Whaling Historical Park ranks up there with the most historically appealing coastal districts in New England and all of America, for that matter. Congress established the Whaling Historical Park in 1996 to give visitors a living outdoor museum-like presentation of whaling, the working waterfront, and the Underground Railroad (not a railroad, but an undercover system to provide refuge for fugitives, including Frederick Douglass, during the anti-slavery movement in the 1800s). It's all pretty fascinating and definitely worth a free, guided walking tour, which you should start your New Bedford visit with first.

Is New Bedford worth visiting? This writer's perspective

Along with Portland, Maine's Port Exchange and Portsmouth, N.H., the New Bedford Whaling District is my top choice for urban historical preservation by the sea.  I think you'll love walking the charming streets, and connecting with coastal, urban New England. That said, there are a few things you should know before vacationing in New Bedford. The overall city has a high crime rate and you need to be aware of your surroundings, especially at night. The city is a work in progress, so you might find Portland and Portsmouth more complete and consistently appealing in regards to a historical, urban New England vacation experience. Many prefer a day trip to New Bedford, combining it with a vacation in Boston, Providence, Newport, or Cape Cod.

Whether a vacation or day trip, the several blocks in the Whaling District make New Bedford a must for anyone who loves the sea and has an interest in historical travel.

Book a room in New Bedford at the lowest available rate

New Bedford Whaling District
Diverse architecture in the New Bedford Whaling District.

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The Whaling District in New Bedford, Mass., features the famous Whaling Museum, cobblestone streets, beautiful 18th and 19th century architecture, a growing dining and shopping scene and nice coastal views from the neighborhood hills.

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