Salem, Massachusetts may be best known for its “witch trials” of 1692 (during which nobody was burned to death, but about a dozen people were hanged in the region). The town was also a significant trading port known for its shipbuilding. During the American Revolution, Salem never fell to the enemy and its 158 privateers captured 445 English ships. Deep water harbors like Boston later took away from Salem’s prominence, helping preserve its architecture until it was named the nation’s first National Historic Site in 1938.
Derby Wharf lighthouse, Friendship of Salem, Custom House
The main National Park Service (NPS) visitor center is located downtown in the old Salem Armory and offers films and exhibits (including one covering the “witch trials” of 1692). Most of its 14 protected structures are located a short walk toward the waterfront near Derby Wharf. It is free to come aboard the Friendship of Salem, a full-scale replica of a 1797 merchant ship. You can learn all sorts of information from the interpreters on the ship and perhaps weave some of your own rope to take with you as a souvenir.
The Derby Wharf Trail follows a paved breakwater out to a small lighthouse that dates to 1871. This truly is a walking park with additional points of interest at the Salem Witch Museum, House of the Seven Gables, and Peabody Essex Museum (all of which charge admission).
The 1819 Custom House is where novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne worked between 1846-48. The original rooftop eagle carved in 1826 is housed inside, but a replica stands in its place.
All roads paved, but only street parking is available.
Harold Parker State Forest has a large campground located approximately 10 miles northwest of Salem, Massachusetts.
Boston National Historical Park (Massachusetts)
New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park (Massachusetts)
Lowell National Historical Park (Massachusetts)
Explore More – Who was the shipping merchant who became one of America’s first millionaires and whose house is now part of Salem Maritime National Historic Site?