Every year, thousands of vacationers travel from far and wide to spend time vacationing on the lovely beaches of Cape Cod, strategically hopping in the car at a time of day that gives them the best shot at avoiding the miles of traffic waiting to cross the Bourne and Sagamore bridges. In their quest for traffic-jam salvation, these vacationers will do their best RoadRash impressions to beat the the rush to the sandy cape beaches.
In their quest to reach the Cape, these out-of-towners breeze through the stretch of Interstate 195 that makes up the SouthCoast region of Massachusetts. Once eloquently referred to as “the greater New Bedford and Fall River area,” the SouthCoast is made up of the southern sections of Plymouth and Bristol counties that border Buzzard’s Bay and includes the cities of New Bedford and Fall River.
I’m proud to say I am SouthCoast born and raised. Growing up, I lived in the city of New Bedford, as well as the towns of Marion and Rochester (two of the three towns making up the SouthCoast’s “Tri-Town”). I assure you there is much more to this area than the barren stretch of I-195 that acts as Cape Cod’s yellow brick road. Close your eyes and think of a weekend vacation. Beach? Check. Food? Check. Culture? Check. Relaxation? Check. Dare I say, history? Check. All these things and more are right at your fingertips without ever having to join the parade of Mercedes and BMWs from Connecticut and Jersey as they converge on the cape known as Cod.
An area rich in history, culture, and some of the most beautiful scenery Massachusetts has to offer; here are some things you can’t miss when visiting the SouthCoast.
The SouthCoast is home to one of the largest Portuguese communities in the United States. You can’t travel more than 2 miles without being reminded of the rich culture instilled by the Portuguese community since their arrival at Dighton Rock in 1511. If you’ve never tried dishes like shrimp mozambique or indulged in a linguica pizza, it would be a crime for you to leave the area without doing so.
Here are the best places in the area to dive into some of the finest Portuguese cuisine you can find in the United States:
- Antonio’s Restaurant, 267 Coggshell St., New Bedford, MA
- Biera Alta Restaurant, 826 Plymouth Ave., Fall River, MA
- Cafe Portugal, 1280 Acushnet Ave., New Bedford, MA
- Madeira Cafe, 76 Church St., New Bedford, MA, 02746
- Cotali Mar, 1178 Acushnet Ave., New Bedford, MA
- Bom Appetite, 703 Belleville Ave., New Bedford, MA
What would a trip in New England be without checking out some fresh lobstah, kehd (that’s ’kid' in Massachusetts slang)? The cities of New Bedford and Fall River provide the area with some of the freshest seafood you’ll ever have the pleasure of getting your hands on. Say what you will about the smell when the fleet comes into port, but it’s 100% worth dealing with for the opportunity to enjoy some of the freshest seafood on the planet. Some of these locations couldn’t care less about presentation (I’m looking at you, Turk’s) and are all about the quality of what’s on your paper plate.
- Turk’s Seafood Market and Sushi Bar, 83 Marion Rd., Mattapoisett, MA
- Oxford Creamery (Seasonal), 98 County Rd., Mattapoisett, MA
- BrewFish Bar and Eatery, 210 Spring St., Marion, MA
- Blue Point Restaurant, 6 Dayton St., Acushnet, MA
- Lindsey’s Seafood Restaurant, 3138 Cranberry Hwy, East Wareham, MA
- Fathom’s Bar and Grille, 255 Popes Island, New Bedford, MA
- Elizabeth’s, 1 Middle St., Fairhaven, MA
So, you’ve had your fill of food and you’re ready for the next adventure? Well, if the beach is your thing, the SouthCoast has you covered.
John Reed Road, Westport, MA
Horseneck is the beach for the SouthCoast. It lies on a peninsula jetting from the Westport mainland and into Rhode Island Sound and Buzzards Bay. Enjoy 2 miles of beach and a protected estuary habitat.
Green Street, Fairhaven, MA
Originally built in 1775, Ft. Phoenix was destroyed by the British during their raid on New Bedford harbor in 1778. Legend has it the British tried to seize Ft. Phoenix in 1814, but they were scared off when they mistook the horn of a postman’s bicycle as a sounding of charging US forces. Come here to enjoy great views (see below), a beach, tennis and basketball courts, and the chance to tour the fort itself.
Front Street, Marion, MA
I’m a little biased when it comes to Silvershell (that’s my old lifeguard chair you’re looking at), and for my money, you won’t find a prettier bayside beach in the area. Located in the picturesque Marion Village, Silvershell Beach is perfect for the casual swim or scenic stroll. Take a trip to Silvershell and tour downtown Marion for an authentic SouthCoast experience. You’ll fall in love with the homes, small-town feel, and views of Marion Harbor.
5 Water St, Fall River, MA
Oo-rah … ’Merica! Nestled beneath the Braga Bridge in Fall River lies Battleship Cove. This maritime museum and war memorial contains enough American steel, firepower, and history to make Uncle Sam feel overwhelmed with patriotism. Take a tour of the USS Massachusetts (one of the most bad-ass battleships to fight in World War 2) as well as other retried United States naval muscle as you spend the afternoon on the waterfront of this historic city.
18 Johnny Cake Hill, New Bedford, MA
Is that a dinosaur? Some kind of alien? Not a chance. What you’re looking at is the skeleton of a blue whale. These beasts of the sea were fair game for hunting during the golden age of sail, when New Bedford’s whaling fleet circumnavigated the world to hunt these giants, in search of whale oil used for heat and lubricating the deep pockets of city residents (making New Bedford one of the richest cities in the United States). As our society evolved, we realized slaughtering whales maybe isn’t such a great idea (sorry Captain Ahab, who also hunted Moby Dick out of New Bedford), and the fleet moved on to more acceptable forms of fishing. In 2012 alone, the New Bedford fleet hauled in 143,000,000 pounds of landing weight (10th in the country) for a value of $411,100,000 (1st in the country).
54 Marion Road, Wareham, MA
Don’t want to spend your vacation touring battleships and museums? No problem! The famous Cape Cod Baseball League has a team based in Wareham (alumni include Barry Zito, Daniel Bard, Justin Masterson and Mo Vaughn) that you can watch for free! Cape League Baseball has been ballin' since 1885. Today, the league draws recruits from the top colleges and universities across the United States.
Madeira Field, New Bedford, MA
It’s the most wonderful time of the year … to drink copious amounts of Madeira wine and grill meat over an open fire with thousands of great people. If you happen to be in the area for the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament (or simply “the feast” as it’s referred to locally) do yourself a favor and join the party. Live music, shows, dancing, games, grilling, drinking, and eating all happen here during this 4-day party. This is seriously the biggest party in Southeastern Massachusetts (the WrestleMania or Super Bowl of the community) and they’ve been raging every year since 1915. Just go.
230 2nd St, Fall River, MA
All the eating, sun-bathing, exploring, and baseball got you a little tired? Not to worry, we have you covered. Spend the night (if you dare) in the historical Lizzie Borden House, which is now a bed and breakfast. Lizzie is most famous for slaughtering* her parents with an axe in 1892, and now you can sleep in the very rooms where the murders were committed, awesome! As they say: Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks, and when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one!