The logical place to begin is where the Pilgrims first set foot—at Plymouth Rock. It’s located on the waterfront in the petite Pilgrim Memorial State Park, 79 Water St. (tel. 508/747-5360), the smallest state park in Massachusetts. 
To commemorate the spot from which the Mayflower sailed for the New World, a white archway, erected in 1934 and capped with the flags of Great Britain and the United States, stands at the base of Plymouth's West Pier, on the Barbican. Incorporating a granite monument that was erected in 1891, the site is referred to as both the Mayflower Steps and the Memorial Gateway.

The Barbican is a mass of narrow streets, old houses, and quay-side shops selling antiques, brass work, old prints, and books. It's a perfect place for strolling and browsing through shops at your leisure.

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Fishing boats still unload their catches at the wharves, and passenger-carrying ferryboats run short harbor cruises. The best way to view Plymouth, in our opinion, is to take one of the boat trips outlined below. You not only get to see Plymouth from a nautical perspective, but you get to experience an added thrill by knowing that this was the pilgrims' last view of England before departing for the New World. A trip includes views from the water of Drake's Island in the sound, the dockyards, naval vessels, and the Hoe -- a greenbelt in the center of the city that opens onto Plymouth Harbour. A cruise of Plymouth Harbour costs £8.50 for adults and £5 for children 5 to 15; children under 5 are free. Departures are April to October, with cruises leaving every half-hour from 10am to 4pm daily. These Tamar Cruising and Cremyll Ferry cruises are booked at Cremyll Quay, Torpoint (tel. 01752/822105).

Plymouth’s Historic Houses

 

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The See Plymouth website lists more than a dozen historic houses in Plymouth and neighboring towns such as Scituate and Duxbury, many of them with costumed guides explaining the homemaking and crafts of earlier generations. For those curious about the original settlers, the 1667 Jabez Howland House, 33 Sandwich St. (tel. 508/746-9590; $6 adults and kids over 12, $5 seniors and students, $2 children), is the only existing house where pilgrims actually lived. The Sparrow House, 42 Summer St. (tel. 508/747-1240), which has one room open for viewing and a gift/craft shop, was built in 1640 and is the oldest home in Plymouth.

Other houses open for visits include the 1677 Harlow Old Fort House, 119 Sandwich St (free) and the 1754 Mayflower Society House, 4 Winslow St. (tel. 508/746-3188; $7 adults, $5 seniors, teens, and AAA members). For a full list, go to www.seeplymouth.com/things-to-do/historic-sites-houses. Most houses are open late May through mid-October, during Thanksgiving celebrations in November, and around Christmas in December. Tip: check online for schedules and pay close attention to open days, which are limited.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.