Plimoth Plantation and the Mayflower II ship are major attractions in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Authentic yet entertaining the two are links to our past and the 102 passengers that survived the journey across stormy seas.
During the journey the bad storms of the North Atlantic forced the crew to take down the sails and just let the winds blow the ship wherever it wanted. During one brutal storm one of the Mayflower main beams cracked and the sailors where convinced they'd have to turn back.
But the journey continued and because of it the world was forever changed.
No, this is not going to be a history lesson, but the first of two articles about two unique experiences of US history you can have during your New England vacations.
This first article covers the area of Plymouth Plantation, and the second in the series covers Sturbridge Village.
The Mayflower voyage of 1620 took 66 days after leaving Plymouth, England on September 6, and anchoring in present day Provincetown harbor in Cape Cod on November 11, 1620. Miraculously only one passenger died on the voyage.
The Pilgrims decided Cape Cod was not a suitable place for a settlement, and forced north because of the weather and dangerous shoals south of Cape Cod, the pilgrims finally came ashore in late November in present day Plymouth center.
That first winter at Plimoth Plantation decimated the settlers due to cold and disease. Of the 102 that came ashore only 52 were left in the spring.
The native Wampanoag men showed the survivors how to plant corn and in October 1621 the Pilgrims celebrated their first harvest at Plymouth Plantation. Later generations would recognize the significance of the harvest by setting aside a special day that we now call Thanksgiving. And this day, more than any other in our calendar, binds every American to that fateful voyage in 1620.
And you can relive and feel this spirit and the early days of settlement at Plimoth Plantation and Mayflower II replica. Both located in the coastal town of Plymouth, a city about 40 miles south of Boston and an easy ride on Route 3 south.
Plymouth Plantation is a 1627 Pilgrim authentic village a few miles outside of the city but close to the highway and well sign-posted.
An orientation movie and collection of artifacts greet you at the Henry Hornblower Visitor Center. Plimoth plantation itself is a loop tour with two primary sites, the 1627 Pilgrim Village and the Hobbamock's (Wampanoag) Homesite. The stroll from the museum down to the main village passes by a craft center and crop fields.
The village itself is full of buildings and gardens. Everything is plain and productive, and authentic.
The people of the village dress, talk, and act, as best we know they would've on the original Plymouth Plantation. But that doesn't mean they are aloof or communicate in riddles or a strange tongue. Their aim is to educate and entertain but still remain true to the era. I've always found they are engaging and excellent in this balance.
The stroll out of the village along the Eel River walk takes you to the Native people homesite.
As I said earlier, the Pilgrims would not have survived the first year had it not been for help from the Native Peoples. They taught them about the region and it's agriculture and the resources of the land, and how to thrive.
This special area is a home for an extended family not another village. It honors the importance and affinity the Native People have in this region.
Take time to appreciate the skills of weaving and tanning practiced at the site, and the use of fire for burning out boats. Go inside one of the houses and notice the materials and bindings used for construction.
The inhabitants here do not role-play so feel free to discuss modern day subjects with them.
And now? linger for a while longer at Plymouth Plantation, and rest back at the visitor center, or purchase that craft you saw at the store earlier. And then when you're ready to continue, leave Plimoth Plantation and head for town and the Mayflower II replica.
Mayflower II is docked on State Pier on Water Street. Meter parking is available along the waterfront. .
You'll think it a small ship.
Imagine the vast expanse of the North Atlantic at times wild and unforgiving. A 2,760-mile trip in a ship that leaked and creaked at an agonizing speed of 2 mph!
During your Mayflower tour you'll meet passengers on the ship role-playing for you. You'll get to see the passenger's cramped quarters and the captain's spacious cabin. But most of all you'll be cast back in time.
And if you close your eyes and listen to the gulls overhead maybe you'll hear the shouts of a sailor as he sights landfall and one journey's end? and the start of another.
Enjoy your day at Plimoth Plantation and the Mayflower II. They are entertaining reminders of our history and a link back to a monumental voyage.
For more information, opening times, and ticket prices for Plymouth Plantation and the Mayflower visit their web site at www.plimoth.org
Cliff Calderwood is the owner and contributing writer of the New England vacations guide . You can read more about Plymouth Plantation, The Mayflower, and get a free travel report at his New England vacation site.