Marion, Massachusetts

Visitors will find no shortage of classic sailing vessels in Marion Harbor. Photo by Tom Richardson

 

It’s fair to say that Marion, named for the Revolutionary War hero General Francis Marion, has earned the title “Yachting Capital of Buzzards Bay” (although it’s also a pretty good place to fish), especially when you consider its distinguished maritime history.

 

Marion is a great kayaking area—if you can find a place to park. Photo by Tom Richardson

From 1678 to 1852, the area that is now Marion was part of Rochester, and was known as “Sippican” after the tribe of Wampanoag Indians that had lived there until European settlement. From 1815 to the mid-1800s, Marion was a thriving seacoast town. According to the Sippican Historical Society, “its chief product was seamen who sailed on whaleships, coastal schooners, and Liverpool packets. While neighboring Mattapoisett was a major shipbuilding town, Marion tended more toward whaling and producing captains than making money from shipbuilding.

The skiffs and tenders of Marion residents line the wharf at Old Landing. Photo by Tom Richardson

At one point, 87 sea captains lived in Marion. Marion boys went to sea at the age of 16 and worked their way up through the ranks to become mates and captains.

As the whaling and local shipbuilding industries disappeared in the mid-1800s Marion declined in prosperity until the budding tourism industry began drawing rich and famous visitors to the southeast coast of Massachusetts. By 1880 Marion had become a famous resort area. The “summer people” bought the homes of former ship captains or built their own on the harbor, and spent their time socializing and enjoying the waters of Buzzards Bay.

A handsome bass boat rests on its mooring near the entrance to the inner harbor. Photo by Tom Richardson

 

Today, that tradition continues, and from May to October Marion hosts hundreds of the most beautiful sailing and cruising boats in New England. The forest of masts that populate Marion Harbor from May to October make it easily visible from the middle of Buzzards Bay on a clear day, while the long, narrow harbor provides excellent shelter in winds from most every direction except due east.

Marion’s boating community is serviced by three marina/yards—Bardens, Burr Brothers & A&J Boats. The first two are full-service facilities offering transient slips and moorings, except during regattas and other yachting events. Both also sell gas and diesel, although you must schedule a fueling time at Bardens.

The forest of masts populating the inner harbor can be seen from a great distance. Photo by Tom Richardson

Marion is perhaps most famous among boaters as the site of various sailing events, including the Marion to Bermuda Race, the Buzzards Bay Regatta (hosted by the Beverly Yacht Club) and the J80 races. In between are various smaller regattas and club events.

A good stretch of Marion’s western shore, from the Harbormaster’s Office to the town landing, is occupied by Tabor Academy (established in 1878), which offers robust sailing and rowing programs. Indeed, budding mariners get the opportunity to sail aboard the Tabor Boy, a steel-hulled, two-masted schooner moored in the harbor. Every other year, the schooner makes a trip to the Caribbean as part of a long-term sailing, science and team-building project. On any given day when school’s in session, a parade of small sailing vessels and rowing shells manned by Tabor students can be seen filing in and out of the harbor.

Visiting yachtsmen can find transient dockage and services at Burr Brothers Boatyard at the head of the harbor. Photo by Tom Richardson

Ashore, Marion is pretty and quiet. Aside from strolling, biking, or jogging the tree-lined streets, or taking in a play at the Marion Art Center, there’s not a whole lot to do, although the town does have a few restaurants within walking distance of the harbor. These include the Atlantic Bistro, Kate’s Simple Eats, the Brew Fish Pub, and Cilantro. Also of interest is Uncle Jon’s Coffee & Cafe, which serves delicious lunch and breakfast items, fine coffee, chai, lattes, expresso, and pastries. It’s owner and founder, Jonathan Pope, is an accomplished sailor.

Downtown Marion has a small general store, a museum and a few shops worth checking out, but for the most part this is a place to enjoy great access to the waters of Buzzards Bay.

Marion Names & Numbers

Harbormaster
(508) 748-3535

Dockage, Moorings & Service

  • Barden’s Boatyard
    (508) 748-0250
    Full-service marina and boatyard located on west side of harbor adjacent to the town wharf. Offers transient slips and moorings, launch service, haul-out, WiFi, storage, electric, hull repair and more.
  • Burr Brothers Boatyard
    (508) 748-0541
    Full-service marina at northern end of harbor. Offers fuel dock with gas and diesel, transient slips and moorings, launch service, electric, WiFi, water, ship’s store, haul-out, rigging, canvas work and more.

  • A&J Boat Corp.
    (508) 748-2800
    Full-service yard on Hammetts Cove. Service, repair and storage.
  • Beverly Yacht Club
    (508) 748-0540
    Private club founded in 1872 and offering transient services to members of reciprocal clubs.

Anchorage

  • An anchorage with excellent holding ground is located at the southern end of the harbor, just north of Ram Island, although boats cannot be left unattended. A public dinghy dock is located at the town wharf adjacent to the harbormaster’s office. Dinghies can be left here for up to three hours. Very large vessels can anchor in the outer harbor, south of Ram Island and outside of Buoy “6”, as well as outside the swimming barrier off Silvershell Beach.

Launch Ramps

  • A town ramp is located at Old Veterans Memorial Park (Old Landing), but is intended for town residents and there is no trailer parking available. Kayakers can launch and park at the town wharf next to the Harbormaster’s Office.
  • Two large public ramps with ample parking are available in nearby Wareham and Mattapoisett.

Cool Shops

  • Marion General Store
    (508) 748-0340
    Purveyors of custom-cut meats, cheeses, produce, beer, coffee, gifts and more on Front Street.
  • Dean Ross Home
    (508) 748-0411
    Fine home-furnishings store on Front Street.
  • Serendipity by the Sea
    (508) 748-1800
    Unique gifts and clothing store with a decidedly nautical theme, across the street from Bardens Boatyard.
  • Marion Sports Shop
    (508) 748-1318
    Sophisticated men’s and women’s clothing from around the world, across the street from Burr Brothers Boatyard.

Where to Eat

  • The Atlantic Bistro
    (508) 748-0176
    Creative lunch and dinner menu in an intimate setting.
  • Cilantro
    (508) 748-2700
    Tasty and creative Thai cuisine a short walk from the harbor. BYOB.
  • Brew Fish
    (508) 748-2986
    Restaurant and bar specializing in microbrews and good comfort food. A short walk from the harbor.
  • Kate’s Simple Eats
    (508) 748-0042
    Cozy café serving tasty breakfast and lunch items.
  • Uncle Jon’s Coffee & Café
  • (508) 748-0063
    Delicious coffee, tea, chai, lattes and pastries, plus lunch items to go for boat and beach picnics. Within walking distance of the harbor.
  • Harriet’s Catering
    (508) 748-2053
    Delicious home-cooked meals to go. Menu changes frequently.

Things to See & Do

  • Sippican Historical Society
    (508) 748-1116
    Learn about Marion’s past at the Historical Society headquarters on Front Street.
  • Buzzards Bay Regatta
    Held in early August and hosted by the Beverly Yacht Club, the BBR is a well-attended series of races that draws sailors from all over the country. Classes include 505, Ensign 420, Vanguard 15, Rhodes 19, PHFR, Multihull, Laser, J/80, J/24 and Etchells.
  • Marion Art Center
    (508) 748-1266
    Established in 1957 as a non-profit community cultural organization dedicated to promoting the visual and performing arts. Maintains a gallery of local art and hosts live theatre.

 

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