15 Best Things to Do in Fairhaven, MA

Fairhaven, MA
Matthew Botelho / shutterstock.com

Fairhaven is a small town in Bristol County, located on the Southern Coast of Massachusetts.

It sits where the Achusnet River meets Buzzards Bay and flows into the Atlantic Ocean.

Hailed as one of the most scenic places on the East Coast, the historic seaside town boasts charming Victorian-style buildings, a picturesque coast, and a laid-back lifestyle.

With its location along the coast, Fairhaven was once the second largest whaling port in the country, boasting 24 vessels sailing for whaling grounds.

To learn more about what this charming town has to offer, check out this list of the best things to do in Fairhaven, Massachusetts!

Take a Walking Tour around Downtown Fairhaven

View of Fairhaven Town Hall during sunset
Matthew Botelho / Shutterstock.com

Downtown Fairhaven offers timeless works of architecture that take you back through time.

Start your walking tour at Fairhaven Town Hall, whose High Victorian Gothic-Romanesque style architecture and brick and stone exterior made it to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.

Next, proceed to Millicent Library, with its Richardsonian-Romanesque architecture that reminds you of the castles in the English countryside.

Across Millicent Library is Unitarian Memorial Church, a historic place of worship designed in a Late Gothic Revival style by Charles Brigham.

Then, head to Our Lady’s Haven Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitative Care, once a Tudor-style inn during the early 1900s and became a nursing center from World War II until today.

With impressive structures ranging from colonial-style to Victorian-Era buildings, downtown Fairhaven is a must-visit for architecture enthusiasts.

Shop for Local Goods at Fairhaven’s Farmers’ Markets

Throughout the year, Fairhaven hosts different farmers’ markets where you can shop for fresh and locally crafted products.

These markets aim to support local small and medium-sized enterprises while promoting a sustainable and healthy lifestyle for their residents.

You can shop for your daily needs and souvenirs, as the markets sell items like fresh vegetables, fruits, dairy products, poultry, baked goods, and other handmade products.

At the Fairhaven Farmers Market, shop for freshly harvested fruits and vegetables, honey, handmade soaps, meat products, fresh flowers, and more.

The market takes pride in its GMO-free produce.

Aside from fresh and local farm produce, Huttleston Marketplace offers plants, jewelry, antiques, vintage trinkets and collectibles, and other handmade crafts.

Take a Dip in West Island Town Beach

Lifeguard tower at West Island Town Beach
Mystic Stock Photography / Shutterstock.com

West Island Town Beach is one of the famous beaches in Fairhaven, located on Fir Street.

Protected forests and salt marshes surround the crescent-shaped beach, perfect for wildlife spotting and nature trips.

In the summer, swim in its calm and cool waters, spot small hermit crabs along the shore, and catch fish or shellfish for a freshly-cooked meal.

Boasting clean and healthy waters along Buzzards Bay, the beach invites visitors to discover its underwater world on a snorkeling excursion and find all kinds of fishes and other marine creatures.

With its gorgeous location along the shore, West island Town Beach is one of the town’s prime spots for watching the sunset.

Bring your cameras and snap postcard-perfect photos of the sunset as it descends over the horizon.

Check Out the Little Free Libraries around Fairhaven

The Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that aims to inspire readers through neighborhood book exchanges in the form of a public bookcase.

These bookcases allow you to take and leave a book free of charge and don’t require a library card.

There are no limits to the book genre you can take or donate, so you can expect to find storybooks, children’s books, fiction, and nonfiction books.

Around Fairhaven, there are more than 10 Little Free Libraries in residential and commercial areas where you can select a book for your perusal.

If you’re looking for a quick read on your visit to Fairhaven, stop by these libraries and choose a book to keep you company.

On the other hand, if there’s a book you think that people should read, you can add it to the library to give way to others.

Visit the Millicent Library

Exterior of Millicent Library
Schlitzer90, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

With its red slate roof and a castle-like exterior, the Millicent Library is one of the standout tourist destinations in Fairhaven.

This library on Center Street contains a comprehensive collection of local history resources like newspaper clippings, town reports, cemetery records, old yearbooks, and a database for lost fishermen.

In addition, guests can also access various books on arts and humanities, business, environment, general reference, health, history, science, and more.

The Millicent Library also offers contemporary children’s, fiction, and nonfiction books.

Some famous figures who’ve visited this attraction include Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan and Mark Twain.

The library also holds outdoor storytime events for children and monthly book club discussions.

Learn a Bit of History at the Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship House

In 1841, whaling captain and Fairhaven local William Whitfield rescued Nakahama Manjirō from a deserted island.

The Japanese fisherman returned to Massachusetts with Whitfield, where he studied and learned English, becoming one of the first Japanese people to visit the United States.

The Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship House, formerly Manjirō’s residence, preserves this part of Fairhaven’s history and celebrates the friendship between the two countries.

Learn more about Manjirō’s life on a guided tour of the museum and go on a Manjirō Trail Tour, which will take you through different places in the city related to his life in Fairhaven.

The tour includes a visit to his old school, Captain Whitfield’s resting place, and other sites.

The Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship House is located on Cherry Street.

Cycle through Fairhaven’s Biking Trails

A woman riding bike along the natural trail at Fairhaven
Mystic Stock Photography / Shutterstock.com

Fairhaven has several trails for bikers with different skill levels, perfect for travelers who want to stay active.

The Fairhaven BMX Pump Track is a clay and dirt track for BMX and mountain biking enthusiasts.

At the Phoenix Bike Trail, enjoy four miles of paved trails that can take you from Fairhaven to the neighboring town of Mattapoisett.

Along the route, pass by residential areas, forests, and salt marshes and a chance to spot cardinals, sparrows, rabbits, and other small mammals.

Phoenix Bike Trail is also used for walking, jogging, running, roller skating, and other non-motorized modes of transportation.

If you prefer a more nature-oriented biking experience, take the Shaw Farm Trail, a 0.9-mile long trail that takes you past farmlands, coastal forests, sprawling meadows, and streams along Nasketucket Bay.

Catch Stunning Views from Fairhaven’s Scenic Vistas

Vistas are scenic lookouts scattered in different areas where you can catch unique views of Fairhaven and its surrounding areas.

Serene and picturesque, these places are perfect for catching the sunrise and sunset or for those who want to see Fairhaven from a different perspective.

Several vistas are around Fairhaven, but Winsegansett Avenue Scenic Vista and Cove Street Scenic Vista are popular among locals and tourists.

Located near West Island, Winsegansett Avenue Scenic Vista offers panoramic views of  Buzzards Bay and the nearby Winsegansett Marshes.

Cove Street Scenic Vista may be in a quiet residential area, but it gives you calming sea views.

You may even spot Little Egg Island, a small island between Fairhaven and New Bedford.

Enjoy Different Outdoor Activities at Fort Phoenix State Reservation

Cannon at Fort Phoenix
Marcbela (Marc N. Belanger), CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Fort Phoenix State Reservation is a state park on Green Street, along the coast of Buzzards Bay.

The historic fort was the location of the first naval battle of the American Revolution and has survived numerous attacks and wars.

Despite being smaller than other state parks, Fort Phoenix State Reservation packs plenty of fun things to do.

Take a dip in the calm waters at the beach in summer, or walk along the hurricane barrier for sweeping views of Buzzards Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

Visitors can also lay down a picnic mat and have a relaxing picnic in the afternoon while soaking up the sun.

The state park also offers ADA-accessible wheelchairs, picnicking areas, restrooms, and other facilities for those with limited mobility.

Explore West Island State Reservation on a Day Trip

Nestled on Bluepoint Road, West Island State Reservation offers more than 300 acres of unspoiled forests, wetlands, beaches, and trails for tourists.

Because of its diverse natural wonders, the protected area is home to various wildlife creatures.

On the shore, find young fish, crabs, and bay scallops while migratory birds fly above.

Egrets and herons looking for fish and crabs are common in salt marshes.

In the forest, keep your eyes open for turtles, chipmunks, deer, and other creatures hiding in the bushes.

Other West Island State Reservation activities can include fishing, dog walking, wildlife spotting, swimming, trail running, hiking, and walking.

Stop by the Capt. Joshua Slocum Monument

View of Capt. Joshua Slocum Monument
Rich Taber, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Capt. Joshua Slocum Monument honors Joshua Slocum, the first person to sail the world alone.

Slocum rebuilt the oyster boat, Spray, in Fairhaven from 1891 to 1892 and remained in town for a while.

In 1985, he set sail for the West Indies, expressing interest in exploring the Amazon River and other neighboring areas, and was never heard from again.

His sailing memoir, Sailing Alone Around the World, became a bestseller and served as an inspiration for other travelers.

The Capt. Joshua Slocum Monument is located on Pilgrim Avenue.

Spend the Day at Carvalho Farm

Situated on Shaw Road, Carvalho Farm has different nature-oriented activities packed in just 61 acres, spread across its vast meadows, lush forests, and wetlands.

Visitors can enjoy hiking, trail walking or running, wildlife spotting, picnicking, and horseback riding at the nature preserve.

A scenic trail starts at a meadow and continues to a fairy tale-like forest, where you can hike next to a flowing stream surrounded by colorful wildflowers.

The trail ends at a clearing with an oak tree atop a rock with sweeping views of the marshes.

The trail is mostly flat and easy to navigate, ideal for hikers of all skill levels.

On your Carvalho Farm adventure, spot different bird species, butterflies, bees, and other animals out and about.

Hang Out at West Island Marina

Pilings in West Island Marina
Mystic Stock Photography / Shutterstock.com

Lined with numerous yachts and boats, West Island Marina is reminiscent of a smaller Marina del Rey in Los Angeles.

The marina is located along Goulart Memorial Drive between mainland Fairhaven and West Island.

It also offers 109 slips and 63 moorings with a fuel dock and boating-related services like bottom painting and electronics repair and installation.

You can spend a lazy afternoon at West Island Marina even if you don’t have a yacht or a boat.

Have a can of beer or specialty cocktails paired with tacos, sandwiches, or seafood platters at Off the Hook Bar & Grill.

Its easygoing atmosphere, relaxing music, and delicious food make it a favorite hangout among locals.

Discover Little Bay Conservation Area

Little Bay Conservation Area is a tranquil yet charming nature park off the main route of the Phoenix Bike Trail.

True to its name, Little Bay is a relatively small area, just around 70 acres, but it is a perfect spot for fishing and biking.

For bikers, the Little Bay Extension of the Phoenix Bike Trail is a one-mile paved bike path with panoramic views overlooking Little Bay and Nasketucket Bay from the concrete pier.

Aside from the bike path, there are also unmarked trails that take you through the woods and across streams and vernal pools, perfect for hybrid or mountain bikes.

If biking isn’t your cup of tea, you can try saltwater fishing or take a relaxing stroll along the pier.

Go for a Walk at Shipyard Farm

Signage of Shipyard Farm
Mystic Stock Photography / Shutterstock.com

Just a few minutes from Winsegansett Avenue Scenic Vista is Shipyard Farm, a small nature preserve where you can explore the farmlands in Buzzards Bay.

It may seem like an unassuming farmland from the outside, but its trails boast pristine natural beauty.

The trails at Shipyard Farm are well-marked and easy to walk around, perfect for active and beginner hikers and children who want to explore the outdoors.

As for its wildlife, visitors can find deer, rabbits, ospreys, seagulls, and herons across the fields and salt marshes.

If you start your walk early, you can even catch the picture-perfect sunrise from the fields and salt marshes.

Final Thoughts

Although its neighbor New Bedford rose in popularity for its whaling culture, one shouldn’t overlook the town of Fairhaven.

Best seen on a walking tour, downtown Fairhaven’s architecture is a swoon-worthy sight for architecture buffs and makes one feel like they’re in a village somewhere in Europe.

Its historical sites like Millicent Library, the Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship House, and Fort Phoenix give visitors a glimpse into its past.

Fairhaven is also teeming with parks and wilderness areas for those who want to spend time with nature.

If you’re looking for a vacation with a mix of history, nature, and architecture, don’t miss out on the best things to do in Fairhaven, Massachusetts!