At the head of the river of the same name, Acushnet is an endearing rural town to the north of New Bedford. This is a place of quaint countryside, orchards, old stone walls, cranberry bogs and stands of pine forest. In that spirit, the big annual event is the Apple-Peach Festival in September, held on the grounds of a 19th-century schoolhouse. Industry cropped up along the river in the 18th century, and one of the long-surviving enterprises is the Acushnet Company, operating the famous Titleist golf brand.
Acushnet also has maritime heritage thanks to its proximity to Buzzards Bay and New Bedford. In the 19th-century the town was home to several whaling captains, while Moby-Dick author Herman Melville (1819-1891) sailed aboard a whaler called Acushnet before he wrote his famous novel.
1. The Sawmill
In the 2010s the Buzzards Bay Coalition stepped in to restore this 20-acre site on the Acushnet River, previously occupied by the Acushnet Saw Mills Company.
The result is a stunning public park, with trails allowing you to discover a tapestry of habitats and take in fabulous views of the river and the millpond upstream.
There are meadows, woods, and a parcel of red maple swamp that you can traverse along a boardwalk. You’ll have lots of opportunities to view wildlife, including the waterfowl that flock to the pond and its shores.
2. White’s Factory
From the 18th century the Acushnet River was a source of power for industry in the town. Not far north of the Sawmill you can explore what’s left of a cotton-spinning mill, with only shards of the outer walls remaining.
The river was first dammed to power a mill here in 1746, while the stone structure dates back to 1799.
That mill was badly damaged in a fire in 1830, and was soon reconstructed before succumbing to another fire in 1854.
To go with those mysterious ruins, White’s Factory is a lovely place to explore the banks of the Acushnet River.
On the opposite bank is Hamlin Crossing, with a trail leading into woods and across a meadow speckled with wildflowers in spring and summer.
3. Long Plain School (Long Plain Museum)
One of Acushnet’s most unique historic buildings is the Long Plain School at 1203 Main Street, constructed in 1875 in the Italianate style.
Among the interesting details are the grand, pedimented gable with an oculus, as well as the Gothic Revival turret.
Originally four bays wide, the building was expanded to six bays in the 1920s, and was used as a school up to the 1950s.
Today Long Plain School belongs to the Acushnet Historical Society, which runs a museum here.
You can visit on Sundays, May through September to dip into Acushnet’s whaling history, see what the school would have looked like in the 1870s, and get a sense of domestic life in the town in the 19th century.
Long Plain School’s grounds also host the Apple-Peach Festival in September.
4. Stone Bridge Farm
Acushnet is in Massachusetts’ cranberry country and has dozens of bogs, some active and some no longer farmed.
These enhance the landscapes, with pink flowers in spring and bright red berries in fall that complement the foliage.
Using sustainable methods, Stone Bridge Farm is a thriving commercial farm with three acres of bogs, and opens its doors to the public during the harvest season in fall.
At this time you can book a guided tour to find out all you could want to know about cranberries and what it takes to plant, grow and harvest them. During a visit you will even put on a pair of waders and stride out into the bog like a true farmer.
5. Acushnet River Valley Golf Course
With a four-star rating from Golf Digest, Acushnet River Valley Golf Course is held as one of the best publicly accessible courses in the region. As well as the high level of maintenance, the layout is a big part of the course’s success.
The front nine cuts through dense, mature pine woodlands, while the back nine suddenly opens up, and six of the holes (12-17) have a Scottish links-style design, with rolling greens and rippling fairways.
Perhaps the trickiest element at Acushnet River Valley are the hazards surrounding the greens, with sharp elevation changes and bunkers punishing wayward approach shots.
6. The Silverbrook Farm
Out in Acushnet’s pastoral countryside, this family farm opens to the public for a variety of seasonal events in the summer and fall.
In its 20 or so years of operation Silverbrook Farm has earned a reputation for its delectable homemade pies, sold at the store in a beautiful old barn.
As well as growing an assortment of fresh produce, the farm also has a herd of Chianina cattle, for high-quality grass-fed beef.
Things ramp up in the fall, when you can visit to pick your own pumpkin, navigate the corn maze, and go for hayrides, while kids can meet friendly barnyard animals
7. Acushnet Creamery
Opened in 2003, Acushnet Creamery is a town favorite, making all of its ice cream, frozen yogurts, and sherbets by hand on the premises.
The ice cream menu has steadily grown over the years, and now has more than 50 flavors. Some big-hitters are lemon custard, maple walnut, coffee, Cranberry Harvest, vanilla, and the Acushnet-appropriate apple-peach.
Whatever flavor you choose, you have to get it in a freshly made waffle cone, and you’ll catch the irresistible scent of these being baked long before you get to the window.
Away from the road, you can enjoy your frozen treat at one of the picnic tables, with a little grassy area and a stone wall.
8. Country Whip
Surrounded by pick-your-own orchards along Route 105, there’s a treasured seasonal ice cream parlor/restaurant, open March through October.
Country Whip is in a charming cottage with a porch, and has been on the map in Acushnet for more than 60 years.
As the name tells you, the specialty here is the homemade soft serve ice cream, which comes in a few flavors (or twists), with black raspberry one of the stars. As well as a wide choice of Richardson’s Ice Cream, there’s a big menu of savory items.
You’ve got local, New England-style seafood including the popular lobster rolls, clam cakes and chowder, as well as hot dogs, burgers, subs, wraps, and a lot more.
9. 9/11 Memorial
There’s a touching tribute in Acushnet to those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks, and to all those involved in the rescue, recovery and reconstruction efforts.
The Acushnet 9/11 Memorial stands in front of the Fire Department on Main Street, and came about after the department was awarded a 2,700-pound steel beam from Ground Zero by the Port Authority of New York.
This artifact was brought to the town in 2011 and mounted at an angle on a granite base, to be unveiled for the 10th anniversary of the outrage. The monument sits in a little plaza, ringed by flowerbeds and accompanied by a glass plaque.
10. Keith’s Farm
Just off Main Street and backing onto the New Bedford reservoir, this farm offers something different with each season.
Summer and fall is when Keith’s Farm is in its prime, opening to the public for PYO strawberries in June, blueberries in July, raspberries in August, and then in fall for apple and pumpkin picking.
The farm stand is loaded with other fresh produce, from tomatoes to corn, as well as goodies like apple cider donuts and homemade preserves. Things kick back into gear again in the holiday season when there’s a tree farm here, open for three weekends after Thanksgiving.
11. Flying Cloud Orchards
This 40-acre farm is in a bucolic spot bordered to the west by the Acushnet River. Flying Cloud Orchards runs a farm stand at 540 Main Street, which is an essential stop during the growing and harvest season, until as late as Thanksgiving.
There’s a wealth of fresh produce all summer and fall, but it’s the homemade specialties that draw the crowds.
You’ve got fresh breads, peach pies, apple pies, honey, caramel apples, cookies, apple cider, and an assortment of homemade jams. At the time of writing, Flying Cloud Orchards was run by a couple who purchased this land in 1977.
12. New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park
You can follow in Melville’s footsteps by visiting the old heart of what was once the world’s foremost whaling port.
Managed by the National Park Service, this tight grid of cobblestone streets has shipowners’ mansions, and a handful of sights relevant to Melville and Moby-Dick.
One is the Seamen’s Bethel (1832), preserving the pew that Melville sat in when he visited in 1840.
The star attraction is the New Bedford Whaling Museum, which is the definitive institution for the history of whaling. In its immense collections, the museum has five intact whale skeletons, 2,500 logbooks from whaling expeditions, and 3,500 pieces of scrimshaw.
13. Tripps Mill
Just beyond Acushnet’s southeastern corner there’s a growing system of more than 200 acres of conservation properties along the Mattapoisett River.
A good place to begin is Tripps Mill, where you’ll discover the vestiges of a sawmill along Tripps Brook, where it drains Tinkham Pond.
From here you can hike for more than four miles through the woods and past former cranberry bogs and wetlands along the Mattapoisett River.
Tinkham Pond is also a good spot to do some fishing, with chain pickerel, yellow perch and sunfish regularly caught here.
14. Nestles Lane Conservation Area
There’s an inviting pocket of nature in Acushnet just east of Route 18. This piece of town-owned conservation land is streaked with little streams that flow eastwards, eventually feeding the New Bedford Reservoir.
The property, made up of tall pines and a network of old stone walls, can be accessed from the north and south, along Nestles Lane.
Trails take on a brief but enjoyable walk, through the aromatic pine forest on relatively flat terrain that becomes a bit hillier the further east you go.
15. Acushnet Apple-Peach Festival
Held on the first weekend after Labor Day, this popular event is deep into its 5th decade now.
The Acushnet Apple-Peach Festival is on the idyllic grounds of the Long Plain School, celebrating the harvest season with a feast of live entertainment, crafts, great food, and tons of family fun.
From morning until evening there’s a big lineup of live music, and you could easily spend a couple of hours browsing the vendors, selling everything from candles to handmade soaps, jewelry, pottery, paintings, and much more.
Whatever you do, you have to try the cobbler (peach, apple and apple-peach), made in the school’s kitchen by the Acushnet Historical Society.