The Port of Salem's rich history includes its role in the early spice trade and the infamous Salem Witch Trials. The modern Port of Salem is a vital urban center with a busy downtown and a unique mix of restaurants and shops. The Port of Salem waterfront is alive today with recreational and commercial activities.
More than a million people from around the world come to the Port of Salem each year to visit the city's museums, historic architecture, and waterfront. The downtown Port of Salem is pedestrian-friendly and full of interesting and unique shops, historic sites, and witchy treats.
The Port of Salem has a humid continental climate with big differences in temperatures from season to season. Summers can be hot and humid, and winters can be very cold. Snowfall can be heavy in the winter. Thunderstorms are common, and occasional tropical storms visit the Port of Salem in the summer. Average temperatures range from a high of 28°C (82°F) in July and August to a low of -9°C (15°F) in January.
The Port of Salem Maritime National Historic Site tells the story of one of the United States' most important early ports. Operated by the National Park Service, it is open from 9am until 5pm daily. Visitors can take tours of the 1819 customs house, colonial homes from 1672 and 1761, and a reconstruction of the Friendship, a 52-meter (171-foot) three-masted Salem East Indiaman that was built in 1797. The ship operated under charter to one of the East India Companies. The historic site includes the historic buildings and wharves of the old Port of Salem and tells the stories of sailors, merchants, and privateers that made the Port of Salem rich in its early days.
The House of the Seven Gables, made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is one of the oldest New England wood mansions surviving the 17th Century. Located in the Port of Salem's harbor, the house (called the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion today) is staffed by professional guides and contains a museum with over two thousand artifacts including framed works, photographs, and rare books. Built in 1668 for Captain John Turner, the home contains a secret staircase and is flanked by beautiful seaside gardens and a granite seawall. The birthplace of Hawthorne has been moved to the property. The Nathaniel Hawthorne House, built about 1750, is adjacent to the House of the Seven Gables and is covered by the same admission fee.
The Port of Salem Witch Museum tells the story of the famous 1692 trials and the story of witchcraft throughout history. Open every day from 10am until 5pm (7pm in July and August), adults will pay $9 (seniors $7.50) and children under 14 will pay $6 to visit. By the summer of 1692, 180 people were accused of being witches. Twenty of the accused were executed from June through September, and several others died in prison. Visitors to the museum learn about the 1692 events through staged sets and life-sized figures. An exhibit, Witches: Evolving Perceptions examines popular conceptions of witches in the 17th Century, the witch-hunt phenomenon, and modern witchcraft.
During the annual Salem Haunted Happenings each October, the month-long celebration of spooky includes tours of the Port of Salem's skeletons, the Witch Trial Trail, and the Terror Trail. Visitors can meet characters from Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel at The House of Seven Gables. In the Salem Witch Village and Salem Wax Museum, witches cast spells, Frankenstein works in his laboratory, and cemetery tours thrill participants.
From May until October, boats of Mahi Mahi Cruises & Charters run all day to explore the Port of Salem Harbor. Mixing the joy of the Caribbean with historic maritime Salem, visitors take the 16.8-meter (55-foot) Finback on tours to Marblehead, Beverly, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Boston, and Gloucester. Cruises have ranged as far as Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Cape Cod.