THE PLAINS OF ANCIENT Mesopotamia are connected to Massachusetts? As unlikely as it might seem, when you sail into town, the plains from antiquity were the inspiration for Padanaram’s moniker. The story goes that early 19th century resident Laban Thatcher named the little village when he compared himself to biblical Laban, who dwelt in, yes, Padan-Aram.
It wasn’t the only legacy that Thatcher left behind. After successfully building a wharf, shipyard, windmill and magnesia factory, he took a chance on an elaborate saltworks operation. It failed miserably inciting the nickname for which he became well-known, “Laban’s Folly.”
This lovely little village in South Dartmouth sits comfortably on the east shore of Apponagansett Bay. It has whaling in its past and shipbuilding in its blood. The designer of the successful Concordia yawl hailed from the area, and classic catboats have long been built here. The waters attract a healthy share of yachts of all ilk every season. (Call ahead for a slip or mooring and landing protocols.)
Many of Padanaram’s pleasures revolve around the fresh salt air. Walk, bike, fish, sail and stroll the town. The historic district dates to the 17th century. Head toward the point on Elm Street and take in the federal houses on Fremont and Pleasant streets. Alternatively, you can walk or bike the causeway for a sweeping view of Apponagansett Bay and stroll around Apponagansett Park where you find a playground, beach and ice cream stand.
Arriving by dinghy? Land at the Dias Town Landing on the inner bay, a shallower part of the estuary reserved for smaller boats. Next door, Knowles Reserve leads from salt marsh to red cedar forest, making it a haven for birdwatching.
Recent rejuvenation of the village has prompted unique shops and eateries to join the restored homes and well-established marine facilities. Farm & Coast Market is a provisioning dream. They stay well stocked with locally sourced food and have both a butcher and a sommelier.
The village’s latest pride and joy is the Dartmouth Maritime Center next to the newly reconstructed swing bridge. The facility at Bridge and Water streets has a public viewing deck, boat ramp, showers and restrooms. It is the site of the harbormaster’s office, and it’s best to call in advance of your arrival. Quite literally, Padanaram is off the charts. Search instead for the plains of South Dartmouth.
WHERE TO DOCK
South Wharf Yacht Yard
A large facility with 100 slips, including deep-water slips that can accommodate boats up to 130 feet. A small boat rental business is on-site.
New Bedford Yacht Club
The club offers reciprocal arrangements with other clubs, as well as overnight transient moorings and possibly transient dock slips. Contact by phone or VHF 68. The club operates the launch to the mooring field daily. Hail on VHF 68. Transient dinghy tie-up is available at the club for those renting its moorings.
The facility offers high-quality boat service and classic restorations. The company maintains 155 moorings in the harbor and may have availability for transient use.
WHERE TO DINE
Farm & Coast Market
Full boat provisioning with fine foods, wine and beer. Full-service butcher shop, prepared foods, cheeses, ice, daily baked bread, pastries, groceries and a large wine selection. Shrink-wrapped foods, dock delivery and curbside pickup are available. Order by phone or at farmandcoastmarket.com
Black Bass Grille
Coastal New England fare influenced by Portuguese and Italian cuisine. Weekly take-out specials; call to get information and place orders.
Locally sourced food, highlighting seafood and produce in its dishes. Weekend take-out menu available with contactless pickup. Order online at littlemoss.com.
The Sail Loft
A variety of entrees, burgers, salads, sandwiches and flatbread pizza are available for takeout. You can tie up your dinghy at South Wharf Yacht Yard.