‘It isn’t Europe. It’s Fairhaven” boasts this seaside town’s visitors guide. Indeed, standing on the corner of William and Center streets, facing the French Gothic Town Hall, opposite the Italian Renaissance-style Millicent Library, you could imagine for a moment that you were in an Old World village. The town’s striking European-style public buildings were built between 1885 and 1906 and paid for by Standard Oil Co. millionaire Henry Huttleston Rogers, a Fairhaven native. The town, which is celebrating its bicentennial this year, also has ocean beaches, a Revolutionary-era fort, and restaurants ranging from gourmet spots to clam shacks.
There are three bed-and-breakfasts in town and a couple of larger properties. The Polish Manor Inn (1 Main St., 774-206-6143, www.polishmanorinn.
com, $95-$130) occupies a prime location overlooking the Acushnet River and New Bedford Harbor. The sprawling house is a tribute to all things Polish, from the tapestries on the wall to the books in the library. Innkeeper Frank Budryk also operates a gift store and
cafe next door, selling Polish folk arts and crafts. The Baggins End Guest House (2 West St., 508-326-2567, www.bagginsend
guesthouse.com, $95-$150), offering two guest rooms with a shared bath, is also on the harbor. The Delano Homestead Bed and Breakfast (39 Walnut St., 508-992-5552, www.delano
homestead.com, $110-$150), in the village center, was once a summer residence of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. You can arrive by boat at the Seaport Inn (110 Middle St.,508-997-1281, www.seaportinnandmari
na.com, $109-$149 in season), which has 86 rooms and a health center and business center on site. Hampton Inn (1 Hampton Way, 508-990-8500, www.newbedfordfairhaven.hamp
toninn.com, from $149 in season) offers rooms and suites, a fitness center, and outdoor pool.
We had to wait for a table at lunch on a weekday at Elisabeth’s Restaurant (1 Middle St., 508-993-1712, lunch $6-$15, dinner $6-$19), and it didn’t take long to figure out why. Locals love the creative cuisine and reasonable prices. A salad topped with grilled sea scallops, orange and cranberry relish, and goat cheese was different and yummy. Prime rib and lobster rolls are the primary draws at Mike’s Restaurant (390 Huttleston Ave., 508-996-9810, www.mikesfairhaven.com, lunch specials $5-$14, dinner $10-$43) near the Mattapoisett line. Lobster rolls — all lobster, no fillers — come in three sizes. I guess it was sort of silly to ask the waitress at Gene’s Famous Seafood (146 Huttleston Ave., 508-996-5127, $3-$22),
a popular seasonal clam shack on busy Route 6, what they’re famous for. “Seafood,” she said with a smile. Take your sweet tooth to Emma Jean’s (115 Huttleston Ave., 774-206-1132, www.total
confections.com), where you’ll find fancy homemade cupcakes, chocolates, and an ice cream cafe in a shop decorated with bright colors and vibrant floral murals. We heartily recommend Salty Dog, a combination of caramel ice cream, pretzels, sea salt, and chocolate.
DURING THE DAY Start your visit with a free walking tour of the Rogers buildings usually led by Chris Richard, the town’s director of tourism. In summer, 90-minute tours depart Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 10 and Saturdays at 1 p.m. from the visitors center (43 Center St., 508-979-4085, www.fairhaventours.blogspot.com). The tour takes participants inside two of the Rogers buildings — the Town Hall and the Millicent Library — and includes outside looks at Rogers’s boyhood home, the Unitarian Memorial Church, Tabitha Inn, Rogers School, and the Masonic Building. The center is also a good place to pick up brochures and see some artifacts from Fairhaven’s history, such as early canisters of Gold Bond medicated powder, which was manufactured in a small shop in town at the turn of the last century. On a hot July day, we were surprised to find only a handful of people at West Island Beach (Fir Street, nonresident day pass $20 per car), a beautiful strand with lifeguards and restrooms. There was a bigger crowd at Fort Phoenix State Beach & Reservation (Old Fort Road., 508-992-4524, www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/southeast/ftph.htm, free parking), which also has picnic tables, charcoal grills, tennis and basketball courts, restrooms, outdoor showers, and a playground. To the west of the beach is Fort Phoenix (dating from 1775), which affords scenic views and rocky embankments to climb on. In summer, tours of the fort are given on Thursdays at 2 p.m. by a Colonial militia reenactor and on Fridays at 2 p.m. from the point of view of Goodwife Spooner, “a Colonial woman from Fair-Haven Village.” Information about both tours is available at the visitors center.
AFTER DARK Free “Concerts Under the Stars,” sponsored by the Fairhaven Improvement Association, are held on Thursday nights at 7 on the Town Hall steps, 40 Center St. (In the event of rain, the concert will be held inside Town Hall.) On Aug. 2, Captain Malibu performs a mix of rock, reggae, funk, and alternative music. Hometown favorite Shipyard Wreck closes out the season on Aug. 9. Down the Hatch (56 Goulart Memorial Drive, 508-993-8600, www.earlsmarina.com/hatch.htm), an outdoor beach bar and grill at Earl’s Marina on West Island, features live music on weekends.