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Spotlight: Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, Massachusetts

Spotlight: Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, Massachusetts

Marine life and ocean recreation opportunities flourish at the mouth of Massachusetts Bay.

Stellwagen Bank A colorful world awaits you underneath the waves of the Massachusetts Bay in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (TC Cunn/NOAA)

What You’ll Find

The Gerry E. Studds Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary encompasses 638 square nautical miles, or 842 square miles. The bay’s most prominent submerged feature is the kidney-shaped plateau called Stellwagen Bank, which lies at the bay’s eastern edge. The bank is a shallow, primarily sandy feature, curving southeast to northwest for 19 miles and roughly 6 miles across its widest point. Water depths vary from 65 to 600 feet.

The area teems with life. Invertebrates, more than a dozen whale species (including the endangered humpback, northern right, sei and fin whales), a diverse seabird population, leatherback and Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles — not to mention bluefin tuna, herring, cod, flounder, lobster and scallops—all thrive here.

Getting There

The sanctuary sits at the mouth of Massachusetts Bay between Cape Ann and Cape Cod National Seashore, in the southwest corner of the Gulf of Maine.

The headquarters offices are located in Scituate, Massachusetts. Take a New England road trip or fly into Boston's Logan Airport to reach the sanctuary visitor centers. Participating in sanctuary activities like whale watching, fishing and diving in the sanctuary requires a boat trip.

Make Sure You

Try one of the outstanding fishing trips. Though fishing and whale watching are by far the most popular activities here, excellent opportunities for bird watching, diving and boating in general will keep you coming back to the area.

You can also do a little research and delve deep into maritime history. Evidence suggests the presence of over 50 shipwreck sites within the sanctuary. Visit our Underwater Graveyard go list for this and other amazing places to discover our nation’s maritime history.

Don’t Forget

Pack for changing New England weather. Summertime and fall are gorgeous in this region—but the weather can, at times, be unpredictable. Passing rainstorms, nor’easters and hurricanes can change your plans quickly. Waterproof raingear is always a must in New England and packing clothes that you can layer is wise. Practice proper ocean etiquette. Know how to treat the ocean and how to interact with ocean wildlife in order to leave the sometimes delicate ecosystem and marine life undisturbed.

Get Started

Visit the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary website for more details and to plan your adventure to this unique northeastern destination.