Thursday, February 07, 2008

Plymouth Rock - Plymouth, Massachusetts

Plymouth Rock
Located along the shoreline in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Plymouth Rock is where the Pilgrims supposedly disembarked and first stepped from their ships to permanently settle. 

The rock is located directly on the shoreline in Pilgrim Memorial State Park and is surrounded by a granite canopy. The actual rock is about 5 feet below the ground surface, just above the level of the beach in front of it. This lowered area is open to the sea (but protected by bars to prevent people from accessing the rock).

Finding Plymouth Rock 

The rock is located in downtown Plymouth along the shoreline. You can get there either from the north or the south by taking Route 3 and getting off at exit 6 (Route 44), which will take you into downtown Plymouth. Once in the downtown area, signs will direct you to Plymouth Rock, which is located off of Water Street.

We lucked out visiting during the off-season as Plymouth was not crowded and we found parking along the street adjacent to Pilgrim Memorial State Park. However during busier times, it’s likely that only handicapped parking would be available there. In that case, municipal lots are scattered throughout Plymouth and generally even on the most crowded days, parking is available if you search for it.

Plymouth Rock is open to the public at all times and is free to see.


As a Massachusetts resident who wasn’t born and raised here, I missed out on the school trips to Plymouth Rock and the village of Plymouth, which also hosts the replica of the Mayflower and a recreation of the original Plimouth Plantation. So over the years, my idea of what Plymouth Rock probably exaggerated itself in my mind. I was picturing a good sized rock, one that a ship could see from sea and would probably head towards.

It was my partner who kept telling me to think smaller, that Plymouth Rock really wasn’t a big deal and that it wasn’t big or impressive at all.

Taking stock of the rock 

What can I say, he was right.

When we first pulled up and parked, I could see the classically designed granite canopy and granite columns that were surrounding what I assumed to be Plymouth Rock. The rock and canopy are located adjacent to the shoreline and visitors and it’s a quick walk from the dedicated park parking or for those walking along Water Street, is between the street and the shoreline at the southern end of the park.

As I walked over, I thought the rock must be awfully low in the ground, as I wasn’t seeing anything sticking up over the fencing inside the canopy (the area of the rock is closed off to the public, you can only look over the fencing down to the rock). It wasn’t until I got to the railing and looked down that I was like “is that it?”

The rock is quite small, maybe about 4 feet long and about 2 feet wide and is about 5 feet or so below the surface of the sidewalk. The front of the enclosure is open towards the bay and at high tide and during storms, water washes in through the iron bars around the rock.

The viewing area around the rock is fairly large and can hold a number of people, though I would imagine during busier times, you may sometimes have to wait to get up against the fencing to get a good view of the rock. However, there’s not much to look at so after a few moments and perhaps a few pictures, most people will be on their way.

There are informational boards outside of the canopy area, which helps the crowd keep milling around, and which provide a background history of the rock, the Pilgrims and Plymouth.

The rock was apparently a lot more impressive when the Pilgrims landed. At least three times as big as it is now, this stone is the only granite boulder found along the shoreline of Plymouth and was dropped during the glacial times. Over time the elements and people have worn at the rock, by natural processes and by chipping away at it for souvenirs. That’s why it’s protected today from the public – to prevent vandalism.

The rock is also cracked and glued back together (you can see the crack and the glue). In years past they had tried to move the rock and it cracked as they pulled it out. When it was returned to the site, it was glued back together.

What else is there? 

Besides Plymouth Rock, the Pilgrim Memorial Park is also host to the Mayflower replica, The Mayflower II. This boat is maintained by the Plimouth Plantation and is a historical replica of the original Mayflower. There is an admission fee which allows you to enter the dock area which hosts an outdoor museum area and enter the ship and go on a self-guided tour through. There are also actors on the ship, playing the part of the original colonists who will answer questions and take part in demonstrations on the ship.

Outside the park there is the adjacent Brewster Gardens, along with rest of Plymouth, which has plenty of interesting shops, historical points of interest and restaurants. Just beyond the village is the Plimouth Plantation, which is a recreation of the original colony that was settled by the Pilgrims.

Is it worth it? 

Being a history buff, I loved it, even though the rock was, I have to admit, kind of disappointing. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t a little rock down in a hole.

That said, Plymouth Rock is a cornerstone of our American history and is worth the visit, if not for the majesty of the rock, just because of its historical significance. It’s also interesting to learn the history of the rock, of Plymouth and if you take a tour of the Mayflower II, to learn how the colonists made it over from England.

I’d go again in a heartbeat, not so much to just see Plymouth Rock, but to experience everything that makes up the area, including the rock.

Final Thoughts 

Plymouth Rock is part of America’s history and if you combine your visit of the rock with the other activities in Plymouth, you’ll have a great time learning about our history and exploring a beautiful portion of southern Massachusetts.

More Plymouth, Massachusetts attractions and sites of interest

No comments: