Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Stellwagen Bank is New England’s only National Marine Sanctuary. On the surface, Stellwagen Bank appears identical to the surrounding waters of the Gulf of Maine. Underwater, however, a 117 square mile plateau rises from the ocean floor to an average depth of 100 feet. This produces an upwelling of ocean currents and nutrients that result in a rich bloom of plankton, the foundation of the marine food web. Numerous resident and migratory sea birds feed on the plankton- eating fish. Additionally, the sanctuary sits astride the historic shipping routes and fishing grounds for numerous ports around Massachusetts. These ports have been centers of maritime activity in New England for hundreds of years. Historic uses of the sanctuary are evidenced by the remains of historic shipwrecks on the seafloor. Special Recognition: Massachusetts Wildlife Viewing Site. Species of Note: Pelagic (seafaring) birds abound from storm-petrels and shearwaters to gannets, gulls and alcids. Watch for quick fly-bys or rafts (flocks) of birds gathering on the ocean’s surface.


Mouth of Massachusetts Bay Gloucester, MA 1930

Driving Directions

Whale watching cruises and fishing charters (from Cape Ann and Newburyport) are the best public means of enjoying Stellwagen Bank. Many whale watching cruises employ naturalists who identify birds (and whales) and discuss this unique ocean habitat.

Notes & Advisories


  • Historic Resources
  • Natural Resources