THE BEST PLACES YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF
Scouting Report 2008: Weymouth
Our third-annual rundown of the best new places—as determined by people lucky enough to have exploration be part of their job description.
Most people's idea of the idyllic dive spot tends to involve turquoise water and colorful fish, but that's not what John Chatterton or Richie Kohler has in mind. The scuba divers rose to fame through Robert Kurson's 2004 best seller, Shadow Divers, which chronicled their quest to identify human remains in a sunken U-boat. That led to solving underwater mysteries around the world for the History Channel series Deep Sea Detectives. Their most recent investigation (which took them to Canada, Ireland, Greece, and two and a half miles under the surface of the Atlantic Ocean) is the subject of Brad Matsen's Titanic's Last Secrets, due out next month. Given their knack for uncovering hidden clues and treasures, it's no surprise that the divers rank the once pirate-friendly port of Weymouth, England, as one of their favorite towns.
Weymouth's cobblestoned streets, Georgian homes, and sandy beaches along the English Channel are magnets for British sunseekers. But for divers, its waters have their own attractions: "Wars and storms have been sinking ships here for more than 900 years," Kohler says. "In one day, you can rub shoulders with Roman shipwrecks, 16th-century Dutch sailing fleets, and submarines from both world wars."
When on shore, Kohler and Chatterton explore nautical antiques stores and old bookshops before sitting down with a pint at The Boot Inn, a 400-year-old pub that's rumored to have been popular with 17th-century pirates. Today, the town's stone quays host a mix of fishing boats—which sell sea bass, scallops, and lobsters—and high-speed catamarans. Since no trip to the English seaside is complete without fish-and-chips, a local introduced the divers to Marlboro Restaurant, where the Johnsons have been serving the dish for three generations. "It's best enjoyed with liberal amounts of salt and malt vinegar," says Kohler.
Information: Trains from London take three hours, nationalrail.co.uk, from $24; The Boot Inn, High West St., 011-44/1305-770327; Marlboro Restaurant, 46 St. Thomas St., 011-44/1305-785700, large fish-and-chips from $11.