Port-City Tours

It was a good day for Michael DeCastro. He’d just learned that the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay spent part of her childhood on Rings Island in Salisbury.

For DeCastro, any day that brings fresh trivia about his adopted home near the mouth of the Merrimack River is a good day: Since June, he has operated a tour of historic sites around Newburyport and Amesbury.

“See, I learn more from locals than in books,” the 38-year-old tour guide said on a recent Saturday afternoon, thanking a passenger for offering up that little piece of lore about the poet.

Since opening for business, DeCastro’s Port City Tours has held almost as much appeal for area residents as visitors. Not because they think they can stump the guide: Despite being raised in New Orleans and initiated into the tour business in Washington, D.C., new Amesbury resident DeCastro already knows more about the environs than most lifelong townies.

From the well-known (the grave marker of poet and Amesbury resident John Greenleaf Whittier, who was “way famous back in the day”) to the esoteric (the fact, for instance, that taverns were once known as “ordinaries”), DeCastro stuffs his two-hour tour with more tidbits than a Petco warehouse. Driving a new burgundy E350 Ford van that can seat as many as 12 passengers, he regales his customers with tales of the region, speaking through a headset on a custom-installed, state-of-the-art Bose sound system.

“Let’s get this show on the road!” he whooped as he kicked off a recent excursion, cu ing the first of several sound effects — canned applause. DeCastro laughed gleefully, as he would throughout the tour.

Courtesy: James Sullivan, The Boston Globe Correspondent