From hiking in the lush Green Mountains of Vermont to whale watching off the coast of Massachusetts, these are the best day trips in New England.
New England, covering the north east corner of the United States, is packed with natural, cultural and culinary treasures. Venture out of the main cities which include Boston, Portland and Burlington, and you’ll find green rolling hills, wild national and state parks, quaint historic towns and beautiful beaches along the coast.
Road trips in New England are sure to provide you with plenty of surprises, whether it’s sampling a delicious lobster roll on the rugged coast of Maine, or marvelling at the autumn leaves in Vermont and Massachusetts.
As the first destination for many of the earliest settlers from Europe, New England is steeped in American history. A great way to learn about the region’s fascinating past is at one of its renowned living history museums. However, the real delight of going on a day trip in New England is found in the remarkable scenery – plunging gorges, lush forests and tall mountains await, so make sure you have your camera ready.
The best way to get to know the region? Hop in the car and go for a drive. New England road trips are pretty special (especially in the autumn) and being mobile will allow you to discover the wilder side of this enchanting corner of the United States.
The Best Day Trips In New England
Explore Acadia National Park
One of Maine’s finest natural treasures, Acadia National Park is a must if you’re looking for active day trips in New England. From hiking, mountain biking, skiing and fishing, there’s something to do here in every season. Plus, here you’ll be able to enjoy some of the most breathtaking views on the Eastern Seaboard. Climb to the top of Cadillac Mountain (the tallest peak on the Atlantic Coast), or marvel at the spectacular show at Thunder Hole, where the pounding sea meets the dark rocks.
Acadia National Park is also a wonderful place for cycling, with hundreds of miles of trails winding through forests, hills and along the dramatic coastline. This wild, rugged part of Maine can be difficult to access, so we’d recommend choosing it as a day trip if you’re staying in Portland or other parts of Maine.
Head To A Food Festival
If you’re a foodie like me then you’ll probably want to go on a day trip in New England that involves some delicious grub! From the coast to the mountains, New England is known for its local produce, and there’s no better way to spend a day in Maine, Rhode Island or Massachusetts than by heading for a regional food festival. Whatever time of year you visit, you’ll have plenty to choose from.
In August, the Maine Lobster Festival draws huge crowds, eager to sample the iconic lobster rolls and watch the oyster shuckers compete to see who can work the fastest! A handy shuttle bus runs from major cities in Maine and the rest of New England, so this is an excellent choice for a day trip if you’re visiting Boston or other parts of the region.
Drive inland from Bar Harbor and you’ll find a sea of wild blueberries, also celebrated in August as part of the Wild Blueberry Festival. In May and June, Vermont hosts a Garlic and Herb Festival, followed by the Chocolate and Cheese Festival in the summer. Finally, beer lovers shouldn’t miss the New England Beerfest, a one-of-a-kind celebration of the region’s craft beer.
Go Whale Watching from Gloucester, MA
If you’re looking for unforgettable day trips in New England, then whale watching should be at the top of your list. The teeming waters of the Atlantic play host to all kinds of migrating whales between May and October, and one of the best places to see them is just off the coast of Gloucester, Massachusetts.
There are plenty of companies running day trips, and you can expect to see many different whale species, including blue whales, sperm whales, minke whales, and fin whales. You might also have the chance to spot dolphins, porpoises and several kinds of marine birds.
Visit A Living History Museum
For a unique day trip in New England, pay a visit to Old Sturbridge Village. It’s the perfect place to step back in time and immerse yourself in the history of Massachusetts. This world-class living history museum, boasts a complete reconstruction of a rural 1830s New England town. Just a stone’s throw from Worcester in south Massachusetts, Sturbridge Village includes 40 antique 19th-century buildings, all set in beautiful grounds. You’ll get a taste of New England life in the 1830s, as well as having the chance to cook and sample an authentic 19th-century New England community dinner.
If you’re a history nerd, don’t miss the chance to check out other innovative New England living history museums, such as the Plimouth Plantation, which recreates the earliest colony established by the pilgrims who arrived in Cape Cod from England in the 17th century. This fantastic complex of open-air museums also include the Wampanoag Homesite, which provides the perfect introduction to the culture of the Native Nations of the New England coast. When it comes to interesting day trips in New England, any one of these museums would be an excellent choice.
Ride The Kancamagus Highway
Visitors often plan road trips in New England in autumn to see the dazzling array of fall colours. This hype is completely justified – in September and October the forests explode in a kaleidoscope of golds, yellows and reds. One of the best ways to experience this annual spectacle is by taking a New England road trip along the Kancamagus Highway, a 35-mile scenic drive through the White Mountain National Forest.
Regardless of the time you visit you can expect stellar views of the White Mountains, the Swift River and Sabbaday Falls, as well as a beautiful vista from Kancamagus Pass, the highest point on the highway. However, in autumn, the scenery along the ‘Kanc’ reaches another level. You’ll definitely want to bring your camera for this epic drive!
Tour The Town Of Salem
One of the best day trips in New England, especially if you’re staying in Boston, is to ride out to the historic town of Salem, site of the infamous 1692 Salem witch trials. Salem is a 30-minute train journey from Boston (costs around $10) and there’s plenty to see and do in a day.
Don’t miss the Salem Witch Museum, its impressive Gothic exterior and fascinating exhibits. Art lovers will enjoy spending a few hours in the Peabody Essex Museum. Plus, while you’re in Salem, be sure to stroll around town on the Salem Heritage Trail and pick up some spooky souvenirs on Essex Street, the downtown shopping hub. Time your visit for Halloween fo ran extra spooky experience.
Where To Stay In New England
This beautiful 18th-century coaching inn is set in idyllic rolling green hills. The Old Inn on the Green is one of the most romantic places to stay in New England. It’s perfectly located in the heart of the Berkshires in western Massachusetts, making it the ideal destination for those wanting to see the fall leaves or couples seeking a romantic getaway.
There’s an excellent restaurant lit only by candlelight, which serves up delicious meals made from locally-sourced produce. With bags of character, period décor, and stunning views over the hills, this lovely inn is one of the top places to stay in New England.
Looking for a cosy retreat in New Hampshire? Look no further than the Chesterfield Inn, located in West Chesterfield in the Connecticut River Valley. If you stay here you’ll be in the perfect location for exploring New Hampshire and Vermont, with easy access to Chesterfield Gorge and Spofford Lake.
The rooms are sumptuously decorated, many with wooden beams and open fires, making it a wonderful spot for autumn or winter weekend getaways. The service is friendly and the food is excellent, but the real draw here is the scenery, which you can admire from a lounger in the lush garden.
The Hidden Pond Resort, tucked away in a dense forest on Maine’s southern coast, is one of the most unique and beautiful places to stay in New England. Spread over 60 acres and surrounded by tall birch trees, the resort boasts small cottages and bungalows, decorated in a rustic style with all the modern comforts you’ll need for a blissful retreat into nature.
Wondering about food? Here the produce comes directly from the on-site farm. Plus, while on holiday you can enjoy luxury treatments in the treetop spa. With an outdoor pool, bar, and hammocks swinging peacefully from the trees, this is the kind of hotel you won’t want to leave!
Wherever you choose to stay, there are so many amazing great day trips in New England! Hopefully this has given you lots of inspiration to plan your adventure. Looking for some other great places to visit? Don’t miss my guide to visiting Vermont in winter.
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