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What are the best places to visit in New England? While there are many popular and well-known destinations for a New England vacation, some of the finest spots are those that are lesser-known. These are the hidden gems in New England. Today, the secret’s out: these off-the-beaten-path destinations you’ll want to visit ASAP.
We asked several fellow travel lovers to share their favorite New England hidden gems, and they delivered. Have you been to any of these spots?
Bristol, Rhode Island
Bristol, Rhode Island is a historic town located on the bay in the smallest state in the nation. While not near as popular as Providence or Newport, Bristol has a wide array of things to do for people with varying interests.
Most notably, Bristol is the location of the oldest Fourth of July parade in the entire country! The first celebration took place in Bristol in 1777! That being said, July is a wonderful time to go to Bristol to truly appreciate both nature and the town’s extravagant festivities.
There are a number of mansions, similar to those in Newport (but without the crowds!) to tour and indulge in the local history.
If you’re a nature buff, there are also parks to explore – try Colt State Park for the town beach, playgrounds for the kids, as well as yoga classes and walking paths.
Being a port town, be sure to check out Herreshoff Maritime Museum for exhibits on sailing and America’s Cup tournament.
If you happen to find yourself in the smallest state in the U.S., be sure to include Bristol in your itinerary for an off-the-beaten path experience.
-Contributed by Jade Laurenza, The Migrant Yogi
A thirty-minute drive outside of Boston could bring you to Concord, MA, a town that is home to American history, arts, and multiple nature retreats.
To begin your journey, head to Walden Pond, where Henry David Thoreau lived for 2 years. The 61-acre pond is an oasis surrounded by trees and serves as a cooling respite in summer months. Thoreau and his buddy Ralph Waldo Emerson often walked on a nearby footpath that leads to the pond, now known as Emerson-Thoreau Amble. Another literary giant, Louisa May Alcott grew up in this town and her home, Orchard House, is also open to visitors.
It may be a coincidence, but right next to the abodes of these writers are two natural sights that are worth half a day’s time. Minute Man Historical National Park and the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge are both great options for those who enjoy history, nature, and birdwatching.
Only ten minutes away, in the nearby town of Lincoln is the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, a one of its kind park displaying contemporary art and sculptures. All of these attractions make spending a day or two in Concord, MA more than worth the while.
-Contributed by Bharat and Supriya, Fun Travelog
Middletown, Rhode Island
You might think of Middletown as a tourist location and you would be right for the most part. The summer has an influx of people filling up its two beaches, Second and Third.
Being so close to world-renowned Newport, there definitely is a lot of traffic in the summer. There are however some pretty amazing spots that aren’t as bustling and especially wonderful during the off-season. Sachuest Wildlife Refuge is one. I’ve lived in Rhode Island most of my life and never knew it was there until this year!
It’s a great family area to see the coastline, learn about local marine life or enjoy an easy, beautiful hike. Even though the grounds aren’t so large, you feel far removed from the action when you are here.
For the bird watchers and nature enthusiasts, the Normand Bird Sanctuary is another great hiking location close by to Sachuest not to be missed.
You should visit Sweet Berry Farm while in town. It offers fresh produce, a market place with prepared foods and made to order goods to dine in or take home. You can’t beat the freshness and quality of the food here. It is top-notch. If you like Middle Eastern food, grab a bite at International Pocket Cafe, it never lets my tastebuds down. While in Middletown, you can go to Newport Vineyards to relax at the winery or watch a polo match outside.
-Contributed by Crystal Young, Kid Friendly New England
Bennington is a true hidden gem in Vermont. Located in the southwestern region of the state, Bennington is nestled in a beautiful valley and is filled with lots of important history.
For adventure lovers, I highly recommend taking a hike up to either the white rocks or Bald Mountain. This hike is almost 11 miles round trip, but it is so worth it because the views are incredibly rewarding.
The downtown area is also very unique. There are a lot of local shops and no name-brand businesses are allowed in Bennington’s downtown. Be sure to stop at the Village Chocolate Shoppe and the Bennington Bookshop, two of my favorites.
Lastly, if you love history, go up to the Bennington Battle Monument, which was put in place to commemorate the Battle of Bennington which was fought during the Revolutionary War. It only costs $5 for adults to climb/take an elevator to the top and $1 for children!
-Contributed by Krystianna Pietrzak, Volumes & Voyages
Jackson, New Hampshire
-Contributed by Kelsey Converse
Menemsha, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Castine, Maine is a beautiful seaside village located on a peninsula in Penobscot Bay. It is also one of the oldest communities in Maine with a history dating back to the 1600s. It is very off-the-beaten-path but you should absolutely add this quaint little town to your New England Itinerary. You will love the mid-19th-century homes in the city center that will bring you back in time.
Castine is the perfect place to unwind as it is extremely quiet. This doesn’t mean there is nothing to do and you will enjoy all the activities it has to offer. Spend a beach day on Backshore Beach or Wadsworth Cove, you can also kayak in the peninsula, rent a boat or just go hiking in Witherle Woods.
There are also a lot of things to do in Castine city center, from visiting historical landmarks such as Fort George and Fort Madisson to enjoying the main street or one of the restaurants, especially Pentagoet Inn, located in a 19th-century Inn.
-Contributed by Lucile Hernandez Rodriguez
You can explore the Lily Bay State Park, bike to the top of Mount Kineo, do whitewater rafting, and ride around the lake in a 1914 steamboat. For fishing enthusiasts, fly fishing and lake fishing are always an option. And if you go in winter, you can do cross-country skiing and ice fishing. You can even see a dog sledding race. You can take advantage of sightseeing flights on seaplanes offered by several companies. They take off and land on Moosehead Lake. You can visit the Moosehead Marine Museum to learn the history of steamboating on Maine’s biggest lake.
-Contributed by Deb Pati, The Visa Project
Deer Isle, Maine
Deer Isle, Maine is one the best hidden gems when it comes to coastal towns in Maine. It’s both a small town and the name of a charming island in Penobscot Bay is laid back. Deer Isle is full of unspoiled nature reserves and is a paradise for all outdoor travellers. Even in peak-season, the island is low-key and quaint with a friendly, rustic, small-town feel.
One of the best attractions are Deer Isle’s calm waters which are perfect for even an inexperienced kayaker. There are several options for renting equipment if you don’t have your own and even guided kayaking excursions can be booked on the island. Driftwood Kayak is an excellent resource for either and they have a range of itineraries for different skill levels.
Once you’re back in town from hiking the nature reserves or kayaking around the island, there’s plenty to entertain you. Popular Stonington Opera House Arts is a historic community venue for performances, art shows and even trivia nights. The town also has local vendors selling homemade products like Nelly’s Jams and Jellies. In Deer Isle, you can’t help but fall in love with the simple downeast Maine way of life.
-Contributed by Derek and Mike, Robe Trotting
- The Ultimate New England Road Trip Itinerary (Flexible 2-3 Week Itinerary)
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- Fall in New England: The Best Towns, Orchards, Farms, Foliage, & Festivals
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Amy is the founder of New England with love. A proud Vermonter, she hopes to share her love of New England and help you find the best adventures in the region. Amy is also blogger/founder at Two Drifters, where she writes alongside her husband about romantic and couples travel, relationships, honeymoons, and more. When not working on websites, Amy is probably reading, cuddling with her husband and cats, & drinking a maple latte.