It’s no secret that the travel landscape in 2020 looks very different from years past. We’re not jetting off to Europe or the Caribbean this summer, and I suspect many of us will be resurrecting an “old school” summer vacation — the classic road trip.
Luckily, here in New England, that means scenic landscapes, lush forests, and fresh country air — all of which is just what we need after a few months stuck at home. So get ready to pack up your car and explore some hidden gems. Here are our suggestions for some of the best things to see and experience via the open road!
A road-trip through Vermont offers country stores, hiking, fishing, and even an epic cheese-sampling adventure! The Green Mountain Scenic Byway (Route 100) is the perfect route to meander up through the state and has something for every traveler. This 217-mile road goes through the center of Vermont and skirts the edge of the Green Mountains.
Wind your way through forests, meadows, farmlands, and quintessential New England towns.
[Woodstock, VT- Photo Credit: Craig Tidball via Unsplash]
A northbound road-trip on Route 100 begins with Wilmington, a remote town on the edge of the Green Mountain National Forest. With clear mountainside lakes, this is the perfect spot for swimming, sailing, paddling, and fishing against a stunning backdrop.
Continue upstate onto the Vermont Cheese Trail. There are 50 cheese-makers in Vermont producing more than 150 varieties of cheese (more cheese-per-capita than any other state!) The Vermont Cheese Council has created this handy map of the best spots to sample these delicacies.
[Photo Credit: Kevin Jarrett via Unsplash]
This route takes you through towns like Weston with historic buildings from an era before electricity. Sample fresh cider and doughnuts at the cider mills, and stop to view the roadside waterfalls.
You can follow the route all the way to Canada, but we recommend stopping in Stowe and using it as a home base for the rest of your adventure. This small town is connected to an excellent series of hiking trails through forests, along rivers, and up mountains. Go trout fishing from April-October or take a short scenic drive along Route 108 through the Smuggler’s Notch tree tunnel — one of the best places to view fall foliage in the country!
Best Places to Stay:
Woodstock Inn & Resort – Located halfway between Wilmington and Stowe in the charming town of Woodstock, VT. With farm-fresh cuisine at their four restaurants, Vermont-inspired treatments at their spa, and a myriad of activities from golf to falconry — this is a perfect spot to relax on your Vermont road-trip.
Trapp Family Lodge – With a fascinating Sound of Music backstory, this Austrian-inspired lodge has everything. In the mountains just outside of Stowe it offers a range of accommodations from rooms and suites to villas, and even some pet-friendly options. Three restaurants, a spa, and its own on-site brewery makes this lodge a home-base you won’t want to leave.
A New Hampshire road-trip is all about the lakes or the mountains.
You can start with the lake district. Lake Winnipesaukee is the state’s largest lake and a perfect home base for your New Hampshire road-trip. At 21 miles long it sits at the foot of the White Mountains and boasts over 250 islands. You can begin by circumnavigating the lake — following the Lake Region Byway, NH-11.
Here you can enjoy activities such as kayaking, boating, sailing, swimming, and fishing (and ice fishing in winter!) Hike the nearby Ossipee range to dry off and get a birds-eye-view.
[Photo Credit: Michael Travis via Unsplash]
If you’re looking for a little more elevation with your adventure, consider heading northwest to the Lost River Gorge where you can explore polar caves. Or head northeast along the Three Rivers Scenic Drive (NH-16). Where you can check out the White Mountain National Forest with its 48 peaks (including the highest in New England, Mount Washington.) Ride the cog railway (or drive the auto road) up Mt Washington, follow well-marked hiking trails to scenic overlooks and waterfalls, and end your days at local restaurants and pubs.
Enjoy the stunning views, fall colors, and even stop to take a gondola ride.
[Photo Credit: Wendy via Unsplash]
Best Places to Stay:
Wolfeboro Inn – Right on Lake Winnipesaukee, this sprawling New England hotel is in the lake-side town of Wolfeboro. Offering a classic New England Tavern, a small private beach and close proximity to Wolfeboro’s boutiques and galleries, this is your quintessential New England lake-side experience
Wentworth Inn– Nestled in the White Mountains of Jackson, NH, Wentworth is a charming country inn. An idyllic forest setting, farm-to-table dining, and plenty of outdoor activities let you relax, unplug, and unwind.
If a rugged, yet charming coastline is more your road-trip cup of tea then we suggest heading even further north to Maine. Maine’s mid-coast US Route 1 heads through peninsulas and pine forests, meandering along rugged cliffs and through Victorian fishing villages. Utilize this route to see a number of Maine’s 65 historical lighthouses or to sample every lobster roll you can find at the harbor-side cafes.
Many of Maine’s lighthouses date back to the heyday of shipping in the late 18th century. Starting with the most famous Cape Neddick lighthouse just over the New Hampshire border. Continue along to Bar Harbor and try to see them all!
[Photo Credit: Frank Mckenna via Unsplash]
This stunning coastal route offers classic seaside views with fjord-like bays, steep cliffs, and islands claimed by sea lions. Start at the very south of the state in York, then cruise along the coast stopping in quaint towns like Portland, Waldoboro, Rockland, and Kennebunkport — all of which boast delicious seafood, historic buildings, and cozy atmospheres.
Also known as the Lobster Trail, Route 1 takes you past the best lobster shacks in the country. You can see the lobster coming straight off the boat and into the restaurant!
[Photo Credit: Karl Magnuson via Unsplash]
As you continue north you’ll merge with the Schoodic National Scenic Byway. It passes through the mainland section of Acadia, and you can enjoy lobster boats, wooden piers, lighthouses, and wildlife. Consider staying in one or two different towns overnight to go on sailing, whale watching, or puffin spotting tours.
Best Places to Stay:
Captain Lord Mansion– This incredibly charming B&B in Kennebunkport is a perfect stop on your way up Route 1. Luxurious rooms, an intimate spa, and extensive gardens await you in this quiet historic gem. Still only steps from Kennebunkport’s activities and attractions.
Samoset Resort – A sprawling oceanfront Resort in Rockport is the perfect northern stop. The newly renovated resort boasts ocean views, luxurious rooms, and plenty of activities around the nearby Penobscot Bay. Relax by the pool, get active at their sports facilities or head out into the bay for a lobster tour; this resort has a little something for every type of adventure.
A quintessential New England road-trip is certainly good for the soul. Whether you’re excited to get out into the stretches of forest and enjoy the fresh air or you’re ready to go antiquing in all the country stores and little towns along the way, a road-trip through Vermont, New Hampshire or Maine is a perfect way to spend a long weekend or weeks-long vacation. Let us know when you’re ready to start planning!