New England may be small, but states like Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont offer plenty of can’t-miss sights, iconic attractions, and delicious dining to delight visitors.
Travellers flock to New England each year, especially in the summer and fall, to discover what we already know: New England is a wonderful place for a vacation. From seacoast fishing villages to bustling cities steeped in history, there’s something for everyone.
Last week, I wrote about all there is to do and see in New England’s two most southern states, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Today, I want to share some of the spots in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont that help make New England one of the most-visited regions in the United States.
Maine’s scenic landscape, enviable seafood scene and laid-back atmosphere have made the state a must-visit destination among New Englanders and tourists alike. Nicknamed “Vacationland”, Maine is full of historic attractions, outdoor activities, and natural wonders.
Acadia National Park
One of the top natural wonders in Maine (and the United States) is Acadia National Park, a 49,000-acre park visited by more than 3.5 million people every year. Acadia is famous for its fall leaf colours, rocky seashore, and its spectacular sunrises. Explore the parks forests, beaches, mountains, and rocky coastlines on foot using some of the 100 miles of hiking trails for all levels of ability (trails to the summit of 1,530-foot Cadillac Mountain, the park’s highest point, are popular), or drive Park Loop Road, which winds its way through the park past the main attractions, including Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.
More than a base to explore nearby Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor is a lively town with a long history as an oceanside resort. Its streets are still lined by impressive “summer cottages” built during the Gilded Age, some of which now serve as elegant inns and B&Bs.
Stroll along Frenchman Bay, following the Shore Path from Agrimont Park, for views of the bay and islands. You can learn about Maine’s Native American history at the Abbe Museum, or take a whale-watching tour before heading to dine on the ocean-fresh seafood Maine is known for.
With a population of about 69,000, Maine’s largest city may not be considered big to some, but it has all the offerings of a vibrant metropolis. While Portland features the typical Maine topography (think secluded beaches and craggy coastlines) and thriving harbor that offers plenty of delectable seafood, it’s also known for being a cultural hub (museums abound), a revered dining scene and incredible preservation and reinvention of its historic Old Port.
While mouthwatering lobster rolls are within reach—and not to be missed—make time to dine at some of the kitchens with James Beard Award-winning chefs that dot the downtown area. Fore Street, a multi-award winning Portland institution since 1996, is a high-ceilinged, brick-walled warehouse space overlooking Old Port that’s known for its large, open kitchen and live-fire cooking.
Where to Stay
In the last decade, Portland, Maine’s hotel scene has blown up. This is now a destination where you can find exactly the sort of stay you’re looking for, whether you need to rack up rewards points, or want something more independent.
Occupying a Federal-style mansion built in 1823, Blind Tiger is the newest addition to Portland’s historic West End. Every room is different, influenced by its own local “host” who goes so far as to write personalized welcome letters. The luxurious Bon Viveur suite offers a private roof deck, while the Event Records suite features décor and content inspired by prominent local artists.
If you’re looking to stay in a chain, the upscale and romantic Westin Portland Harborview has a full-service spa, rooftop lounge with great views of the city and a convenient downtown location.
Nestled between Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts, New Hampshire is a popular year-round getaway destination. The state is renowned for its historic homes and heritage museums to explore, charming small towns, lakes, beaches, bustling culture-filled cities, and wide open spaces waiting to be explored.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is a prime destination for year-round outdoor and cultural exploration.
Portsmouth’s Market Square and surrounding streets are a shopper’s delight, especially for clothing. Other great stops include cozy-cool Portsmouth Book & Bar for cocktails or coffee, and Nahcotta for art supplies and home goods. While several Portsmouth shops sell food products, the exquisite house-made chocolates and truffles of La Cascade du Chocolat are hard to beat.
Like most New England coastal cities, Portsmouth specializes in seafood. The Portsmouth location of Boston-beloved Row 34 features a top-notch raw bar, excellent clam chowder, and a short but creative list of cocktails.
The highest peak in the northeastern U.S., Mount Washington is a hiking destination known for dramatic weather (a camera live-streams the changing conditions year round). Surrounded by the extensive 750,000-acre White Mountain National Forest, views from the 6,288-foot summit extend beyond New Hampshire as far as 130 miles to Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Maine, Quebec, and the Atlantic Ocean.
At the summit, you’ll find the Sherman Adams Visitor Center, a cafeteria, restrooms, gift shops, the Mount Washington Observatory and its museum.
Where to Stay
Relax, dine and sleep in the lap of luxury at the state’s gorgeous and historic grand hotels, including the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, the Wentworth by the Sea in New Castle or the Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa in Whitefield. They all boast fine dining, excellent spas, and prime locations.
At the Mount Washington Resort you can tee off on the award-winning 18-hole championship golf course, the Mount Washington.
Locals like to say that Vermont isn’t a place, it’s a state of mind. Vermonters revel in outdoor beauty, good food, and the preservation of unique small towns and cities. Visitors love Vermont for its colorful fall foliage; ski mountains like Killington, Manchester, Stowe, and Mount Snow; mountain vistas; and family-friendly attractions.
For a dose of absurdly quaint New England charm, it’s tough to do better than this town in the Green Mountains. Complete with a perfect village green with a white steepled church, this is just the destination for antique shoppers and B&B fans—some lodging dates back to the 1750s. Almost all of the town’s buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places; be sure to drop in at the 1886-era general store F.H. Gillingham & Sons for some souvenir maple candy.
Where to Stay
Woodstock Inn & Resort is a year-round destination in the village of Woodstock, Vermont that embraces the vision of Laurance and Mary Rockefeller. With a legacy that’s deeply rooted in the Woodstock community, the Inn is cherished for its preservation of New England history, heritage, and elegance.
Guest rooms feature wood-burning fireplaces and handcrafted bed frames, as well as more modern amenities like a LEED-certified spa. Guests must book a minimum three night stay, but this just means more time to soak up the surrounding area.
Situated on Lake Champlain, Burlington makes for a captivating New England getaway. In the heart of downtown Burlington, Church Street is only four blocks long, but it forms a wide, traffic-free space for public events and a lively street life even in Vermont’s cold winters. Along with the festivals scheduled throughout the year, it’s a place for sidewalk cafes, benches, and public artworks, and the buildings alongside it are filled with shops, restaurants, and boutiques. It’s no wonder this has been named one of the Great Public Spaces in America; it’s also listed as a National Register Historic District.
Burlington is known for its array of innovative restaurants making the most of their access to high-quality, fresh ingredients grown right in the Green Mountain State. Check out Bleu Northeast Seafood, which serves sustainably-caught New England seafood along with Vermont’s local crop.
The Burlington location of chef Eric Warnstedt’s acclaimed restaurant, Hen of the Wood, opened in the swanky Hotel Vermont in 2013, eight years after the original Waterbury location. Its menu notes the farms from which most vegetables were sourced each week, and a second page is devoted entirely to Vermont cheeses. Its beverage program is a destination of its own too, offering locally sourced beer, wine and an impressive list of craft cocktails shaken, stirred, and poured by attentive and knowledgable bartenders.
For Andrew, travel is so much more than just learning history or taking photos. Rather, the value of travel is witnessing a lifestyle, bonding with locals, and gaining rich cultural experiences. That’s why he founded the Luxury Wanderer; a place to share itineraries, offer advice, swap stories, and foster a like-minded community of curious travellers.