Off the Beaten Path
New Hampshire & Vermont
This New England driving itinerary takes you to quieter destinations in New Hampshire and Vermont. Visit classic small towns and drive along peaceful back roads for much of your way. To get the best out of this route that goes off the beaten path, stay two or three nights in each of the five stopovers and follow our Top Tips.
Trip ideas and itineraries are meant as suggestions only. They are intended as ideas and to highlight all there is to see and do in New England.
- Start and finish in Boston, Massachusetts. Spend a couple of days here to see the sights. The “T,” the public transport system, is efficient and inexpensive — and Boston is the most walkable major U.S. city, so you don’t need to rent a car until you are setting off.
- Driving distance: About 500 miles/800 km.
- Allow 10-12 days.
- View this tour in Google Maps.
Drive north to Exeter, New Hampshire (60 miles/100 km).
Exeter, New Hampshire
A small town with a big history: that is Exeter. Founded in 1638, it was the capital of New Hampshire from 1775 to 1789. Learn about the Gilman family, who featured in early U.S. history, at the American Independence Museum. The collection includes an original Purple Heart, awarded by George Washington for bravery, as well as two drafts of the U.S. Constitution. The Gilman Garrison House chronicles three centuries of a local family.
Drive through the back roads and small villages of southern New Hampshire to Peterborough (80 miles/125 km).
Peterborough, New Hampshire
Peterborough was the inspiration for Our Town, a classic portrayal of Americana and a favorite of high school drama clubs. It is also the home of the MacDowell Colony. Founded in 1907, it is America’s oldest artists’ community, while the Peterborough Players theater group produces award-winning performances, year in, year out.
Back roads lead to gorgeous foliage. Pick up the Currier & Ives Trail (Route 202 and 127), a tribute to the 19th-century printmakers who recorded small towns, such as Hopkinton, Warner, Henniker, and Webster — communities that seem unchanged today (65 miles/100 km).
Sunapee, New Hampshire
Lake Sunapee and Mount Sunapee have something for everyone: pretty villages; outdoor activities; 84 acres of historic gardens at The Fells, an early 20th-century summer estate on Lake Sunapee; and Mount Sunapee's Adventure Park, with canopy zip-lines, rope bridges, and rappelling.
Drive northeast to the Connecticut River Valley and the handsome town of Hanover, home of Dartmouth College. Cross into Vermont and visit Quechee, where the Ottauquechee River has carved a gorge 165 feet (50 m) deep. Continue to and over the Green Mountains to Middlebury (100 miles/160 km).
On the banks of the Otter Creek, Middlebury has charm and historic inns, as well as 200-year-old Middlebury College. The Frisbee Dog sculpture on campus reflects the student claim to have invented Frisbee using a pie plate in 1938. The Vermont Folklife Center is dedicated to preserving the ‘Voices and Traditions of Vermont.’
Drive though more unspoiled countryside to Brattleboro (105 miles/170 km).
On the Connecticut River, one of the state’s oldest towns (1753) is regularly included in “best of” lists. Not only is it rated as one of America’s best small towns, it is also one of the 100 best art towns in America.
Return to Boston via Route 2: 120 miles/195 km.
Return to: Two Week New England Driving Tours