• Connecticut River and the Goodspeed Opera House
    Connecticut River and the Goodspeed Opera House
    East Haddam, Connecticut

Connecticut River Blueway

Four New England states, one river, one week

Starting not far from the Canadian border, the Connecticut River flows south for 410 miles to Long Island Sound. This American Heritage River's name comes from “quinetucket,” the Algonquian for “long tidal river.” Splitting New England in two, the river touches four of the six New England States: it is the border between New Hampshire and Vermont, then cuts through Massachusetts and into Connecticut. In 2012, the river and its watershed were designated as the USA's first National Blueway.

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.

  • 600 miles / 1,000 km of driving.
  • Allow a week or so.
  • Starting and finishing in Boston.
  • View a Google Map of this trip.
  • Real enthusiasts may want to start at the actual source: Fourth Connecticut Lake, N.H. From St. Johnsbury, this is a roundtrip of 200 miles/300km.

Drive from Boston to St. Johnsbury (175 miles/280km)

St. Johnsbury Athenaeum - Vermont

St. Johnsbury, Vermont

St. Johnsbury is the unofficial capital of Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, with its forest and lakes, farmers, artists and craftspeople. “St. J” (as locals call it), is a great base for biking, with one of the USA's best mountain bike trail networks.

Top tips:

  • The Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium: The epitome of a Victorian cabinet of curiosities, with specimens from the region and around the world.
  • St. Johnsbury Athenaeum: Albert Bierstadt's enormous The Domes of the Yosemite painting is a must-see.
  • Northeast Kingdom Artisans Guild: 100 artisans display their works at this Vermont artisans' cooperative.
  • Maple Grove Museum: At this century-old farm, the museum explains how maple syrup is made.
  • Dog Mountain: Dogs and their owners enjoy this 150-acre property, created by artist Stephen Huneck.

Drive to Hanover, New Hampshire (60 miles/100 km)

Cornish-Windsor_Bridge_over_Connecticut_River - (Credit-WC-Liz West)

Hanover, New Hampshire

Follow the scenic road along the New Hampshire side of the river to Hanover. Best known for Dartmouth, the Ivy League college founded in 1769, this is one of New England's prettiest towns.

Top tips:

  • Hood Museum of Art: Highlights include Native American and African art, plus the José Clemente Orozco mural, The Epic of American Civilization.
  • The Appalachian Trail: The “AT” cuts right through the heart of town; this easy dayhike is a 5.2-mile/8 km/3 hours outing to Velvet Rocks.
  • Canoe/kayak on the Connecticut River waterfront: Rent from the Ledyard Canoe Club.

Drive to Putney, Vermont (60 miles/100 km) On the way... In Cornish, visit the home, studio and gardens of sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, where more than 100 of his artworks are displayed. Cross the Connecticut River to the Vermont bank on the Cornish-Windsor Bridge, the world's longest two-span covered wooden bridge. Windsor is not only Vermont's birthplace (1777), but also home of the Harpoon Brewery (tours available). In Charlestown, on the river, the Fort at No. 4 is a living history museum recreating the days of the European settlers who used the river as a highway.

Paddling on the Connecticut River near Bellows Falls, Vermont (credit-Vermont Dept of Tourism & Marketing)

Putney, Vermont

With its lively arts, shopping and dining scene, Putney has become a fun destination.

Top tips:

  • Bike the country lanes: West Hill Shop has all the gear; scenic loops start right from the shop.
  • Take a sidetrip to Dummerston: See Rudyard Kipling's home, Naulakha; five minutes away.

Drive to Northampton, Massachusetts (50 miles/80 km) On the way... Take a trip on the Connecticut River with Northfield Mountain's riverboat cruises. Or, in Gill, paddle on the river with Barton Cove Canoe/Kayak Rentals. At the Great Falls Discovery Center (free), the exhibits highlight the plants, animals and landscapes along the Connecticut River.

Shopping in Northampton, Massachusetts (credit-MOTT)

Northampton and Amherst, Massachusetts

The Amherst-Northampton region is known as the Happy Valley due to its art and music communities, progressive ideas, prestigious colleges and large student population. In Amherst you can visit the Emily Dickinson Museum, or head out of town just a little bit and take advantage of some whitewater rafting at Crab Apple Whitewater in Charlemont, Massachusetts, or visit Yankee Candle Village in South Deerfield, Massachusetts. Sometimes referred to as NoHo, Northampton is an attractive town known as an artistic, musical and counter-cultural hub – as well as home to Smith College. It features a large and politically influential LGBT community along with numerous alternative health and intellectual organizations. Close by are five other colleges, including UMASS Amherst, Amherst College and Mount Holyoke, Williams College and Hampshire College.

Top tips:

  • Smith College: Tour the campus, Botanic Garden and Museum of Art.
  • The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst: Dedicated to the author/illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
  • The Norwottock Rail-Trail: Walk or bike (rent from Northampton Bicycle) this 10-mile route.

Drive to Hartford, Connecticut (50 miles/80 km) On the way... Heading south, consider a stop in Springfield. Sports fans head for the The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in the city where the sport was invented; culture lovers visit the Springfield Museums, with five neighboring museums devoted to art, science and history.

Mark Twain House - Hartford, Connecticut

Hartford, Connecticut

Connecticut's state capital, Hartford, is chock full of history, from its 1796 Old State House to the Mark Twain House & Museum and the neighboring home of Harriet Beecher Stowe.

  • Cruise the Connecticut: See the river aboard the Hartford Belle.
  • Drive to Essex, Connecticut (40 miles/65 km). On the way, riverside attractions include East Haddam, with the 1876 Goodspeed theatre and the mysterious Gillette Castle.
  • Across the river in Haddam, Connecticut River Expeditions offer boat trips.

Essex Steam Train - Connecticut (Jody Dole)_mini

Essex & Old Lyme, Connecticut

The charming New England town of Essex is known for the Griswold Inn, a tavern that opened in 1776, and the informative Connecticut River Museum on the waterfront. Essex makes an excellent base for exploring the lively and historic communities at the mouth of the Connecticut River.

Top tips:

  • Essex Steam Train & Riverboat: The train from the 1892 Essex Station links up with the Becky Thatcher riverboat for a cruise along the Connecticut River.
  • Nearby is Old Lyme: This pretty village is the home of American Impressionism; find out more at the Florence Griswold Museum.

Drive back to Boston 125 miles/200 km

Related information: