Four States, One River, One Week
Explore New England’s hidden gems on a driving tour of
America’s First National Blueway
Take a New England drive with a difference and explore some of the region’s hidden gems as you spend a week following America’s first-ever National Blueway, the Connecticut River.
Officially declared a National Blueway in 2012, the 410-mile river flows through the heart of New England’s leafy countryside, forming a picturesque border between the states of New Hampshire and Vermont and winding into the breathtaking landscapes of Massachusetts and Connecticut. An important environmental, community and economic hub, the river is recognised as one of the USA’s most significant waterways.
Starting in the gateway city of Boston, a week’s self-drive along the river brings travellers into contact with some of New England’s most breathtaking scenery. Also ideal for fans of culture, history, the arts, literature and active pursuits, the route offers the opportunity to explore charming towns and cities situated along the National Blueway’s shores and historical sites which are unique to New England, the birthplace of America.
Boston to St. Johnsbury, Vermont (175 miles) From Boston, travellers will head north through classic New England countryside to St. Johnsbury, the unofficial start of the National Blueway, passing through historic towns and cities along the way. “St. J”, as it is known by locals, is renowned for its pristine lakes, forests and its charming farmers, artists and craftspeople. Located in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, St. Johnsbury boasts one of the USA’s best mountain bike trail networks. Bursting with culture, visitors will find an array of detailed art works including Albert Bierstadt’s enormous The Domes of the Yosemite painting at the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum. Alternatively, the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium explores the unique specimens of the natural world, and the Maple Grove Museum is a century-old farm which explores the making of Maple Syrup.
St Johnsbury to Hanover, New Hampshire (60 miles) Set off south for Hanover, taking the road which hugs the New Hampshire side of the Blueway. Best known for Dartmouth, the Ivy League college founded in 1769, this is one of New England’s prettiest towns. Moving onto the Hood Museum of Art, discover a plethora of Native American and African art and the José Clemente Orozco mural, The Epic of American Civilization. Active travellers may choose to canoe or kayak on the Connecticut River Waterfront, or enjoy an five-mile section of the scenic Appalachian Trail, which cuts through the heart of the town.
Hanover to Putney, Vermont (60 miles) Next is the quaint town of Putney. Stop off in Cornish on the way to see the home, studio and gardens of the famous American sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, then get back on the trail by crossing the world’s longest two-span covered wooden bridge, the Cornish-Windsor Bridge, over the Connecticut River. Other stops along the way include Windsor, the birthplace of Vermont (1777), and Fort at No. 4 on the river in Charleston, a living history museum that recreates the days of the European settlers who used the river as a highway. Putney will charm those who visit with its rural character, its arts, shopping and dining scene, as well as the chance to cycle its idyllic rural country lanes.
Putney to Northampton and Amherst, Massachusetts (50 miles) A hub for art, music and culture, the Amherst-Northampton region is approximately 50 miles south of Putney. Amherst is a hotspot for lovers of American literature as it is home to the Emily Dickinson Museum. Here, discover the famous poet’s birthplace and the house in which she lived most of her life. Learn more about her life through unique and personal artefacts in the museum. En route to Northampton and Amherst, take a river cruise onboard the Quinnetukut II to gain a full appreciation of the Connecticut River’s beauty and to see Barton Cove, where beautiful bald eagles nest. In search of an adrenalin rush? Go white water rafting at nearby Crab Apple Whitewater in Charlemont, or take the Norwottock Rail-Trail on foot on by bike and enjoy lush New England farmland. Kayaking and canoeing is also available on the river in Gill, between Putney and Northampton.
Northampton to Hartford, Connecticut (50 miles) Connecticut’s state capital, Hartford offers an abundance of history, from its 1796 Old State House to the Mark Twain House & Museum (honouring the well-known author), and the neighbouring home of Harriet Beecher Stowe, the abolitionist and author most famous for Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Cruise from Hartford to discover yet more breathtaking Connecticut River scenery aboard the Hartford Belle or with Lady Katharine Cruises.
Essex & Old Lyme, Connecticut (40 miles) Charming Essex, known for the Griswold Inn (one of the oldest in the country at 235 years old) and the informative Connecticut River Museum on the waterfront, is an excellent base for exploring the lively and historic communities at the mouth of the Connecticut River. Combine the state’s history with the magnificent views of the river by taking a steam train from the old 1892 Essex Station, which joins with the Becky Thatcher riverboat for a cruise along the Blueway. Discover the pretty village of Old Lyme, and its history as the home of American Impressionism at The Florence Griswold Museum before heading back to Boston through picturesque countryside (125 miles).
The Connecticut River Blueway driving tour is one of a number of suggested routes to be found on the website of Discover New England, the official tourism organisation representing the region.