Six of the Best: Smarter Self-drives in New England
New England may be one of America’s best-loved fly-drive regions but savvy travellers are learning to spend less time on the road and more time enjoying its charms - by choosing well-positioned towns and cities as bases for exploring.
Each of the six New England states - Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont - boasts a wealth of scenic beauty, rich history, vibrant events and culture. With more two- and three-night stays in key locations which are perfect gateways for a variety of experiences, touring visitors can make the most of each state and pack in more for their miles. Here are six of the best ‘hubs’ in America’s oldest region:
The Berkshires, Massachusetts
Stockbridge and Lenox in the Berkshires make ideal hubs to explore Massachusetts beyond Boston. Known as the 'Spa Capital of New England', these towns offer an emerging arts scene; from Tanglewood (the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra) and the Clarke Institute to the contemporary Mass MOCA Gallery and the Norman Rockwell Museum, home to the work of one of the 20th Century's greatest illustrators.
Fly-drive Maine’s breathtaking coast to Camden, a quaint village positioned 'where the mountains meet the sea' to find a world of maritime experiences including historic windjammer and schooner voyages along the coast and seafaring history at the nearby Maine Maritime Museum. Pair with a visit to Cellar Door Winery for great local wine tours and samplings. Camden also acts as a gateway to Acadia National Park, offering world-class nature, mountains and exhilarating outdoor experiences less than two hours’ drive away.
Meredith, New Hampshire
A couple of hours’ drive from Boston, find Meredith, a charming town boasting outdoor adventure and a buzzing restaurant scene on the edge of Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire's largest lake. Within an hour of Meredith is the world's fourth largest zip line at Gunstock, the mountaintop ‘Castle in the Clouds’ which boasts a treasure trove of New England arts and crafts, and the Canterbury Shaker Village Museum which showcases 200 years of Shaker life. Alternatively, get on Lake Winnipesaukee on the MS Mt Washington or take the mail boat Sophie C to explore the houses and islands of the lake.
Providence, Rhode Island
A rich history and University town vibe can be found in Rhode Island’s Providence. Walk the main campus of the Ivy-League Brown University with its stunning red brick buildings or visit one of the world’s best regarded art and design schools, the Rhode Island School of Design. A visit to Federal Hill and the Italian District is a must for great food and in the summer months discover Waterfire, a series of events which bring the city’s waterways to life with a spectacle of over 80 bonfires dotted along its three rivers, accompanied by music and great food.
Venture to Mystic, a picturesque fishing village bursting with maritime history. On your doorstep you’ll find Mystic's Historic Seaport and Museum which tells the tale of the shipbuilding industry in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Groton Submarine Museum, operated by the US Navy and packed full of artefacts, photos and stories, and the Mashantucket Pequot Museum which brings to life the story of Native Americans in the North East. For a unique experience less than an hour from Mystic, the Essex Steam Railway offers journeys through beautiful scenery coupled with great story telling.
The village of Woodstock in Vermont provides a cultural base with a treasure trove of experiences nearby; from ale tours at the Long Trail Brewery, the Quechee Gorge and glass blowing at the Simon Pearce Glass Factory to the Marsh-Billings-Rockerfeller National Historic Park (which offers the chance to learn about the history and evolution of conservation stewardship in America) and the Off Road Range Rover Driving School, home to a challenging 80-acre purpose-built course.