Village Gems (Southern New England Driving Tour)
Massachusetts, Rhode Island & Connecticut
See also: Village Gems (Northern New England Tour)
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.
- Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts: Bridge of Flowers
Where else are two riverside communities joined by a Bridge of Flowers? From spring through autumn, the 1908 bridge is abloom, and floodlit at night. Surrounded by hills, the town retains its Victorian flavor, heightened by antiques stores and craft shops. Geologists come to see the glacial potholes, including one measuring 39 feet across.
- Northampton, Massachusetts: New England hot spot
When you have museums and theaters, eclectic shops and good restaurants right on your doorstep, who needs to drive to Boston? Northampton is a small city with a funky atmosphere; plus the student life provided by Smith College, one of America’s best.
- Salisbury, Connecticut: The Litchfield Hills
The pace is relaxed in Salisbury, with its Colonial buildings, bed and breakfast inns, antiques shops and craft galleries. Sports fans know it for the ski jump, as well as the nearby Lime Rock Race Track and Mount Riga. The Appalachian Trail, the legendary hiking route that stretches from Maine to Georgia, passes right by the town.
- Kent, Connecticut: Scenic Kent Falls
When New Yorkers want to relax in beautiful countryside, they head for the Litchfield Hills. One of the prettiest villages in these wooded hills is Kent, known for its highly-rated boarding school. Visitors come for the boutiques, the small but intriguing museums and, only a few miles away, scenic Kent Falls.
- East Haddam, Connecticut: Connecticut River treasures
On the Connecticut River, this village centers on the flamboyant Goodspeed Opera House (1876), known for its productions of Broadway musicals. High above the river stands Gillette Castle (1919), a folly surrounded by a 184-acre state park; below, the ferry has crossed from Chester to Hadlyme since 1769.
- Noank, Connecticut: Connecticut coast at its best
The eastern Connecticut coastline is a series of coves and inlets, full of boats and bird life. Charming small communities include Noank, with its marina, small beach, handful of stores and Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough. Sit outside by the water, roll up your sleeves and tuck into one of New England’s most famous delicacies.
- Blackstone River Valley, Rhode Island: Birthplace of American industry
The American Industrial Revolution began in this 46-mile valley, where Slater Mill was the first successful water-powered cotton mill. As well as learning about the industrial heritage, you can canoe the Blackstone River, or take a guided boat tour; you can also hike and bike the miles of trails through scenic countryside.
- Wickford, Rhode Island: The Witches of Eastwick
Wickford has the oldest Episcopal church in New England (1707) plus handsome summer houses built a century ago. The late John Updike lived here, and set The Witches of Eastwick in this village, which becomes an open-air gallery during the July Arts Festival. Stroll down to the harbor to buy lobsters and local clams, known as quahogs.
- Jamestown, Rhode Island: Captain Kidd's hideout
Across the bay from Newport, this small seaside town was named for James II in 1678. It is the only community on a 9-mile-long island, supposedly a hideout for the pirate, Captain Kidd. Pleasures here are simple: boating, fishing and swimming; watching yacht races from Fort Wetherill; and savoring the sunset from Beavertail State Park.
- Bristol, Rhode Island: America's Cup yachts
Sailing buffs head for the Herreshoff Marine Museum, where triumphant America’s Cup yachts were built from 1863-1945. Landlubbers explore this centuries-old port on Narragansett Bay, where grandiose homes testify to the wealth made from shipping. Don’t miss Blithewold Mansion, with its manicured gardens and arboretum. Bristol is also home to the nation’s oldest July 4th parade.
- Edgartown, Massachusetts: Playground of the rich and famous
Elegant Edgartown boasts brick sidewalks and stately sea captains' homes, many dating from the early 19th century, when the town was already 200 years old. Yet, this is no museum: there are lively pubs and cafés, the harbor is crammed with yachts, and the shopping is city chic. Walk to the lighthouse, visit the old churches, then cycle off to the beach.
- Marblehead, Massachusetts: Magnificent harbor view
Marblehead would be worth visiting just for its harbor, one of the loveliest in New England and a favorite with yachtsmen. Back in the 18th century, this was one of the Colony’s most important seaports, with one of its grandest homes, the Jeremiah Lee Mansion. Tour the house, then stroll through the historic lanes.