Our proximity to abundant natural beauty makes grabbing a short respite from our everyday lives simple. Here are six New England adventures where you can reconnect—if ever so briefly—with the great outdoors.
1. Enjoy family summer camp on Squam Lake, New Hampshire
For more than a century, generations of families have enjoyed old-fashioned summer fun at Rockywold-Deephaven Camps, where 60 rustic cottages, each with a private dock, encircle Squam Lake’s pristine wooded shoreline. Inside each cabin, braided rugs, twin-bedded rooms, and vintage-style iceboxes chilled with ice harvested from the lake hark back to simpler times.
Do as much or as little as you like. During the day, enjoy family softball games, talks by local naturalists, and hikes in the White Mountains. If you prefer more peace and quiet, join a yoga class, explore Squam’s coves by kayak, or melt into a rocking chair on the porch. Three family-style meals a day are served in bright, pine-paneled dining rooms.
Info: Rates start at $3,766 per week, including meals, for a two-person cabin. (603) 968-3313; rdcsquam.com.
2. Hike hut-to-hut in the White Mountains, New Hampshire
Founded in 1876 by a group of Boston academics with a passion for outdoor adventure, the Appalachian Mountain Club operates eight huts in the White Mountains. The first was built in 1888, and the others were erected between 1914 and 1965. Today, 56 miles of Appalachian Trail link the primitive abodes, some of which, like Lonesome Lake and Zealand Falls, can be reached in less than two hours of relatively easy hiking from a trailhead.
One of the most popular, Lake of the Clouds, perches on the ridgeline about 1,200 feet below the summit and treats trekkers to a comfortable bunk, a hearty dinner, and spectacular sunsets.
Info: Summer and fall rates start at $96 per night (including meals). (617) 523-0655; outdoors.org/lodging-camping/huts.
3. Set sail on a historic windjammer, Maine
Channel your inner old salt on a multiday voyage with the Maine Windjammer Association, a fleet of eight magnificent vessels that cruise Penobscot Bay. With no set itinerary, journeys unfold at the whim of the winds and the tides, providing nonstop adventure surrounded by mid-coast Maine’s spectacular scenery. Each ship has its own unique personality, and four have been designated National Historic Landmarks, including the Lewis R. French, America’s oldest windjammer that celebrates its 150th birthday in 2021.
Windjammers sail from Rockland or Camden and offer all-inclusive two- to nine-night trips. Accommodations are in cozy berths—some ships offer more creature comforts than others (the Ladona is especially plush)—and the food is amazing fleet-wide. Aspiring seafarers can help hoist sails, coil rope, or take a turn at the wheel. The decks offer perfect spots to sunbathe, journal, knit, or simply enjoy the sea breeze with a crisp Maine craft brew.
But the highlight of every sailing might just be cracking uber-fresh lobsters steamed in seawater while watching the sunset from an uninhabited island.
Info: Cruises start at $495 per person for two nights on the Lewis R. French. (800) 807-9463; sailmainecoast.com.
4. Paddle the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, Maine
The Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW) is a plum paddle for both beginner and veteran canoeists. Composed of the famed Allagash River as well as the lakes, ponds, and streams that flow into it, the AWW was designated a National Wild and Scenic River in 1970 and travels for 92 miles though Maine’s remote 10.5 million–acre North Woods.
Chip Cochrane and Lani Love, registered Maine Guides and third-generation owners of Allagash Canoe Trips, have been running the Allagash for two decades. Their passion for sharing their vast knowledge is tangible—newbies learn the fundamentals of paddling and reading the water while seasoned paddlers can hone their skills.
The seven-day adventure begins in a pristine headwater lake, where you can practice your strokes before dipping into the Chase Rapids’ Class I and II whitewater. After that, you’ll head north along the river, meandering in and out of lakes and ponds surrounded by a dense thicket of balsam poplar, northern white cedar, and white birch. Meals prepared by Cochrane and Love are so fabulous you’ll forget you’re in the wilderness.
Info: Adult trips start at $1,100 per person. (207) 280-1551; tinyurl.com/awwcanoe.
5. Pedal through the countryside, Vermont
Some of the world’s best cycling can be found in Vermont. While the state named for its lofty Green Mountains has many steep gap roads with thigh-burning ascents, numerous flatter routes treat riders to gentle, rolling terrain and a highlight reel of classic Vermont scenery.
VBT Bicycling Vacations has been leading bike tours on these roads for more than 40 years. In the early 1970s, Middlebury College history professor John Freidin realized that people would love to cycle in Vermont if they knew where to go and had a cozy inn and a good meal waiting at the end of the day. VBT now offers cycling itineraries in 22 countries, but its six-day, self-guided inn-to-inn tour of the Middlebury countryside and Lake Champlain coast returns to the company’s roots.
Daily rides vary in length and exertion level, but whichever path you choose, you’ll be surrounded by the Green Mountains, cruising the Lake Champlain Valley’s bucolic farmland with the Adirondacks etched on the horizon.
Info: This six-day self-guided itinerary starts at $1,845 per person, double occupancy. (855) 445-5513; tinyurl.com/vtbike.
6. Travel by houseboat on Lake Champlain, Vermont
It’s one thing to vacation in a lake cabin. It’s quite another to vacation on a lake, which is what you’ll do when you set out from Chipman Point Marina for a Lake Champlain houseboat voyage. The 120-mile-long and 12-mile-wide lake is a boater’s paradise dotted with welcoming marinas and peaceful anchorages, as well as historic sites and quaint lakeside villages.
Both of the company’s vintage 38-foot River Queen houseboats sleep six people in snug quarters—bunk beds tucked along a rear wall provide a cozy space for two while a mid-cabin dinette and a futon in the helm fold into double beds. Provision yourself at local markets and farm stands or cast a line and fish for dinner—the lake’s clear waters nurture bass, perch, sheepshead, and plenty of trout.
Drop anchor in secluded coves or lounge on sandy beaches at places like Kingsland Bay State Park or Malletts Bay. The lake’s southern shores offer ample diversions for novices, while more seasoned mariners can navigate farther north to explore Burlington and the lake’s pastoral islands.
Info: Rental rates start at $800. (802) 558-4574; champlainhouseboatcharters.com.
Gina Decaprio Vercesi is a New York-based storyteller, adventurer, and nature girl with a passion for history and conservation.
AAA Travel Alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.