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3 summer road trips in New England

Discover beautiful views, quirky stops, and one-of-a-kind New England products and food on these scenic drives.

With some of the most beautiful scenery on earth, New England offers exceptional roadways for summer driving. We asked three of our regular contributors to find the most scenic routes in Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire. Here are their choices, along with roadside attractions for each.

1. Maine

92 miles on Route 1 from Schoodic Peninsula to Eastport

West Quoddy Head Light | Mira / Alamy Stock Photo

West Quoddy Head Light | Photo by Mira / Alamy Stock Photo

Dip into coastal Maine’s rich history with easy-on-the-eyes scenery, little traffic, and plentiful mom-and-pop businesses to add to the adventure. —Hillary Nangle

Acadia National Park

Acadia's mainland section, tipping the Schoodic Peninsula, offers endless ocean views and wild surf crashing on red granite slabs. Mosey along the one-way road looping around the park, and don't miss the French Norman Revival-style mansion housing the Schoodic Institute. 

Wharf Gallery and Grill, Corea

You'd be hard-pressed to find a better place for lobster, a lobster roll, or lobster grilled cheese than this idyllic spot with a front-row seat on Corea's lobster-boat-filled harbor. Inside the fishing shack are historical photos by Louise Z. Young, who was a friend of painter Marsden Hartley and also worked with noted photographer Berenice Abbott. 207-963-8888. 

Ruggles House, Columbia Falls

Built in 1818 for Judge Thomas Ruggles, this pint-size Adamesque-style Federal mansion is a must for architecture buffs. Highlights include a magnificent flying staircase, intricately carved moldings, a Palladian window, and some original furniture from the Ruggles household. 207-483-4637. 

Burnham Tavern Museum, Machias

After plotting in the taproom of Job and Mary Burnham's tavern-home, poorly armed local patriots captured the British ship Margaretta on June 12, 1775, in the first naval battle of the American Revolution, the Lexington of the Sea. 207-255-6930.

West Quoddy Head Light, Lubec

Take Highway 189 to loop out to Lubec's Quoddy Head State Park for hiking, birding, whale watching, and visiting West Quoddy Head Light, built in 1857. Tour exhibits in the Visitors Center, located in the 1858 keeper's house; climb the candy-striped tower, if it's open; savor views to Grand Manan Island; and walk the cliff-top trails and a bog trail on a raised boardwalk. 207-733-2180. 

Raye's Mustard Mill Museum

In Eastport, on Highway 190 off US Route 1, watch mustard being made at a traditional stone-ground mustard mill. J. Wesley Raye founded the company in 1900 to complement the family's sardine smokehouse. His descendants still use the same process and the original granite millstones shipped from France but now produce more than two dozen varieties, including Down East Schooner, a 14-time gold-medal winner at the World-Wide Mustard Competition. 207-853-4451.


48 miles on the Molly Stark Scenic Byway, a.k.a. Vermont State Route 9

Old First Church in Bennington, Vermont, where poet Robert Frost is buried. | Stan Tess / Alamy Stock Photo

Old First Church in Bennington, Vermont, where poet Robert Frost is buried. | Photo by Stan Tess / Alamy Stock Photo

Trace the route that Revolutionary War General John Stark took after he vowed to defeat the British at the Battle of Bennington, “or this night Molly Stark sleeps a widow, he's said to have declared.” —Peter Crabtree

Sam's Outdoor Outfitters, Brattleboro

Begin your journey with a visit to Sam's, an anchor store for Brattleboro's red-brick downtown since 1932. You'll find all you might require for a camping stay in the Green Mountain National Forest, such as Vermont-made Darn Tough socks. Help yourself to free popcorn, a Sam's tradition. 802-254-2933. 

TJ Buckley's, Brattleboro

Set in a restored 1925 Worcester Dining Car, this restaurant wins rave reviews not only for its food—scallops and rabbit might appear on the menu—but also for its wine list, atmosphere, and service. Reservations are recommended. 802-257-4922. 

Marlboro Music Festival, Marlboro

Each year from mid-July to mid-August, a select group of classical musicians gathers to perform chamber works. World-renowned artists play alongside up-and-coming instrumentalists and singers in Marlboro College's intimate Persons Auditorium. 215-569-4690. 

Hogback Mountain Scenic Overlook, Wilmington

Is that Massachusetts and New Hampshire you see? Well, yes, because on a clear day there's a 100-mile view from the base of this former ski area. Stop in at the gift shop and pick up some Vermont maple syrup and cheddar. 800-427-5494. 

Harriman Reservoir, Wilmington

While floating on your back in the cool, clear water of the reservoir, also known as Lake Whitingham, keep an eye open for bald eagles. Or rent a pontoon boat, personal watercraft, or stand-up paddleboard, and explore 28 miles of coastline. 802-464-2108; 

Hemmings Motor News, Bennington

Hemmings bills itself as the collector car hobbyist's bible, and pilgrims drive for miles to attend the Thursday night cruise-ins the magazine hosts in summertime. Stop by Hemmings' Sunoco Filling Station (802-447-9580) and have an attendant check your oil as you visit the adjoining antique car museum and filling station. 802-447-9652. 

Bennington Museum, Bennington

The museum has long been known for having one of the world's largest public collections of Grandma Moses paintings. The Bennington Modernism gallery focuses on the work of abstract artists associated with Bennington College from the 1950s through the 1970s. 802-447-1571. 

Old First Church, Old Bennington

The soaring white clapboard bell tower of this New England classic overlooks the graveyard where poet Robert Frost is buried. Visitors pay tribute to the American master by leaving coins and tokens on his gravestone, which bears the inscription “I had a lover's quarrel with the world.” From there, it's just a short walk to the 306-foot-tall obelisk that commemorates the 1777 Battle of Bennington. 802-447-1223.

New Hampshire

43 miles along US Route 302 through Crawford Notch

A view of the Omni Mount Washington Resort, Bretton Woods | Scott Kemper / Alamy Stock Photo

A view of the Omni Mount Washington Resort, Bretton Woods | Scott Kemper / Alamy Stock Photo

This route began as an American Indian trail. Timothy Nash, a hunter from Lancaster, and Benjamin Sawyer of Conway explored it, and the road opened in 1775. As the Notch attracted travelers, it also drew permanent settlers. The Crawford Family and their in-laws, the Rosebrooks, built inns at both ends. The following south-to-north itinerary reveals the region's rich history and the White Mountains' spectacular scenery. —John Snyder

Sawyer Rock Picnic Site

Sawyer Rock, a large boulder with a historic plaque telling the story of Sawyer and Nash, is located at the south end of the Notch a half-mile past the sign welcoming visitors to the White Mountains National Forest. It's a good spot to park for a swim in the adjacent Saco River. 603-536-6100. 

The Notchland Inn, Hart's Location

The stone mansion was home to Samuel Bemis, a Boston dentist often regarded as America's first landscape photographer. Hart's Location, with a population of about 46, is one of the first places in the country to declare election results in the New Hampshire primary and presidential elections. 603-374-6131; 

Frankenstein Cliff

Named for landscape painter Godfrey Frankenstein—not, as some may imagine, for Mary Shelley's evil physician—this area is a favorite winter haunt for ice climbers. A 5-mile round-trip trail leads to the top of the 2,531-foot-high cliff. 

Webster Cliff Trailhead

This steep, challenging Appalachian Mountain Club Trail is for seasoned hikers only. It leads to the summit of 3,910-foot-high Mount Webster and offers some of the most dramatic views in the Notch. 

Willey House Historic Site, Crawford Notch

At about 3 a.m. on August 28, 1826, a violent summer storm destroyed much of the Willey family farm. The family dog was the lone survivor, and some say its lonely howl can be heard at night. Today, the site is home to Crawford Notch State Park headquarters, along with a snack bar and a small museum. 603-374-2272. 

AMC Highland Center, Crawford Notch

The Appalachian Mountain Club Highland Center offers lodging, food, and educational programs and is a good place to begin or end your Notch hike. Check out its exhibit of the photography of Bradford Washburn, one of America's finest aerial mountain photographers and explorers. 

Omni Mount Washington Resort, Bretton Woods

Opened in 1902, this U.S. National Historic Landmark is famous for hosting the international Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, which established the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Today, the AAA Four Diamond resort features a golf course and a network of cross-country ski trails. For an ideal way to end your Notch drive, sit on the hotel's wraparound porch and enjoy the view as the sun sets on the Northeast's highest mountain. 603-278-1000;

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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.

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