Whatever season you are visiting, New England has many spots perfect for day trips. We have green forested mountains, rocky coastlines, colonial history, and extraordinary seafood. If you plan a New England road trip, this New England day trip guide can help you plan where you should visit. I am blessed that many of these spots are close to my home base of Rhode Island. Boston is an even more ideal base. Please enjoy this local’s guide to the best day trips in New England.
- Spend the day walking through the paths of Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge in Middletown, Rhode Island, with abundant wildlife and overlooks to the ocean. After exploring, head down to Flo’s Clam Shack for a true New England lunch.
- Visit another of Rhode Island’s prettiest spots, Napa Tree Point in Westerly. Across the bay, you can also visit the Watch Hill Lighthouse. Although you can’t go into the lighthouse, a small museum is open in the summer. Enjoy lunch or the sunset from the ritzy Ocean House Hotel deck.
- Take a quick ferry ride over to Block Island, Rhode Island, where you can enjoy the beaches, see its two lighthouses and the famous Mohegan Bluffs, and listen to live bands at Ballards Beach Club.
- If you want to explore a more upscale island, visit Nantucket Island in Massachusetts.
- Take a ferry from Boston or drive down Cape Cod to reach the outer Cape and Provincetown, Massachusetts, a colorful town with gorgeous sand dunes. Read my Outer Cape Guide.
- Take a bike ride on Cape Cod. Check out my list of the best bike trails on the Cape.
- Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, is my favorite of the New England islands. It is full of cute towns, historic gingerbread houses, ponds, beaches, and Kennedy history. You can catch a ferry from multiple spots in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
- Head up to the White Mountains in New Hampshire for a fall drive, waterfall hikes, ski resorts, or to take the kids to an amusement park.
- Explore the Cliff Walk and enormous early 1900s mansions in Newport, Rhode Island. Another day trip idea near Newport is to catch a polo game at the Newport International Polo Fields, then have dinner at Newport Vineyards.
- Spend the day visiting a vineyard which often have beautiful restaurants. Southern Connecticut has a wine trail, and Maine has interesting fruit wines. Wineries can be found throughout the region.
- Take a ride to Jamestown, Rhode Island. This island in the middle of Narragansett Bay has a historic grinding windmill to tour and excellent cider donuts at Windmist Farm. After those activities, take a ferry over to Rose Island and Newport.
- For another day trip in Jamestown, have lunch on Main Street and then visit Beavertail State Park. This park has a lighthouse to tour, a lawn perfect for kite flying, hiking trails, and some of Rhode Island’s most panoramic sunset views.
- If you are looking for something to do in the fall, be sure to visit a pick-your-own apple orchard. Most of them also have some other activities, such as stores or rides, and many sell fresh apple cider donuts.
- Even better, you can see apple cider being made at a cider mill, such as BF Clyde’s in Mystic. The place is like a carnival with live music and food in the fall. Right up the road is a historic cemetery surrounded by stone walls, a very common New England site.
- Speaking of New England carnivals, the largest one occurs in the fall in Springfield, Massachusetts- the Big E. Aside from the normal carnival activities and food, the Eastern States Exposition has copies of all five New England state houses filled with local food and goods.
- If you aren’t in Springfield when the Big E is open, there is still plenty to fill a day in the area. Visit the Yankee Candle Factory, the Basketball Hall of Fame, or the Springfield Museums.
- Maine is famous for its blueberries, but you can also go blueberry picking in any New England state.
- It is easy to fill a day in Mystic, Connecticut. It has the Mystic Aquarium, a historic seaport museum, a cute Main Street, and a working drawbridge.
- Essex, Connecticut, sits on the banks of the Connecticut River. It is worth taking the ferry across the river, having lunch among the colonial houses on Main Street, and seeing Gillette Castle and the opera house. Nearby is The Florence Griswold Museum, the spot of the beginning of American Impressionism.
- Visit New Haven, Connecticut, to try some of New England’s most famous pizza and see the campus of Yale University.
- Wethersfield, Connecticut, is the oldest town in the state. It has a pleasant, walkable old town and many historical museums.
- Visit a sugar shack. Vermont is known for its maple syrup, but any New England state has sugar shacks open in winter to see the syrup-making process.
- Hunt waterfalls along the Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire. This highway has some of the best foliage in the fall.
- Woodstock, Vermont, has been named the quintessential New England town with its darling downtown, historic inn, and multiple covered bridges.
- Hike Mount Washington, New Hampshire, the highest peak in New England. If you are not up to the challenge, you can drive up or take the train. There are also many other worthwhile shorter mountains to climb, such as Mount Major, Mount Monadnock, and Mount Tumbledown.
- Visit a lavender or sunflower farm. Summer provides ample opportunities to tour flower fields. Check out my New England flower field guide.
- During summer, lupines bloom in New Hampshire and Maine. Plan a drive to see them.
- The highlight of Shelburne, Massachusetts, is the Bridge of Flowers, but there are also many other things to do, such as hiking.
- The Mohawk Trail is a mountainous road through the Berkshires of Massachusetts. While there, stop to hike or explore small towns and farms.
- Salem, Massachusetts, is the home of the Salem Witch Trails and the stomping grounds of Nathaniel Hawthorne.
- Boston, Massachusetts, was at the center of the new United States of America. 16 significant historical sites can be visited by following the Freedom Trail.
- Plymouth, Massachusett, is the site of the first permanent Pilgrim settlement in the United States. You can visit the historical village museum, or even celebrate a Thanksgiving dinner there now.
- Old Sturbridge Village is a recreation of an 1830 colonial village in Massachusetts.
- Rockport, Massachusetts, is famous for its beaches and inspiring seaside views.
- Visit an aquarium- Either the Mystic Aquarium or the New England Aquarium in Boston.
- New Bedford, Massachusetts, is an old whale town with a strong Portuguese presence. It has a whaling museum and the church that inspired Moby Dick.
- Visit a cranberry bog. You can even tour one and wade in it. Read about my experience.
- Go back in time to Concord, Massachusetts, with the transcendentalists at Walden Pond, or check out American Revolution battle sites.
- Take a whale watch. They are available all around the coastline.
- Get out onto the water in New Hampshire’s Lake District. One of my favorite stops is Meredith on Lake Winnipesaukee.
- Take a road trip through the Green Mountains of Vermont, stopping at waterfalls, art galleries, and at the Ben and Jerry Factory.
- Burlington, Vermont, sits on the banks of Lake Champlain and has a vibrant art and history scene.
- Take a canoe trip or a float down a river.
- Portland, Maine, lies on the coast of southern Maine. It has excellent food, hiking, and shopping. Read my article about 47 fabulous things to do in Portland.
- Take the half-hour ferry ride from Portland to Peaks Island, Maine, where you can spend the day bike riding around the island.
- Drive up the Maine coast, which is filled with lovely waterfront towns like Ogunquit and Old Orchard Beach.
- The northeast’s oldest national park is Acadia National Park. Ideally, you would have more time to explore this wooded park along the cliffs of Maine’s coast, but at least get yourself here for a day.
Are you planning a trip to New England? Do you have any New England road trips that you love that I missed? Please let me know in the comments.
6 thoughts on “47 Fabulous Day Trips in New England”
Gosh so many things to do. I spent a working week in Boston/Harvard many years ago, but we didn’t have much time to venture out, the only trip we did was to Saleem. I think that I need a return trip to visit Martha’s vineyard, do some whale watching, and walk on some of those trails.
I can see I need to plan a very long visit to New England. Or plan many trips to enjoy this great list of day trips in New England. I love the variety in the activities you have highlighted. And that there are things for all seasons. We definitely need to pick a few things and plan a first visit.
I’m headed to New England on a mini-roadtrip in a month, so I loved reading this list. I’m planning to drive the Kancamagus Highway based on your recommendation from another post. What are your favorite stops along it? Thanks!
Definitely take a few waterfall hikes. Search for my New Hampshire hikes post. The views will be stunning from the lookouts!
There are so many great options for day trips in New England, and it’s awesome that you don’t have to drive for hours and hours just to cross one state border! I would really like to visit Block Island. I think it is exactly what I would love as a traveler – natural beauty, small town vibes, and unique landmarks to visit such as the lighthouses.
Hillstead in Farmington Connecticut is a really special place. A beautiful old home filled with the most wonderful impressionist paintings. The grounds are spectacular as well.