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The Colonial: A Road Trip Through New England

Updated: Oct 10, 2019

The Colonial road trip is an experience of the Northeastern United States, or New England, with destinations in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York. Summer or early fall is a great time to go, as the temperature in the summer is cool and comfortable, and the foliage in the fall is a sight to see. If you are looking to save on costs and avoid crowds, I suggest visiting in late spring or early summer. Boston is a great starting place, but you can begin anywhere along the route. Your lodging can either be hotels, campgrounds, or a combination of both depending on your family's preferences, but note that there are an ample number of campgrounds along the route between state parks, national forests, and national parks if you're looking for a more serene vacation.

Round-trip distance: 2200 miles

Suggested trip duration: 2-3 weeks

Boston, Massachusetts

After you arrive in Boston, spend a full day taking in the history of the city. Follow the Freedom Trail to visit the Old North Church and the Paul Revere House, the starting point of Revere’s famous revolutionary ride. You'll also find Bunker Hill, the USS Constitution Museum, which highlights the frigate from the War of 1812, and the Old State House, site of the infamous Boston Massacre. In the evening, dine on a meal of Boston clam chowder (Highly suggest Union Oyster House) and take in a baseball game at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox and one of the oldest baseball stadiums in Major League Baseball. The Cathedral of the Holy Cross is a magnificent Roman Catholic Church in Boston and makes a great stop for any day of the week. On Sundays, they offer the TLM.

Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts

Cape Cod National Seashore

The next morning, head southeast out of Boston towards Cape Cod, stopping along the way at the historic Plymouth Rock, site of the 1620 Mayflower landing. Once in Cape Cod, view the many lighthouses like Nauset Lighthouse, visit the Pilgrim Monument, and relax on the miles of beaches. Stay a couple nights at a seaside cottage in Cape Cod. If you get a hankering for a lobster roll, try one from The Knack, which offers one better than any we could find in Boston.

Newport, Rhode Island

A two-hour drive to the west will take you to Newport, Rhode Island. Here, you can visit The Breakers, the late-1800s Vanderbilt mansion, and several other historic mansions. Stroll along the Cliff Walk to Salve Regina University to stretch your legs, and drive along scenic Ocean Drive to Fort Adams State Park, the site of a 19th-century fort, for a picnic lunch. Drive another hour west along scenic Highway 1A to visit the quaint town of Westerly and Misquamicut State Beach, before making the final push to Hartford, Connecticut for the evening.

Rhode Island coast

Hartford, Connecticut to Cooperstown, New York

In the morning, visit the Connecticut State Capitol and the Mark Twain House, the Clemens family home from 1874-1891. Driving north, basketball fans can enjoy the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, before baseball fans get their share of the fun by passing by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, three hours later. Spend the night in Syracuse, New York.

Connecticut State Capitol, Hartford

Niagara Falls

You’ll want to get an early start the next morning to make it to Niagara Falls by lunchtime. Cool off on a hot day by taking a boat tour to the base of the falls. For travelers wanting to make a quick trip to Canada, you can cross the border here for the afternoon - don’t forget your passport!

Niagara Falls

Lake Champlain

The next stop is Lake Champlain, which lies on the border between New York, Vermont, and Canada. You can choose between the six-hour drive back through New York, or take the Canadian route through Toronto, adding an additional two hours to the drive. From Cumberland Head, New York, take the Lake Champlain ferry to South Hero, Vermont. Enjoy the quaint restaurants, wineries, and shops. You can stay near Burlington, Vermont, for the night.

White Mountain National Forest

White Mountain National Forest is two hours east of Burlington and home to both Franconia Notch and Mt. Washington. Franconia Notch is a mountain pass through the White Mountains where Interstate 93 narrows to one lane each way. Stop to hike and visit the Basin before heading back north through the notch towards Mt. Washington, an hour and a half drive away. Mt. Washington is the highest peak in the Northeastern U.S. and the site of the highest recorded wind speed (outside of a tropical cyclone or tornado) of 231 miles per hour. The summit acts as a full-time weather observatory. Camp for a couple days at one of the many campgrounds in the national forest (for camping tips, check out Camping Hacks that Will Make Your Next Trip Outdoors a Breeze!).

Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Baxter State Park

The next destination, Baxter State Park, is six hours to the east with several campgrounds to choose from. The park is home to Mt. Katahdin, the summit of which is the northern end of the infamous Appalachian Trail. Note that Baxter State Park has no portable water, so make sure you bring a water filtration system with you. Spend your first day in the park relaxing. If it’s blueberry season, you can pick blueberries in the park for cooking a great blueberry cobbler for dessert or eat them plain for breakfast. The next morning, get an early start to hike Mt. Katahdin, either up the Abol Trail or the Hunt Trail. Since the Abol Trail is a fun hike, but the Hunt Trail is part of the Appalachian Trail, I recommend hiking up the Abol Trail to the summit and then descending on the Hunt Trail. This will add a couple more miles to your hike, as you have to walk from the Hunt Trailhead to the Abol Trailhead, but you can often find cars willing to give you a ride between trailheads. Take a full day to relax after hiking Mt. Katahdin before heading to your next destination.

Mt. Katahdin, Maine

West Quoddy Head Lighthouse

Heading east another four hours will take you to West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, which sits on the easternmost point in the United States. You can make a quick detour into New Brunswick, Canada to visit Roosevelt Campobello International Park, the location of Roosevelt’s summer home which is now a museum and nature park. By early afternoon, head south four hours along the coast to Acadia National Park for a couple days of camping, hiking, and relaxation.

West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, Maine

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park has great hiking, biking, and sightseeing. You can hike up Cadillac Mountain, considered the first place in the US to see the sunrise each day. You can bike around the Carriage Roads, which are closed to automobile traffic and wind around the park’s lakes. You can also take a drive along the Park Loop Road, which offers many scenic overlooks. In the evenings, head to nearby Bar Harbor to enjoy the restaurants, buy souvenirs, and take a sunset schooner cruise. The last leg of the trip takes you back to Boston, which is 5 hours south of Acadia National Park along Interstate 95. One the way, you’ll pass through Freeport, the headquarters for L. L. Bean. Take a detour to the coast to visit Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. As you drive through Portland, grab a lobster dinner and visit the Portland Head Lighthouse. You’ll arrive in Boston two hours after Portland, completing the Colonial road-trip loop.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Are there any must-see destinations not on this list? Comment below! For other road trip ideas, check out the rest of the The Ultimate Road Trip Series and subscribe so that you don't miss a single installment!

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