TRAVEL: 9 under-the-radar New England destinations

  • Suzanne Flynt at the door of the Memorial Hall Museum in Old Deerfield. RECORDER FILE PHOTO

Friday, October 06, 2017

Encompassing the states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Maine, New England is a suitable getaway year-round. Its towns ooze charm from every direction, from the lush green spaces perfect for fall foliage and rocky stretches of coastline, to the historic buildings dotting quaint streets and snow-capped mountains luring skiers. And while you may have heard of popular destinations like Martha’s Vineyard, there are other places that may not be as well known, but are worth a visit.

1. Camden, Maine. Less well-known than Portland and Bar Harbor, Camden is a quaint town about halfway up the state’s coast. It swells with tourists in the summer months, but never loses its New England charm. Visitors can take a boat tour that leaves from the harbor, hike Mount Battie in Camden Hills State Park for stunning panoramic views of the area and wander around the cute historic district.

2. Middlebury, Vt. Perhaps most famous for housing Middlebury College — a private liberal arts college founded in 1800 — the town is located about an hour’s drive south of Burlington. Much of the town was burned by the British during the Revolutionary War, but it was rebuilt and now offers a good range of activities for travelers. Outings to surrounding preserves, parks and skiing mountains are popular, as are visits to the UVM Morgan Horse Farm and Henry Sheldon Museum.

3. Mystic, Conn. Situated along the sea near the eastern border of Connecticut, Mystic is a village and census-designated place that was home to the Pequot Native Americans until the Pequot War in 1637. Today, it’s divided by the Mystic River into West Mystic (Groton) and East Mystic (Stonington) and packed with maritime flair. Mystic Seaport is the nation’s largest maritime museum, and other must-visit attractions include the Mystic Aquarium, Denison Homestead Museum and Indian and Colonial Research Center.

4. Gloucester, Mass. Just a 50-minute drive up the coast from Boston — and 15 minutes from Manchester-by-the-Sea — Gloucester is considered an important center of the fishing industry. It draws tourists largely during summer months with its picturesque rocky coast, lovely stretches of sand and hemlock-filled parks. The Fishermen’s Memorial Monument, Hammond Castle, and Eastern Point Lighthouse are not to be missed, and the Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House is great for those who enjoy historic and eclectic homes.

5. Narragansett, R.I. Although it does see an influx of Rhode Islanders during the summer months, Narragansett is largely an overlooked destination. Situated 45 minutes south of Providence, and 25 minutes west of Newport, the town packs something for every traveler: several gorgeous sandy beaches, excellent seafood in the fishing village of Galilee, a classic lighthouse in Point Judith and the 1886-built Towers that survived what’s known as the Great Fire of Sept. 12, 1900.

6. Gilford, N.H. While it lacks Conway’s easy access to Mount Washington and the stunning White Mountain National Forest, Gilford is an attractive destination in New Hampshire year-round. It’s set along Lake Winnipesaukee for water-based fun, and home to Gunstock Mountain Resort, which offers skiing and snowboarding in the winter, zip-lining with breathtaking views, hiking and off-road Segway tours during the summer and fall.

7. Blue Hill, Maine You won’t find any run-of-the-mill souvenir shops in Blue Hill, Maine, which boasts an artistic community. Gorgeous vistas are also rampant here, from the bay and several scattered ponds, to the multiple trails within Blue Hill Mountain. The tiny town has a book store, wine and cheese shop, and gallery selling pottery, jewelry, and textiles, plus a market and cafe with local produce. A creative air pervades this quiet place, and artsy types can book a rental along the water.

8. Deerfield, Mass. Incorporated in 1673, Deerfield sits along the Connecticut River just over an hour’s drive north of Hartford, Conn., and two-and-a-half hours west of Boston. A weekend trip here is like going back in time, as travelers can head to the Old Deerfield Village Historic District to see restored museum houses adorned in period furniture and live demonstrations of old-timey work like silversmithing, tailoring and hearth cooking.

9. Hartford, Vt. Hartford is a city of about 10,000, located under a 20-minute drive from Woodstock along the Vermont and New Hampshire border. The most popular attraction here is the Quechee Gorge, which is 165 feet deep and can be seen from its namesake bridge and the adjacent state park. Outdoor activities abound here, and a hot air balloon festival with private rides provides stunning vistas over the lush region.