Summer has officially made its debut in New England. There's a larger than life feeling in the air that makes you want to just get outside and celebrate. That time of year when it seems like everyone comes alive with new energy, welcoming a warmth in the air after those cold winter months. Boating, beach days, hikes and lobster boils are the weekend norms. A swarm of cars retreating from the cities to find quainter vibes can be spotted on Friday afternoons and vast crowds retreating to find outdoor activities seem to take over cities throughout the region. It's apparent that summer in New England is a special season. One worthy of recognition.
I was initially hesitant to create this post simply because the task of narrowing down only a few noteworthy New England summer towns seemed daunting. The truth is that the enchantment of summer blankets the entire Northeast corner. Small quaint towns can be found everywhere, each containing their own unique charm. So, while I've chosen a few personal favorites I must highlight that being in New England, regardless of the town, is a worthwhile experience.
Our choices branch out from the typically acknowledged New England towns. While we have a strong appreciation for the well-known areas such as Boston, Portland and Newport, we personally find ourselves daydreaming about escaping to the quainter towns that, while quieter, seem to be alive with a distinct energy during the summer months. Our selection embraces a few smaller charming towns in New England that we find worthy of recognition.
1. Rockport, MA
An hour north of Boston sits the ideal coastal New England stop of Rockport, Massachusetts. A convenient, picturesque town offering nautical, rocky landscapes on the tip of Cape Ann. If you're looking for the charm that is often depicted of New England then this is your place. Complete with lobster pots lining red fishing shacks, boat-filled harbors, and rocky beaches where seals float through the waters, Rockport is the perfect spot to spend a warm, summer afternoon.
Things to do and see in Rockport:
1. Motif #1: Aka: The Little Red Shack - One of the most painted, sketched and photographed buildings in the world can be located right on a harbor in tiny Bearskin Neck Village. It's been used as expected, a fishing shack, and not so expected as a Naval meeting house, and an artist studio. It's worth the recognition and visit, if even for just a minute to soak in a true New England scene.
2. Coast: While in Rockport be sure to take full advantage of the picturesque Cape Ann coast. Take in the views of the rocky shoreline or just enjoy a relaxing day at one of the many secluded beaches. You might find yourself interested in one of the unique diving opportunities, or simply searching the waters for unique wildlife such as the seals at Loblolly Cove.
4. Dine: Rockport offers a variety of worthwhile restaurants. Whether you're looking for a fancier dining experience or just a casual lunch outing you will find it, and most likely with a coastal view. We recently ate at Roy Moore's and had a delightful experience. The view didn't disappoint, the food was delicious and it was very family friendly.
5. Walk & Play: Cape Ann offers many opportunities for nature lovers and families who are looking to get outside and enjoy the summer. From Millbrook Meadows, to The Headlands, there are many trails, state parks and outdoor recreational areas where you can enjoy the beautiful, natural landscapes of Rockport.
2. Scituate, MA
Just south of Boston, this residential coastal town is often overlooked by folks heading to Rhode Island or the Cape. We would be lying if we said that it's lack of tourists and crowds wasn't part of our admiration for us. Complete with a dreamy lighthouse and great shops and restaurants all while reflecting historic charm, Scituate is another convenient, yet charming summer stop to add to the list.
Things to do and see in Scituate:
1. Scituate Lighthouse: This top choice, while a bit obvious, is a must-see in Scituate. It represents a true New England picture and the simplicity and convenience of the setup makes it an easy stop. There's a large parking lot, a small beach filled with shells and huge boulders that branch out into the sea, making it a fun adventurous stop for the whole family.
3. Roadtrip: Scituate is conveniently located just south of Boston and is nestled close to so many charming locations. You can easily make a day trip out of visiting Plymouth or the Cape. Head inland a bit and check out Wellesley and Newton, or even have a city day and explore Boston and Cambridge. Scituate's convenient location is part of is charm and attraction.
4. Fish: Fishing is not only popular but a way of life in New England, and Scituate offers the opportunity to try your hand at the open waters. Scituate Marina offers opportunities for fishing charters, as well as a conveniently located public boat ramp.
3. Watch Hill, RI
We recently discovered Watch Hill and the Westerly region of Rhode Island and couldn't believe we hadn't made it a priority to visit before. Watch Hill is tiny and nautical with a boat-filled harbor. The windows of shops and restaurants downtown show off beautiful glimpses of the coast, and its easy to walk around and peruse. Don't forget to stop in at one of the many local beaches in the area, as well as glimpse at all the lovely homes as you drive down the quaint streets.
Things to do and see in Watch Hill:
2. Ocean House: Even if you choose not to stay at the Ocean House, it's worth seeing. It's an absolutely beautiful structure that dramatically sits along the rocky coast on perfectly manicured grounds. You can spot the yellow and white contrast as you round the corner and you just know it's a place where experience is waiting to happen. In the summer, the Ocean House features events such as weekly lobster boils and movies on the beach. It's a perfect spot for that romantic getaway, girls weekend, or even that dreamy place to exchange vows as its extremely popular for hosting weddings.
4. Shop: Watch Hill is a great place to shop with a view. Not only are there a handful of cute boutiques to choose from that sell both brand name and local styles, but they line the picturesque cove, providing a great scene for all your shopping ventures.
4. MARBLEHEAD, MA
This was a simple choice for us. Marblehead is one of our favorite spots in all of New England and is definitely worthy of a visit. It's quaint, charming, historic and has so much to offer. You will undoubtedly fall in love with this boating community.
Things to do and see in Marblehead:
2. Stroll: One of our favorite things to do in Marblehead is simply walk through town and admire the beautifully maintained historic homes and storefronts of Marblehead. Every turn has something to offer and a new view to take in. It is a smaller town so it's perfect for a leisurely morning or afternoon stroll.
3. Shop: I'm always amazed by how many great shopping stops are in Marblehead. There's a little bit of everything for everyone. From toy shops for the kids, to bag shops and boutique brand name clothing stores. It's one of our go-to locations for gifts, New England souvenirs and more.
4. Fort Sewall: Located at Gale's Head, this historic military site not only offers spectacular views of Marblehead harbor, but is enriched with history and beautiful, lush grounds that the whole family can enjoy. Just below Fort Sewall is Fort Beach where, during low tide you can step out onto the rocky sands to discover some hidden nautical treasures while watching the boats cruise in and out of the harbor.
5. Edgartown, MA
Nestled on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Edgartown is a charm that is worth the ferry ride. Rated as one of the most elegant communities in all of New England, this founding Island landmark began as a whaling community in the 1600's and now hosts prestigious events, quaint historic streets and an iconic lighthouse that draws tourists from near and far.
Things to do and see in Edgartown:
2. Chappaquiddick: Truly this one deserves its own section. Chappaquiddick, or Chappy as the locals call it, is often recognized by the headline scandal following the Kennedy incident is the late 60's. Yet, it's so much more. Chappy is an experience in itself and very much worth the quick ferry ride from Edgartown. The island has done an exceptional job of keeping its remoteness, and ensuring it doesn't become just another tourist destination by limiting both residential and commercial building. While there aren't too many shops and buildings, the island has everything to offer. it's filled with natural scenery and pristine beaches and is the perfect place to simply escape and relax.
3. Stay: The first time we visited the Vineyard we couldn't decide which community to stay in. There are a few towns to choose from, yet we ended up in Edgartown and we were so glad that we did. It's comfortable, classy and quaint and truly has everything you need. There are a number of highly rated Inns and Hotels in the town, including Winnetu Oceanside Resort and the Harbor View Hotel. most are conveniently located within walking distance to everything the town offers.
6. Kennebunkport, ME
Known for it's rocky beaches, ample lobster supply and even presidential residents, Kennebunkport is a southern Maine gem. It's one of our favorite stops. Every time we visit we seem to find just one more thing to love about it.
Things to do and see in Kennebunkport:
1. Dock Square: This is the picturesque, quaint local downtown scene that everyone envisions in New England. Filled with wonderful shops and restaurants, Dock Square is a must when visiting Kennebunkport. It's small so just a quick walk around the block will allow you to experience the loveliness of the town.
3. Boating: Kennebunkport is a favorite location for whale watching excursions, as well as boating and fishing charters. You can rent kayaks or even book a sunset cruise to experience a more nautical side of this southern Maine town.
4. Shop & Dine: Not only is Kennebunkport a prime destination for your next Maine Lobster, but it's filled with a number of notable restaurants and cafes. For example, you can become a local at Batson River Brewery or fine dine at Chez Rosa. In the mornings you can find yourself being drawn into the Dock Square Coffeehouse by the divine aromas flowing from their doorway and then later in the day you'll have to check out one of the local ice cream spots found throughout town. Whatever the craving, this little town will have what you need.
7. Newburyport, MA
Newburyport had to be included on our list for many reasons, Plum Island being only one of them. We tend to spend the majority of our weekends in the summer on Plum Island so we have fallen in love with this area and all it has to offer.
Things to do and see in Newburyport:
1. Plum Island: Plum Island has become our favorite go-to beach. It's easy for us to get to from our house and for a small fee you can actually park and access a beautiful, less crowded beach at the Wildlife Refuge that's great for small kids. The Wildlife Refuge, while popular for it's family friend beach, is actually nationally recognized as a top ranked bird watching location for it's diverse and numerous species. You can take in some of the unique wildlife and landscapes on one of the many offered trails.
2. History: Newburyport, located only an hour north of Boston is enriched with history. There are a number of ways to learn about this towns history through museums and even walking tours. Even the architecture is seeped in history. It seems like theres's history on every corner of this little town.
3. Lighthouse: Plum Island lighthouse is just another example of the history that can be found literally on every corner of this New England town. The Newburyport Harbor was once very popular for whaling, fishing and shipbuilding, and the area is still known as a popular boating community. Therefore many ships would, and still do exit and enter through the Merrimack River where even today the currents cause trouble. You can visit and at times tour the lighthouse that was established to assist the local sea captains from this difficult passageway.
4. Shop & Dine: Newburyport offers a variety of boutiques and brand name stores, as well as notable dining options. From brand name to local treasure there's something for everyone. There are shops and restaurants that have been passed through generations and newer choices that are all noteworthy. It's an experience that will leave an impression.
8. Orleans, Nauset, and Brewster, MA
Originally settled by the Nauset Indians, this area of Cape Cod has long been maintained and recognized as a sea village credited for its fishing, whaling and boating industry. Now, it can be described by its quaint, historic vibe and coastal scenes including notable beaches and conserved natural landscapes. We had to include all three areas simply because they're very intertwined and encompass some great finds that we have grown to cherish.
Things to do and see in the area:
1. Nauset Beach: Our top feature has become one of our favorite beach spots on the Cape. With a wide beach painted by the vast ocean, you can't go wrong. It has great parking, restrooms are available, and it makes the perfect spot for that family beach day. We personally recommend Nauset Beach Inn which is now open year-round, offers excellent ocean views, a large green space complete with grills and adirondack chairs, and is conveniently settled right across the parking lot from Nauset Beach.
2. Dine: We are creatures of habit and once we find something we like we tend to keep supporting it. That's why we probably haven't branched out enough in the arena of dining in this area. However, the few spots we have found have been true gems. Check out Cottage Street Bakery, The Rail, Stone L'oven, and Brewster Inn and Chowder House for some great grub.
3. Get outdoors: This whole area has a ton of outdoor activities. From beaches, to bike paths, there's something for everyone. To get outside you can head over to Nickerson State Park, the Cape Cod Rail Trail and the many lighthouses surrounding the area to name just a few.
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We are the Bests! Jo and Mo. Founders of BestCapturedTravel.
We have been immensely blessed with many opportunities to see various parts of the world. We live an average, working life in Cambridge, MA but through our many opportunities have developed a passion to see the world. Our goal is to share with other desiring travelers different tips and experiences from around the world as we begin to check them off our bucket list. If anything, we hope to provide a little sense of motivation and adventure to those wishing to embark on their own journey!
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