Top 10 New England outdoor adventures fill your vacation with zest
New England's top 10 outdoor adventures cover a range limited only by your taste. Some people go for mountain biking, zip lines, canopy tours, mountain coasters, and rock climbing, while other people like to take a quiet drive to a scenic overlook or watch the sun set while sipping wine on a vineyard patio. Here is a sampling of the Top 10 outdoor adventures that lure vcationers and families to the charms of New England.
1 West Street
Bar Harbor , ME
Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. offers several distinct whale watching, sightseeing, light house and nature trips that sail daily throughout the summer. Come witness the awe inspiring beauty of the magnificent mammals of the sea. The Gulf of Maine is home to humpback, finback, and Minke whales. Because of the catamaran's speed visitors arrive at and cover lots of whale-watching territory. The boat’s galley is open during the voyage with food and beverages, including beer and wine.
Bar harbor, ME
Forty-five miles of rustic carriage roads, the gift of philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr., weave around the mountains and valleys of Acadia National Park. Rockefeller wanted to travel via horse and carriage into the heart of Mount Desert Island. His construction from 1913 to 1940 resulted in roads with sweeping vistas and close-up views of the landscape. Rather than flattening hillsides to accommodate the roads, breast walls and retaining walls were built to preserve the line of hillsides and save trees. Rockefeller aligned the roads to follow the contours of the land and to take advantage of scenic views. It is a beautiful drive. Here is a map
by the National Park Service.
The Forks, ME
Moxie Falls, located in the town of The Forks, drops 90 feet before crashing into a deep black pool carved out of stone. This impressive cascade is a great excuse to spend a day hiking in the pristine forests of the region, where visitors will find an impressive network of trails. Supposedly one of the largest waterfalls in the state, Moxie Falls takes its name from the official soft drink of Maine--but don’t be fooled, the falls consist only of pure, uncarbonated water. To get there, take Route 201 into The Forks and turn right on Lake Moxie Road. After about 2 miles, you'll see a parking lot on the left. Follow the trail to the falls.
132 Botanical Gardens Drive
Boothbay, ME 04537
This magnificent collection of gardens, fronted by an airy, spacious welcome center, does more artist work with plants, sculpture, stone, ponds, and fountains than you can imagine. Gardens and meandering walks – including an endearing children’s garden – are a delight to all kinds of visitors – even people who might not consider themselves garden buffs. The names of the garden offer some clues: children’s garden, garden of the five senses, rhododendron & perennial garden, great lawn & ledge garden, kitchen garden, hillside garden, forest pond, meditation garden, shoreland trail, and rose & perennial garden. Best news: the garden is open daily, year-round.
7 Pond Street
Rangeley, ME 04970
This is a super-cool and fun nature store in Rangeley, on the very edge of Haley Pond, where visitors and shopper often hear the cry of loons from the store’s property. The store is nestled deep in the mountains of western Maine, surrounded by crystal clear lakes. The stock include nature-loving gifts, games, music, books, educational toys, and much more. Store also offers kayaks for rent and kayaking classes.
37 Corey Road
Hancock, MA 01237
In winter, Jiminy Peak is the place to ski and snowboard. In summer, it turns into the Mountain Adventure Park, filled with rides and challenges for people who can’t turn down a dare. Among the hair-raising activities are an aerial forest ropes course consisting of five elevated courses; a mountain coaster, consisting of thousands of feet of twisting, turning fun through the woods; an Alpine super slide; a rock climbing wall with automatic belay lines and beginner, intermediate, and expert routes; a Euro-bungy trampoline with swivel harnesses; a zip ride, mountain Segway tours; mountain biking, and – for the sedentary adventurer, scenic tram rides to the summit on a six-passenger chairlift.
A leisurely walk through a world-class, history-rich city with many designated stops at fascinating places, from an old cemetery to classic, elegant churches. All this, along with educational value, enough space and variety for active kids, plenty of snacking opps along the way. Boston's Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile trail connecting 16 of the country's most significant historic sites linked to the American Revolution. Between April and November, you can take a 90-minute walking tour along the trail with a lively and informative 18th century costumed guide. Stop include The Boston Common, The State House,Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere House The Old North Church, Copp's Hill Burying Ground, Bunker Hill Monument, and the USS Constitution.
4 Standish Street
For three generations, the family-run Art’s Dune Tours has been taking spellbound visitors on tours of the dunes of the Provincelands, a marvelous, otherworldly place of sky, sea, dune grass, and wind-sculpted dunes. On the tours, you will travel through the majestic dunes where your guide points out the dune shacks where famous artists and writers lived and found inspiration. You will pass the remains of the Peaked Hill Life Saving Station and learn how life savers enacted their heroic efforts to save the lives of thousands from shipwrecks. Access by the public to the dunes is limited, so this is the way to see this marvelous landscape.
Departure from Hyannis or West Barnstable, MA
Remember when you boarded a train there was a sense of adventure, and getting there was all the fun! Travel back in time to the golden age of railroad travel as you are treated to some of the Cape's unspoiled and hidden beauty, accessible only by the railways. Make a whistle stop in Sandwich -- the Cape's oldest and most charming town -- or ride on through on this two-hour scenic route. Traverse some of the Cape's most picturesque countryside including quaint villages, unspoiled woodlands, sand dunes, cranberry bogs, salt marshes, and the famous Cape Cod Canal.
Bedford, Lexington, Arlington, Cambridge, MA
The Minuteman Bikeway passes through the historic area where the American Revolution began in April 1775. Built by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on an inactive railroad, the trail is often used by local residents as a convenient, eco-friendly way for commuters to reach train stations. The path is 12 feet wide, plowed in the winter time, and includes lots of stops for refreshments and/or restrooms at Depot Park in Bedford, the Lexington Visitor’s Center, Alewife Station, and nearby business districts along the bikeway. Trail access in Bedford is available at the intersection of South Road and Loomis Street (exit 31B from I-95); at Lexington Center and Arlington Center, and at the Alewife T-Station.
139 Saint Gaudens Road
A visit to this national park is a walk through a beautiful, serene property that was home to one of America’s greatest sculptors. Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907), created over 150 works of art, from exquisitely carved cameos to heroic-size public monuments. Works such as the "Standing Lincoln" monument and the Shaw Memorial, continue to inspire people today and his design for the 1907 Twenty Dollar Gold Piece, is considered America's most beautiful coin. At this historic site you can see 100 of his artworks in the galleries and on the grounds, from heroic public monuments to expressive portrait reliefs, and the gold coins which changed the look of American coinage. Enjoy summer concerts, explore nature trails, and admire the magnificent views.
23 Science Center Road
Holderness, NH 03245
Through live animal exhibits, natural science education programs, and lake cruises, Squam Lakes Natural Science Center has brought visitors in touch with the natural world of the Lake region of New Hampshire for more than 40 years. Open meadows, mature forests, and marsh boardwalks connect interactive natural exhibits that are the homes of native animals reside: black bears, mountain lions, raptors, river otters, bobcats, and more. On a day visit of the center, adults and children can take a Science Center Lake Cruise, enjoy the beauty of Kirkwood Gardens, see an animal exhibit or hear a mini-talk, have a snack at Kirkwood Cafe, and shop naturally in the Howling Coyote Gift Shop.
105 Haverhill Road
It has been determined that America's Stonehenge is an accurate astronomically aligned calendar. It was and still can be, used to determine specific solar and lunar events of the year. Archaeoastronomy is the study of the role of astronomy in ancient cultures. This includes knowing who was responsible for building astronomical observatories and how they were used to effect or influence their lives At America's Stonehenge. We have uncovered a wide range of artifacts including stone tools, pottery, stone and bone pendants, Native American and colonial artifacts.
Depart from Gregg Marine Research Complex, 29 Wentworth Road
New Castle, NH
Portsmouth-born author Celia Laighton Thaxter (1835-1894) grew up in the Isles of Shoals, including Appledore and Star islands, offshore between New Hampshire and Kittery Point, Maine. Her poems first appeared in The Atlantic Monthly and she became one of America's favorite authors in the late 1800s. Images of her famous garden return, again and again, in the oil paintings by Childe Hassam. Tours of the garden and Appledore Island are offered by Shoals Marine Lab aboard the research vessel Challenger. This is an island without paved roads, vehicles or amenities, so visitors (age 18 and older) should be prepared to spend the day hiking on rough terrain. The rewards are great.
North Conway , NH
With help from the Conway Scenic Railroad, you can enjoy a ride on vintage trains traveling over historic tracks in the heart of New Hampshire's White Mountains. On the Valley Train, you’ll journey on historic rail routes from the 1874 train station in North Conway Village to either Conway or Bartlett and back again. On the Notch Train, you’ll travel on what was once the Maine Central Railroad’s famed Mountain Division line, on tracks that were laid in the 1870s. Enjoy some of the most dramatic natural scenery in the East as you travel through spectacular Crawford Notch – past sheer bluffs, steep ravines, cascading brooks and streams, panoramic mountain vistas – en route to Crawford and Fabyan stations. Fun for all ages.
Sabbaday Falls Picnic Area, Route 112
Sabbaday Brook , on the Kancamagus Pass, drops 40 feet in an unusual and scenic form. The water drops eight feet into a small emerald green pothole. The outlet of the pothole is a slide resulting in a 20-foot horsetail into a tight gorge where it makes a ninety degree turn to the right. The final drop is a 12-foot slide into a deep teal trough that opens into a pale jade green pool below. Walkways, bridges, and stairs make this an easy and safe place to explore. To find it: Sabbaday Falls is the focal point of the Sabbaday Falls Picnic Area, a well marked locale on Route 112, about 11 miles east of Kancamagus Pass, about 3.4 miles west of the Jigger Johnson Campground and about 17 miles west of Conway.
Start at 117 Memorial Blvd.
The Newport Cliff Walk is a 3.5-mile winding path along Newport’s shoreline with breathtaking views of Narragansett Bay and the rocky coves below. The walk runs from Bailey's Beach to First Beach, with public access points at Bellevue Avenue, Ledge Road, Marine Avenue, Ruggles Avenue, Ruggles Avenue, Sheppard Avenue, Webster Street, and Narragansett Avenue. The walk skirts the edges of some of the city’s mansions, including Beechwood, Rosecliff, Marble House, The Breakers, Ochre Court, and Rough Point. Much of the walk is easy paved paths but some parts have unpaved sections and rugged paths. Best section for viewing with limited time is Narragansett Avenue to Ruggles Avenue.
This garden, a collection of intricate topiaries, is a special delight for children. This small country estate in Portsmouth evolved into a topiary garden under the care of father-and-son superintendents during most of the 20th century. There are more than 80 pieces of topiary throughout the gardens, including animals and birds, geometric figures and ornamental designs, sculpted from California privet, yew, and English boxwood. Today, Green Animals remains as a rare example of a self-sufficient estate combining formal topiaries, vegetable and herb gardens, orchards and a Victorian house overlooking Narragansett Bay. Open seasonally; call ahead for public hours.
It has been called a Mile of History, but you don’t necessarily need to have all the stories packed into your brain to enjoy a delightful walk along Benefit Street on the east side of Providence. First, enjoy the fine architecture that grew up over the city’s lifetime. You will see 350 years of pristine Colonial, Federal, Greek Revival and Victorian houses. The First Baptist Church in America is a gorgeous sight, and it welcomes visitors at specific times. John Brown House, home to the Rhode Island Historical Society, is another beauty. Also in the neighborhood at the Providence Athenaeum and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum. Self-guided walking tours are available from the Providence Preservation Society.
RHODE ISLAND – South County region
Fishing, whale watching trips: Ahoy, matey!
33 State Street
The Frances Fleet invites adventurous guests aboard its trips to whale watching grounds (in July and August) as well as fishing trips for a half-day, full day overnight, or longer. The deep-sea prey can include cod, fluke, sea bass, striped bass, blues, tuna, squid, blackfish, and scup. Fishing trips are set up to accommodate novices and pros alike, and for fishermen of all ages. Vessels are equipped with the latest electronics, fishing gear, tackle, bait, full service galleys, and cabins and bunk rooms for overnight trips. New England is fishing country; step aboard!
Refuge Headquarters, 50 Bend Road
From fishing, to hiking, to photography, Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge has it all. The section of the refuge south of Route 1 is surrounded on three sides by Ninigret Pond, a large salt pond with a dramatic breachway opening to the ocean. At the east entrance, there is a kayak/canoe launch area -- a convenient place to get out on Ninigret Pond and see the refuge from the duck's point of view! The northern section of the refuge, where the Kettle Pond Visitor Center is located, is more forested upland. Watchaug Pond is only a short distance down easy trails from the Visitor Center. It’s a wonderful place to enjoy nature in any way that feels good to you.
The spectacular Quechee Gorge in Central Vermont – sometime called the Grand Canyon of the East – attracts spectators of all kinds. One heart-stopping way to see the gorge and the vast, forested beauty of its surroundings is from a hot air balloon. This is really the adventure of a lifetime. Balloons of Vermont , among other businesses, will take intrepid travelers above the treetops over the Ottauquechee River and the upper valley region for an unforgettable show in the most serene, majestic flying machine knows to man. The Quechee Balloon Festival, with lots of non-ballooning fun, like music, crafts, and children’s activities, takes place in June, and ballooning will be a central theme, but Balloons of Vermont takes people up over the gorge year-round.
off Route 108
The sequence of cascades that is Bingham Falls in Stowe, Vermont is special not just for its otherwordly quality, but because the public almost lost access to it a few years back when a land developer had plans to build a resort on the property. That plan was thwarted and adventurers can still enjoy the pristine beauty of the falls, and those brave enough can take a dip in the natural rock pool below Bingham's 25-foot cascade. To Find It: The falls are located a short hike off Route 108 in Stowe, about 1.5 miles southeast of Smugglers Notch. There is a path leading downhill from a fairly large turnout. The sound of roaring water assures you that you are in the right place.
3984 Vermont Route 11
Peru, VT 05152
Bromley’s Summer Sun & Fun Park offers more warm-weather thrills (if not chills) than you can count. Alpine Slide is a triple-track and 2/3 of a mile in length with banked turns and straightaways, rollers and drops; the climbing wall has is multi-faced real-rock with different levels of challenges; the trampoline thing lets you slip into the harness and take trampolining to new heights; space bikes pedal into orbit; the zip line is basically 100 feet of "Yee-Ha!" on a super strong steel cable. The giant swing produces 3Gs of gravitational force. Coming in July 2012, the new Aerial Adventure Park allows you to walk in the treetops.
VERMONT – Southern region
Grand View Winery: This Is Sipping Scenery
Waterbury Center, VT
Grand View Winery on is a family-owned farm winery that produces grape wines and wines from fruits that grow easily and naturally in Vermont. While focusing on fruits that grow easily in Vermont, Grand View produces wines that are not overly sweet. The vineyard’s Strawberry Rhubarb Wine was featured on the NBC Today Show. Moreover, the vineyard is set amid 50-mile views, and replete with flower gardens. Take a lunch to enjoy with a selected wine while sitting outside. The retail shop and tasting room, at the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, are open daily, year round.
Few structures in America combine architectural ingenuity, economic necessity, and romantic idealism better than the covered bridge. Covered bridges flourished in the United States in the 19th century. Pennsylvania has the most covered bridges, and Vermont, with about 104, has the most for its size. Individual inventiveness played an important role in the proliferation of covered bridges. As the industry grew, builders experimented and adapted each other’s designs in hopes of building stronger bridges with the fewest materials. Covered bridges grew in popularity in the early 20th century and became subjects for artists and advertisers. It is easy to design your own covered bridge driving tour.
Departs from Washington and North Water streets
Norwalk , CT
Phone: 203-838-9444 or 203-838-2898
From May to September the Norwalk Seaport Association hosts boat tours to the lovely island that is home to the Sheffield Island Lighthouse, one of the best places in New England to feel the world that the lighthouse keepers knew. Visitors can board the association’s catamaran for a cruise to the island then tour the lighthouse, enjoy wildlife at this national wildlife refuge, hunt for shells, dine on a picnic lunch, play on the lawns around the lighthouse, and just have a good time. The lighthouse tower provides magnificent views of Long Island Sound and even New York City on a clear day.
161 Brownstone Avenue
Swimming, snorkeling, rock climbing, cliff jumping, scuba diving, zip lines, kayaking, hiking, biking. That is a partial list of the activities in store at the Brownstone Exploration and Discovery Park in Portland. For those of us built for comfort, not risk, the list also includes lounging next to the lake and visits to the snack shack. Brownstone Exploration and Discovery Park is Connecticut’s first outdoor adventure park. Equipment is available for rent and activities are supervised by experts. The park sells a General Swimming pass and an Adventure Sports pass, so everyone in your group – from sun-loving platypus to maniac cliff-diver, can enjoy the day.
CONNECTICUT – Litchfield region
Whitewater Raft and Tubing Trips: Hop into the River
West Cornwall and New Hartford, CT
The fast-moving rivers of northwestern Connecticut includes is a beautiful stretches of water enjoyed fishermen who stand in it and paddlers who glide, splash and rocket across the surface of it. If you want to test the white waters of the Housatonic River, several companies can equip and guide you. Clarke Outdoors
, based in West Cornwall, lets guests choose canoes or rafts to paddle a ten mile section of the river that is a mixture of moving flatwater and easy whitewater and is suitable for novice paddlers. Midway along the Route is the famous covered bridge in West Cornwall, where you can stop for a picnic.
Also Farmington River Tubing
, based in New Hartford, can put you into specially designed river tubes for a 2.5 mile ride down the wild and scenic Farmington River. Traveling over three sets of rapids, you'll experience a thrill as you splash through the white water. The ride can be mellow or wild, depending on the water level.
One Railroad Avenue
Essex Steam Train & Riverboat's two-and-a-half -hour journey begins at the historic Essex Station for a narrated round trip into the heart of the unspoiled Connecticut River Valley. The steam locomotive pulls vintage coaches at 20 mph through the towns of Deep River and Chester. At Deep River Landing, passengers board the Becky Thatcher riverboat for a cruise along the Connecticut River. The deep water, coves, inlets, marshes, wildlife, and rocky shoreline are breathtaking. Upon Becky's return to Deep River Landing, the steam train welcomes passengers for the return trip to Essex Station. Trips conducted mid-May to late October.
Follow the trail of the vine as it winds through some of the most picturesque towns in Connecticut. The Connecticut Wine Trail is a unique collection of Twenty Four Vineyards, each ready to welcome you with hospitality and exceptional award winning wines. The trail is divided into two sections, East and West. To fully enjoy the Wine Trail, plan a few weekends to experience all that each winery has to offer. We invite you to explore this site and see where the trail leads you. You'll find more than just great wine.