Planning a weekend getaway on the East Coast? Let the tourists empty their pockets in Manhattan while you venture farther north. New England is rich with out-of-the-way towns and once-in-a-lifetime views, and if you head up the coast in winter or spring, you just might get the place to yourself. Whether you want to rent a rustic mountain cabin with your partner or explore an island with ten of your closest friends, we’ve got a few ideas for you.
Top Pick #1: Vinalhaven, Maine
Forget island-hopping in Casco Bay; there’s a ferry a few hours away that will take you to an island you may never want to leave. Vinalhaven is such a small, tight-knit town that it’s rude to pass another vehicle without waving hello, and it’s rare to run into fellow tourists during the off-season. And while the whole island is surrounded by craggy beaches with stunning ocean views, it’s the residents that will make your stay unforgettable.
Many of the business owners in Vinalhaven have lived and worked here their whole lives, sustaining an economy that still revolves around lobster fishing and seasonal hospitality. Stay here for more than a few hours, and word will start spreading among the bartenders, convenience store clerks, and boat charters, who work hard to make every guest feel welcome. You can only reach Vinalhaven by ferry or airplane (most depart from Rockland), and cell phone signal is sporadic, so it’s easy to feel like you pressed “pause” on modern-day life until you reach the mainland again.
Take the ferry from the mainland and get a room with a view. And all the views are spectacular! You can rent a bike to explore the area, or quietly kayak in the morning calm. Mealtimes, the lobster and crab rolls are to die for.
Must-Do: Go to The Paper Store every day to see what’s happening that and the next day. From June-December, the New Era Gallery is open. It features some of Maine’s finest art examples in several media.
Top Pick #2: Mt. Washington Valley, New Hampshire
Do you prefer your small towns tucked into the mountains? If you stay in this sprawling New Hampshire Valley, you’ll have your choice of eleven different mountain towns, all teeming with opportunities to hike, ski, and climb – or shop, indulge in gourmet food, and sleep in.
What do you want to do during your stay? Pick North Conway if you want world-class skiing and shopping opportunities; this town regularly tops lists of the best outdoor adventures in New England. Or hide out in Eaton, the region’s quietest and smallest town, for a lakeside getaway complete with a charming country store and only 400 full-time residents.
Must-Do: In the winter, check out the slopes at Attitash, Cranmore, Wildcat or one of the other several ski resorts. When it warms up a bit, going hiking is crucial! Explore the mountains, see waterfalls and maybe even spy on some moose!
Eaton, New Hampshire
Near the Maine border and south of North Conway on Route 153, your weekend getaway mission is to relax at one of the old-country inns. Throw diet caution to the wind; you’ll enjoy some of the best breakfasts and dinners ever.
Must-Do: Pick blueberries on Foss Mountain and spend a few hours at the Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield.
Narragansett, Rhode Island
If one of your East Coast beach vacation missions is to also eat some of the best lobster and clam cuisine in the U.S., find your bliss here. Accommodations are also on your terms: you can camp or stay in a “coastal-chic” boutique hotel.
Must-Do: Go to Benny’s Store to get a shellfishing license or schedule a whale-watching adventure. Spend a day at Roger W. Wheeler State Beach.
Your twofold mission is to go antiquing and shopping for farm-to-market fruits and veggies. Then, explore the beautiful countryside.
Must-Do: Flanders Nature Center & Land Trust
There you have it; and if you’re looking for some more ideas, check out the following:
- Acadia National Park
- Kangamagus Highway in the fall
- Lincoln Family Home
- Ocean Drive
- Plymouth Rock
- Saint Anne’s Church
- The Salem Witch Museum
Good luck in planning your weekend getaway! We hope you’ll agree that these out-of-the-way destinations are some of the best vacation spots on the East Coast.