Many see New England as the birthplace of American civilisation, as its early history of explorers from the “Old World” led to the establishment of communities on the East coast and the birth of America as we know it today. You may see the “Live Free or Die” on the car number plates reminding you that their spirit lives on. In the 19th Century its maritime trade grew more lucrative and you can see evidence that it still exists, along its craggy coastline and idyllic sandy beaches.
Acadia National Park is unspoilt despite the numbers visiting each summer and the main part of Mount Desert Island off the South-East coast of Maine. The scenic Loop Road takes you through the rose-coloured mountains, look out for Cadillac Mountain – the highest point on the Atlantic coast. To the south you will see Sand Beach, although it can be a little chilly to swim there, so perhaps continue to Thunder Hole on a windy day to hear the boom of compressed air periodically released through the hole. Take a look at craggy Bass Harbour Head, where the rocks reflect the pink of the setting sun, with its 1858 lighthouse offering views over the ocean. If you’ve time visit Somes Sound – a natural fjord just 5 to 8 Kilometres inland and the Oceanarium at Southwest Harbour. The elegant resort town of Bar Harbour is a good place to use as a base, located to the North East of the Island. It has been a haven for some of America’s richest, although in 1947 a fire destroyed many elegant homes. It is still home to the Criterion Theatre though and the Abbe Museum of Native Heritage. If botany is your interest, then the Wild Gardens are nearby and animal lovers can visit Acadia Zoo or enjoy a horseback ride along the paths that wind through the park.
At Penobscot Bay take some time to visit the picturesque town of Stonington situated on Deer Isle in the bay; Deer Isle is a series of small islands linked by causeways. The unspoilt Monhegan Island is worth taking time over especially if you like to hike, or if you prefer to relax you can simply enjoy the scenic hills which sweep down to the cliffs and the ocean. For seafood lovers, on the first weekend in August there is typically a lobster festival in Rockland or if you appreciate art – then perhaps visit the Farnsworth Art Museum. Antique lovers may prefer to visit Searsport, the antiques capital of Maine and busy fleamarkets in the summer. Camden is also a favourite for many, with its churches, and elegant quay and if you go a short distance from the village there are amazing views from the top of Mount Battie. There really is something for everyone at Penobscot Bay!
Boothbay offers an escape from reality, with its natural beauty and craggy coastline. Take a hike along trails with scenic views of coastal islands, and river corridors or stroll in the famous Botanical Gardens, open all year-round. If the weather is inclement then try the Aquarium or the Boothbay Railway Village for a ride behind an authentic steam locomotive and view the antique car collection. The historic 1894 Opera House in Boothbay Harbour may even be open for entertainment.
Portland is beautifully located on the top of the peninsular offering views over Casco Bay and the Calendar Islands. The West End still boasts a fine promenade but it is the Old Port that has the narrow streets with their art galleries, shops and restaurants. Here the US Customs House, built after the Civil War, stands tall with its marble staircases and chandeliers. You may also want to take some time to visit the many museums to the West.
The Kennebunks consisting of Kennebunk Village and Kennebunk Port used to be a busy shipbuilding centre but they are now known for historic architecture and the Seashore Trolley Museum with hundreds of antique street cars. If stunning scenery is your preference then be sure to view the rocky Capes of Arundel and Porpoise, enjoy lobster fresh from the sea, or visit Kennebunk’s famous beaches and the famous Wedding Cake House.
If you enjoy scuba diving then El Hierro has over 40 dive sites to explore. La Restinga Marine Reserve has steep drops to 300 metres, underwater cliffs, caves and marine life; it’s one of the world’s dream diving sites.
Or above the water line, visit the Frontera Rural Park to see the highly unusual twisted junipers with trees standing a majestic 8 metres tall. Look out for the gigantic Garoe Tree which was sacred to the island’s early natives, providing them water from the leaves which caught the rain, as the centre at this site explains
In the Charco Azul natural seawater pool, El Golfo valley, you can bathe in the warm ocean water, then sunbathe on the wooden decking. But if you are looking for spectacular views then climb 700 metres above sea level to La Pena Viewpoint. There you are rewarded with the best view of the El Golfo Valley and can dine at the restaurant which offers traditional Canarian food.
Plymouth offers the chance to follow in the footsteps of the Mayflower, which in 1620 sailed into Plymouth with over 100 pilgrims onboard. Follow the Pilgrim Path along the waterfront and downtown and alongside the replica Mayflower II at Plymouth Rock; a boulder marks where the pilgrims are said to have first stepped ashore. Not only of historical significance though, Plymouth is a popular tourist resort with 6 Kilometres of beach.
Cape Cod: Provincetown, Falmouth, Hyannis. Many visit here each year to enjoy the beautiful, endless beaches and quaint villages of Cape Cod and the more exclusive island of Martha’s Vineyard. With its shoreline of over 60 Kilometres, Cape Cod National Seashore is famous for its horseshoe dunes, white sand, salt flats and steep cliffs.
Be sure to visit Provincetown where the pilgrims stayed for a few weeks before pushing on to the mainland. The town is picturesque and boasts the imposing granite Pilgrim Monument which stands over 77 metres tall. The area is famous for its resident famous artists and writers, as well as the opportunity for anglers to land a good catch.
Cruise by Hyannis if you want to see the summer home of the Kennedys or stop off to visit the JFK Hyannis museum and the memorial erected following his assassination in 1963. Whale watching cruises also start from Hyannis – so why not take a half day off and seize the opportunity to view these magnificent creatures at first hand.
The salt marshes, hiking trails, tidal pools and 19 Kilometres of beaches attract visitors to Falmouth each year. The Shining Sea Bike Path which offers views onto the beach, harbour and woodland, takes you to the Marine Science Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute
Martha’s Vineyard island covers over 100 square miles and combines scenic beauty with charming beach residences. To the East you will find Edgar Town with the 19th Century homes of wealthy merchants and to the West a more tranquil rural area with pristine beaches
The untamed Nantucket Island is 22 Kilometres long with just one town. Its quiet beaches and cranberry bogs with fields of grapes and blueberries belie its history as the centre of the whaling industry in the 1800’s. At the eastern end you can visit the village of Siasconset with its pink tinged cliffs and lanes of tiny cottages.
Elizabeth Islands are a chain of seven, mostly privately owned islands extending southwest from the southern coast of Cape Cod. Cruise through Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound, stop off at Gull Island an uninhabited rock, with its safe haven for breeding terns displaced from Long Island. Or visit the outermost island of Cuttyhunk and take a walk on the beaches to view wild seals. Hadley’s Harbour is a well-protected and attractive anchorage just off Wood’s Hole and a good destination for a day trip, picnic or swim, a convenient stopover if cruising from Buzzards Bay to Vineyard Sound, or waiting out the tides. A quieter option though, would be to anchor to the north-east outside the harbour and take the dinghy ashore to hike around Bull Island.
Newport is sightseeing heaven for those who want to learn more about its 300 year history as a centre of trade, culture and military might. Also you may want to visit Bellevue Avenue with its mansions built for the rich and famous wanting to escape New York’s summer heat. If architecture is your passion, then the oldest synagogue in the USA (built in 1763) and of outstanding architectural prowess is the Touro Synagogue; a sight not to be missed, alongside the preserved colonial buildings. Outdoor activities can be enjoyed at Fort Adams State Park where you can also listen to the famous Jazz Festival and visit the Museum of Yachting with its impressive collection of yachts and artifacts that chart yachting history. Finally take the 5 Kilometre walk along the ragged cliffs with its views onto the mansions below and follow the Forty Steps to the ocean front.
Block Island lies 21 Kilometres from the New England coast and is ideal for those who enjoy fishing, horseriding , canoeing and bird-watching, with over 48 Kilometres of trails to experience nature at its finest. Old Harbour with its Victorian houses is a sight to behold, and to the south you can view the reddish hues of the Mohegan Bluffs and the Southeast Lighthouse.
To the north-west you will find the Great Salt Pond which is a safe haven for both kayaking and fishing, so too Sachem Pond to the north. The island’s premier marina is Clayhead which offers magnificent views from the North-East onto the Atlantic.