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1 THE BEST OF VERMONT, NEW HAMPSHIRE & MAINE.
2 NORTHERN NEW ENGLAND IN DEPTH.
3 PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO NORTHERN NEW ENGLAND.
4 SUGGESTED NORTHERN NEW ENGLAND ITINERARIES.
5 SOUTHERN & CENTRAL VERMONT.
6 NORTHERN VERMONT.
7 SOUTHERN & CENTRAL NEW HAMPSHIRE.
8 THE WHITE MOUNTAINS & NORTHERN NEW HAMPSHIRE.
9 COASTAL MAINE.
10 NORTHERN & WESTERN MAINE.
11 FAST FACTS, TOLLFREE NUMBERS & WEBSITES.
One of the greatest challenges of planning a vacation in northern New England is narrowing down the options: Where to start? Here's an entirely biased list of destinations, the places I enjoy returning to time and again. Over years of traveling through the region, I've discovered that these places are worth more than just a quick stop when I'm in the area; they're worth a major detour.
1 The Seven Wonders of Northern New England
The Appalachian Trail: This 2,100-mile trail from Georgia to Maine includes some of the most spectacular scenery in northern New England. The trail enters the region in southwest Vermont, winding through the southern Green Mountains before angling toward the White Mountains of New Hampshire. From here, it passes by remote Maine lakes and through hilly timberlands before finishing up on the summit of Mount Katahdin. See chapters 4, 7, and 9.
Lake Champlain (Vermont): "New England's West Coast" is lapped by the waves of Lake Champlain, that vast, shimmering sheet of water between Vermont and New York. You can't help but enjoy good views when you're on this lake-to the west are the stern Adirondacks; to the east are the distant, rolling ridges of the Green Mountains. Sign up for a lake cruise, or just hop the ferry from Burlington for a low-budget excursion across the lake and back. See chapter 5.
Connecticut River (Vermont and New Hampshire): The broad, lazy Connecticut River forms the border between New Hampshire and Vermont, and it's a joy to travel along. You'll find wonderful vistas, peaceful villages, and evidence of the region's rich history when the river served as a highway for northern New England. Today, it's a hidden gem of a destination. See chapters 4, 6, and 7.
Franconia Notch (New Hampshire): This rocky defile, through the craggiest part of the White Mountains, is spectacular to drive through, but it's even more wondrous if you stop and explore on foot or bike. Hike the flanking ridges, bike the pathway along the valley floor, or just lounge in the sun at the edge of Echo Lake. See "Franconia Notch," in chapter 7.
Tuckerman Ravine (New Hampshire): This glacial cirque high on the flanks of Mount Washington (New England's highest peak) seems part medieval, part Alps, and entirely otherworldly. Snows blown across the upper lip throughout the winter accumulate to depths of 70 feet or more. In spring, skiers trek here from throughout the country to challenge its sheer face, and hikers find snow in its vast bowl well into summer. See "Jackson & Environs," in chapter 7.
Acadia National Park (Maine): New England's only national park is also one of the most popular in the U.S. The fractured, rocky, surf-pounded coastline is the main attraction, but don't overlook the quiet boreal forests and open summits of low mountains that afford spectacular coastal views. See "Mount Desert Island & Acadia National Park," in chapter 8.
Mount Katahdin (Maine): Rising abruptly from a thick blanket of North Woods forest, the nearly mile-high Mount Katahdin has an ineffable spiritual quality to it. It's the centerpiece of equally inspiring Baxter State Park, one of the last, best wildernesses of the eastern states. See chapter 9.
2 The Best Small Towns
Grafton (Vermont): Just a few decades ago, Grafton was a down-at-the-heels mountain town slowly being reclaimed by termites and the elements. A wealthy family took the town on as a pet project, lovingly restoring it to the way it once was-even burying electric lines to reclaim the landscape. It doesn't feel like a living history museum; it just feels right. See "Brattleboro & the Southern Green Mountains," in chapter 4.
Woodstock (Vermont): Woodstock has a stunning village green, a whole range of 19th-century homes, woodland walks just out of town, and a settled, old-money air. This is a good place to explore by foot or bike, or to just sit on a porch and watch summer unfold. See "Woodstock & Environs," in chapter 4.
Montpelier (Vermont): This is the way all state capitals should be-slow-paced, small enough that you can walk everywhere, and featuring lots of shops that sell wrenches and strapping tape. Montpelier also shows a more sophisticated edge, with its culinary institute, a theater showing art-house films, and several fine book shops; but at heart it's a small town, where you just might run into the governor buying duct tape at the corner store. See "Montpelier, Barre & Waterbury," in chapter 5.
Hancock (New Hampshire): This quiet hamlet-a sort of satellite of the commercial center of Peterborough-has a historic and settled white-clapboard grace that's been utterly unperturbed since it was founded in the 18th century. See "The Monadnock Region & the Connecticut River Valley," in chapter 6.
Camden (Maine): This seaside town has everything-a beautiful harbor, great old architecture, even its own tiny mountain range affording great hikes with sweeping ocean views. With lots of elegant bed-and-breakfasts, it's a perfect base for explorations further afield. See "Penobscot Bay," in chapter 8.
Castine (Maine): Soaring elm trees, a peaceful harborside setting, grand historic homes, and a selection of good inns make this a great spot to soak up some of Maine's coastal ambience off the beaten path. See "The Blue Hill Peninsula," in chapter 8.
3 The Best Places to See Fall Foliage
Route 100 (Vermont): Winding the length of Vermont from Readsboro to Newport, Route 100 is the major north-south route through the center of the Green Mountains, yet it's surprisingly undeveloped for most of its length. It can be crowded along the southern stretches on autumn weekends, but head further north and you'll leave the crowds behind. See chapters 4 and 5.
I-91 (Vermont): An interstate? Don't scoff. If you like your foliage viewing big and fast, cruise I-91 from White River Junction to Newport. You'll be overwhelmed with gorgeous terrain, from the Connecticut River Valley to the rolling hills of the Northeast Kingdom. The traffic isn't as bad as on state roads, either. See chapters 4 and 5.
Aboard the M/S Mount Washington (New Hampshire): One of the more majestic views of the White Mountains is from Lake Winnipesaukee to the south. The vista is especially appealing from the deck of the Mount Washington, a handsome 230-foot vessel that offers a variety of tours on the lake through mid-October. The fringe of fall color along the shoreline is a welcome bonus. See "The Lake Winnipesaukee Region," in chapter 6.
Crawford Notch (New Hampshire): Route 302 passes through this scenic valley, where you can see the brilliant red maples and yellow birches high on the hillsides. Mount Washington stands guard in the background and, in fall, is likely to be dusted with an early snow. See "Crawford Notch," in chapter 7.
Blueberry barrens of Downeast Maine: Maine's wild blueberry barrens turn a brilliant cranberry-red in fall, setting the fields ablaze with color. Wander the dirt roads northeast of Cherryfield through the upland barrens, or drive Route 1 between Harrington and Machias past the experimental farm atop, of course, Blueberry Hill. See chapter 8.
4 The Best Coastal Views
Bicycle Route 1A, Hampton Beach to Portsmouth (New Hampshire): With a sampling of all sorts of coastal scenery on New Hampshire's minuscule coastline, you begin with sandy beaches, then pass rocky headlands and handsome mansions before coasting into Portsmouth, the region's most scenic seaside city. See "The Seacoast," in chapter 6.
Drive the Park Loop Road at Acadia National Park (Maine): The region's premier ocean drive, start along a ridge with views of Frenchman Bay and the Porcupine Islands, then dip down along the rocky shores to watch the surf crash against the dark rocks. Plan to do this 20-mile loop at least twice to get the most out of it. See "Mount Desert Island & Acadia National Park," in chapter 8.
Merchant's Row by sea kayak (Maine): The islands between Stonington and Isle au Haut, rimmed with pink granite and capped with the stark spires of spruce trees, are among the most spectacular anywhere. A wonderful way to explore them is by sea kayak, getting to islands that are inaccessible by motorboat. Outfitters offer overnight camping trips on the islands. See "The Blue Hill Peninsula," in chapter 8.
Hike Monhegan Island (Maine): The village of Monhegan is clustered around the harbor of this island far off the Maine coast. The rest of this 700-acre island is comprised of picturesque wildlands, with miles of trails crossing open meadows and tracing rocky bluffs. See "The Mid-Coast," in chapter 8.
Cruising Maine on a windjammer: See Maine as many saw it for centuries-from the ocean, looking inland. Sailing ships depart from various harbors along the coast, particularly Rockland and Camden. Spend between a night and a week exploring the dramatic shoreline. See "Penobscot Bay," in chapter 8.
Sit in a rocking chair (Maine): Views are never better than when you're caught unaware-such as looking up from an engrossing book on the front porch of an oceanside inn. Chapters 8 and 9 mention many hotels and inns on the water. Some of the better ones: Beachmere Inn (Ogunquit), Black Point Inn (Scarborough), Grey Havens (Georgetown Island), East Wind Inn (Tenant's Harbor), Samoset Resort (Rockport), Inn on the Harbor (Stonington), Tides Inn (Bar Harbor), and the Claremont (Southwest Harbor).
5 The Best Active Vacations
Biking inn-to-inn (Vermont): Vermont is a biker's paradise. Serpentine roads wind through verdant hills and along tumbling streams. Several organizations will ferry your baggage from inn to inn; you provide the pedal power to get yourself from one point to the next. See "Enjoying the Great Outdoors," in chapter 4.
Skiing in the Green Mountains: Vermont has nearly two dozen ski areas, offering everything from the cozy friendliness of Bolton Valley to the high-impact skiing of sprawling Killington. Vermont has long been New England's ski capital, and they've learned how to do it right. My favorite? The village of Stowe, where great skiing is combined with fine lodging and dining. See chapter 4.
Hiking the White Mountains (New Hampshire): These rugged peaks draw hikers from all over the globe, attracted by the history, the beautiful vistas, and the exceptional landscapes from the craggy ridgelines. You can undertake day-hike forays and retreat to comfortable inns at night, or stay in the hills at the Appalachian Mountain Club's historic high huts. See chapter 7.
Mountain biking at Acadia (Maine): John D. Rockefeller, Jr., built the carriage roads of Mount Desert Island so that the gentry could enjoy rambles in the woods with their horses-away from pesky cars. Today, this extensive network offers some of the most enjoyable, aesthetically pleasing mountain biking anywhere. See "Mount Desert Island & Acadia National Park," in chapter 8.
Kayaking the Maine coast: With its massive and serpentine coastline and thousands of islands, most uninhabited, Maine is a world-class destination for those who like to snoop around by kayak. The Stonington area is considered the best spot for kayaking in Maine, but it's hard to go wrong anywhere north and east of Portland. Beware of dangers in the form of tides and weather-kayak with a guide if you're a novice. See chapter 8.
Canoeing the North Woods (Maine): Maine has thousands of miles of flowing rivers and streams, and hundreds of miles of shoreline along remote ponds and lakes. Bring your tent, sleeping bag, and cooking gear, and come prepared to spend a night under the stars listening to the sounds of the loons. See chapter 9.
6 The Best Destinations for Families
Montshire Museum of Science (Norwich, Vermont): This children's museum, on the border of Vermont and New Hampshire, offers wonderful interactive exhibits on the inside and nature trails along the Connecticut River on the outside. See p. 120.
Weirs Beach (New Hampshire): Did somebody say cheesy? You bet. This is the trip your kids would plan if you weren't so meddlesome. Weirs Beach on Lake Winnipesaukee offers passive amusements, such as train and boat rides that appeal to younger kids, and plenty of active adventures for young teens, such as go-kart racing, water slides, and video arcades. Parents can recuperate on the lakeside beach. See "The Lake Winnipesaukee Region," in chapter 6.
Cog Railroad (Crawford Notch, New Hampshire): It's fun. It's terrifying. It's a great glimpse into history.
Excerpted from Frommer's Vermont, New Hampshire & Maine by Paul Karr Excerpted by permission.
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Posted May 5, 2010
Posted June 2, 2012