Aerial view of Bar Harbor, Maine.

10 Must-Visit Small Towns In New England

Consisting of six different bordering states, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, New England is best known for the visual beauty seen during fall foliage, the originality of its iconic retail stores, and the delicious tastes of its seafood and cheeses. From Bar Harbor, Maine, to Bristol, Rhode Island, and from Woodstock, Vermont, to Kent, Connecticut, the small towns located in New England are quaint and tranquil while still possessing excitement and adventure. Here are ten must-visit small towns in New England that will satisfy your family’s vacation needs and get you excited about where you get to visit next year.

Bar Harbor, Maine

Aerial view of Bar Harbor, Maine.
Aerial view of Bar Harbor, Maine.

Located on the southern coast of Maine, Bar Harbor has several natural attractions that are well worth the visit, either with family, friends, or alone. Acadia National Park, located on Mount Desert Island, has several trails for the hiking enthusiast, like the Beehive Loop, Precipice Trail, and Bubble Rock. There are several different camping options available in Acadia National Park as well. From primitive camping, which means no electricity at all, to staying in your own RV or camper with all the creature comforts you are used to, there are lodging options for everyone. A variety of beaches are also near Bar Harbor, including Echo Lake, Sand Beach, and Little Hunters Beach, all of them offering a stunning view of nature at its best. 

Mystic, Connecticut

The seaport of Mystic, Connecticut.
The seaport of Mystic, Connecticut.

Mystic is most famous for the Mystic Seaport Museum, Olde Mistick Village, and the Mystic River Bascule Bridge. The Seaport Museum is home to the Charles W. Morgan, a wooden whaling ship built in 1841, Olde Mistick Village represents an eighteenth-century colonial village, and the Bascule Bridge is a 218-foot drawbridge that was opened in 1922. Aside from the historical presence of this area, the town of Mystic also offers a variety of natural attractions, like Mystic Aquarium, which is home to a wide variety of animals from Beluga whales to Japanese fighter crabs, and the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, which offers visitors options to safely interact with the animals while traversing the ten plus miles of nature trails.

Stockbridge, Massachusetts

Autumn Afternoon in Stockbridge Massachusetts
Autumn afternoon at Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Located in Berkshire County in western Massachusetts, the town of Stockbridge is best known for being home to the Berkshire Botanical Gardens and the Norman Rockwell Museum, the latter the home of several paintings by Norman Rockwell of the iconic Saturday Evening Post, as well as over three hundred other paintings he completed. Along with the three thousand plus species and varieties of plants at the Berkshire Botanical Gardens, Stockbridge is also home to Naumkeag, another stunning public garden, complete with a 44-room historic home sitting on 48 acres of land. There are also several dining options in town, including Once Upon a Table and the Lion’s Den, both located on Main Street in downtown Stockbridge.

Westerly, Rhode Island

Watch Hill Lighthouse located in Westerly, Rhode Island.
Watch Hill Lighthouse located in Westerly, Rhode Island.

Hidden in the southwestern corner of the state in Washington County, the town of Westerly is a hidden oasis. From all of the activities one can enjoy on or beside the Atlantic Ocean, like visiting Misquamicut State Beach and Atlantic Beach Park, to all the activities one can check out in the town of Westerly itself, including stopping by Wilcox Park and perusing downtown Westerly, this small town is well worth the visit. With several coffee shops, bookstores, diners, boutiques, and country stores, the town of Westerly is quaint while being up-and-coming. They even have several establishments with great food, including the Cooked Goose on Watch Hill Road for breakfast and Guytanno’s International Restaurant over on Franklin Street for dinner. 

Rangeley, Maine

Aerial view of Rangeley, Maine
Aerial view of Rangeley, Maine.

While most of the more prominently visited towns in the state of Maine are along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, the quaint, small town of Rangeley, located deep in the interior of the state in Franklin County, has a variety of amenities and attractions that make it worthy of this list, like the Rangeley Lakes Region. Along with six large lakes, including Mooselookmeguntic Lake, which is the fourth largest lake in the state of Maine, the Rangeley Lakes Region consists of hundreds of smaller bodies of water as well. There are also several nature trails that are available to visitors, like the Rangeley River Trail, which follows the Rangeley River for about a mile, and the Cascade Stream Gorge Trail, which descends into a ninety-foot-deep gorge before looping back around. 

Woodstock, Vermont

The charming town of Woodstock, Vermont.
The charming town of Woodstock, Vermont.

The pastoral town of Woodstock in Windsor County, one of twenty-two towns with the name Woodstock across America, is home to the Taftsville Covered Bridge, the Sugarbush Farm, the Billings Farm and Museum, and the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. It is also known for being close to the Ottauquechee River and Mount Tom, a 1357-foot-tall mountain that is a part of the Rockefeller National Park. There are many trails in and around the Ottauquechee River, Mount Tom, and the park as well, like the Junior Ranger Loop, which is a little over a mile in length, and South Peak and the South Peak Loop, both of which are four miles long.

Hanover, New Hampshire

A beautiful park in Hanover, New Hampshire.
A beautiful park in Hanover, New Hampshire.

The town of Hanover, located in Grafton County and situated along the banks of the Connecticut River, is a nature-lover’s paradise. Between a section of the Appalachian Trail and Nathan’s Garden, beauty in nature can be seen every time you turn around. If you are adventurous, this piece of the Appalachian Trail, from Hanover to Wentworth, is a challenge, being a total of thirty-three miles with an elevation gain of 8500 feet. If you wish to relax, though, Nathan’s Garden provides ample opportunities to commune with nature in tranquility. Along with nature, the town of Hanover has a historical side. Located inside the Dartmouth Library, painted in 24 individual panels along the interior walls of both wings, Jose Clemente Orozco created a 3,200-foot-long mural called “The Epic of American Civilization” between the years of 1932 and 1934. 

Camden, Maine

Aerial view of Camden, Maine.
Aerial view of Camden, Maine.

On the southern coastline of Maine, between Rockland and Belfast, the quaint town of Camden is home to several attractions that qualify it as a must-visit small town. Camden State Park, just outside of town, offers camping, picnicking, fishing, and hiking opportunities, while there are a variety of events in Camden, including Christmas by the Sea in the beginning of December, the Toboggan Festival in the beginning of February, the North Atlantic Blues Festival in July, and the Camden Harbor Arts & Crafts Show in July and October. There is also Barrett’s Cove Park to check out, known for a vertical rock formation called Maiden’s Cliff, and the Maine Lobster Festival is held in August and takes place for five consecutive days. 

Kent, Connecticut

The waterfront in Kent, Connecticut.
The waterfront in Kent, Connecticut.

Concealed in the depths of Litchfield County on the western edge of the state, the picturesque town of Kent is home to several activities that keep people coming back for more. From Kent Falls State Park, which offers hiking, fishing, and picnicking, to Macedonia Brook State Park, which offers camping as well, nature can be enjoyed to its fullest. There are even several other attractions in and around the town of Kent, like the East Kent Hamlet Nature Preserve, the Western New England Greenway, and Bull’s Bridge, offering visitors a chance to hike the Bull’s Bridge Loop, which is just over two miles in length. Bull’s Bridge is also home to the Bull’s Bridge Scenic Area and Covered Bridge, the latter added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

Bristol, Rhode Island

Aerial view of Bristol, Rhode Island.
Bristol, Rhode Island.

The town of Bristol, in Bristol County, is home to several activities that will get your blood pumping, including visiting the Audubon Society Environmental Educational Center, Mount Hope Farm, and Colt State Park. There are also a variety of museums in Bristol for the avid history buff, like the Herreshoff Marine Museum, Musee Patamecanique, and the Coggeshall Farm Museum. If this is not enough to entertain the family, Bristol is also home to the Blythewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum, which is a 45-room mansion with gardens surrounding it, possessing at least three hundred species of woody plants. And, to top it off, Bristol has several fresh seafood options with waterfront views, like Thames Waterside Bar & Grill, Baba Sushi, and Boat House Waterfront Dining. 

So, whether you are taking the family out for a summer vacation, meeting with some friends for the weekend, or planning to get away by yourself for a while, these ten small towns - from Bar Harbor, Maine to Bristol, Rhode Island - are well worth the time and money. Whether you are surfing the Atlantic Ocean outside of Acadia State Park or hiking a difficult trail up to a spectacular waterfall in Kent, Connecticut, adventure is out there, waiting for someone to experience it to its fullest.

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