Historic buildings and shops in Perkins Cove in Ogunquit, Maine, via Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock.com

10 of the Most Welcoming Towns in New England

New England is the name given to the six states in the Northeastern corner of the US, comprising Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Each New England state has its own unique landscape and history, though they are all tied by the rich Colonial roots that wind through the small, welcoming communities in these states. The term “New England” originates from English Captain John Smith, who explored the land, with several states becoming home to some of the first colony settlers. Today, New England has countless welcoming towns that range from coastal getaways to mountain retreats. Here’s a closer look at 10 of the most welcoming towns you can visit in New England.

Ogunquit, Maine

Small boutiques stores of Perkins Cove in Ogunquit, Maine
Small boutiques stores of Perkins Cove in Ogunquit, Maine

One of the most charming and welcoming New England towns is Ogunquit, Maine. This seaside resort town has a full-time population of around 1,500, but this number can jump significantly in the summer to an estimated 80,000 people. Ogunquit is nestled under an hour from Portland and is known for being an artists' paradise filled with miles of sandy beaches. The town also has a rocky coastline that’s perfect for sightseeing or an oceanside hike. One of the most popular destinations in Ogunquit is the 1.25-mile-long cliff walk along the Atlantic Ocean called Marginal Way. This is an easy path suitable for all ages that is open year-round for visitors to enjoy.

Nature lovers visiting Ogunquit during the warm months or those who want to take in the beauty of winter can visit the Payeur Preserve, located conveniently at the town’s dog park. This is another short, easy-to-conquer walking loop that’s roughly one mile long, pet-friendly, and is maintained during the snowy season. If you’re looking for a popular scenic location where you can take pictures while enjoying the ocean breeze, the mini Lobster Point Lighthouse is a great spot. There’s a walking path where visitors can explore the lighthouse grounds and stroll along the sea. Visitors are not allowed inside the lighthouse but are allowed to take pictures right outside the structure.

Hyannis, Massachusetts

Beach goers in Hyannis, Massachusetts
Beach goers in Hyannis, Massachusetts

Another New England town with a rich history and a reputation for being the former vacation spot for the Kennedy family, Hyannis is a vacation destination for people across the world. Hyannis is technically considered a village in Barnstable, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in fun things to do or accommodations. The town is home to Cape Cod Getaway Airport, which is a premiere travel hub for those visiting Cape Cod, Nantucket, or Martha’s Vineyard, as well as an MBTA stop for travelers that runs between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Once you’re in Hyannis, make sure to stop in for an afternoon at Veterans Park Beach, a quiet oceanfront park with Korean War memorials throughout the property.

History enthusiasts and those looking for a unique attraction in Hyannis can’t miss a visit to the Sea Captains Row-Crowell Homestead on Pleasant Street. This historical landmark is an overlooked and true gem of Hyannis, as it provides a glimpse into the town’s sea heritage roots. Visitors will hear stories and get to view real historic artifacts, along with some of the town’s original homes. There’s also the Lewis Bay Lighthouse, known as the Hyannis Harbor Light, another historical landmark in the area. This lighthouse is located on private property, but many tourists travel to Baxter’s Fish and Chips or the town’s main port, where boats depart for Nantucket Island. Seeing the lighthouse stand tall from across the water has become a special pastime for both visitors and locals in Hyannis.

Bennington, Vermont


Bennington is a tiny town in Vermont with important historical landmarks and a population of just 15,000 residents. This town is ideal for those who enjoy nature, love history, and want to experience a New England location filled with classic Colonial homes. If you’re visiting Bennington and want to learn more about the town’s roots, the Bennington Museum has numerous exhibits showcasing historical art and original artifacts. The Bennington Museum also has a large exhibit that details the 1777 Battle of Bennington, a crucial part of the town’s history. Some of the most popular exhibits include colonial furniture, sculptures, and Grandma Moses paintings.

Those who want to learn more about the 1777 Battle of Bennington can stop at the town’s monument circle to see the 306-foot-tall Bennington Battle Monument. This battle was a crucial part of the Revolutionary War that’s honored at this monument, which remains among the highest man-made buildings in the state. The monument has an elevator that allows visitors to travel to the top observation deck and look out for miles. Before leaving Bennington, be sure to drive through the Burt Henry Covered Bridge and the Silk Road Covered Bridge, two of the town’s top attractions. In fact, Bennington County alone is home to five covered bridges!

Wolfeboro, New Hampshire

Main street in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire
Main street in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, via Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock.com

Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, is a quaint New England town with just over 6,000 residents. The town is nicknamed “the oldest resort town of America,” thanks to its location on the beautiful northeastern side of Lake Winnipesaukee. What’s great about Wolfeboro is that there’s no bad season to visit this welcoming town, as it boasts both summer and winter activities. If you want to experience the stunning landscapes of this town firsthand, the versatile Cotton Valley Rail Trail has 12 miles of picturesque scenery. This unique trail starts in Wolfeboro and travels all the way to Wakefield. It runs along historic rails that are still used by local rail car clubs today. 

The ​​Wolfeboro Railroad Depot is another town landmark that first started operating as a short line in 1872. The railroad’s opening in the late 1800s was a big event for residents and remains an important part of the town’s history today. When visiting the site, tourists can take in the building’s unique architecture or sit along the water. Wolfeboro also has the Governor Wentworth Historic Site located on Wentworth Farm Road. This monument is located on protected land where a massive plantation once stood, which was built by the second royal governor, John Wentworth. Overall, there’s no shortage of historical sites to visit in Wolfeboro!

Provincetown, Massachusetts

Crowds of people on Commercial Street in Provincetown, Massachusetts
Crowds of people on Commercial Street in Provincetown, Massachusetts, via Mystic Stock Photography / Shutterstock.com

There’s no doubt one of the most welcoming New England towns is Provincetown, located on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. In addition to being a welcoming community, Provincetown also holds a special place in American history, as it was the first landing site of the Mayflower in 1620. Today, it remains a truly unique destination that lies nearly 40 miles out to sea at the very tip of Cape Cod and is one of the few deep-water harbors in the world! When visiting Provincetown, one must-see attraction is the National Monument to the Forefathers, also referred to as the Pilgrim Monument, which stands over 250 feet tall. 

The historic attractions don’t stop at the Mayflower site, as Provincetown has countless areas to visit and learn about the roots. The town’s Race Point Lighthouse sits in the Cape National Seashore sand dunes and is accessible by the dunes or the beach. The hike is roughly four miles long, with limited shade to reach the lighthouse, and patrons are not allowed inside. However, there is an inn that operates on-site that can accommodate up to 8 guests. Provincetown is like no other area in New England that travelers should experience at least once.

Middletown, Rhode Island

Dunlap-Wheeler Park in Rhode Island
Dunlap-Wheeler Park in Rhode Island

Rhode Island has an incredibly unique landscape that shines in the seaside town of Middletown. Located in Newport County on Aquidneck Island, Middletown has a population of around 16,000 people and boasts a rocky coastline with rolling farmlands. The town once held the reputation of being the main farming community on Aquidneck Island, but today, most of the untouched, rural land sits on the east side of the town. One of Middletown’s most beloved features is Purgatory Chasm, an enormous fissure formed by years of seawater rushing through. Today, visitors can take a small walk to the top of the rocks or view it from a pedestrian bridge located at the bottom.

Another one of Middletown’s top attractions is the Sachuest Beach and Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge. These locations provide a great opportunity for visitors to get out into nature and see what this beautiful town has to offer. The beach has several access points, making it great for tourists new to the area, while the wildlife refuge has two miles of trails and overlook platforms to view the migratory birds. To see even more birds, the Norman Bird Sanctuary has seven miles of hiking trails spread out through the 325-acre property. The sanctuary has well-maintained trails that make it a great location for any hiking skill level.

Chester, Connecticut

A tractor parade makes it's way through Chester, Connecticut.
A tractor parade makes it's way through Chester, Connecticut. Image credit Joe Tabacca via Shutterstock

Tucked away in Middlesex County, Connecticut, Chester is a small town that is home to just over 3,500 people. Chester sits in Middlesex County in the Connecticut River Valley and is known for being a town that highlights the arts, theater, and cultural cuisine. It’s a unique destination that has a historic downtown area lined with 19th-century locally owned shops and charming houses. The tight-knit Chester community gets together every year for the annual 4th of July Road Race and Lobster Fest, which takes place in the downtown area. There’s also the Chester Farmer’s Market that opens on Sundays and is filled with fresh produce from local growers. 

Nature enthusiasts can plan a visit to Cockaponset State Forest in Chester, the second-largest state forest in Connecticut. There’s no shortage of activities at the park, including camping, biking, cross-country skiing, and even snowmobiling during the winter months. Cockaponset State Forest has over 17,000 acres for visitors to enjoy and is one of the most popular parks in the state. Additionally, those looking to embrace the town’s history can head to Chester center to visit the Chester Museum at the Mill by the Chester Historical Society. Admission to the museum is free, and has two floors of exhibits covering the town’s history back to the Wangunk Indians.

Orono, Maine

Mill Street business in downtown Orono, Maine.
Mill Street business in downtown Orono, Maine. Image credit: Bcody80, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Orono is a small college town in Maine with a big spirit and a close community. Home to the University of Maine, Orono is in Penobscot County and has a population of just over 10,000 people. The town is situated on the Penobscot and Stillwater rivers and has a great reputation, even being named one of the 30 safest college towns in the country by SafeWise in 2017. One of the most popular community events in Orono is the Orono Farmers Market, which is held twice per week and features over 25 local vendors. The Orono Farmers Market has been a staple in the town since 1994 and attracts visitors from across the state.

If you’re visiting Orono and are looking for something outside the box to do with family or friends, the Versant Power Astronomy Center & Jordan Planetarium is a great way to spend an evening. The planetarium is at the University of Maine campus and puts on numerous laser light and educational shows each week. Regardless of the season, Piney Knoll Conservation Area is a great way to get outside and take in some of Orono’s wildlife. The preserve has almost 5 miles of trails and a dedicated spot for birdwatching. Orono is the perfect destination for those who love the outdoors and the slow pace of a small town.

Putney, Vermont

Sacketts Brook in downtown Putney
Sacketts Brook in downtown Putney, By Putneypics - DSC_0050, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Located in Windham County, Vermont, Putney is a very small town with a convenient location and around just 400 people. The small population and classic New England feel make this hidden gem the perfect getaway for families or couples looking for a welcoming environment. One of the attractions that helped to put Putney on the map is Santa’s Land USA. This unique amusement park is open from summer to Christmas and features a gift shop, fun house, mini golf course, and carousel. It’s a fun and wacky roadside attraction that’s been in operation since 1957. 

Hidden Springs Maple is another top destination in Putney that operates as a small store and family-owned maple farm. The farm’s store has all of the charm you’d expect from a classic New England country store that sells maple syrup and other handmade goodies. Putney is also known as being a top spot for hikers and those who love getting out into nature. The Putney School Trail is an 8.6-mile trail with a moderate difficulty level that winds through the dense woods. Dogs are allowed on the trail but must be leashed at all times. Overall, Putney is the perfect destination for those who want to get away from all the stress of a fast-paced town.

Gilford, New Hampshire

Lake Winnipesaukee in Gilford New Hampshire
Lake Winnipesaukee in Gilford New Hampshire

Finally, Gilford is a town in central New Hampshire that sits on Lake Winnipesaukee and the Belknap Mountain range. This specific location makes Gilford an ideal location for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy getting out on the water in the summer and taking part in winter sports activities. Many of this town’s attractions and popular spots are based around the outdoors and utilizing open space when seasonally possible. In fact, Gilford’s main concert venue is the BankNH Pavilion, an outdoor amphitheater that can seat almost 6,000 fans! The venue also has covered seats in inclement weather, making this a perfect spot for a show during any season.

Visiting Gilford also provides an opportunity to visit the Belknap Mountain State Forest. This state park has 1,300 acres that span the summit and slopes of the Belknap Mountains all the way to Round Pond. There are hiking trails throughout the park, though the roughly 5-mile Belknap Mountain trail remains one of the most popular due to its length and moderately difficult terrain. Gunstock Mountain Resort is a great destination for those who want to enjoy summer or winter mountain sports with the added bonus of resort amenities. The resort is open year-round and has over 200 acres of skiable land with 49 trails.

Beyond the historical charm and tourist attractions, New England is known to have some of the friendliest and most welcoming communities in the northeast. From the coastal views of Groton, Connecticut, to the vast American history in Plymouth, there’s sure to be a destination for every type of traveler. These 10 towns each have special qualities that separate them from other local options and provide a nice experience for tourists and locals alike.

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