Downtown street in Bar Harbor, Maine. Image credit Darryl Brooks via Shutterstock

7 Serene Towns in New England for a Weekend Retreat

New England is peppered with lovely little towns that project restfulness amidst a wholesome atmosphere, making it ideal for any number of weekend retreat locales. From serene beaches to bucolic farmland, to refreshing lakes and majestic green mountains, a traveler seeking rejuvenation is bound to find it there. Uncover seven examples of ideal New England destinations to soothe the soul. Read on to pick your favorite, or perhaps you could choose them all as your spring and summer excursion checklist.

Camden, Maine

Beautiful Harbour with Anchored Boats at Sunset. Camden
Harbor at sunset, Camden, Maine.

Those looking for a serene respite with stunning coastal landscapes and sailing culture should consider Camden, Maine. The town's charming harbor and historic downtown area are brimming with boutique shops and bakeries like Once a Tree, Lupine and Fern, and Laugh Loud Smile Big where visitors shop for one-of-a-kind gifts and artisan crafts and treat themselves to tasty baked goods. For a little coffee break, you will want to stop in at the Owl and Turtle Bookshop Café for a cup of coffee and peruse the shelves for your next favorite book. For a taste of Maine's culinary treasures, discover the town's diverse array of restaurants, like the Salt Wharf Restaurant and Rooftop Bar, serving locally sourced cuisine from a varied seasonal menu.

Accommodation options abound in Camden, catering to every taste and budget. Camden Harbour Inn, with its elegant rooms and panoramic views of the harbor, provides a lavish destination for discerning travelers.

Beyond its lively downtown, Camden is surrounded by natural beauty. Camden Hills State Park, encompassing over 5,000 acres of rugged terrain, calls hikers and nature lovers with its extensive network of trails and panoramic overlooks. A hike to the summit of Mount Battie rewards adventurers with sweeping vistas of the surrounding coastline and islands, making it the perfect spot for a scenic picnic or sunset viewing.

In addition to outdoor activities, Camden features a rich cultural scene, with art galleries, museums, and historic sites to pique your curiosity. Visit the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, a 15-minute drive away in nearby Rockland. As a highlight of your visit consider an entertaining event at the historic Camden Opera House, a beloved landmark dating back to the 19th century.

Stowe, Vermont

Aerial view of the charming ski town of Stowe, Vermont.
Charming ski town of Stowe, Vermont.

Stowe, Vermont, in the north-central part of the state, is in the heart of the Green Mountains at the foot of Mount Mansfield, the highest peak in Vermont. Surrounded by thick forests, meandering rivers, and undulating hills, Stowe is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

Visitors come from near and far year-round to indulge in an array of outdoor activities, including skiing at the Stowe Mountain Resort, hiking the scenic trails of Smugglers' Notch State Park, and reveling in the vibrant hues of autumn foliage along the Mount Mansfield Auto Toll Road. You will want to wind your way along the road, to the summit ridge of Mount Mansfield, to view the breathtaking vistas of Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains. This historic route has been delighting visitors since 1923, when the first automobile ventured up Vermont's highest peak. Spanning 4.5 miles, the journey is full of natural splendor. Upon reaching an elevation of 3,850 feet, park your vehicle, unwind, and immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring surroundings.

When you are ready to come down from there, artisanal boutiques such as Shaw's General Store, and hunger satisfying eateries like The Blue Donkey await in the town’s village center. Among its notable landmarks, the Stowe Recreation Path features a scenic route for walking, biking, or cross-country skiing, while the renowned Ben & Jerry's Factory tantalizes taste buds with its delectable ice cream flavors during guided tours. For lodging, travelers can also consider The Lodge at Spruce Peak, offering well-appointed rooms and easy access to the slopes. Additionally, the Trapp Family Lodge, once the residence of the von Trapp family whose lives inspired The Sound of Music, is now a splendid resort, exuding European charm with its accommodations and curated activities, including guided hikes and musical performances.

Lenox, Massachusetts

The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts
The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts. Image credit Heidi Besen via Shutterstock

Escape to Lenox, Massachusetts, for an unforgettable retreat filled with sophistication, culture, and natural beauty. Set amidst the majestic Berkshire Mountains, Lenox is an enchanting departure from everyday life.

Start your weekend with a visit to Tanglewood, where you can attend outdoor concerts amid the picturesque grounds of this iconic music venue. Let the melodies of the Boston Symphony Orchestra serenade you as you relax under the open sky, surrounded by lush greenery.

For nature enthusiasts, a visit to the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary is a must. Take a walk on serene trails that wind through diverse habitats, and keep an eye out for native wildlife and birds. Visitors can lose themselves in nature as they soak in the beauty of the Berkshire landscape set among the more than 1,000 acres of verdant topography.

Before you leave Lenox, do not forget to visit The Mount, the historic estate of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edith Wharton. If you plan your visit after May 11th, you will be just in time for the spring reopening. Step back in time as you tour the elegant rooms and manicured gardens that inspired Wharton's literary masterpieces. From intimate garden walks to insightful guided tours, The Mount is a glimpse into the life and legacy of one of America's most beloved writers.

Lenox has a wide variety of lodging options from the ultra-luxurious 4-star hotels with spa packages such as Canyon Ranch Lenox to the moderately priced, cozy and pet-friendly like the Hampton Inn and Suites Berkshire-Lenox.

Woodstock, Vermont

Brick buildings with shops in Woodstock, Vermont.
Brick buildings with shops in Woodstock, Vermont. Image credit Albert Pego via Shutterstock

A quiet getaway amidst the rolling countryside to the bucolic village of Woodstock, Vermont, might be just what you are looking for. Woodstock offers a tranquil time at The Woodstock Inn & Resort. This classic New England inn with upscale amenities, is the perfect home base for your rural, yet refined, adventure.

Wander into boutique shops such as Clover Gift Shop, specializing in locally produced apothecary products. Stop for a bite to eat at one of the farm-to-table eateries like the Worthy Kitchen and Mon Vert Café.

Bring the kids along for a memorable time at the Billings Farm & Museum, for interactive exhibits and farm animals. For nature lovers, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is calling with its scenic trails, gardens, and many outdoor activities to do. Get creative at the Art in the Park program. Engage in outdoor games at Play in the Park or yoga at Wellness in the Woods.

Take a 30-minute drive northwest from the center of Woodstock to Kent Pond, where you will find an excellent spot for fishing, kayaking, and hiking or just relaxing for a picnic by the water. No matter the activity, the stunning scenery is sure to please the senses.

Bar Harbor, Maine

Downtown street in Bar Harbor, Maine.
Downtown street in Bar Harbor, Maine. Image credit Darryl Brooks via Shutterstock

Enjoy a rejuvenating escape to the coastal haven of Bar Harbor, Maine. Tucked along the rugged shores of Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor promises a refreshing break from the ordinary.

Make your base at the renowned Bar Harbor Inn, where historic opulence meets waterfront serenity. Wake up to the mesmerizing vistas of Frenchman’s Bay and the Porcupine Islands, setting the stage for a day full of exploration.

Spend the day at the majestic Acadia National Park, a veritable playground of granite peaks, pristine lakes, and dramatic sea shores. Visitors can traverse the scenic trails, fragrant with pine and salty air. Relish in coastal drives or take a thrilling whale watching outing.

When hunger strikes, a myriad of gastronomic options await. Do not miss the succulent lobster and fresh seafood at establishments like Stewman's Lobster Pound or Geddy's restaurant. For a wholesome and hearty meal to satisfy any palate, consider 2 Cats Restaurant, known for its homemade goodness and featured in Down East Magazine.

Visit the Abbe Museum, the only Smithsonian affiliated museum in the state of Maine. There, you can learn about Maine's Indigenous heritage where exhibits and programs shed light on the cultural legacy of the region's Wabanaki Nations.

No visit to Bar Harbor would be complete without a stop at Sand Beach. It is a unique, cove-like strip of soft sand tucked in between the rocky coast and mountains of Mount Desert Island. At 290 yards in length, the area is just long enough for a casual stroll on a sunny afternoon.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Portsmouth, New Hampshire waterfront at sunset
Portsmouth, New Hampshire waterfront.

Consider a quick trip to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for an oceanside adventure that is sure to restore your energy. You could start off by checking into the conveniently located Residence Inn Portsmouth Downtown where you will find amenities such as water views, swimming pool, and a fitness room. Alternatively for a spa experience encircled by awe-inspiring waterfront scenery, the elegant Wentworth by the Sea awaits in nearby New Castle.

But it is not just the accommodations that make Portsmouth a standout destination. There is so much to see and do. For example, you will want to visit the Strawbery Banke Museum, where you can step back in time and experience four centuries of New England life firsthand. Then, unwind in Prescott Park, a serene waterfront oasis featuring impressive gardens and offering outdoor concerts to soothe your soul.

When it comes to dining, Portsmouth spoils you with choices. Treat yourself to fresh seafood at Row 34 or feast on locally sourced fare at Moxy. For a taste of local craft beer or specialty burgers and hotdogs, head to Earth Eagle Brewings. And do not miss the vibrant arts scene—explore galleries such as Nahcotta Gallery, and catch a play at the Seacoast Repertory Theatre. Engage in a performance at The Music Hall or feast your ears to live music at The Press Room, both renowned music venues that add to Portsmouth's cultural allure.

While you are there, do not forget to make time for a walk along one of the many nearby beaches. Many of them, such as Wallis Sands State Beach and Jenness State Beach have restroom facilities and nearby ice cream shops or stands.

Newport, Rhode Island

Newport Rhode Island's famed Thames Street shopping district
Newport Rhode Island's famed Thames Street shopping district. Image credit George Wirt via Shutterstock

Set out on an exquisite wine-lovers retreat to the picturesque coastal town of Newport, Rhode Island, where every sip is a journey through the senses. If you are looking for a 5-star experience, your getaway could begin when you check in at The Chanler at Cliff Walk, a luxurious boutique hotel with oceanfront rooms and unparalleled indulgence. For a more economical option, you might consider The Beech Tree Inn and Cottage, a dog-friendly, cozy, and conveniently located establishment housed in an 1880’s Victorian home.

Start your weekend with wine tastings at Newport Vineyards, where lush vineyards and rolling hills provide the perfect backdrop for sampling an array of varietals. Join guided tours to learn about the winemaking process, from grape to bottle, and savor the unique terrain of Aquidneck Island.

But your wine adventure does not have to end there. For dining options, satisfy your appetite at 22 Bowen, a top-notch steakhouse serving a varied menu and wines in an alfresco seating environment along with a warm and comfortable atmosphere inside. Another superb choice for dining is the Castle Hill Inn Restaurant overlooking Narragansett Bay. Enjoy a flavorful glass of wine paired with sumptuous cuisine while you watch sailboats glide by.

In between wine tastings and culinary delights, explore Newport's rich maritime heritage with sailing excursions and harbor cruises.

From the rugged shores of Bar Harbor to the rolling hills of Woodstock, Vermont, each town provides its own plethora of experiences, inviting travelers to appreciate the rich culture, nature, and hospitality on a weekend retreat. Whether it is savoring fresh seafood in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, exploring historic estates in Lenox, Massachusetts, or indulging in wine tastings in Newport, Rhode Island, these towns offer an escape from the ordinary and a glimpse into the extraordinary. Wherever you plan to go, you will cherish the moments of tranquility of these enchanting destinations in New England.

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