New England is real eye candy with sea vistas, magnificent historical buildings, and artsy townships. Beautifully tranquil or in-your-face beautiful, these nine towns are impeccable from every angle to impress the everyday tourist and inspire artists.
Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor comprises one of the most beautiful landscapes in the nation, made impeccable with beaches engulfed by the soaring granite cliffs. Its name is derived from the gravelly sand bar that appears twice a day during the low tide to create a natural harbor. Perched on the Frenchman Bay of the Mount Desert Island, the glorious destination and town of just over 5,000 attract tens of thousands yearly romantics and explorers to enjoy the coastline, the lakes, and the mountains. All set and surrounded by the infamous Acadia National Park, the town is the ultimate adventurer's playground. The popular summer getaway for the affluent during the Gilded Age, today, its various accommodations and activities attest to anyone seeking to bike, kayak, hike, or fish in the greatest of the outdoors. For more scenic vistas, one must head to the town's West Street designated historic district with old architecture, while strolls along the pier offer sightings of the historic lighthouses. The Abbe Museum features the native history of the state, while the entertainment-seekers will enjoy concerts and art at the Village Green, which is also the starting point of the Great Meadow Loop hike for the active. For more adventures, there's "lobster hunting" and whale watching, while the Frenchman's Bay offers a self-guided walking tour marked with signs narrating Bar Harbor's history.
Brattleboro charms from the first glance of the picturesque locale sprawling the banks of the Connecticut River. Set quintessentially on the corner of three states, other unique things about the town include its beautiful spirit and a truly, one-of-kind name that no other place in the world has. Brattleboro appears picture-perfect at every turn, from the Creamery Covered Bridge erected in 1879 to the outstanding Brattleboro Farmers' Market supplied by local farms to offer fabulous lunch fare, fresh produce, bread, and pastries. Wintertime brings all snow-sports fans into the area, while an eclectic art program takes place throughout the year. The town's liberal counter-culture thinking is reflected in the gorgeous and artsy townscape with a local theater, a museum, an arts center, and local bands. The revitalized downtown is home to a great selection of restaurants, unique shops, and local pubs. A railroad depot transformed into the Brattleboro Art Museum hosts eight annual exhibitions with pieces by Andy Warhol, Wolf Kahn, and Janet Fish. The performing arts scene focused on classical music hosts the New England Bach Festival, and the winter Chamber Music Series, while its marquis venue is housed in the Marlboro Music School.
Camden is a must-visit seaside jewel on the coast of Maine that gets overrun by sailors and beach-goers during summer. The beguiling destination of art, dining, and outdoor vistas make Camden the epitome of Maine’s slogan, “the way life should be.” The Main Street, aligned with shops, galleries, boutiques, and restaurants, offers enviable views of the bustling waterfront back-dropped by the sapphire waters. Among the many beaches, there’s the notable Barret’s Cove fresh-water enclave into the Megunticook Lake that stays crowd-free even in the summer months. For an atmospherically scenic day, one must visit the pretty library set in the north end of Camden’s shopping district, inclusive with a lawn and benches overlooking the harbor-full of photogenic collection of schooners, sailboats, and yachts begging to be Instagrammed. For the most rewarding experience, Mount Battie comprises a 1.4-mile hike via a well-worn trail to the summit for the unmatched views from a hawk’s eye perspective of the whole Camden and the islands strewn around Penobscot Bay.
Kennebunkport was settled in the 1600s by ship-builders and wealthy sea captains and later chosen by President George H.W. Bush as his summer residence. The captains' legacy remains in the impeccable mansions on Maine's beautiful coast, with many converted into nostalgia-inducing inns offering tourists to stay in style. The exciting activities surrounded by the sea's immense beauty include whale watching and sailing excursions, while the shores await visitors with natural wonders of the Blowing Cave, Spouting Rock, and Goose Rocks Beach. The Dock Square, set focally in the vibrant downtown, overflows with restaurants, boutiques, and art galleries. To absorb the authentic vibe of the town, one must sit down at one of the patio cafes or head for dinner to the Clam Shack for some delectable fried clams and lobster rolls. South from the Brick Store Museum crowning the Main Street, there are more timeless structures of the Lexington Elms, Horace Porter House, and Benjamin Brown House dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The admirable Summer Street contains its own architectural array of fascinating Federal and Colonial buildings. For some scenic fun in the sun, the Gooch's Beach is lined conveniently along the Victorian-styled Beach Avenue, while the more remote three-mile sand stretch of the beautiful Goose Rocks Beach is only 10 minutes to the north.
The calm and exquisite Mystic, located along the Mystic River's shores, comes with a charming waterfront and a quaint downtown area that brims with Colonial period homes in-between interesting shops, galleries, and seafood eateries. On Main Street, one will find the infamous Mystic Pizza restaurant from the namesake pop culture movie of the late 1980s, along with the must-visit Franklin's General Store selling delectable homemade fudge. The town's picture-perfect Bascule Bridge is the most photographed bridge in the state, offering its own mesmerizing views over the river. Set in between New York City and Boston, the town was home to one of the most important seaports in the region that is now the state's top attraction. The picturesque Mystic Seaport is wonderfully-preserved as "living history," covering 19 acres along the river with indoor and outdoor exhibits, including an aquarium with penguins, sea lions, seals, and beluga whales. There's also one of the largest maritime museums in the country, with over 500 vessels, and the last remaining whaleship in the world. Four gigantic vessels comprise National Historic Landmarks that one can actually climb aboard and see the recreated village from the past.
Newport, Rhode Island
The shining coastal gem of Newport is truly spectacular at every turn, coming with atmospheric streets lined by architectural marvels and all bounded by endless sea waters. The famous Gilded Age mansions modeled after palaces in Europe reminisce of the time when the spectacular waterfront could only be attained by the incredibly wealthy. Now anyone can enjoy the bustling hub comprising a popular weekend getaway to see a whole range of historic sites, lighthouses, and interesting museums. The idyllic location is a favorite among the wine aficionados with three proximate wineries, while the magnificent seaside is flooded by yachting enthusiasts from all over the world. One can still indulge in the finer things in life by browsing the seaside boutiques and eating at the region’s top restaurants. The Colonial taverns offer atmospheric dining on the freshest seafood accompanied by the views of the deep harbor bristling with schooners and pleasure crafts. A visit to Newport would not be complete without paying homage to its broad, sandy beaches for relaxing to the sound of the waves rolling in from the racing yachts in the distance.
Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts
Right from a storybook cover, Oak Bluffs comes with unique, vibrant-colored gingerbread cottages lining the northern shore of the picturesque Martha’s Vineyard. The island location attracts many tourists to visit the beautiful beach town, veiled by the unique and interesting story behind its origin. Having evolved from a mid-19th-century Methodist campground into a tourist destination to the colorful present-day townscape, many of its houses have been family-owned for generations. The laidback and very walkable downtown is bounded by a stroll-worthy shoreline with beaches facing the Vineyard Sound. Known for minimal surf, the waters are ideally calm and warm for swimming, especially for the kids. In-town, one will find the oldest carousel in the nation, a nostalgic Flying Horses Carousel. Spinning from 1876, the highly-instagrammable national landmark is open from Easter Sunday through Columbus Day. If lucky, one will catch the scenery on that one night each summer when the Victorian cottages light up with Chinese lanterns for a truly New England confection of this lovely isle-set enclave.
Perched on the far tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown is set surrounded by striking sand dunes and more than 30 miles of beaches, as one of the most beautiful locales in the whole nation. Comprising a true playground for all the outdoor fans, the small town has also long been an art colony, started in 1914 through the collaboration of artists and businessmen. The Provincetown Art Association and Museum collected and showcased local works while promoting a place where people could express themselves through art without being judged. Having attracted many creative minds into the area, their legacy set the town in history as a place brimming with beautiful streets. The exquisite and colorful downtown comes with many galleries, historical mansions, great restaurants, cute fudge shops, and booksellers meant for endless perusing and people-watching. Painters, photographers, and others possessing the divine gift to create are still magnetically drawn to live or visit the town. When on locale, one must not miss the nature's work in motion that seduces the eye. Surrounded by water on three sides, the broad arc of the sun creates a diffuse illumination over the burst of Provincetown upfront, backed by vast sand dunes.
Being one of the smaller towns in New England, Woodstock appears right out of a Norman Rockwell painting, with a concentrated amount of beauty that shines oh-so-brightly. Set in the aptly named Green Mountains, the tree-lined township is bejeweled with covered bridges, wooden barns, and gorgeous homes, with many on the list of the National Register of Historic Places. Set surrounded by beautiful orchards, the well-preserved buildings include cider mills and local cheesemongers, such as the restored farmhouse-made Billings Farm and Museum known for selling fresh raw cheddar cheese. Among the plenty of boutiques, craft shops, antique stores, and booksellers, one will find a pretty library, as well as a classic Vermont general store, the FH Gillingham & Sons. The scenic Quechee Gorge just in the vicinity is a "gorges" enclave into the earth. Filled with clear waters of the sparkling river, it is easily accessible via a steep hike down for a refreshing swim on a hot summer's day.
These towns, made picture-perfect by the loving hands of Mother Nature, also contain nostalgia-inducing marvelous architecture that will not leave one unfazed. Forever holding onto the beautiful memory to take home, one must choose the next town to be impressed in a whole new way.