There’s nothing like getting outside on a good New England weather day to enjoy a picnic. It’s even better when the chosen location is full of scenery, peace and quiet. Here are 11 ideal free or low-cost picnic destinations in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont:
1. Colt State Park in Bristol, R.I., is situated on 464 acres and features sweeping views of the Narragansett Bay. You shouldn’t have any problem finding a picnic table here; there are 400 of them! After your picnic, enjoy one of the coastal walking trails or ride your bike along the four miles of bike path — or switch to the 14-mile East Bay Bike Path spanning from Bristol to Providence. More on Colt State Park
2. Cape Cod National Seashore on Cape Cod, Mass., might be an obvious choice for a picnic, but it really doesn’t get much better than this. Thirty miles of coast through several outer Cape Cod towns make Cape Cod National Seashore a true nature’s paradise — there’s plenty of room for everyone! Swimming beaches, dunes, lighthouses, nature trails and, yes, several picnic areas along the way (or just make your own on the sandy beach; even better!) help makes this uninterrupted stretch of Cape Cod simply magical! More on Cape Cod
3. Sohier Park at Cape Neddick, Maine, might not be a household name but it’s the home of Nubble Lighthouse. There are no picnic benches here, but it’s just as enjoyable having a picnic on the rocks where you’ll have an amazing view of Nubble Lighthouse. Fox’s Lobster House (opening the first week of May) is on the premises and does have picnic tables for customers that come here for some great lobster rolls and homemade ice cream! More on Sohier Park/Nubble Lighthouse
4. A picnic at the peak of 6,288 ft. of Mt. Washington in the White Mountains of New Hampshire requires planning ahead — try to pick a warm, clear summer day, although the weather around here can change in a heartbeat. The panoramic views are spectacular! I would say stick to summer for this picnic destination, as the spring and fall are too unpredictable. You can either hike or drive the Auto Toll Road. Always check weather conditions for Mt. Washington before visiting as weather conditions can become adverse at any time of the year! More on Mt Washington
5. You have to hike 1.6 miles upwards to reach Lonesome Lake Hut at Cannon Mountain in Franconia State Park, N.H., but the moderate efforts to get there are certainly worth it. The lake is beautiful and the times we have visited, not all that busy. I think the hikers stop here briefly “along the way” before reaching more challenging heights, so this is more of a family destination. What a beautiful spot for a picnic! You can take the trail from Lafayette Campground. Like Mt. Washington, I would pick a summer day to visit Lonesome Lake. More on New Hampshire travel
6. A picnic at Cadillac Mountain at Acadia National Park, Maine, is perhaps best experienced on a clear summer day before the sun goes down. No need for dessert here as your treat will be the spectacular colors of the sunsets — 1,500 above sea level with wonderful ocean-meets-mountains panoramic views, including Bar Harbor and the Cranberry Islands. More on Cadillac Mountain
7. Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam, Conn., features a castle that looks like a medieval fortress, and it’s available for touring from Memorial Day to Labor Day. I strongly recommend visiting the castle — it’s really one-of-a-kind — and, after that, finding a picnic table on the premises to enjoy the quiet, natural surroundings, including stunning views of the Connecticut River. There is camping at the park, as well as a concessions area. More on Gillette Castle State Park
8. The town common in Weston, Vt., will bring you into the “heart of Vermont” faster than any other place I know. This is quintessential New England — a classic small town New England town common surrounded by old homes, the famous Vermont Country Store and a feeling of a community from another era. Grab a blanket, picnic basket and enjoy the quint feeling of this beautiful Vermont downtown. More on Weston, Vt.
9. Let’s not forget our New England cities as a place to enjoy a picnic. Such is the case at the Boston Common and Public Garden in Boston, Mass., a marvelous oasis in the middle of the city with park benches, swan boat rides at the Boston Public Garden, free weekend concerts and the scenic Frog Pond. It’s a great place to take a stroll and enjoy the lush green grass and colorful plant life. What a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the city! Read about Boston Public Garden and the Swan Boat Rides
10. Halibut Point Reservation on Gott Rd. in Rockport, Mass., is one of the most beautiful spots in all of New England with its picturesque quarry, crashing waves, rocky coast and sweeping seascape views of, on a clear day, Crane Beach in Ipswich to Mount Agamenticus in Maine and the Isles of Shoals off the coast of New Hampshire. The Picnic tables area yields wonderful views of the quarry and the ocean in the distance. The land is managed and well-maintained by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Trustees of Reservation,
11. A short drive or mile walk up what is more like a big hill affords commanding views of the Connecticut River, Pioneer Valley, and Pelham and Berkshire Hills. Comes with picnic tables and a nominal fee for priceless views! More on Mt. Sugarloaf and this beautiful part of Massachusetts.