Hidden New England: Destinations to Discover That Will Seem Like
Sakonnet Point, Little Compton, R.I.
by Eric Hurwitz. Article updated on 11/07/16
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When visiting New England, we suggest considering taking
the road less taken. While most of the well-known areas in New England
gets lots of press in the media and in travel guides, there are a gold
mine of other destinations you can call your own special discovery.
Some of these places encourage overnight stays while others are better
as day trips. Whatever the case, these communities confirm that
"authentic New England" still exists in an area where some surrounding
places are becoming overly hyped and over commercialized:
-- This quiet, small
upscale town near the Connecticut River exemplifies the charm of
Connecticut, looking like something out of a Hollywood movie portraying
the region. Main Street is quite picturesque with its tall white
steeples and limited but nice variety of restaurants and shops.
Combined with equally impressive Essex, Old Saybrook, Old Lyme and the
lower profile but pleasing Deep River, Chester makes for a very nice
stop along the way in south central Connecticut.
Lebanon -- There's not much
going on in the 55 square miles in Lebanon other than agriculture, but
if you like town commons, then this is the place to visit. The charming
village green is almost one mile in length, making it a must-see for
those seeking scenery, tranquility and a real New England presence.
Located in east central Connecticut, Lebanon is less than an hour to
Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun (casinos).
Pomfret -- Pomfret could very
well be the prototype for a quintessential New England town. Located in
the "Quiet Corner of Connecticut," Pomfret doesn't really have a
defined town center but the Congregational Church, the lush, expansive
town green and the leafy Pomfret School across the street give the town
a classic New England look. Also near the town green is the Vanilla Bean Cafe, a cozy,
1840s farmhouse ideal for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Even nicer, they
have outdoor seating so you can enjoy the wonderful small town vibe of
this hidden gem of a town.
Biddeford Pool -- Biddeford in
southern coastal Maine is primarily an industrial town with some
cleaning up to do, but the Biddeford Pool section ranks as of New
England's best scenic coastal drives, courtesy of the rocky Maine
coast, a two-mile sandy beach, sailing opportunities and spectacular
ocean homes. We recommend touring Biddeford Pool, as part of your
vacation in Portland, Old Orchard Beach, Kennebunkport or Ogunquit.
Blue Hill Peninsula --
Shipbuilding and trading by sea put Blue Hill on the map from 1792 to
the late 1800s. Today, quaint Blue Hill Peninsula is one of the
quintessential coastal Maine regions, graced by the sea and small
charming villages (Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville, Castine,
Penobscot, Sedgwick and Deer Isle/Stonington) with antique stores, art
galleries, old inns and restaurants with wonderful seafood. Blue Hill
can stand on its own as a great Maine vacation, or as a day trip
complementing a vacation in beautiful Camden or Acadia National Park.
South Berwick -- Located on the
NEw Hampshire border and close to southern coastal Maine towns like
Kittery and York, South Berwick is a classic, well-maintained mill town
that features appealing older homes in well-kept tree-lined
neighborhoods and a small friendly downtown with a few shops and
restaurants and overall village-like vibe. South Berwick might sound
like many other New England towns, in that regard, but also wears a
bowtie as the home of the prestigious Berwick Academy prep school. A
true hidden New England destination, you have to drive about 10 miles
off Route 95 to enter this truly beautiful little town.
Southwest Harbor -- Bar Harbor
gets most of the press when it comes to Acadia National Park, but
Southeast Harbor has its own charm that is preferable to visit in many
ways. It's less commercial, has fewer crowds, doesn't pander to the
souvenir crowd and offers great access to the purest mountain/ocean
combination that makes Acadia National Park so special.
Lee -- This small Berkshire
town used to be considered a stop along the way whether it was the
highway Howard Johnson's or getting gasoline -- but Lee has emerged as
one of the most pleasing destinations in western Massachusetts. Scenic
and cultural (nearby is the famed Tanglewood Music Festival and several
museums and theater companies), Lee is located in the valley of the
Housatonic River between the Taconic Range and the southernmost extent
of the Green Mountains. What emerges from this location are splendid
mountain and hill views, fine lake swimming at Laurel Lake, and a fine
variety of restaurants and inns. Not as high profile as Lenox and
Williamstown (both great places in their own regards), Lee is an unsung
hero, of sorts, beautiful to look at and fun to be in.
Pocassett (Cape Cod) -- Just 10
minutes over the Bourne Bridge, Pocassett is the Cape Cod that people
envision -- with less crowded ocean swimming, places to take a peaceful
walks in the salt-air, and charming seaside Cape homes with families
having cookouts. Pocasset has very little to do with the honky-tonk,
hectic, busy Cape Cod that is becoming increasingly apparent. It's also
an advantage that you don't have to drive too far into Cape Cod to get
the region's true flavor.
Scituate -- This is Cape Cod
without the traffic, and going over bridges. On the ocean 30 miles
south of Boston, Scituate has the beaches, a lighthouse, great
seafood/seaside restaurants, a terrific downtown with interesting local
shops and charming Cape-style homes to make it one of the great Cape
Cod communities that isn't even on Cape Cod. We recommend the Mill
Wharf Restaurant as a great New England dining spot with wonderful
views of Scituate Harbor and fresh seafood that is second to none.
West Brookfield -- West
Brookfield, in central Massachusetts, remains unspoiled and scenically
beautiful with large colonial, federal and Victorian homes centered
around a huge town common where the community comes together for events
ranging from little league baseball to a Christmas festival. It is also
home to the famed Salem
Cross Inn, a historic Colonial New England restaurant with some
wonderful regional fare and ambiance. West Brookfield is a small,
isolated town, void of much development but big in community spirit.
West Brookfield was once known as Podunk, which just about explains it
all in regards to its rural presence.
Wrentham -- Marvel at scenic at
Lake Pearl, enjoy a classic New England farm stand and its beautiful
countryside at the Big Apple and walk the tree-lined small downtown
including a diner, ice cream shop, candy store, Italian deli,
old-fashioned hardware store, banks housed in big, old homes and one of
the nicest New England town commons around with a beautiful gazebo.
It's the perfect New England place to have a picnic or read a book.
Wrentham is a great day trip from Boston or Providence.
Bristol -- Not impressed with
becoming flashy and trendy, Bristol looks and feels old with a
serviceable, homey downtown and the great advantage of being located on
beautiful Newfound Lake. Near the famed White Mountains, Bristol is
highly recommended as a launching pad to this great region of north
central New Hampshire.
Dover -- Dover, near the
southern New Hampshire seacoast, offers a truly impressive revitalized
attractive downtown with myriad restaurants and shops, and a
concentration of big, old impressive homes. While not a pristine
community, Dover has enough downtown appeal to recommend as part of a
visit to more vacation-like places as nearby Portsmouth, N.H. Hampton
Beach, N.H., and York, Maine. Dover is New Hampshire's oldest permanent
settlement (1623) and is home to the Woodman Institute, the only
Garrison in New Hampshire in its original form (from 1818).
Milford -- With a town common
as the centerpiece of a downtown recognized nationally as displaying
excellence in preservation, Milford looks very familiar but somehow
harder to find in a generic, cookie cutter society. It is the place to
grab a donut and cup of coffee at the local breakfast place, say hello
to each other on the street, and pretty much do all your shopping
through local merchants. It's nice to see that towns like Milford still
exist. It also doesn't hurt that Milford is wonderfully located, near
the great Mt. Monadnock region and terrific Currier and Ives-like towns
like Peterborough and Keene.
Little Compton -- A rural
farming community by the sea, Little Compton in southeast coastal Rhode
Island is one of the last true examples of a a New England Colonial
atmosphere tradition without the need to sell t-shirts and trinkets on
their historic presence. With the only town common in Rhode Island,
Little Compton features a compact downtown with some stores, the famous
Commons Lunch featuring Johnny Cakes (cornbread), several pleasing farm
stands, Goosewing Beach for recreation, and in Adamsville, Gray's,
which might be the oldest continuously running general store in the
United States. Sakonnet Point offers a great, expansive view of the
Atlantic Ocean. Little Compton has many fine examples of 18th and 19th
century colonial architecture, with a few 17th century structures
remaining. Little Compton is also home to Sakonnet Wineries, the
largest winery in New England. It may or may not be of interest that
Little Compton is the only place in the United States that has a
monument in tribute to a chicken -- the Rhode Island Red, originally
bred in Adamsville, a part of Little Compton.
Tiverton Four Corners --
Tiverton Four Corners in southeast coastal Rhode Island is on the
National Register of Historic Places and today features a relaxed,
different feel from the typical tourist destinations that rely on
commercial trappings to attract visitors. Tiverton Four Corners does
have its share of nicely run shops (art galleries, clothing, toys, home
and garden, yarn, etc.), restaurants and a famed ice cream stand
(Gray's), but the predominant appeal of Tiverton Four Corners is how
uncommercial the area feels. Riding the bike trail, going to the beach,
taking in the fresh air and admiring the 300 years of historic places
(like the proud 1800s buildings) is unlike almost any other experience
in southern New England. Other towns may have the parts that Tiverton
Four Corners has, but perhaps because of its relative isolation and
lack of promotion, this special Rhode Island community has a place in
our hearts as one of New England's true masterpieces.
Warren -- This eastern Rhode
Island coastal town -- located upon the east bank of the Warren River,
an arm of the Narragansett Bay-- used to look pretty shabby, but now
has an imperfect chic charm to it with antique stores, nice dining
choices and a working class spirit that makes this community seem so
real. Warren is a perfect complement to a vacation in the better known,
close-by Rhode Island communities of Newport and Bristol
Grafton -- A creek meandering
through the Village and houses, shops and churches dressed in 19th
century architecture create a relaxing southeastern Vermont community,
the perfect getaway for your Vermont vacation. Grafton is home of the
Old Tavern at Grafton, a famous restored 1801 inn with quaint lodging
and dining for those in search of staying in quintessential Vermont.
Newfane -- Mick Jagger might
have vacationed here and it's one of the most photographed areas of
Vermont, but Newfane doesn't feel rushed, trendy or precious. It is a
true Vermont town -- validated by being listed on the National Register
of Historic Places -- perfect for strolling, biking, swimming, shopping
at the country store and picking berries in the summer, enjoying the
spectacular fall foliage in the fall, nearby skiing in the winter at
nearby Haystack, Mt. Snow and Stratton Mountains, and visiting a maple
sugar house in the spring.
Wilmington is somewhat popular, we still consider it a hidden gem when
compared to better known Vermont vacation communities such as
Killington and Stowe. Wilmington, located in the Deerfield Valley in
southwestern Vermont's Green Mountains, doesn't initially jump out at
you as an unforgettable place. It may seem, in fact, like your
hometown. But after a while, Wilmington grows on you. Perhaps its the
surrounding beautiful countryside with mountain views everywhere. Maybe
it's the pristine Harriman Reservoir, perfect for a mountain family
swim or picnic in a perfectly secluded area. It could be the downtown
-- not too big, not too small -- with enough restaurants and shops to
keep busy yet not hurried. Whatever the case, Wilmington pleases the
soul as a total vacation package that doesn't even know it's a great
travel destination. That is the charm of Wilmington.rue test of a good
restaurant is when the children of
grandparents and parents continue a tradition of eating at that given
restaurant through the generations.
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