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Can't-Miss Scenic Drives in New England

Scenic New England drive along the Mohawk Trail in western Massachusetts 

Mohawk Trail in western Massachusetts

by Eric Hurwitz. Article updated on 7/12/2021

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From the ocean to the mountains, New England features some truly spectacular scenic drives. While we always recommend getting out to walk to truly enjoy the details of our region -- and get good exercise -- sometimes there's nothing like a nice, relaxing ride where one can enjoy a wide screen rolling view of the glory of scenic New England travel. Here are a few can't-miss scenic drives that best represent New England travel:

Route 169 from Woodstock to Canterbury, Connecticut

Scenic drive in Woodstock, Connecticut -- the Quiet Corner of Connecticut

Route 169 in Woodstock

With nearly 200 pre-1855 homes along with farms, historic churches and classic Connecticut village green centers, Route 169 is one of New England's true hidden gem scenic rides. The gentle rolling hills, historic landmarks and roll-down-the-windows-and-feel-good breeze of this scenic byway make Route 169 one of the most beautiful bucolic drives in New England

Acadia National Park Loop, Acadia National Park, Maine

Scenic drive at Acadia National Park, Maine

Beyond scenic Acadia National Park. Credit: NPS / Kristi Rugg

Perhaps the ultimate can't-miss scenic drive in New England, this 27-mile loop offers truly spectacular Atlantic Ocean views. Driving the loop is breathtaking enough with its incredible sunsets, amazing Maine rocky coast and the mix of ocean and mountains, but we strongly suggest getting out of the car to climb Gorham Mountain, you get an incredible view of the glacial blue Atlantic Ocean and Thunder Hole, with its waves creating a sonic boom. Sand Beach, just under 300 yards long, may be short in distance, but endless in beauty -- so untouched and so small and intimate is this wonder of nature that it makes you wish that you could bring this environment home.  Also noteworthy is the view of fjords along Sergeant's Drive in Northeast Harbor (pictured above).

Route 6A Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Scenic drive in Sandwich (Cape Cod)

Scenic Sandwich Harbor right off Route 6A

The salt-air, tree-lined Route 6A hugging the ocean with its captain's homes, fine New England restaurants and charming bed and breakfasts bring us back to the Cape Cod we remember -- not the commercial laden strips that threaten this beloved New England vacation destination. Scenic Route 6A, also known as the Old King's Highway, stretches 34 miles through endless scenes of salt marshes, harbors and seemingly endless open land in esteemed New England communities like Bourne, Sandwich, Barnstable, Yarmouth, Dennis, Brewster and Orleans. You're sure "to fall in love with Old Cape Cod" in this 34-mile stretch of travel heaven. It is, simply, one of the best coastal scenic drives in New England.

Lake Winnipesaukee scenic drive, New Hampshire

Scenic New England drive in Meredith NH

Meredith with Lake Winnipesaukee providing breathtaking scenery no matter what time of the year

If you're in the mood to see some of New England most charming towns and villages, along with one of eastern United States, most stunning lakes, then the Lake Winnipesaukee drive will leave you breathless. Small, unassuming communities like Meredith, Center Harbor, Moltonborough, and Wolfeboro all have a scenic lake presence and plenty to do in the form of swimming, shopping, dining, lodging and, of course, picture taking. There are many great roads trips in the area, but recommended is Route 3 to Meredith, Route 25 to Moutlenborough and Routes 117 and 109 to Wolfeboro.

Ocean Drive, Newport, Rhode Island

Ocean Drive at sunset in Newport RI

Ocean Drive in Newport

The scenic mansions along Bellevue Avenue is what Newport, R.I., is best known for, but around the corner is a short loop called Ocean Drive, which affords some commanding coastal views. The whole 10-mile drive is breathtaking with many stopping for the spectacular views at Brenton Point State Park where Narragansett Bay meets with the Atlantic Ocean. Beside the views, Brenton Point State Park is also a great place for picnics, walking, bird watching and fishing. Ultimately, Ocean Drive is truly one of those "you just had to be there" destinations -- the written word cannot fully describe the instantly memorable panoramic scenic coastal glory.

Jeffersonville to Stowe, Vermont

Scenic New England drive in Stowe Vermont

Stowe, Vt., in the summer (Photo source;

Jeffersonville could very well be the ultimate New England town with beautiful old colonial homes, antique shops, art galleries, and general stores. Jeffersonville has a great feel to it, something that has to be experienced. Over a rugged, scenic notch where the weather can change in a heartbeat during any season is the popular and appealing village of Stowe. Stowe with great little shops, superb and diverse dining choices, state-of-the art ski facilities and some of the best lodging in New England. What matters most, however, is that despite all the development, Stowe still feels like a small, relaxed village. With that in mind, there's no better time to visit Stowe than in the fall when the leaves in this picturesque village turn brilliant colors. The beautiful views of Mt. Mansfield (the highest elevation in the state) and long and winding roads featuring farms, cows and beautiful open land lend a true New England feel. We highly recommend taking a stroll through the village or using the ideally- located bike path, marveling at the postcard-perfect classic Vermont surroundings, and reveling in some of the best foliage in New England.

Kancamagus Scenic Byway, Conway to Lincoln,  New Hampshire

Scenic Drive, Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire

Kancamagus Highway. Photo courtesy of Ellen Edersheim/White Mountains Attractions

This 34-mile highway in the heart of the White  Mountains, is best known for some of New England's most spectacular fall foliage. It's very impressive the rest of the year, too, with wonderful forest and mountains views. The Kancamagus Scenic Byway spans from Lincoln to Conway -- two attraction-filled, scenic regions in the White Mountains.

Mohawk Trail, Route 2, Mid to Western Massachusetts

Scenic New England drive in Williamstown MA 

Idyllic Williamstown, in the heart of the Berkshires

The 100 miles from Shirley to Williamstown, MA, might not be all peaches and cream, but the overall purity and honesty of the small towns, village greens is what makes small-town America so special. It's an area with pleasing small to mid-level mountain views in the Berkshires, several state parks, restaurants, farm stands, apple orchards, maple sugar houses, and family motels. As the first scenic road in New England -- officially opening in 1914 --the Mohawk Trail's greatest driving tour starts in Lanesborough and extends 26 miles  up Mt. Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts at 3,491 ft. (the road is closed in the winter, but reopens in spring). Other highlights: Williamstown, home of Williams Colege, is a neatly manicured, Norman Rockwell-like small town gem. Deerfield features a mile of beautiful old homes on Main Street, and is the home of the famous Deerfield Academy prep school and the landmark Deerfield Inn for old-fashioned New England lodging.

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