Going on a road trip through New England has to be one of the best ways to experience the region! With your own vehicle, you’ll be able to go wherever you want, stay where you like, and see whatever you fancy.
New England has been charming visitors for a long time. Of all of the regions in the USA, New England has some the richest history (being the birthplace of the nation and all), some of the most exciting locals, and best seafood, period.
And the fall foliage in New England? What more can be said about this phenomenon that hasn’t be said by dozens of movies – it’s simply one of the most romantic sights in the USA.
New England is by no means cheap nor easy to travel without some guidance. In order to see the best of New England, and not drop a fortune while doing so, you’re going to need a little assistance.
Don’t worry – we have the insider information you need for an EPIC road trip in New England in this travel guide.
Written by our road-trip experts, native Americans, and full-time travelers, this guide covers everything you need to know about visiting New England by car or campervan.
We’ll show you exactly how to stick to a budget, tell you about the best things in New England, and give you plenty of ideas and itineraries so you can easily plan out your entire trip!
So what are we waiting for?! Let’s get the ball rolling on that New England road trip!
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A road trip through New England ain’t going to be cheap, folks. With the high costs of living and high demand, New England has some of the steepest hotel rates and dining prices in the USA.
That’s no reason not to visit New England in the first place though! You have us, after all. 🙂
We at The Broke Backpacker are constantly looking for new ways to save on travel and have a whole repertoire of useful tips to share with y’all. Even if we are unable to travel for $10/day like in our favorite countries (let’s be real here), we can at least help you minimize expenses to the utmost degree.
The average daily budget for a New England road trip is between $200-$250 – this includes gas, a rental car, lodging, food, drink, and entry fees.
On any road trip, New England or otherwise, the largest cost will be gas. This expense will always sneak up on you because it can be difficult to properly gauge how much you will actually use.
Lodging is also expensive in New England. Try and camp out as much as possible to lower your daily budget significantly. Take advantage of the cheaper public campsites and occasional backcountry site, which are sometimes free. Stay in hostels as well – they’re not so bad in New England.
Food costs are something you can control as you will have the option of cooking cheaply at home or the campsite. Dining is expensive in New England so be picky about how many lobsters you eat and clam bakes you attend.
Below is a breakdown of the average costs of a road trip in New England.
Average Costs of a New England Road Trip
Below is a list of sample New England road trip routes. Varying from 4 to 14 days in length, they cover many of the top destinations in New England. Each itinerary provides day-by-day highlights, which are meant to give you some good New England road trip ideas.
4-Day New England Road Trip Itinerary: Boston and the Cape
4 Days: Boston and the Cape
Arrive in Boston via Logan International Airport or by other means. Once you’re checked into your lodge and settled in, get ready to see the town!
Our Boston itinerary includes a visit to downtown Boston to see:
- Fenway Park
- The Freedom Trail
- Acorn Street
- North End
- Trinity Church
- Boston Commons
After that, head to bed because the next day we start again!
Today you’ll be getting off the beaten path in Boston.
- Southend for an authentic Bostonian experience
- Cambridge for Harvard and MIT
- East Boston for good food and views
- Walden Pond for transcendental fans
- Bunker Hill for history
Today we’re officially starting the drive, so have your car organized for a road trip to Cape Cod. Start driving on Highway 6 and then transfer to Highway 3 prior to the Cape Cod Canal. Once you’ve arrived, find your Cape Cod lodge/campsite and get set up.
Next, we’ll explore the Cape. Activities include:
- Beach time
- Charming settlements
- Trinket shopping
- Historical landmarks
- Biking and hiking
This is the last day of your short road trip from Boston. You can opt for a few different choices today.
Either consider visiting Nantucket Island or Martha Vineyard via the ferry. If not though, you can continue exploring the island and seeing what’s around.
When all is said and done, pack your things for a late flight in the evening or a flight the next day.
7 Day New England Road Trip Itinerary: New England’s Best Fall Foliage
7 Days: New England’s Best Fall Foliage
- Arrive at Logan International and organize your car; skip this if you’re coming by road from elsewhere.
- Hit the road immediately and head west on the I-90 and I-84 for Hartford, CT.
- Pass Hartford and continue onto the Litchfield Hills in West Connecticut.
- Spend the night in Kent, Cromwell or elsewhere.
- Admire the foliage.
- Depart from your lodge and head north on I-7 through the Housatonic Valley; red and gold foliage in abundance.
- Arrive at the junction between I-7 and Highway 2 near Williamstown.
- Highway 2 is colloquially referred to the Mohawk Trail, which offers some of the best of New England as well as excellent fall colors.
- Stay nearby and drive along the 2 to your heart’s desire.
- Drive on the Mohawk Trail if you haven’t already.
- When ready, head for the Green Mountains of Vermont via I-7 again.
- Drive through the Green Mountains until Burlington.
- Grab a beer and chill for the night.
Today is a long but rewarding day.
- Depart from Burlington and head for Cambridge, VT.
- Hit the 108 and Smuggler’s Notch for excellent mountain views and foliage.
- Make your way east towards Bath, New Hampshire.
- Turn onto Highway 112 before Bath, which is the beginning of the Kancamagus Highway.
- Continue onto Lincoln, admiring the scenery along the way.
- Stay in Lincoln or elsewhere in the White Mountains.
- Finish the Kancamagus Highway (112), which terminates at Conway.
- Head north upon reaching Conway on Highway 16.
- Enjoy Mt Washington and the White Mountains in fall color.
- Turn onto I-2 and then again onto 113 to reach Evans Notch.
- Finish up and head south towards Portland for the night.
- Drive to Acadia National Park, which is one of the best places for fall foliage in New England.
- Make a tour around Mt Desert Island and get a full dose of autumn splendor and coastline.
- Spend the night around Acadia or back in Portland.
- Consider spending the night in Camden as there is excellent foliage here.
- Pack up and head back to Boston.
- Spend the day exploring the city.
- Get ready to depart that evening or the next day.
14-Day New England Road Trip Itinerary: Ultimate New England
14 Days: Ultimate New England Road Trip
Follow the first East Coast itinerary listed here except instead of returning to Boston at the end of day 4, relax and stay the night in Cape Cod. We’ll be moving on from there the next day…
- Depart from Cape Cod and hit I-6, which will take you all the way to Providence, Rhode Island.
- Explore the city and its architecture.
- Be sure to drop by one of the many breweries and brewpubs.
- Spend the night in or around Providence.
- Wake up and head directly for Newport via Highway 114.
- Spend the day exploring the opulent town.
- Be sure to visit the many mansions and estates as well as Fort Adams in the south.
- Depart when you’re ready.
- Drop by Narragansett for some beach time if you have time.
- Stop in Old Saybrook for the night or continue onto New Haven.
- Depart from your lodge and make your way north.
- Head to the state capital Hartford.
- Be sure to see one of the many waterfalls around including:
- Wadsworth Falls
- Buttermilk Falls
- Kent Falls
- Settle in Hartford for some culture and good partying or…
- Head to Litchfield Hills for a quieter night.
- Make your way up Knowledge Corridor or Housatonic Valley towards Vermont.
- Be sure to drop by the Mohawk Trail in Northwest Massachusetts for some scenery and history.
- Hit highway 7 and make the long drive to Burlington.
- Reward your hard work today with a beer.
- Spend the day exploring the Green Mountains of Vermont.
- Activities include…
- Climbing the Camel’s Hump.
- Hiking around Mt Mansfield.
- Check out Smuggler’s Notch.
- Rafting on the Mad River.
- Spend the night in Burlington again.
- Depart from Burlington and head east towards Lincoln, New Hampshire via I-89.
- Arrive in the White Mountains and settle into whatever lodge/campground you have booked.
- Spend the remainder of the day in the mountains.
- Flume Gorge
- Mt Washington
- Franconia Notch
- Arethusa Falls
- Lonesome Lake
- If you arrived early enough, considering overnighting in a backcountry campsite.
- Wake up and knock off any remaining activities.
- Consider doing the full-day Presidential Traverse but, full-warning, it’s quite arduous.
- Lay your head down for the night, preferably around a campfire with a drink.
- Depart from the White Mountains and travel on Highway 302 to Portland, Maine.
- You may arrive in Portland early so consider if you want to stay here or move further up the coast towards…
- If you stay in Portland, visit the many maritime landmarks, trinket shops, and breweries.
- Spend the day exploring Acadia National Park.
- Activities include…
- Taking a road trip around Mt Desert Island.
- Climbing Cadillac Mountain.
- Visiting Jordan Pond.
- Relaxing on Sand Beach.
- Walking around Bar Harbor.
- Head to your lodge for the night.
- Pack up and head back to Boston.
- Spend the day exploring the city.
- Get ready to depart that evening or the next day.
Check out our Backpacking USA Travel Guide for inspiration, itineraries, budget tips, and more!
Below is a list of the best road trip destinations in New England. Study them well and decide which ones you like the most.
Road Trip to Boston
Boston is the largest city in New England and, honestly, one of the coolest cities in the entire United States. With gorgeous architecture, some of America’s most important history, and hugely diverse demographics, there’s little chance you’ll run out of things to do in Boston.
Downtown Boston – the area with all the skyscrapers – is where you’ll find the majority of the city’s attractions. Notable points of interest in Boston Downtown include Fenway Park, the Trinity Church, Boston Commons, Acorn Hill, and the North End. You could easily hit all of these places in a few hours by walking.
North across the Charles River is Cambridge, home to the famously exclusive Harvard College and MIT. Both campuses are worth visiting – the former for traditional architecture and the latter for ultra-modern. The whole of Cambridge is pretty affluent, being inhabited by students and leaders in tech, but thankfully doesn’t suffer from too much snootiness.
South Boston is the home of the “southies” aka those people that sound like Matt Damon from Good Will Hunting. Aside from the impressive JFK Library, there isn’t a whole lot to do here besides people watch, which is, admittedly, awesome.
Finally, across the Boston Channel and next to Logan International is East Boston, which is where most of the immigrants live. These means this is one of the best places in Boston to grab food! The views ain’t bad either.
While you’re travelling around Boston, be sure to also get outside of the city of as well! The historical city of Concord, as well as the hallowed Walden Pond, are both worth a day trip.
Road Trip to Cape Cod and the Islands
Cape Cod is a large, prominent peninsula located south of Boston. It is an immensely popular getaway destination due in part to its extensive coastline and profuseness of quaint coastal towns.
Combined with the ever-enchanting Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island, both located nearby, and you have an assembly of some of the best of New England.
Cape Cod is a very large region, surprisingly so, and is broken into several districts. Because of its size, history, and prosperity, Cape Codians are very proud of their home and consider it more than just a tourist destination. There are loads of great places to stay in Cape Cod, if you fancy extending your trip!
There are several charming towns on Cape Cod that are worth visiting. Hyannis is most notable for the Kennedy Compound, which served as the holiday home for JFK and his family, as well the enormous Beech Tree on Main Street.
Fans of Kurt Vonnegut may also be interested in nearby Barnstable as it was his home for several decades. Affluent Chatham has one of the best lighthouses and local baseball teams on the Cape (Cape Codians are crazy for the sport).
Finally, Provincetown is famous for its artsy and expressive LGBT community.
Most everyone comes to Cape Cod to play in the sea as the peninsula has some of the best beaches in New England. Make no mistake, there are a lot of them too.
Stunning stretches of sand can be found at Nauset Beach, Lighthouse Beach, Sandy Neck Beach, Mayflower Beach, and pretty anywhere else along the Cape Cod National Shoreline Park. You may get lucky and even see a migrating humpback whale!
No road trip to Cape Cod is complete without a trip to Nantucket Island or Martha’s Vineyard – both are among the most desirable places to visit in New England, during summer especially so.
Martha’s Vineyard is full of grand residences for the rich as well as picturesque beaches. Nantucket is similar to Martha’s Vineyard but smaller and quieter. You can catch a ferry to either at Hyannis.
Road Trip to Rhode Island
Rhode Island has a little bit of everything. The largest city, Providence, is often considered a good alternative to Boston, and the surrounding state offers quintessential scenery including rugged coastline, quaint townships, and, of course, the fall foliage New England is so beloved for.
Providence is the third largest city in New England. For a long time, Providence had a bad reputation for being sketchy, crime-ridden, and corrupt but, following massive economic pushes, is currently undergoing an urban renaissance. It’s now a very appealing city thanks to its history with a bustling college scene, solid nightlife, and heaps of stuff to do.
Providence is a small city so getting around on a foot is a very reasonable task. Walk around and take note of the diverse architecture. Be sure to see the State House, the eclectic Brown University, the restored Arcade, and the First Baptist Church, among others, for a lesson in American architectural history.
For a languid afternoon, try visiting one of the many museums and/or parks in Providence. Certain neighborhoods, like Federal Hill, College Hill, and Downcity all offer nice urban panoramas as well. End your day at one of the many breweries in the city.
Rhode Island’s other noteworthy city is Newport. An opulent town, full of mansions and elegant avenues, Newport is a prime example of New England decadence. Rosecliff estate served as a setting in the recent Great Gatsby film and its neighbors – The Beakers and Marble House – are equally grandiose.
There is a thriving art scene in Newport and jazz, in particular, is praised here. There is an awesome jazz festival at Fort Adams. Festival or not, Fort Adams is worth seeing because it is one of the most important historical structures in New England.
Newport has many beautiful city beaches including Bailey’s, Easton, and Gooseberry. To see some real contenders for “best beaches in New England,” head across the Jamestown Verrazano Bridge to Narragansett.
Coastal Connecticut Road Trip
Connecticut is an eclectic state visited often by both New Englanders and New Yorkers, the latter of which only live a short train ride away. It is a popular getaway for city folk who need a break from the grind and some time in rural New England.
With a lovely coastline, romantic countryside, and a number of dynamic cities, Connecticut is a great stop along any New England road trip route. usa
Connecticut can be broke down roughly into three parts: the coast, the “Knowledge Corridor,” and the countryside. This section will cover coastal Connecticut.
Driving west along Highway 95 from Rhode Island, you’ll pass by some of the most beautiful beach towns in New England. Stonington is a good place to learn about the maritime history of the state – at the Old Lighthouse Museum – as well as marine life at the Mystic Aquarium.
Old Saybrook is one of the prettiest coastal towns in Connecticut and is also a stone’s throw away from Gillette Castle. On the way to New Haven is Hammonasset Beach, which is the longest and busiest beach in the state.
New Haven marks the beginning of a long stretch of urban development that spans all the way to New York state.
New Haven is most famous for Yale University, which is arguably the top attraction in the city. Being a college town, New Haven has a great art scene and nightlife. The pizza is also particularly good in this town.
As we continue further west along 95, we’ll pass by many more beautiful New England towns. There’s quiet Milford, which has a great beach called Silver Sands.
Next, you’ll pass through industrial Bridgeport. After that is upscale Stamford, glorified dockyard for millionaires from New York (there are some good beaches as well).
Finally, you’ll end up in Greenwich, which is one of the most admired towns in New England, due in part to its beauty and close proximity to New York.
Road Trip through Connecticut and Massachusetts
The interior of Connecticut is dominated by the Knowledge Corridor, which hosts one of the densest collections of higher learning institutions, not to mention one of the largest populations in New England.
Travel outside this packed area and you’ll find some of some of the best of New England pastoralism including traditional townships, rolling hills, and a distinctive tranquility. Visiting either on a New England road trip provides excellent insight into the region.
Let’s start with the quieter section – the western part of Connecticut referred to as the Litchfield Hills. This part of the state is very rural with few inhabitants and even fewer visitors.
There are a number of beautiful New England towns here, including Kent, Cornwall, and New Milford, as well some lovely natural attractions like Kent Falls, Burr Pond, Candlewood Lake, and Mohawk Mountain. These are also some of the best places to visit in New England in the fall.
Moving along to our main destination, we first make for Hartford, Connecticut’s state capital and the beginning of the Knowledge Corridor. Hartford is considered one of the great culture capitals of the region.
There are several libraries and art collections dedicated to various historical figures, including Mark Twain, spread throughout the city. Reportedly, West Hartford also has a fairly active nightlife.
Outside of Hartford are a number of parks worth visiting. Examples include Enders State Forest/Falls, Buttermilk Falls, and Wadsworth Falls.
We continue our New England road trip north on Highway 91 through the Connecticut River Valley. This is the heart of the Knowledge Corridor, a title which refers to the huge concentration of colleges and universities in the area. This corridor runs all the way into Massachusetts and terminates in Springfield.
Springfield is a great city full of Victorian architecture and some of the coolest museums in New England. Be sure to visit the NBA Hall of Fame, if you’re interested in sports, as well as the Dr. Seuss Sculpture Museum, if you had a childhood.
Vermont Road Trip
True to its nickname, Vermont aka The Green Mountain State is a wild wonderland and a favorite playground for New England outdoors people. With some awesome skiing and hiking in addition to several fall foliage drives, which are among the best in New England, Vermont is a great escape from the more developed CT, MA, and RI.
Starting in the south of Vermont, you’ll first arrive at the mountains from which the state gets its name, the Green Mountains. A subrange of the Appalachia, the Green Mountains are home to the state’s highest peaks as well as the best mountain activities.
Some of the best ski resorts in Vermont are Sugarbush, Stowe Mountain, Killington, Mount Snow, and Jay Peak. Though the slopes aren’t as epic as say those in Colorado or Oregon, they still get dumped on with snow and have decent runs.
If skiing isn’t your bag, why not try portions of the Green Mountain Long Trail? This extension of the Appalachian Trail is noteworthy for hitting all the range’s highest peaks but is, for this reason, difficult at times.
Casual hikers and campers can also take advantage of the many free backcountry campsites. Or, check out Airbnbs in Vermont for something more cosy and comfortable.
Other natural attractions worth visiting in Vermont are the Mad River, Quechee Gorge, Camel’s Hump, and the many gorgeous lakes – most notably Lake Willoughby and Lake Champlain.
Montpellier is the state capital of Vermont though Burlington is the largest and most exciting in the state.
Burlington is famous for being a hippy town as well as drop dead gorgeous because it lies on the banks of Lake Champlain. Burlington makes for an excellent base for exploring Vermont’s outdoor spaces as well as a good place to get a drink.
Like any good liberal college town, Burlington has plenty of bars, and the breweries, in particular, are excellent.
Road Trip to New Hampshire
New Hampshire is very similar to Vermont in that it’s mostly visited for its epic settings and free-spirited culture. With the highest peak in all of New England, Mt Washington, as well as the beautiful White Mountains, New Hampshire is another great New England road trip destination for adventurous travelers.
If you’re on a summer New England road trip, then you’ll obviously want to hit the trails in New Hampshire. This state has some of the best hikes in New England in addition to some decent summits.
As previously mentioned Mt Washington is the highest peak in New England and can be sumitted in a day either by foot or by cog train (that’s cheating though). Be mindful of foul weather.
New Hampshire’s Mt Monadnock is argued to be the second most climbed peak in the world next to Mt Fuji, but many don’t count Monadnock because it has no glacier. (Mt Hood in Oregon is the second most climbed glaciated peak in the world.)
Another rewarding and arduous hike is the Presidential Traverse where you navigate across 11 of the state’s highest peaks. Also consider visiting Lake Winnipesaukee, Franconia Notch, Arethusa Falls, Lonesome Lake, and the Flume Gorge.
Those on a winter or spring New England road trip will be happy to hear the skiing is also quite good in New Hampshire. Popular ski resorts include Loon Mountain, Bretton Woods, Cannon Mountain, and Waterville Valley.
New Hampshire is pretty sparsely populated and there aren’t too many bustling urban centers here. There are a couple of little towns worth stopping in still.
Hanover is home to the famous Dartmouth University and is gorgeous in its own right. Jackson is a gorgeous place to stay in the White Mountains and makes for a great base. Finally, Portsmouth is one of the most historically significant towns in New England and, more importantly, has great breweries.
Road Trip on the Maine Coast
Maine will be a highlight for any New England Coast road trip! With epic seascapes and even more epic seafood, Maine has a lot to offer.
Many people have fallen in love with Maine’s coastline, too many perhaps. Coastal Maine isn’t exactly hidden these days and so anyone on a summer road trip in New England will have to deal with large crowds.
You can definitely get off the beaten path in Maine but that is a topic that we will be discussing in the next section.
Driving from Portsmouth, NH, you’ll head north on the 95 to Portland, Maine, catching glimpses of the shoreline along the way. You’ll pass by several of Maine’s best beaches and towns including York, Ogunquit, Cape Elizabeth, and Goose Rocks. Upon arriving in Portland, you may think that it’s a small coastal town but is, in fact, the largest “city” in the state.
Portland is one of the best places in New England, ridiculously charming and full of quaint little attractions. You’ll learn a lot about its maritime history at the Old Port and also be afforded the opportunity to shop for artisanal souvenirs. The seafood is obviously excellent in Portland and the beer is especially delicious if not abundant.
Moving on from Portland, we continue our New England coast road trip deeper into the state. Driving on the 1 you’ll have lots of opportunities to visit the coast. Boothbay is an elegant destination, Camden is gorgeous, and Popham Beach is arguably one of the best beaches in New England.
Our ultimate destination is Acadia National Park, the only national park in New England. It is a superlative place with some astounding scenery, not to mention some of the best hikes in New England.
Go for a drive around Mt Desert Island, the island on which Acadia is located, and then explore local sites like Jordan Pond and Sand Beach. Note that you’ll have to pay an entry fee for Acadia.
If you’re planning to spend the night, check out the huge selection of Airbnbs in Maine.
Check out our list of the best places to visit in the USA for inspiration on where to go anywhere in the country!
Off The Beaten Path New England Road Trip Ideas
Below is an overview of the Great North Woods of New England, arguably the wildest place in the Northeast. Those with the will and proper transport will be rewarded with virgin woods, pristine rivers, and an abundance of local wildlife.
Continuing onward? Check out our East Coast Road Trip Guide.
Great North Woods
The Great North Woods is one of the quietest, most underdeveloped, and most beautiful places in New England. It refers to the extremely wild and untouched woodlands of northern New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine that separate New England from Canada.
With little, if any tourist infrastructure, the Great North Woods should be an awesome adventure for anyone looking for a proper USA backcountry experience on their New England road trip.
There are a fair bit of activities in the New Hampshire part of the Great North Woods. Many of New England’s best waterfalls are in this region including the spectacular Beaver Brook Falls. There’s a very complex and thorough network of trails here as well that penetrates deep into the woods.
You can drive to Great North Woods in Maine from New Hampshire via Highway 16 and pass some excellent scenery along the way. This area is one of the best places to visit in New England in the fall because of the spectacular foliage. Be careful of moose though! These giants will run into the road sometimes and seriously ruin your car.
Maine’s North Woods is expansive and is probably the most remote part of New England. It is, in fact, so out-there that certain counties like Aroostook are not even officially incorporated into the state and so have no “official populations.”
Stories of the wood’s frightful and fantastic inhabitants still circulate to this day as well, like that of the vengeful wendigo or of the murderous ding-balls.
Interior locations like Baxter State Park and Mt Katahdin are the most “accessible” places in Maine’s North Woods. Surrounding these is 100 Mile Wilderness, which is often visited by ACT hikers. If you want to travel further than these locations you may need a 4×4 as paved roads are no longer guaranteed.
If you can make it, the Allagash Wilderness is one of the great river adventures in America. Navigable only by canoe or raft, there is nothing out here besides moose, fish, and untouched landscapes.
New England Fall Foliage Road Trips Ideas
The #1 things to do in New England are fall foliages road trips! During the autumn, the trees of New England go berzerk and change color in the most brilliant of ways. Greens turn to deep vermillions and golds, and the hills seem to burn without heat.
A fall foliage road trip through New England is definitely a must if you can swing it.
1. Kancamagus Route (New Hampshire)
Arguably the prettiest fall foliage road trip route in New England. This 35-mile road goes through the White Mountains and has spectacular scenery along the way. There are two viewpoints, several campgrounds, and no modern facilities. One of the best things to do in New England in the fall and summer.
2. Mohawk Trail (Massachusetts)
A quintessential New England road trip that is even better in the autumn. Features traditional New England communities, roadside attractions, and lots of trails for hiking.
All of these are made even better by the beautiful fall foliage that New England is famous for! Definitely one of the best New England road trips in fall or summer.
3. Smugglers Notch (Vermont)
Amazing fall foliage road trip route in New England’s mountains! Smuggler Notch is a pass that separates the Green Mountains from Mount Mansfield and is also the home to a popular ski resort.
In autumn the mountains are on fire with fall foliage and turn an insanely deep crimson. Definitely one of the best fall foliage drives in New England.
4. Camden Hills (Maine)
A short walk to see amazing coastal fall foliage. Viewpoint overlooks Camden, the surrounding landscape, and the islands of West Penobscot Bay, all of which are exploding with autumn colors.
5. Evans Notch (Maine)
Located in the Eastern extremity of the White Mountains. A very quiet alternative to see fall foliage in New England though not really a full road trip – Evan’s Notch is just a viewpoint.
There are lots of great hiking trails around for those who want to see the leaves on foot or spend a night in the wilderness.
New England Scenic Drives (for Summer)
Just because the trees aren’t changing colors doesn’t mean you can’t go for a scenic drive in New England. There are still plenty of charming and gorgeous sights to see outside of the fall season!
Below is a list of road trips featuring some of the best places to visit in New England in the summer and spring.
1. Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway (Maine)
35-mile route that highlights the mountainous beauty of Western Maine and Eastern New Hampshire. Starts on Route 4 outside of Rangeley town and heads towards Rangeley Lake followed by Route 17.
The best portion is The Height of the Land viewpoint where motorists can see all of the surrounding landscape including Mooselookmeguntic Lake, Jefferson Lakes, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Allow a full day for this one.
2. Green Mountain Byway (Vermont)
14-mile route that runs between the towns of Waterbury and Stowe at the meeting of the Green Mountains and Worcester Range.
Offers glimpses of charming pastoral life including meadows, historic farmsteads, forests, and, of course, the mountains. Allow a half day.
3. Acadian Loop Road (Maine)
One of the best road trip routes in the States. 27-mile-long-road on Mount Desert Island that highlights the best parts of Acadia National Park including the coast, woods, and lakes.
Starts at Hull’s Cull Visitor’s Center and a fee is required to use the one-way sections. Also one of the best fall foliage drives in New England.
4. The Quiet Corner (Connecticut)
Refers to the quieter Northeastern section of Connecticut. A very pastoral portion of the state that offers more traditional New England experiences. Expect lots of local produce, antique stores, and the usual foliage. 38-mile-long Route 169 is primary scenic byway.
5. The Housatonic Valley (Massachusetts/Connecticut)
A large area that is defined by the picturesque Housatonic River. Features pastoral ponds, colonial villages, and gentle mountains. Begins in Danbury, CT and follows the Highway 7 to the beginning of the Green Mountains.
Haunted New England Attractions
New England is full of spooky places that supposedly behave in inexplicable ways. Haunted houses, graveyards, curious collections, and massacres have all captured the attention of locals for generations. New Englanders love a good scare!
To have your own haunted road trip in New England, start by checking out these paranormal locations. Visit them and learn about their tragic histories (if you dare)!
- Lizzie Borden House (Fall River, MA) – Lizzie Borden was suspected of murdering her father and stepmother with an ax in this house though was never convicted. It has been a working guesthouse since 1996 and the apparent room of the crime is available to sleep in.
- Snedker Demon House (Southington, CT) – A former mortuary turned residence that was inhabited by the Snedeker family. They claimed it was possessed by demonic forces and that they were subject to various evils. Inspired the film A Haunting in Connecticut.
- Sterling Opera House (Derby, CT) – Frequent visitors claim to see inexplicable things here like shades, ghosts, and eerie lights. The ghost of Charles Sterling, the building’s constructor, is believed to be responsible for these occurrences.
- Salem (MA) – Though more whitewashed than frightful these days (locals are trying to shake the turbulent history), it’s still worth visiting the location for the terrifying Salem Witch Trials. The town itself is actually quite lovely.
- Captain Grant’s 1754 (Preston, CT) – Location for several reported hauntings and paranormal activities. The adjacent graveyard is believed to be the cause of these.
- Danvers State Hospital (Danvers, MA) – A former insane asylum that helped inspire Lovecraft and Batman Arkham Asylum. Accused of horrific treatment of patients and subsequently abandoned in 1992.
- Dudleytown (CT) – Cursed land that supposedly caused the demise of the original settlers, the Dudley family. Reports of hauntings and mass confusion inspired the Blair Witch Tale. Closed now due to vandalism.
- Books of Human Skin (Providence, RI) – Necronomicon fans should head to the John Hay Library for their collection of books made from human skin.
So, now that you know we’re you’re goin, we should talk about the finer details. When to go driving in New England, how to get a car, and even what to pack for a road trip. It’s all in here!
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Why Visit this Part of the World
There are lots of reasons to take a road trip in New England!
Because it’s the birthplace of the USA…
It’s got some of the best seafood in the world…
The locals are one-of-a-kind…
And because have you seen those trees in the fall?!
Let me be more thorough.
New England is one of the most historically significant places in all of the United usa and contains more history than most any other part of the country. Boston was an extremely important city during the Revolution and is now one of the greatest exhibitions of American history.
Much of this history can be experienced on the city’s Freedom Trail. History aside, Boston is just a really cool place in general.
With over 470 miles of coastline and a salty fleet of fishermen, New England benefits from some of the freshest and most delicious seafood in the country.
Plump Maine Lobsters, easy Sunday afternoon clambakes, chowder that’s been perfected over hundreds of years; all of these things should be making your mouth water. Can’t forgot to mention either that there’s an unhealthy amount of baked goods and desserts to be had as well.
I’ve never met anyone as fascinating as New Englanders. They are among the most charming, sincere, and maddest folks that I’ve ever met. I’ve had many crazy nights with New England people and they’re a wild bunch to be sure. At the end of the day though, they still have hearts of gold.
Finally, the fall foliage in New England is stupendous. It’s been on a million postcards and featured in a million movies but it really has to be seen to believed.
One moment, the hills are green and, in a flash, everything is the deepest red and gold that you ever have seen. It’s like a painter’s pallet, and it’s breathtaking.
Getting Insured for a Road Trip through New England
Concerned about staying safe in the USA? Well don’t be! Just make sure you’re insured, and you drive carefully. Plus…
Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from SafetyWing.
Getting an estimate from World Nomads is simple – just click the button or image below, fill out the necessary info, and you’re on your way!
Top Tips for Broke Backpackers
Below is a list of ideas for saving money while touring New England by car. Try and practice these as much as possible:
- Rent an economy car: Prices can be as low as $25/day depending on the time of year and how far in advance you reserve. Economy cars are also more fuel efficient so you’ll save on fuel. Use apps like ViaMichelin to find cheap gas, which, seriously, always ends up being one of the most surprising and costly expenses on a road trip.
- Use vehicle relocation services: These brilliant services offer huge discounts to people on the condition they get a vehicle to a certain place at a certain time. No joke, you can rent a car sometimes for as low as $1/day! Availability is very limited though, so keep a watchful eye on the sites. Check immova and Cruise America to start with.
- Sleep overnight in an empty lot: Though not technically legal in New England, people sleep in parking lots all the time. Make sure the lot is safe by asking around. Walmarts are reportedly good places to park overnight as they allow overnight parking.
- Camp: Unless you want to fork out big bucks for a lodge, you have to camp. Campgrounds are way less expensive and sometimes even free. Check out this post for a breakdown of the gear essentials for camping out.
- Cook your own food: Eating out can be very expensive in New England. Cook your own food as much as possible to save – I recommend bringing a portable backpacking stove. Otherwise, have a fancy night out at a food cart.
- Do free shit: There are lots of free things to do in New England! From hiking to laying on the beach to going to the local monuments; all of these things cost you nill. Be sure to keep your ear to the ground for all things free in New England.
- Pack a travel water bottle: It’s good for your wallet and the environment.
As much we love camping in New England, staying in a proper hotel or guesthouse is sometimes necessary. Chances are you’ll be raving mad from those pestilent mosquitoes by the end of your road trip through New England and maybe in need of a good hot shower and clean sheets.
Luckily, New England has all sorts of lodges catering to all sorts of travelers! On any road trip route in New England, you can stay all sorts of digs from beach houses to luxurious hotels to basic motels. Whatever your fancy, New England has it.
If you’re on a budget road trip in New England, then you’ll have to stick to the affordable hotels and motels. Budget hotels in New England are common but are, predictably, uninspiring.
Don’t expect much while staying at these besides four walls and roof. Budget hotels in New England aren’t even that inexpensive, really – you’ll still spend $60+ per night, which still makes them far more expensive than camping and hostels.
If I were to spend more than $50 per night on lodging, I would much rather use AirBnB. AirBnBs are among the best places to stay in New England because they are super charming and often much better experiences than sterile hotels.
To save the most money on your road trip through New England, consider sticking to hostels and campgrounds. Hostels in the States are excellent quality and very comfortable, and they offer a great budget alternative for staying in New England.
Be sure to book your accommodation early if you’re going on a fall foliage drive in New England. This is an extremely popular time to visit!
If you’re feeling lucky you could even try your hand at being hosted through Couchsurfing! Lots of people use this though so competition is quite high in New England.
Best Places to Stay in New England on a Budget
|Location||Accommodation||Why Stay Here?!|
|Boston||HI Boston||Stylish hostel conveniently located next to the metro and Chinatown. Free breakfast and coffee.|
|Cape Cod||HI Hyannis||Voted one of the best hostels in the USA! Overlooks the harbor where you can catch a ferry to Martha’s or Nantucket and is right next to a transportation hub.|
|Providence (Rhode Island)||Providence Hostel and Guesthouse||Only hostel in the city. Conveniently located close to Downtown and Brown University. Good kitchen.|
|Old Saybrook (Coastal Connecticut)||Super 8 by Wyndham Old Saybrook||A good, cheap hotel. Great base for exploring the town, the coast, and nearby Mystic.|
|Hartford (Connecticut)||Days Inn by Wyndham Hartford||Best deal in Hartford. Outside of town but still conveniently close.|
|Burlington (Vermont)||Burlington Hostel||Excellent hostel located in the middle of Downtown Burlington. Free breakfast and towels!|
|North Woodstock (New Hampshire)||The Notch Hostel||Located in the middle of the White Mountains and right next to the Kancamagus Highway. The perfect base for exploring the surroundings landscape. Town of Lincoln is 1 mile away.|
|Portland (Maine Coast)||The Black Elephant Hostel||Super stylish and funky hostel! Very helpful staff and conveniently located next to the Old Port.|
|Bangor (Great North Woods)||Stucco Lodge||Unassuming motel rooms w/ open-air porches and outdoor chairs. Pool and barbecue facilities great for the summer time.|
Camping in New England
Camping in New England is either done on public land, private land or in the backcountry. Each type offers different sorts of amenities and at different prices.
Private campgrounds usually have more amenities and can accommodate more types of campers. RV parks, hookup sites, and other sorts of demanding camping (we hesitate to use the word “glamping”) are usually found at private camps.
Private camps usually have lots of communal facilities like a kitchen and showers. Because of their greater comfort, private campgrounds are usually more expensive.
Camping on public land, run either by the state or the feds, is usually more basic. Electricity is possible as is the occasional shower but don’t expect the resort-like services that private campgrounds have. Fortunately, prices are far more reasonable at public campgrounds.
Both public and private campsites fill up quickly in the fall. Many take reservations though and we suggest you do this if you’re going on a fall foliage road trip in New England.
Backcountry campsites, being located on either private or public land, are harder to access but have the benefit of being extremely cheap if not totally free. These campgrounds usually require a hike or maybe a water taxi to reach, which makes them difficult and unattractive for the average camper.
The backcountry campgrounds are also very primitive, often with no restrooms and maybe running water. For the intrepid, these campgrounds can be very ideal as they’re super quiet, wild, and, as previously mentioned, usually free!
Backcountry campsites are usually found in the mountains, around the lakes, and on the remote islands of New England. Use this search engine for a compendium of free camping in New England.
Always have of plenty of powerful bug spray and mosquito repellent on you. Mosquitoes are a plague in the summer. Be sure to also wear long clothing to protect yourself from ticks when hiking in the backcountry. Local ticks often carry Lyme Disease, which is an autoimmune disorder with no cure.
Camping in New England – Gear Checklist
Camping is one of the best ways to experience the USA, and New England has some of the finest camping in the whole country. You could sleep in your car or an RV while road tripping in New England but sleeping outside under the stars is way more fun.
Having a good tent will keep you comfortable on those chilly nights and give you lots of flexibility when it comes to finding a place to sleep.
Here are some other camping essentials that we recommend you pack if you plan on camping out…
1. Backpacking stove: If you want to cook your own food, either because you’re sick of takeout or want to save money, then you’ll need a cooking stove. Some campgrounds have fire pits with grills but I find these very inefficient.
I like the MSR Pocketrocket because it’s affordable, reliable, and very convenient.
2. Sleeping Pad: I really cannot sleep without some sort of camping pad. I’ve slept in some pretty rough campgrounds, full of rocks and roots, and my sleeping pad saved my life many times. The self-inflating sleeping mats, like the Thermarest Prolite, are my favorite, though people often settle for the foam ones.
3. Hammock: Taking a tent and pad on a road trip are not always practical but hammocks are lightweight, cheap, strong, sexy, and allow you to pitch up for the night pretty much anywhere. Right now, I’m rocking an Active Roots parachute hammock – it’s light, colorful and tough.
4. Microfibre Towel:: It’s always worth packing a proper towel, mainly to clean up but also for those impromptu swims. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.
5. Headtorch: I would never travel without a headtorch. Even if you only end up using it once, a decent head torch could save your life. If you want to cook at night or simply find your way to the bathroom during a blackout, a headtorch is a must. Currently, I’m using the Petzl LED headlamp with red light (which insects can’t see).
6. Travel Water Bottle: Always travel with a water bottle – it’ll save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. Clean water is not always readily available so we recommend investing in the Grayl Geopress – an insulated water bottle with a built in filter.
7. Toiletry Bag: I always travel with a hanging toiletry bag as it’s a super efficient way to organise your bathroom stuff. Well worth having, whether you are hanging it from a tree whilst camping, or a hook in a wall, it helps to have quick access to all your stuff.
For plenty more inspiration on what to pack, check out my full adventure packing list.
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Books to Read during your New England Road Trip
These are some of my favorite travel reads and books set in New England. Read one or two and you may have some great road trips ideas for New England…
- The Backpacker Bible – Get it for free! Learn how to ditch your desk and travel the world on just $10 a day whilst building a life of long-term travel with an online income. To inspire and help the next generation of Broke Backpackers, you can now grab ‘How to Travel the World on $10 a Day’ for free!
- Handmaid’s Tale – The American government is overthrown in a dystopian future and New England is under new rule by an ultra-conservative party. One woman chronicles her life as a “handmaid” in this new society, where she is forced to be a brood mother.
- Walden – The transcendental masterpiece by Henry David Thoreau that helped modern Americans rediscover nature and her beauty. Written outside of Boston at Walden Pond.
- Summer Sisters – Two opposite girls become unlikely friends and end spending countless hours together. Fast forward many years and they are estranged from one another and an upcoming wedding will soon reveal why…
- Scarlet Letter – Written in 1850, this historical novel follows a Puritan woman who copes with her illegitimate and difficult daughter.
- Carrie – One of Stephen King’s first published novel and a classic of horror now. A girl who is bullied discovers that she has telekinetic powers and takes revenge on her abusers. Takes place in a fictional New England town.
- Revolutionary Road – The trials and tribulations of a couple living in suburban New England. Deep and revealing.
- Lonely Planet: New England – It’s sometimes worth traveling with a guidebook.
Best Time to Visit New England
With something always going on, a road trip in New England is possible at any time of the year! In New England, summers are for beach trips, fall is for the foliage, winter is for skiing, and spring is for festivals.
If you can stand the occasional poor weather – the blinding snow and sometimes uncomfortable humidity – then you’ll do just fine in New England.
The climate in New England isn’t always agreeable, a fact that many residents will remind you of when you’re there. Winters are long and can be bitter cold and summers feel unfairly humid and short.
The weather in New England has a habit of being bipolar as well, appearing beautiful one moment only to turn to shit in a moment.
This doesn’t stop New Englanders from having a good time though as they seem to have something to do 365 days of the year. They take the weather with a grain of salt, as they should, and simply say, “if the weather’s no good, just wait 15 minutes (and it’ll be better).”
Outside of the mountainous regions, which can have Arctic qualities, there are no huge climatic swings in New England. Overall, temperatures are relatively cool and precipitation is spread throughout the year.
What makes New England feel so cold is the Canadian winds that come down and wreak havoc. These winds penetrate to the bone and can really ruin your day.
A thermometer may read 30 Fahrenheit but with the wind chill, it could feel like 0. Be sure to bring lots of layers and a windbreaker in the winter.
Fall in New England means changing foliage, the astounding beauty of which attracts every Joe Schmoe and his family to visit. If you’re on a road trip during this time, expect much higher prices and much less availability.
Food in New England
Yes, New England clam chowder is the only real chowder and, yes, fresh Maine lobsters are better than your wedding night; we get it. Seafood is obviously what’s for dinner most nights as it is so freakin’ good in this part of the world; we get that too.
But tere’s a lot more to New England food than what comes off the fishing boats. Let us not forget the baked beans, the fluffernutters, the blueberries, and anything else, for that matter, that comes from New England’s old-time roots.
The food in New England draws a lot of inspiration from the original English settlers who used dairy in abundance and loved to bake. This could explain the unhealthy abundance of pastries and cakes that are everywhere in New England as well – the Boston Cream Pies, the fruit pies, the Whoopie pies, and whatever other pie you can think of.
Also adopted from the English was the propensity to boil everything – meats, vegetables, and, of course, seafood. Hot pots and stews and are popular family recipes and can take on an Irish flair in certain ethnic parts of the region like Connecticut and Boston.
On to the real reason why most people crave New England cooking though, let’s talk about the seafood. There is no denying that the seafood of New England is amazing and that New Englanders have come up with every conceivable way to prepare it.
Lobster rolls, chowders, lobster pies, fried clams, steamed clams, clambakes…all divine.
Foodies will definitely enjoy eating the best of New England. One could and totally should go on a lobster road trip in New England just to see how many ways they could eat it.
Get your Buzz On
No one parties quite like New Englanders do. They are some of the craziest, least inhabited, and most daring people that I have been around and I have never been let down by them when it comes to having a good time.
There is a party for just about everyone in New England and just about everyone shows up to the party as well! You could seriously have a good time just about anywhere – at a sports bar, at a country club, on someone’s lawn (preferably someone you don’t know) or at a beach house with your friends. Doesn’t matter here.
The best parties in New England will be around the larger cities. No question, Boston has the most and best parties in New England because of its sheer size. You can find anything in this city from college bars to clubs to dives to ritzy saloons. Hartford (CT), New Haven (CT) and Providence (RI) are also cities with great nightlife.
You can find some decent parties on the New England coast, especially during the summers when everyone is energized from the sun. Cape Cod can get pretty rawkus sometimes and the seasonal workers, in particular, know how to have a good time.
New England also has one of the best beer scenes in the entire country. The mighty Sam Adams Lager is from these parts as is the less-famous-but-arguably-more-delicious beers from Allagash and Hill Farmstead. Boston, Portland, New Haven, Burlington, Providence, and Portsmouth all have excellent brewery cultures.
Also, weed is legal in Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine! You can smoke it recreationally in these states in broad daylight. All you need to do is visit a dispensary with a photo ID that proves you’re over 21, and you’re set. Be sure to brush up on local cannabis laws though as each state is different.
Being a Responsible Traveler in New England
Remember to be a respectful camper while on your New England road trip. Depart from the grounds at a decent hour, follow leave no trace principles.
Reduce your plastic footprint: Perhaps the best thing you can do for our planet is to make sure you do NOT add to the plastic problem all over the world. Don’t buy one-use water bottles, the plastic ends up in a landfill or in the ocean.
I know it can be hard, but do your best to use the least amount of plastic water bottles that you can. Refill the ones that you do buy! Use a Grayl Geopress. Refill at your hostel/guest house! There are plenty of ways to reduce plastic!!!
Pack a tough and cool travel water bottle. You’ll use it every single day whether you are traveling or not! Help save the planet, and pick up a water bottle here.
Check out our post on how to be a responsible backpacker.
Renting a Car or Campervan in New England
Renting a car is the most popular way of getting around New England. There are a myriad of car rental agencies here that offer varying deals and varying models.
To find the best rental car deal in the USA, use search engines that compare the prices from individual companies. We personally like using rentalcars.com as they’ve never failed to give us a great price.
You can also rent and travel in a campervan, which means you don’t have to worry about packing camping gear. You will have to empty and refill the various wascampete and water tanks though, which will require a visit to the proper facilities. RVs also cost more to rent, use more gas, and demand higher prices at campgrounds. We suggest booking a campervan with Outdoorsy as they usually have a good selection and good prices.
Make sure you also purchase a RentalCover.com policy to cover your vehicle against any common damages such as tires, windscreens, theft, and more at a fraction of the price you would pay at the rental desk.
The roads in the Northeast are generally very good and a sedan or economy car should deliver you to most of New England’s top destinations. Only in the most remote portions of the Great North Woods, will the roads be so bad that you need 4×4 or at least high clearance.
If you’re on a road trip in New England during the winter and want to go to the mountains, you will definitely need all-wheel or 4-wheel drive.
Tips for Saving Money on Car Rentals in the US
- We mentioned before that you can reach out to vehicle relocation services, like immova and Cruise America, as a way of saving heaps of cash on rentals. Pursue these as best you can as they can save you a lot of money. Don’t get your hopes up too much though, as availability is always limited.
- Car insurance isn’t always mandatory in the USA but is highly encouraged. This being said, you don’t necessarily have to buy car insurance from the company you’re renting from.
- Many credit card companies offer free car insurance if you book the car with the proper card. Call your credit card company for more information regarding terms and conditions.
Make Money Online Whilst Traveling in New England
Want to stay in the USA longer? Worried that you don’t have enough cash for a longer New England road trip? One idea is to make money while traveling!
Teaching English online is a great way to earn a consistent income—from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection. Depending on your qualifications (or your motivation to obtain qualifications like a TEFL certificate) you can teach English remotely from your laptop, save some cash for your next adventure, and make a positive impact on the world by improving another person’s language skills!
It’s a win-win! Check out this detailed article for everything you need to know to start teaching English online.
In addition to giving you the qualifications to teach English online, TEFL courses open up a huge range of opportunities and you can find teaching work all over the world. To find out more about TEFL courses and how you can teach English around the world, read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.
Broke Backpacker readers get a 35% discount on TEFL courses with MyTEFL (simply enter the code BACKPKR), to find out more, please read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.
Whether you are keen to teach English online or looking to take your teaching game a step further by finding a job teaching English in a foreign country, getting your TEFL certificate is absolutely a step in the right direction.
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