Carver’s Harbor in Vinalhaven, Maine.
Vinalhaven is home to the state’s largest year-round island community, a thriving lobster fleet, and a sizable summer population of regulars and visitors.
You don’t just stumble across Greensboro, Vermont, a no-stoplight town in the heart of the remote Northeast Kingdom, miles from the Interstate, and seemingly in a world of its own. Slowed-down living in a fast-paced world. But while you don’t just land here, “once you do come, you tend to stay,” as one resident reminded me.
The reasons for that hit you like a blast of fresh air as soon as you cross into Greensboro. Oh sure, pretty small towns are about as prevalent in Vermont as sugar maples, but only one is home to Caspian Lake, as clear a body of water as you’ll find in the state. Since Bliss Perry, a Princeton scholar, first brought his family to its shores in 1897, then gushed to his colleagues about its tranquility, Caspian has lured authors, academics, and politicos. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist summered here; Wallace Stegner wrote here; and anthropologist Margaret Mead studied here. Over time, modest camps morphed into bigger homes, but the draw remains, and summer rentals are available throughout the season.
You feel a different pull in the center of town at Willey’s Store. Is it a general store, a hardware shop, a home-goods place, or a clothing boutique? Actually it’s all those things. It’s where you go for your breakfast sandwich, a gallon of latex, a new shirt, and a blender. “We’re Greensboro’s version of Walmart,” the hardware clerk said with a smile. “Only people seem to enjoy coming here.”
Greensboro’s appeal is that it embraces its size without being limited by it. Recently the town has experienced a mini-boom of sorts. But it’s managed growth, taking what’s old and making it new again. Across the street from Willey’s, a renovated gristmill is now Miller’s Thumb Gallery, a sun-drenched two-floor space devoted to the work of Vermont and New Hampshire artisans. Around the corner, another artsy stop, Galleria Catharina, resides in a retired creamery.
On the outskirts of town, Shaun Hill has made the rolling farmland that’s been in his family for eight generations into Hill Farmstead Brewery, a veritable bucket-list destination for beer enthusiasts from around the world. To accommodate all those fans, Hill opened a new retail store and brew-house in 2015. Just down the road, Jasper Hill Farm continues to expand its clout as one of the most renowned artisanal cheesemakers. Circus Smirkus, the circus company that has made its home in Greensboro since it first opened in 1987, has a new circus-camp campus on the site of a former farm, while the town’s Mirror Theater is undergoing construction of its first-ever playhouse for its stock of summer performances. All together, Greensboro invites the question: Is there a bigger-feeling town with a population under 1,000 in all of New England? Maybe not.
You’ll find a microcosm of Greensboro’s intimate charm on Country Club Road, past a series of stately maples and small pastures, at the home and studio of Jennifer Ranz. A Minnesota native, Ranz summered on Caspian with her family as a child and later became one of the town’s year-rounders. She’s made a pretty go of it these last 30 years, creating art and converting a big old dairy barn into a showcase for her jewelry, photography, and watercolors.
“To me, Greensboro is paradise,” she says, looking out across her big field, toward her view of Wheelock Mountain. “I’ve been to a lot of different places and I can’t find any place that’s better than this.”—Ian Aldrich
In Massachusetts, the summer migration is typically coastal and generally southward. The pull toward the Cape and Islands is so great that the entire southbound highway system seems to act as a funnel to the Bourne and Sagamore bridges. But if you push farther south, you’ll find the Bay State’s often-overlooked “SouthCoast,” home to the quiet town of Westport. It’s a comparatively undiscovered corner, bringing to mind the Cape of 30 years ago: beachy, bucolic, untrammeled.This sliver of SouthCoast (a savvy rechristening of The Area Formerly Known as Greater New Bedford–Fall River) is a place fully unto itself, more identified with neighboring Little Compton, Rhode Island, than with Falmouth. This is farm country, with active dairy and produce operations and abundant conservation land. This bounty has lured some of Boston’s top chefs to vacation here, sampling from the produce at Alderbrook and Orr’s farms and the tasty thimble-size Hannahbell cheeses produced at Shy Brothers Farm. Then there’s Westport Rivers Winery, producer of award-winning sparkling wines, where you can catch a concert and a clambake feast every Friday night in summer; nearby is Buzzards Bay Brewing, which also offers live music most summer weeknights and BYOG (Bring Your Own Grillables) on Tuesdays. As for restaurants, there’s excellent year-round waterside dining at The Back Eddy.
But quiet is one of the town’s greatest draws; you’ll find some of the best walking in New England on the trails that run through Westport Town Farm, a river-view property now managed by the Trustees of Reservations, and at the Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, where you can ramble from the shores of Buzzards Bay up through pastures and woodlands on the South Dartmouth side. Horseneck Beach may fill up on weekends, but it’s a solitary spot at sunset and a great place to forage for beach plums.
The arts-and-letters scene is clustered around a trio of neighboring businesses in the Central Village area: Dedee Shattuck’s striking Shaker-modern contemporary-art gallery; the Art Stable, showcasing works from local artists; and Partners, an artsy village café/gallery/gift shop/bookstore. Not a strip mall to be seen, nor a stretch of traffic.—Amy Traverso
Lobster boats and gulls all turn into the wind, and I grab my sketchpad and camera. My deck is like a box seat at an ever-changing show of boats, men, and birds. Sound effects include a tidal raceway, swooshing beneath my motel room.“Vinalhaven isn’t a resort island,” artist Elaine Crossman warned me the first time I phoned to book a night at the Tidewater Motel & Gathering Place, one of very few lodgings on Maine’s largest offshore island. It was early in the season on that first hour-plus ride on the Vinalhaven car ferry from Rockland. Everyone else knew everyone, and at the island dock, they disappeared into waiting vehicles, mostly trucks. It wasn’t hard for Elaine’s husband, Phil Crossman, to spot me.
Turns out that it’s an easy walk along the working waterfront from the ferry to the motel, which sits beside the town dock on Carver’s Harbor. A long, lively Main Street flanks the dock; across from the dock is an ornate Victorian building, home to famed artist Robert Indiana. Vinalhaven is Maine’s largest year-round island community (with an equal number of summer residents), and homes are widely scattered. Still, everyone meets at the southern end of the island in Carver’s Harbor boatyards, at the post office, at Carver’s Harbor Market or the Paper Store, and at Surfside (opening at 4:00 a.m. for breakfast).
Carver’s Harbor is also home to one of the world’s largest lobster fleets, and by midafternoon the boats are in, a sight I still can’t get enough of. But there are shops, restaurants, and galleries to visit, and beyond Main Street the road curves along the harbor and across the bridge to Lane’s Island, with its beach and cliff path. Vinalhaven’s two water-filled quarries are just a bike ride from town. My favorite swimming holes in all of Maine, they’re two of many public preserves, ranging from mountain trails to the long arc of Geary’s Beach to sheltered paddling places like The Basin.I fell in love with the island and eventually rented a house there. Everyone agrees that it was our best family vacation ever. Still, I return regularly to the Tidewater. Phil continues to clue me in to the island’s special people and places. He does this for all interested guests and dispenses advice to everyone who rents his bikes, cars, and kayaks. The author of Away Happens, a genuinely funny book about island life, Phil Crossman plays down his role in turning countless visitors into summer renters, residents, and even year-round islanders. But without him, even fewer people would know about Vinalhaven. —Christina Tree
If you’ve ever been to a party where the guests spill through the rooms chatting, drinking, and eating, and you yearn to retreat to that balcony that you’ve been eyeing, then you’ll understand the feeling people have when they leave the brimming bustle of North Conway and only 11 miles south find Eaton Center, whose 350 or so inhabitants live tucked between views of sparkling lakewaters and mountains.
It’s the kind of place you stumble upon when you’re out for a Sunday drive and then stop to linger—a place where the little white community church is actually named “Little White Church.” Eaton locals gather for hash and eggs or lunch at the general store, and there’s little hint that the roads just north are lined with cars. Best of all for the traveler who delights in discovering the off-the-beaten-path treasure, two country inns—the Inn at Crystal Lake, just steps from the town beach, and the Snow-village Inn—make it easy to park the car and simply let the day flow by, right there.
You come upon the Snowvillage Inn at the end of a long dirt driveway, and the house and its landscape appear suddenly: a handsome building, stone walls, gardens, an expansive view of Mount Washington. There’s a porch facing the mountain, and even as you walk in the door you feel the row of Adirondack chairs calling you.
Fresh flowers adorn the tables in the intimate inn dining room, Max’s Restaurant, and just beyond the windows hummingbirds seem to hang suspended by their feeders. When twilight falls, solar-powered lanterns shine like tiny moons. The menu is anchored by locally sourced meats, vegetables, and fruits (of course); this is one of those fine restaurants that Mount Washington Valley locals book for their special evenings.
When I asked our friendly wait-person, Sara, what most guests do while they’re there, she smiled. “They’re getawayers,” she said. “Being here is enough.” —Mel Allen
The word on these streets is “old.” Not as old as Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills, certainly, which is where Woodbury resides, but old enough: settled in 1659, renamed as a town in 1673, and riddled with eye-catching Colonial homes and a full regiment of antiques shops marching up and down Main Street. An antique town wrapped in a mantle of antiques.
When history digs deep into a place, it’s easy to feel as though you’ve wandered off the clock. Woodbury’s wide Main Street is draped with old shade trees, its sidewalks are set back from the busy thoroughfare, and all this spaciousness feels timeless on a blue-sky day. Check out the historical markers on some of the homes: Zaccharias Walker, 1691; Hezekiah Thompson, 1760; Philo DeForest, 1799. Easy enough to just wander through the centuries, but for every venerable home from the 1700s, it seems there’s a corresponding antiques shop. If you’re not walking along looking at something from another time, you can duck inside and buy a slice of history.
There are antiques for all, within walking distance of one another: Farmhouse Antiques; American Antiques; Antique Gardenalia at The Elemental Garden. The Main Street Antiques Center group shop commandeers an old greenhouse. R. M. Barokh Antiques started on Kings Road in London, but now sells 17th- to 19th-century furniture here. Even the no-nonsense hardware store, C. L. Adams Company, sells vintage wheelbarrows and garden furniture, plus “more tag sale items on the second floor,” alongside the more predictable grain supplies, building materials, and baby chicks. There are shops tucked away, like antique sachets, everywhere.
Not to mention other surprises, like the Glebe House Museum & Gertrude Jekyll Garden, a short (beautiful) walk from Main Street. The furnished 18th-century farmhouse is encircled by a 600-foot garden designed in 1926 by the grande dame of English horticulture herself, recognized as one of the greatest gardeners of her century. Continue along Hollow Road and you’ll pass an Eric Sloane illustration come to life—the barn-red Hurd House, circa 1680.
Inns and restaurants have a provenance, too. The rambling Curtis House Inn, built before 1736, claims to be Connecticut’s oldest lodging and is a member of Haunted Connecticut Tours. “At night, when the lights come on in the dining room, the word that comes to mind is bedazzling,” says Jen, a wiry woman who helps maintain the massive building and has her own ghost stories. Even relative newcomers have their stories: Carole Peck’s award-winning Good News Café, for instance, has been aroundfor “only” 21 years, but the New York Times has called her “the Alice Waters of the East Coast.”
At the end of a history-soaked day, you can cool off at Quassy Amusement Park & Waterpark, less than three miles away in neighboring Middlebury. This 107-year-old miniature charmer is one of two remaining “trolley parks” in the country, says John Francis, whose family has owned Quassy for the past 80 years. Scaled for kids, with a wooden roller coaster and a beach on the shores of glassy Lake Quassapaug, it’s a nostalgic wave to the way we were.—Annie Graves
As the salt pond along Galilee Escape Road drains with the approaching low tide, embossed mounds in the soft silt are exposed. A telltale hole in the center of each one signals that a clam is buried in the general vicinity. Still, it takes mad digging to find them. For gloppy organisms without brains, they’re craftier than you’d imagine.
The $11 that out-of-staters pay for a 14-Day Tourist Shellfish License (Rhode Islanders and kids clam for free) is a small price to fork over—not just for the incomparable taste of freshly dug quahogs. If tapping an app on your phone is the hardest you’ve hunted for food lately, clamming will remind you: Our bodies weren’t built to sit all day, elbows locked, fingers on keys or screens.
On the surface, Galilee appears to be little more than a parking lot for the Block Island Ferry. Stick around southern Narragansett’s gritty fishing village, though, and you’ll have a deep, authentic experience of the nearly ’round-the-clock chase that makes this Rhode Island’s most lucrative port, with $4.3 million in average monthly landings.
Like the fluke that you can reel up on party-boat expeditions—their eyeballs both migrated to one side, so that they can nestle flat on the ocean floor and dodge predators—Galilee’s fisher-men are ingenious at adapting. They’re New England’s own cowboys, inventing new gear and techniques, forging new markets for underappreciated fish species.
New England’s fishing frontier isn’t solely a place for spectators, who unfold chairs along the rocky channel, spread towels at Salty Brine State Beach, or grab tables on restaurant decks to observe more than 200 commercial vessels at work. Join night owls in pursuit of Galilee’s most important catch: calamari, christened Rhode Island’s official appetizer. Walk out onto the docks to buy just-trapped lobsters directly from the men who caught them.
Order scup or monkfish or tautog at George’s of Galilee. Here, third-generation restaurateur Kevin Durfee has quietly transformed this enduring clam shack into Rhode Island’s place to taste the fish of the future: sustainable, healthy, so fresh that “our delivery person walks to us,” he says. Gone are three-quarters of the fryolators that churn out batter-wrapped seafood. Durfee has invested in revamped kitchens, where experimentation with the sea’s diversity supports the local fleet’s hardworking cast of salty characters. And he has remodeled the dining room, now an elegant space for fine dining … in flip-flops.
There’s nothing pretentious about Galilee. Nothing Disneyfied. When the sky burns red at night, it’s an un-scripted harbinger of a perfect day on the water—a glowing confirmation that life’s most satisfying adventures are ones you must work to uncover.—Kim Knox Beckius
WHERE: About 65 miles east of Burlington; 17 miles from I-91. travelthekingdom.comSTAY: Highland Lodge is a short distance to the lake and downtown: highlandlodge.com Check vacation rental sites such ashomeaway.com and airbnb.com for house rentals.EAT: The town of Hardwick, one of Vermont’s best towns for food lovers, is less than 8 miles south.DO: Take a tour of Jasper Hill Farm and taste sample artisanal cheeses: jasperhillfarm.comEXPLORE: Take in the Sunday classical concert series throughout the summer at Landon Lake House, located on the southern tip of Caspian Lake (you can paddle or drive to the venue): greensboroassociation.org
WHERE: About 75 minutes from Boston, south of New Bedford, along the Rhode Island border; Route 88 runs right through the center of town.
STAY: The Paquachuck, at Westport Point, with abundant water views and lovely coastal décor (but shared bathrooms): paquachuck.com
EAT: The Back Eddy (upscale seafood and raw bar): thebackeddy.com. The Bayside (casual and creative seafood): thebaysiderestaurant.com. Gray’s Daily Grind (coffee, pastry, and smoothies at the site of New England’s oldest gristmill): graysdailygrind.com
DO: Explore the countryside at Westport Town Farm: thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/southeast-ma/westport-town-farm.html. Or Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary: massaudubon.org/get-outdoors/wildlife-sanctuaries/allens-pond
WHERE: 15 miles off Rockland, Vinalhaven is the size of Manhattan but home to fewer than 1,200 residents plus an equal number of widely scattered summer people. Find rental and commercial lodging information at: vinalhaven.org. The town office can also answer most questions: 207-863-4471
GETTING THERE: The Maine State Ferry Service in Rockland offers frequent car-ferry service: maine.gov/mdot/ferry/vinalhaven
STAY: Tidewater Motel &Gathering Place offers 19 waterside units; also rents bikes (free to guests), cars, and kayaks, plus shuttle service: tidewatermotel.com. Or try Libby House Inn: libbyhouse1869.com
EAT: The Harbor Gawker: Open mid-April to mid-November. Lobster rolls, crabmeat rolls, and baskets of just about anything. Surfside; opens at 4:00 a.m. for the lobstermen and is open for lunch and dinner (call to check the schedule): 207-863-9365
DO: Vinalhaven Historical Society Museum: Open daily mid-June to mid-September. An outstanding community museum highlighting the island’s late-19th-century boom years as a major world source of granite: vinalhavenhistoricalsociety.org. Vinalhaven Land Trust maintains 17 preserves mapped on its website and in handouts available at 12 Skoog Park Road near the ferry dock: vinalhavenlandtrust.org
SHOPPING: The Paper Store is the nerve center of the island, the place to check for current happenings and to get a chart of the island: thepaperstore.com. New Era Gallery: Open Memorial Day to December. Painter and printmaker Elaine Crossman’s gallery shows work by some of Maine’s most prominent painters, sculptors, photographers, and fiber artists: neweragallery.com. Go Fish: Open seasonally; a great kids-geared shop featuring healthy toys, penny candy, and original island T-shirts: 207-863-4193
Eaton Center, New Hampshire
WHERE: South of North Conway on Route 153, just minutes from the Maine border.
STAY: Two notable century plus-old country inns share the Eaton Center landscape. The Snow-village Inn boasts a mesmerizing mountain view: snowvillageinn.com. The Inn at Crystal Lake is noted for its special opera-themed nights: innatcrystallake.com
EAT: Both local inns draw raves from press and guests for their breakfasts, as well as dinners served to the public. The Eaton Village Store is where you come for local flavor and filling lunches: 603-447-2403
DO: Explore the countryside: Hiking the Presidential Range is minutes away, while hiking and blueberry picking on Foss Mountain is almost out your door. The attractions and shopping of North Conway are 11 miles north. Stone Mountain Arts Center,just over the Maine border in Brownfield, is one of the most innovative and memorable venues offering live music in the region: stonemountainartscenter.com
WHERE: Midway between Boston and New York City; 4 miles from Interstate 84; Main Street doubles as Route 6.
STAY: Curtis House Inn, on Main Street and an easy walk to everything:curtishouseinn.com
EAT: Carole Peck’s Good News Café: good-news-cafe.com. Woodbury Deli & Catering (gourmet soup/sandwich): woodburydeliandcatering.com. Market Place Kitchen & Bar (American farm-to-table): marketplacewoodbury.com
DO: Go antiquing to your heart’s content. Then explore the countryside: Flanders Nature Center & Land Trust: flandersnaturecenter.org
Galilee, Rhode Island
WHERE: A village of Narragansett, on Point Judith Neck.
STAY: The Break, a new coastal-chic boutique hotel, less than 2 miles from Galilee on Ocean Road: thebreakhotel.com. DurkinCottages, a diverse inventory of weekly summer rentals: durkincottages.com. Fishermen’s Memorial State Park Campground, a popular venue, with 182 RV and tent sites, hosting a farmers’ market on Sundays: riparks.com/Locations/LocationFishermens.html
EAT: George’s of Galilee: The granddaddy of Rhody clam shacks, updated for today’s sustainability concerns. georgesofgalilee.com. Champlin’s, generous fresh lobster-salad rolls with homemade potato chips and the best waterfront views: champlins.com. Jimmy’s PortSide, Galilee’s place to sample Rhode Island–style calamari with banana peppers and marinara: jimmysportside.com. Gabe the Fish Babe: Keep an eye out for her van while you’re here; then, when you’re home and missing the taste of fresh, sustainable fish, join Gabe’s Fish Club to have the catch of the day overnighted to you: gabethefishbabe.com
DO: Benny’s Store: Located just over 4 miles away in Wakefield, Benny’s is your place to purchase a shellfishing license and clamming supplies: hellobennys.com. Frances Fleet: Experienced captains and crew will take you fluke, cod, or tautog fishing by day; squid or bass and blues fishing late at night; or even on overnight tuna trips. Whale-watch excursions are available, too: francesfleet.com. Salty Brine State Beach: Small but in the heart of Galilee, within walking distance of delicious seafood: riparks.com/Locations/LocationSaltyBrine.html. Roger W. Wheeler State Beach: Regarded as one of Rhode Island’s finest beaches, particularly for families with kids, this is Galilee’s place to spend a day building sandcastles and body surfing on gentle waves: riparks.com/Locations/LocationRogerWheeler.html