Favorite Outdoor Adventure Towns in Northern New England

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Kayaking, Climbing, Hiking, Mountain Biking in Northern New England—May through August

River Kayaking

River Kayaking

The essential elements for a town to make it on my list include water and mountains. What I like to do during the warmer months of the year: hike, bike, swim, sail, kayak, run, and hammock. My favorite adventure towns have all of the above or something of the like very close by, though you may have to BYOH (bring your own hammock).

Who: Heather Atwell

What: Favorite outdoor adventure towns

Why: I promised I would write this top 5 list

Where: Northern New England

How: The complete opposite of an exact science

When: May to August

Burlington, Vermont

Burlington is the hotspot in Vermont. It’s the closest thing Vermont has to a city. It’s also the closest vibe the northeast has to Boulder, Colorado, well-known for its decidedly hip outdoorsy folk. In fact, Burlington’s Church Street has the same pedestrian style walkway that Boulder’s Pearl Street has, and a similar lively scene of shoppers, eaters, and street performers especially in the warmer months. One thing Church Street does not have is a jaw-dropping view of Lake Champlain with the Adirondack’s as the backdrop. 125 miles long, it’s no mere puddle. For a bike ride that follows the shoreline, The Burlington Waterfront’s Bike Path travels 7.6 miles. Longer road rides and mountain biking trails are also nearby, but just remember, as the saying goes, Vermont ain’t flat. Rent a kayak or canoe at North Beach, or a sailboat at the Community Sailing Center. You’ll need to travel out of town for truly majestic hikes of Camel’s Hump or Mount Mansfield. Then hurry back for yummy food, shopping and great nightlife. Eat your way up and down Church Street: Leunig’s Bistro, American Flatbread, The Single Pebble, Ben & Jerry’s, Penny Cluse. Shop at the Outdoor Gear Exchange where you can buy new duds or re-sell your used equipment. For bike-o-philes, check out Old Spokes Home , a bike shop that sells and services new, used and vintage bicycles.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

New Hampshire has 18 miles of seacoast, and Portsmouth is the perfect home base to take it all in. Head to Hampton, about 25 minutes from Portsmouth, for Northeast style surfing. Take a surf lesson or rent a board from Cinnamon Rainbows based at North Beach. Nearby Seabrook Beach and York Beach are also popular surf spots. And speaking of beaches, there are more than 30 nearby, though you may have to cross the border to explore all of them. Check out Portsmouth Kayak Rentals for kayak rentals and group tours. Do a little bit of honkey tonk in Hampton Beach. Head back to Portsmouth by night-fall. Sneak in some culture at The Music Hall, a historic theatre downtown that features movies, performances, and live music. And, be sure to eat and drink. Portsmouth is overflowing with great restaurants.

Jackson, New Hampshire

This small village is nestled in the Mount Washington Valley. There are quite a few towns that would make for a suitable base camp to enjoy all the outdoor activities available in this area, but staying in Jackson will provide some special comforts in the areas of food and lodging after a couple rugged days of hiking Mount Washington while overnighting at AMC lodges and huts. This outdoor adventure will focus on hiking. Oh sure, you could drive your car to the peak of Mount Washington, then buy a bumper sticker that says, “This Car Climbed Mount Washington,” but I am sure just the mere thought of that makes you feel a little sick to your stomach, and not because of the altitude. Your boots were made for hiking. And that is why it is okay to call Jackson, New Hampshire, one of your favorite adventure towns. Cause you’ve adventured and now you need to hammock a little. If you feel like you need to get more activities in, Eastern Mountain Sports, located in North Conway, offers guided kayaking, climbing, hiking and mountain biking programs. Or to get on the Saco River, check out Saco Bound for guided whitewater rafting and canoe trips. But, don’t forget to relax a little.


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