10 Best Summer Road Trips in New England

From great back roads and fascinating small towns to coastal spots and everything in between, these are the best summer road trips in New England.

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New England was made for summer road trips. We’ve got great back roads, fascinating small towns, endless natural splendor, and the ability to hit several states in one day (if that’s your thing). Grab your sunglasses, buckle up, and check out these ten tremendous rambles that we think qualify as the best summer road trips in New England.

10 Best Summer Road Trips in New England

Get ready for a summer road trip! Here are the 10 Best Summer Road Trips in New England.

Flickr/MA Office of Tourism

RANGELY LAKES SCENIC BYWAY, Maine
You’re going to go from Mexico to Madrid, Maine-style, on ME routes 17 and 4 as they traverse the pristine lakes and mountains of this wild section of northern New England. Don’t miss the panorama at the Height of Land pullout, and keep an eye peeled the whole way for moose, bear, and bobcats. Distance: 50 miles.

10 Best Summer Road Trips in New England

Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park, Maine. |10 Best Summer Road Trips in New England

MOUNT DESERT ISLAND LOOP, Acadia National Park, Maine
Make charming Bar Harbor your base, and take a relaxed circumnavigation via the island’s Loop Road of this rugged, spectacular island that is the second-largest in the New England. Bring a picnic, and make time for the Hulls Cove Visitors Center. Distance: 27 miles round-trip.

10 Best Summer Road Trips in New England

Brown’s Lobster Pound in Seabrook, New Hampshire. | 10 Best Summer Road Trips in New England

Aimee Seavey

COASTAL CROSSING, New Hampshire
Here’s a short, summer delight—take in the length of the New Hampshire coastline, from Seabrook Beach to Portsmouth in a breezy half-day. It’s only 18 miles, but full of great places to stop, including funky Hampton Beach, Fort Constitution, and charming New Castle, home of the elegant Wentworth by the Sea Hotel. Distance: 18 miles.

GREEN MOUNTAIN RIBBON, Vermont
Vermont’s Route 100 is a road-tripper’s dream: long, straight, and flanked the entire way by the beautiful Green Mountains. While the road runs the entire north-south length of the state, a great section begins in Ludlow and ends in Waterbury. Must-stop: the charming villages of neighboring Warren and Waitsfield. Distance: 90 miles.

ALPINE DRAMA, Vermont
You’ll think you’re in the Alps, as VT108 climbs steeply from Stowe toward Smugglers’ Notch in the Green Mountains, tightening into a blacktop corkscrew past boulders and cliffs. Get ready to have your breath taken, and Instagram all those photos on the other side, over a meal in tiny Jeffersonville. Distance: 18 miles.

10 Best Summer Road Trips in New England

The Bridge of Flowers can be found along the Mohawk Trail in Massachusetts. | 10 Best Summer Road Trips in New England

Aimee Seavey

MOHAWK TRAIL, Massachusetts
Famous at foliage time, but equally splendid in the summer, this historic scenic highway winds along northern Massachusetts via MA2, among the rolling hills of the Berkshires, combining art museums with classic roadside Americana and great vistas. Distance: 63 miles.

HOUSATONIC VALLEY, Connecticut
Following Route 7 along the Housatonic River from New Milford to Canaan reveals the green beauty of Western Connecticut. There’s a covered bridge and waterfalls. Distance: 35 miles.

THE QUIET CORNER, Connecticut
Travel back in history for bucolic tranquility on quiet CT169 from Old Norwich to Woodstock, meandering past colonial homesteads and stone walls, farmers’ fields and quaint town greens. Don’t miss The Golden Lamb Buttery in Brooklyn for lunch or dinner. Distance: 40 miles.

10 Best Summer Road Trips in New England

Narragansett, Rhode Island | 10 Best Summer Road Trips in New England

Flickr/Jed Scattergood

SHORE OF DREAMS, Rhode Island
The perfect road trip for beach lovers, this route follows US 1 from RI’s funky surf town of Narragansett along Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic Ocean to historic Westerly (and veranda cocktails at Ocean House). With beaches this good, this might take you a week. Distance: 25 miles.

KINGLY CAPE COD, Massachusetts
Winding, historic, green and dotted with extraordinary vistas out to Cape Cod Bay, this glorious trip along MA6A, or the Old King’s Highway, is a showcase of New England village life from Sandwich to Orleans. Plus, great book shopping and antiquing. Distance: 34 miles.

What are your picks for the best summer road trips in New England?

This post was first published in 2014 and has been updated. 

Comments
  • Nathan

    As a former NH native, I feel it’s poorly represented by only an 18 mile stretch. And, arguably, the Kancamagus Scenic Byway and White Mountain Trail rival the Coastal Crossing in both its history and scenic vistas.

    Reply
    • Many roads & byways in the White Mountains far surpass some of these choices. To enjoy NH coastline, start just north of Hampton Beach & head up.

      Reply
  • Bring back the old Yankee concept — really good stories about quaint New England characters. I’ve had enough of the “tour guide’ concept. Your biggest competitor? My collection of 40 years of old Yankee magazines. I can always find a good story there.

    Reply
  • While your choices are good, born and bred in New England, from the east or west my favorite is the Kancamagus Highway, NH Rte 112, through the White Mountains of New Hampshire with it’s White Birches and views of Mount Chocorua (also great views of the mountain from NH Rte 16) on through to Conway, NH and Fryeberg, Maine, through Bridgton and the lakes then up to Ocean Point and Booth Bay, Maine.

    Reply
  • That is driving that route from the east or the west, great both ways, eh-yah.

    Reply
  • Coralie

    I feel you only touched the tip of the iceberg in not going any further north than Narragansett, RI and then continuing over the Jamestown and Newport Bridges, onto the cape and all the way to Provincetown. Take the ferry to the Islands. And yes I agree about the characters along the way but this is summertime and people are out on the highways, perhaps Route a1a, god I love that road. Not to digress, NE has so much to offer.

    Reply
  • Agree with the other posters. This is not a list of the “10 Best Summer Road Trips in New England”, but, if you were to take the word “Best” out of there the title suits it fine.

    YT, please go back to in depth quality research.

    Reply
  • Donna

    I live in Lincoln NH and I can’t believe they aren’t on the list either nor the ride to Sugar Hill.

    Reply
  • How could you leave out the Kancamagus Highway, NH Rte 112, through the White Mountains??

    Reply
  • Linda

    Personally I think that this is a great presentation of some terrific New England scenic road trips (especially as I live along Route 169 in Canterbury, Connecticut and get to enjoy some of that scenery every time I make the drive from home to work in Norwich. Not so great in the winter but absolutely a glorious drive in fall and spring!

    As for the Kanc – yes, it’s an absolutely beautiful route but it’s more of a “scenic drive” and not necessarily a “road trip” in and of itself and I can fully understand why it was left off of this list. It was nice to see a few lesser known routes highlighted for a change. Kudos!

    Reply
  • Edwin

    I have to agree with several of the comments. There are far better routes out there, just get off the beaten path and you’ll fine so much more. Larz had a comment that is so true, bring back the old Yankee format. Human stories, real people. The one on the farmers losing their land, hard working, and old traditions was one of the most outstanding, exceptional issue I’ve ever read. Get those authors/reporters back!

    Reply
  • danielle

    Wow, you East Coasters are an angry bunch. This young girl was just doing her job, Back off a little.

    Reply
    • I don’t believe any of the commenters are being harsh. The comments I have seen are in response to the last sentence of the article:
      “What are your picks for the best summer road trips in New England?”
      All other comments were directed as choices made lead Yankee Magazine editors. New Englanders are wonderful people, who like to read about & share experiences with other people.

      Reply
  • Carolyn

    For Cape Cod, the scenic highway there is called the Old King’s Highway, not the King’s Old Highway.

    Reply
  • I think the Writer may have confused Vermont’s Route 100 with I91 and I85. If you took the parts of Route 100 that are straight and level, you could do it on roller skates in about three minutes.

    If you choose this very beautiful route, plan on making frequent stops. The driver will be very busy driving.

    See for yourself.

    https://youtu.be/IS2at-yx8cQ

    Reply
  • I lived on Rt 169 in Woodstock CT—Had an old 200 year old farm house–all summer and fall people would stop and take pictures–especially in the fall when my maple trees turned colors.

    Reply

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