New England has long been a popular summer destination for those who want to leave the big city behind and embrace a slower pace of life. Historic buildings lined by cobblestone streets, artisan shops, craft breweries, acres of pristine wilderness, and miles of stunning coastline are just some of the things that await in the Northeast. If you’re looking to get out of town this year, look no further than these six charming New England towns you’ve probably never heard of before.
The small town situated on the misty harbor of Penobscot Bay is home to less than 5,000 residents, but word of Camden’s appeal is spreading. More and more tourists flock to this gorgeous hamlet every year to tackle Maine’s quintessential MidCoast region hikes, dine on fresh seafood, and watch the lobster boats bob peacefully in the harbor.
High Street is lined with 19th-century homes and the restored Camden Opera House still hosts music, film, and dance productions. Popular hikes include the easy-going trails of Camden Hills State Park and Mount Battie (conquerable on foot or by car), both of which promise sweeping ocean views. Maiden Cliff is a must if you’re looking for a quick leg burner with a killer lookout point over Megunticook Lake. After a day in the great outdoors, take a load off on the back deck of The Waterfront Restaurant and refuel on seafood while you soak up views overlooking Camden Harbor.
There’s no shortage of historic seaports in Massachusetts, but Newburyport’s charm reaches far beyond its cobblestone streets. Located along the Merrimack River and lined with boutiques and quaint coffee shops, this town of 18,000 claims a flourishing shopping scene. Peruse the Merrimac Street strip and finish up at Oldies Marketplace, a huge antique waterfront warehouse stacked with all sorts of unique finds.
The compact streets fill up quickly with people, but luckily a retreat is just a 10-minute drive away. Plum Island is a barrier island that features a long sandy beach bound by the Plum Island Lighthouse on one side and the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on the other. Pass time by kayaking, birdwatching, swimming, or fishing. Cap the day with an ice cream at The Cottage Creamery.
Littleton, New Hampshire
The White Mountains are New Hampshire’s claim to fame and the state experiences an influx of tourists in the summer looking to cross some of New England’s highest summits off their bucket list. Popular hiking hub, North Conway, bubbles over with seasonal tourists who enjoy the town’s quaint, laid-back vibes and proximity to hiking trails. However, the often-overlooked but equally adorable hamlet of Littleton contains one of America’s best main streets, framed by the towering Whites and the Connecticut River.
The former mill town boasts award-winning eateries and unpretentious art galleries rehoused in historic buildings. Also home to the “World’s Longest Candy Counter” (112 feet of sweets housed inside Chutters), some visitors may argue that this is the town’s best feature. Despite Littleton’s modern touches, the restored Grist Mill, Ammonoosuc River’s covered bridge, and the Opera House stand proudly as reminders of Littleton’s small-town past.
Narragansett, Rhode Island
Located on the picturesque Pettaquamscutt Cove, the seaward facing town of Narragansett blends its lively history with modern-day appeal. The iconic stone towers serve as a reminder of the town’s heyday as a gambling and party destination. “The Towers” previously marked the entrance to the Narragansett Pier Casino and are now a present-day landmark along the town’s rocky coastline. After you snap the obligatory photo with the red turrets, swim in the warm waters off one of the three state beaches along the Atlantic coast.
Discover a more reserved shoreline on the Black Point Trail, which travels along Rhode Island’s famously rugged coast and past the historic Black Point Ruins. If time allows, visit the smallest town in the smallest state in the country, New Shoreham on Block Island. The town is accessible via a one-hour ride on the Block Island Ferry. The grassy dunes, windswept white sand, and dramatic bluffs make this one of the most idyllic places in New England.
Two hours from the madness of New York City, Kent is a sleepy Connecticut town that welcomes visitors with quiet tranquility and the buzzing sounds of nature. Kent is a place where people come to reset, get back in touch with the simple things in life, and enjoy life at a leisurely pace. The downtown, albeit small, is lined with boutique shops, art studios, charming taverns, and an artisan cheese shop called the 109 Cheese Market. Several worthwhile museums help paint a picture of what Kent was like in earlier times. Local artist Eric Sloane is showcased in his namesake museum and the Connecticut Antique Machinery Association (CAMA) displays relic trains, tractors, and other machinery that helped build Kent and the surrounding area.
The best part of the small New England town, however, waits to be discovered outside the bounds of Main Street. Head to the Housatonic River and snap a picture of the iconic Bull’s Bridge. Constructed in 1842, it’s one of three remaining covered bridges in the state. Follow the river up to Kent Falls State Park and admire the 250-foot-tall cascade while you wander the quarter-mile trail that runs alongside. Adventure further into Macedonia Brook State Park to hike the beautiful loop trail with views over the Catskills and then sleep under the stars.
The suburban farmland of Burlington is now a destination in its own right. Williston sits just 15 minutes outside of the state’s biggest city, making the municipality an ideal launchpad for experiencing both city and small-town life in Vermont. To the west, Burlington and Lake Champlain await. To the east, the Green Mountains beckon to be explored. Stay in a charming B&B and get to know the friendly townspeople at the Village Tap House, a popular joint with wood-fired pizza and 36 craft beers on tap.
Support a local business and learn how Willistonites enjoy their rugged backyard with mountain bike lessons at Catamount Outdoor Family Center, or catch a live local performance at the Brick Church Music Series in town. Whether you’re up for enjoying the natural scenery or experiencing the culture of the Green Mountain State, Williston offers the best of both worlds.