Boston sits at the center of New England, and this is particularly convenient when it comes to summertime automotive adventuring. Weekend getaways to neighboring states are more than manageable by car. In fact, they’re something of a birthright. Enjoy these three memorable road trips through New England and you’ll be richly rewarded.
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Two and a half hours north of Boston is the unassuming hamlet of North Conway, N.H., the gateway to the White Mountains. After taking full advantage of the area’s ample tax-free outlet shopping, head west on US-Route 302 for a 40-mile meander through the scenic heart of the Granite State. Although the Kancamagus — running parallel to the south — hogs most of the highway-related hype in these parts, this under-heralded thoroughfare affords far finer vistas of New Hampshire’s most prominent peaks. Begin your journey at Cathedral Ledge, a 500-foot granite outcropping and rock-climbing hot spot just outside of North Conway. Nearby you’ll find a trailhead for the 1.2-mile roundtrip hike to the foot of Diana’s Baths. Cool down in a collection of cascading watering holes, encompassing a total drop of over 75 feet. Next stop is Attitash Mountain Resort, where for $15 a head you can ride the longest alpine slide in North America, winding its way through more than a mile of densely thicketed hillside. From here the highway bisects Crawford Notch State Park, providing sweeping views of this broad, verdant valley, before arriving at Mount Washington Hotel and Resort. The brilliant, maroon-roofed national landmark, built in the style of Spanish Renaissance, hosted the infamous Bretton Woods conference of 1944, effectively establishing the modern global economy. Far more formative, however, is the majestic, rising slope of Mount Washington towering overhead. At 6,148 feet, it is the soaring pinnacle of the Northeastern United States. The scenic tour concludes at Bear Mountain Lodge in Bethlehem. A small town of 2,500 people, it holds an untold history as a hideaway for Gilded Age dilettantes. Come on a Saturday, between May and October, to experience an eclectic, outsize farmers’ market.
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Lubec, Maine (pop. 1,359), is by no means a booming metropolis. Nevertheless, the town attracts global attention for it’s cartographical claim to fame, as it is the easternmost point of the continental United States. Reaching it from Boston involves just over 300 miles of rugged, Atlantic coastline, which can be accomplished in the better part of a day, at a leisurely pace. Head out in the late morning and make your first stop lunch at Bob’s Clam Hut, an iconic, 60-year-old eatery just over the Maine border, in Kittery. Load up on fresh lobster rolls and heaping mounds of fried clams, caked in a thin layer of breadcrumbs. Original proprietor Bob Kraft preferred his without egg wash, in stark contrast to his longtime employee, Lilian. Today, you can decide for yourself who had it right by ordering either style. After settling that, follow I-295 through Portland, sticking with US-Route 1 as it splits off toward the coast in Brunswick. As you approach the Sheepscot River in Wiscasset, allow a 20-minute detour to pick up a few growlers of pale ale from Oxbow, a nondescript farmhouse brewery in Newcastle, renowned for its peppery, funky, Belgian-style beers. Continue along the Atlantic Highway, taking a pitstop at Sears Island Preserve, north of Belfast, to admire the craggy shores of Penobscot Bay. From here, you’ll have a couple of hours to soak up the topography, gathering Instagram fodder from the sparsely scattered fishing towns of coastal Maine before arriving at land’s end: the West Quoddy Head Lighthouse — eastern terminus of the nation’s continental claim. If it’s a clear enough day, you can peer over the narrows to Campobello Island, in New Brunswick. Even when socked in, you can still marvel at the meticulously preserved light station, striped in alternating bands of red and white. It has stood here on cliff’s edge, unperturbed since 1858. Spend the night at the Inn at the Wharf, enveloped by the maritime air of Johnson Bay. The restaurant excels at the sort of seafood specialities you’d expect in this corner of the country. But order early — the kitchen closes at 8, sharp.
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Western New England is edged by a smooth wave of rock, flowing south from the Green Mountains of Vermont and sloping into the Berkshires, to form a much-needed wall between Massachusetts and New York. This ancient ridgeline is home to some of the region’s artsiest exclaves, its exposed vertebrae switchbacked by some of the nation’s finest scenic byways. For an enchanting glimpse of all of the above, embark on a 160-mile trek from Stockbridge to the central shores of Lake Champlain. The final home of Norman Rockwell — and many of his paintings — and summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Stockbridge is a well-documented refuge from the city, an easy two hours on the Pike. But that doesn’t make an early afternoon of sipping pints at Widow Bingham’s Pub any less magical. The English-themed watering hole behind the lobby of the storied Red Lion Inn now serves bottled Negronis and house-cured charcuterie to keep that Guinness company. Keep it light, as there is nearly four hours of road ahead of you. Follow US-7 North through Pittsfield and you’ll notice a cresting massif creeping up on the right side of the vehicle. This is Mount Greylock, the 3,489-foot pinnacle of Massachusetts. It’s actually part of the Taconic range, which you can observe more meaningfully by detouring 15 minutes west on MA-2, the Mohawk Trail. About 5 miles of ascent plateaus upon a grandiose vista, providing 360-degree panorama of most of the Taconic and Berkshire ranges. Continue back on US-7, north across the Vermont border, and past Glastenbury mountain — a popular hiking area, traversed by the Appalachian Trail. In Manchester, split to the left on state Route 30, toward Shoreham. This sleepy farm town is home to WhistlePig, a fully functioning whiskey distillery (in a bright red barn), offering tastings and tours by appointment. The surrounding area is also a great jump-off spot for trout fishing on the lake, which feels more like a river this far south. Trace its widening edges along state Route 22A, before it merges back into US-7, just south of Shelburne. Within hacky-sacking distance of Burlington’s notorious crunchiness, Shelburne has amassed its own bohemian bonafides. Grab an icy IPA from Fiddlehead Brewing or sit down to some elevated pub grub at the Bearded Frog before checking in at the Heart of the Village, a charming, Victorian-style B&B. End your evening with an awe-inspiring sunset over Lake Champlain, the opposing shore ruffled by a backdrop of Adirondacks. Hard to imagine as daily spectacle, yet here it is: just another summer’s day in New England.Brad Japhe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.