Unforgettable New England road trip

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Planning a road trip through New England? Get to the heart of the United States‘ most idyllic corner with this ultimate itinerary, where soothing nature, delightful towns and proud tradition abound. Buckle up — here are all the gems you don’t want to miss.

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Begin with a salty trip up along New England’s coast, where Portland, Camden and Acadia NP are highlights. While Interstate 95 is usually quicker, consider sticking to the parallel, more scenic Route 1.

Then, the character of the itinerary changes dramatically. Head west to see the White Mountains, Green Mountains and Berkshires, with the lofty scenery peaking along the iconic Kancamagus Highway.

Back on the coast, explore Mystic, Newport and Cape Cod. Home to Cape Cod National Seashore, Cape Cod provides some of America’s best beaches, making for the perfect finish to your epic drive.

Isn’t Boston the optimal starting point for you? Feel free to start the loop at the location that suits you best.

Map showing the most scenic route through New England
Click for interactive mode.
  • Total distance: 1,213 mi / 1,952 km
  • Total driving time: 25 h

1. Boston, MA

Massachusetts‘ largest city, Boston is certainly a convenient place to begin a Northeast road trip. There’s the well-connected Logan Airport and an array of rental car companies to choose from.

But — most of all — Boston is a fun city to explore before you get deeper into the New England itinerary.

If one thing to do in Boston is mandatory, it’s the Freedom Trail. Walking the 2.5-mile (4 km) path, which presents top historic sites in the heart of Boston, is a one-of-a-kind activity.

After touring Boston, you don’t have to like baseball to enjoy a visit to Fenway Park. In all honesty, many visitors don’t even know the baseball rules when they enter Fenway Park for the first time.

However, baseball is an American tradition, and the Red Sox is the team in Boston. Catching a game and feeling the atmosphere at Fenway Park is a memorable experience before heading north — baseball fan or not.

More info: Where to stay in Boston

Cozy street with American flag in Beacon Hill, Boston
Beacon Hill, Boston.

2. Portland, ME

  • Driving distance: 112 mi / 180 km
  • Driving time: 2 h

On Maine’s southern coast, Portland offers a lot for anyone looking for a good time.

In particular, the historic Old Port — characterized by cobblestone streets, red-brick buildings, quaint wharves and fishing piers — is the crown jewel. While its facades remind you of past glory days, the district is a modern-day gold mine with eclectic boutiques, watering holes and restaurants.

Capturing at least one of the many lighthouses in the Portland area is also a must, and especially one stands out: Portland Head Light was completed in 1791, making it Maine’s oldest lighthouse.

White Portland Head Light on the Maine coast
Portland Head Light, ME.

3. Camden, ME

  • Driving distance: 81 mi / 130 km
  • Driving time: 1 h 45 min

Countless scenic towns hug Route 1. Camden may be the most picturesque of them all.

Picture a small town lacing an Atlantic cove (Penobscot Bay) with steep slopes (Camden Hills). If you’re short on time, stretch your legs while you browse the stores on the timeless Main Street or sit down in the Camden Amphitheater, a small oasis facing the harbor.

With more time, hike into the rising Camden Hills State Park. But if you don’t want to work for it, you can also drive up to the top of Mount Battie, brilliantly capturing the scenery.

4. Acadia NP, ME

  • Driving distance: 77 mi / 124 km
  • Driving time: 1 h 45 min

Welcome to the only national park in New England, Acadia. Calling Mount Desert Island home, it encompasses some of the Atlantic’s most untamed coastline — this is one of the most beautiful places in the US.

Although you find awe-inspiring nature all over the island, the eastern half of Mount Desert Island holds most of the park’s star attractions.

An unrivaled eastern highlight is Cadillac Mountain. The views of Acadia are just spectacular from Cadillac Mountain’s summit, both the tallest point of the park and the USA’s eastern seaboard.

Cadillac Mountain peaks at sunrise and sunset but is a beautiful experience throughout the day.

On Mount Desert Island’s quieter western half, another photogenic spot not to miss is Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. Built in 1858 on the island’s southern tip, it’s not quite as old as Portland Head Light — but no less pretty.

More info: Where to stay near Acadia NP

View from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park during sunrise
View from Cadillac Mountain.
Boats with American flags in Bar Harbor, ME
Bar Harbor waters, ME.

5. North Conway, NH (White Mountains)

  • Driving distance: 212 mi / 341 km
  • Driving time: 4 h 15 min

New Hampshire‘s White Mountains region is filled with great things to do, boasting both stunning natural beauty and cozy towns to relax in.

A shining example of the latter, North Conway is the perfect White Mountains gateway when you come from the east. From here, you effortlessly reach many highlights in the dense White Mountain National Forest.

Within a few miles, Diana’s Baths Cascade — a series of waterfalls dropping 75 feet (23 m) — is a spellbinding place. Another nearby stop is Cathedral Ledge Lookout, offering White Mountains vistas destined for Instagram fame.

When traveling further west, you unlock even more of the White Mountain National Forest.

Driving the famous Kancamagus Highway — one of New England’s most scenic drives — is a jaw-dropping experience. As it runs from Conway to Lincoln, it also takes you right to your next base on the itinerary.

Person standing on the edge of lookout in White Mountain National Forest, facing vivid fall-colored forests
Cathedral Ledge, NH.

6. Lincoln, NH (White Mountains)

  • Driving distance: 41 mi / 66 km
  • Driving time: 1 h

Ready for more gorgeous terrain? At the end of the scenic Kancamagus Highway, Lincoln is a practical White Mountains gateway for highlights in the western part of White Mountain National Forest.

The Flume — a natural gorge offering a scenic pool, stunning waterfalls and, of course, mesmerizing White Mountain views — was discovered in 1808 by Jess Guernsey. She came upon it by accident while fishing in the Lincoln area.

After the finding, as the story goes, Jess first had trouble convincing her family about the discovery. It just sounded too magical to be true — but the rest is history.

Today, the Flume is a highlight in Franconia Notch State Park. You find a good variety of hiking trails in Franconia, letting you explore the White Mountains and its dense forests, stunning lakes and majestic peaks further.

Road surrounded by vibrant fall foliage colors
Kancamagus Highway leading to Lincoln, NH.

7. Stowe, VT (Green Mountains)

  • Driving distance: 85 mi / 137 km
  • Driving time: 2 h

A Vermont village with a postcard-worthy downtown area, Stowe sits at the foot of the Green Mountains.

Just strolling down Main Street in Stowe is an appreciated thing to do. It’s a small town, but thanks to its peaceful aura, a walk couldn’t be more rewarding.

When visiting Stove, you’re never far from fresh air and beautiful views. Stowe Recreation Path provides a convenient way to explore Stowe and the village’s lovely surroundings.

Walk, run or bike the paved trail — just be prepared that you will want to stop to take pictures.

Not in Stowe, but just a short drive away, you find the ice cream lover’s dream. Be careful so you don’t get a brain freeze at the original Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory in Waterbury.

White church nestled among trees and mountains in Stowe.
Picturesque Stowe, VT.

Extra stop: Consider stopping in Burlington, VT, a fun city on the shore of Lake Champlain. Because it’s just 36 miles (58 km) between Stowe and Burlington, you can easily include both on your New England itinerary.

8. North Adams, MA (The Berkshires)

  • Driving distance: 159 mi / 256 km
  • Driving time: 3 h 15 min

It’s the rolling hills and captivating culture that define The Berkshires region. Marking its northern end, where Vermont meets Massachusetts, North Adams is a great place to start exploring.

Be inspired by evocative galleries and performances at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, set on the Hoosic River in downtown North Adams.

Or, simply cruise onwards, letting the peaceful landscape wash over you. North Adams sits along the Mohawk Trail, one of New England’s most scenic drives, finishing in nearby Williamstown.

9. Stockbridge, MA (The Berkshires)

  • Driving distance: 35 mi / 56 km
  • Driving time: 1 h

America’s favorite illustrator, Norman Rockwell called Stockbridge home for 25 years. Here, with hundreds of original works, the Norman Rockwell Museum honors and showcases his legacy.

Before Rockwell, the writer Edith Wharton lived in the Berkshires, too. Visit her historic Lenox residence, the expansive Mount Home (maybe on your way from North Adams to Stockbridge), to learn and absorb the idyllic setting.

These are cultural treasures, but don’t forget that what makes the Berkshires outstanding is the mix of culture and nature.

For hiking, a beautiful spot is October Mountain State Forest. At roughly 16,500 acres, it’s Massachusetts’ largest state forest, offering both easy and strenuous trails.

More info: Where to stay in The Berkshires

Wooden trail in October Mountain State Forest
Hiking in October Mountain State Forest.

10. Mystic, CT

  • Driving distance: 127 mi / 204 km
  • Driving time: 2 h 15 min

On the Connecticut coast, the village of Mystic peacefully sits. Get ready to discover its proud history as a waterside community and center for shipbuilding.

By the Mystic River, Mystic Seaport Museum is one of the USA’s leading maritime museums, preserving an array of seafaring artifacts. Enjoy an impressive collection covering 19 acres, with four National Historic Landmark vessels as the biggest draws.

Compact Historic Downtown Mystic has you covered for authentic shopping, diverse eateries and charming waterfront views. Especially pay attention to the Mystic River Bascule Bridge, a still-in-use drawbridge — nowadays a rare sight.

Quiet Mystic River in Connecticut
Mystic River, CT.

Extra stop: An alternative to Mystic or an additional stop on the itinerary is New Haven, CT, the home to the famous Yale University.

11. Newport, RI

  • Driving distance: 48 mi / 77 km
  • Driving time: 1 h

The shore of Rhode Island is an essential ingredient on your New England road trip itinerary. On Aquidneck Island, Newport is an old colonial city with attractions covering a wide spectrum.

Walking the renowned Newport Cliff Walk, 3.5 miles (5.6 km) long, is a beautiful way to appreciate the Atlantic coast. Tracing Newport’s rocky coastline, it offers stunning natural scenery and fresh salty air.

As a bonus, eye-popping mansions frame the trail.

For the full experience, take a Newport Mansion tour to see how America’s wealthiest and most influential families used to live. The Breakers stands out for its extreme luxury, but the Elms and Marble House are also impressive.

More info: Accommodation in Newport, RI

Person sitting with newspaper on green mansion lawn in Newport, Rhode Island
Mansion tour in Rhode Island, RI.

12. Cape Cod, MA

  • Driving distance: 120 mi / 193 km
  • Driving time: 2 h 30 min

These 120 miles (193 km) take you all the way to the northern tip of Cape Cod, a peninsula separated from the mainland by the Cape Cod Canal since 1914. Be sure to make plenty of stops along the way.

Cape Cod Rail Trail, excellent for walking or biking, presents a healthy way to sightsee. Paved and extending for 25 miles (40 km) from South Yarmouth to Wellfleet, it follows the 19th-century rail lines that used to carry tourists to Cape Cod.

At the trail’s end, the landscape of Cape Cod National Seashore takes over. Hang out on the seemingly never-ending beach — seals thrive in the waters here — or hike around marshes and ponds.

The finish every peninsula should have, Race Point Beach, as far north as you get, is a phenomenal beach with huge sand dunes. On a sunny day, you might ask yourself: Is this Massachusetts or Florida?

More info: Best areas in Cape Cod

House at Race Point Beach during sunset.
Sunset at Race Point Beach, Cape Cod.

13. Boston, MA

  • Driving distance: 116 mi / 187 km
  • Driving time: 2 h 15 min

It’s time to round off your unforgettable New England road trip. The last leg is the drive back to where the adventure started, Boston. From the isolated Provincetown, it’s 116 miles (187 miles) to Boston, but it’s shorter if you base yourself elsewhere on Cape Cod.

Seagull sitting at the entrance to a beach in Cape Cod
Beach on the New England road trip.

Where to stay when you road trip through New England

New England takes pride in its atmospheric, often historic inns. Consider making your road trip even better by booking one of our favorite places to stay on Cape Cod.

Appreciate the English Country style at the Old Harbor Inn, a luxurious bed and breakfast set in Chatham. Each of the twelve rooms is unique and the location spot-on for day trips across Cape Cod.

Or, stretch your budget by staying at the Breakwater Hotel, slightly outside Provincetown, at Cape Cod’s northern tip. Drive 5 minutes or walk 30 minutes to get to Provincetown’s heart.

New England itineraries with days

For the full New England road trip, we recommend allowing at least 3 weeks. If you have less time, it’s a good idea to break up the itinerary to focus on your favorite parts.

Ultimate itinerary (3 weeks)

  • Day 1-3: Boston (2 nights)
  • Day 3-5: Portland (2 nights)
  • Day 5-8: Acadia NP (3 nights)
  • Day 8-10: North Conway (2 nights)
  • Day 10-12: Lincoln (2 nights)
  • Day 12-14: Stowe (2 nights)
  • Day 14-15: The Berkshires (1 night)
  • Day 15-16: Mystic (1 night)
  • Day 16-18: Newport (2 nights)
  • Day 18-21: Cape Cod (3 nights)

2 week road trip (Atlantic coast)

  • Day 1-2: Mystic (1 night)
  • Day 2-4: Newport (2 nights)
  • Day 4-7: Cape Cod (3 nights)
  • Day 7-9: Boston (2 nights)
  • Day 9-11: Portland (2 nights)
  • Day 11-14: Acadia NP (3 nights)

7 day road trip (Mountain trip)

  • Day 1-4: White Mountains (3 nights)
  • Day 4-6: Green Mountains (2 nights)
  • Day 6-7: The Berkshires (1 night)
Kancamagus Highway in the White Mountains painted in orange fall colors
White Mountains in fall colors.

New England road trip FAQ

How long does it take to drive the New England road trip?

This ultimate New England road trip is 1,213 miles (1,952 km) long, taking 25 hours excluding the time you need for the stops along the way.

What states are on the New England road trip itinerary?

The journey includes six states: Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Where should I stop on a road trip in New England?

The main stops on the itinerary are Boston, Portland, Acadia NP, White Mountains, Green Mountains, The Berkshires, Mystic, Newport and Cape Cod.

How long do you need to visit New England?

For the full loop, we recommend allowing 3 weeks or more. But you can break the itinerary up and enjoy a shorter journey, too, for example, focusing on the coast or the mountains.

How can I spend 7 days in New England?

With 7 days, it’s as good idea to concentrate on a certain area. To see both a lively city and New England’s timeless coastal environment, a popular combo is Boston and Cape Cod.

Keep planning your New England trip

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