The unforgettable New England road trip itinerary

  • Post last modified:September 21, 2022
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The New England road trip is a charming journey through some of the most appreciated parts of the United States. When you go on a Northeast US road trip, you face jaw-dropping nature, charming towns and proud tradition. The ultimate New England road trip itinerary contains the gems you don’t want to miss in the lovely Northeast region.

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New England road trip guide

Highlights on the New England road trip itinerary are listed below. For even more great New England road trip destinations you also find additional stops along the way.

  • Total distance: 1217 mi / 1959 km
  • Total driving time: 23.5 h

1. Boston, MA – The New England road trip starts in Boston

The New England road trip starts in the City on a Hill, Boston. Massachusetts’ largest city is certainly a very convenient place to begin a Northeast road trip.

Many visitors, both national and international, arrive by flight at Boston’s Logan Airport. Boston is also a city with a good selection of car rental companies. But most of all Boston is a charming and fun city to explore before you get deeper into the New England road trip itinerary.

If one thing to do when you visit Boston on the Northeast road trip is mandatory, it’s probably the Freedom Trail. The interesting trail is an easy way to efficiently see a lot of the city. The walking path gives you a good taste of Boston and shows you some of its best historic sites.

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. But baseball is an American tradition, and the Red Sox is the team in Boston. To catch a game and feel the atmosphere at Fenway Park is a great experience before you venture further north on the New England road trip.

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

2. Portland, ME – Traveling along the coast on the Northeast road trip

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

Portland beautifully sits on Maine’s southern coast. The coastal New England city has a lot to offer for shoppers, foodies or just anyone who looks for a good time on the Northeast USA road trip.

The Old Port district in Portland invites visitors to wander its charming streets. It’s a historic downtown district with cobblestone streets, red-brick buildings, charming wharfs and fishing piers. The district’s well preserved facade reminds you of past glory days. But today the district is a modern day gold mine with interesting boutiques, restaurants and watering holes.

To go and see at least one of the many lighthouses in the Portland area is also a must on the ultimate New England road trip. And among all the lighthouses there’s one that especially stands out. Portland Head Light was completed in 1791 and is the oldest lighthouse in Maine. It’s known as the most photographed lighthouse in America, and you surely don’t want to miss the iconic lighthouse on your Northeast USA journey.

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

3. Acadia National Park, ME – A spectacular park on the New England road trip itinerary

  • Driving distance: 172 mi / 277 km
  • Driving time: 3 h

It takes about 3 hours to travel by car from Portland to the only national park on the New England road trip itinerary, Acadia National Park. The best New England road trips include grand nature, and in Acadia you certainly find that.

Most of the national park is located on Mount Desert Island. It’s an island that possesses some of the best parts of the wild Atlantic coastline. Acadia’s untamed attributes often makes it mentioned as one of the most beautiful places in the US.

All over the island you find awe-inspiring nature to explore. However, the eastern half of Mount Desert Island is the by far most visited side. There you find a majority of the park’s most famous spots. Its western half is also beautiful but gets much less attention.

An eastern highlight that stands out on the New England road trip itinerary is Cadillac Mountain. The views of Acadia National Park are just spectacular from Cadillac Mountain’s summit. Cadillac Mountain is popular for sunrise and sunset but a beautiful experience at any time of the day.

Another photogenic New England road trip spot but on the western half of Mount Desert Island is Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. Although not as old as Portland Head Light, it’s still one of the most famous lighthouses in Maine. The charming lighthouse is certainly a good reason to make the drive over to the southern tip of Mount Desert Island.

View from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park
View from Cadillac Mountain.

Where to stay

Bar Harbor is the most popular town with Acadia National Park places to stay. From Bar Harbor you have easy access to most of the highlights in Acadia National Park, including Cadillac Mountain, Sand Beach and the park’s loop road.

But if you’re interested in something off the beaten path, there are other options too. Northeast Harbor is a smaller town that also sits on the eastern side of Mount Desert Island. And on the more quiet western side of Mount Desert Island you find more options in Southwest Harbor.

Boats with American flags in Bar Harbor, ME
Bar Harbor waters, ME.

4. White Mountains / North Conway, NH – Driving into the White Mountains area

  • Driving distance: 209 mi / 336 km
  • Driving time: 4 h

The White Mountains in New Hampshire is a region that’s stuffed with great things to do on a Northeast US road trip. In the White Mountains region you find both stunning natural beauty and cozy towns to relax in.

North Conway is one such town that is the perfect White Mountains gateway town when you travel from the east. From the New Hampshire town you easily reach some of the highlights in the dense White Mountain National Forest.

A beautiful White Mountains place to visit just a few miles from North Conway is Diana’s Baths Cascade. The pretty series of waterfalls have a total drop of 75 feet (23 m). Visiting Diana’s Baths is a rewarding experience both for adults and younger travelers on a New England family road trip.

Another delightful Northeast USA road trip stop not far away from North Conway is Cathedral Ledge Lookout. From the lookout you enjoy spectacular White Mountains views. The stunning perspective from the top of Cathedral Ledge makes a visit worth every step needed to get there.

When you travel further west, you get to see even more of the White Mountain National Forest. One of the best ways to take in the stunning forest is to drive the famous Kancamagus Highway. The New England highway offers great natural beauty and is one of the most scenic drives in New England. As it goes from Conway to Lincoln, the scenic New England highway takes you right to the next base on the Northeast USA road trip.

Spectacular lookout in White Mountain National Forest
Cathedral Ledge, NH.

5. White Mountains / Lincoln, NH – More fun in the White Mountains on the New England road trip itinerary

  • Driving distance: 42 mi / 68 km
  • Driving time: 1 h

Lincoln in New Hampshire also sits at the base of the White Mountains but further west. So Lincoln is a convenient White Mountains gateway town for the highlights in the western part of White Mountain National Forest.

In 1808 something called the Flume was discovered by the lady Jess Guernsey. By accident she came upon it while fishing in the Lincoln area. Jess at first had trouble convincing her family about the discovery, but the rest is history. The Flume Gorge contains a scenic pool, stunning waterfalls and of course White Mountain views. It’s certainly a pretty spot to visit.

The Flume Gorge is just one of many highlights in Franconia Notch State Park right outside Lincoln. You find a good variety of hiking trails in the state park that lets you explore the White Mountains further. The dense forests, stunning lakes and majestic peaks contribute to the unique White Mountains scenery.

Fall folliage on New England road trip
Kancamagus Highway leading to Lincoln, NH.

6. Green Mountains / Stowe, VT – A charming and romantic New England road trip stop

  • Driving distance: 84 mi / 135 km
  • Driving time: 2 h

The town Stowe sits at the foot of the Green Mountains in Vermont. It’s a place that’s often mentioned among the best small towns in America. When you visit on the New England road trip, it’s easy to see why.

Stowe is a charming Vermont village, and its downtown is a postcard worthy area. To just stroll down Main Street in Stowe is an easy but appreciated thing to do when visiting. It’s a small town, but with its peaceful aura a walk couldn’t be more rewarding.

In Stowe you’re never far away from fresh air and beautiful views. Stowe Recreation Path is a celebrated way to explore Stowe and the village’s stunning surroundings. You can walk the paved trail, but it’s also popular to use it for running and biking. Just be prepared for 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. In Waterbury the original Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory is located. It’s a tasty stop to make no matter if you travel solo, as a couple or take a family New England road trip.

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

Additional stop: A beloved additional stop on the Northeast USA road trip is Burlington, VT. Burlington is a fun city that sits on the shore of Lake Champlain. It offers a great contrast to the quaint mountain town Stowe. It’s just 36 miles (58 km) between the two, so you can easily include both on the ultimate New England road trip itinerary.

7. The Berkshires / Stockbridge, MA – Culture and nature hand in hand

  • Driving distance: 188 mi / 303 km
  • Driving time: 3.5 h

In the western parts of Massachusetts and Connecticut you find the Berkshires region. It’s an area that is as known and appreciated for its lush rolling hills as for its rich culture. Stockbridge is a town in the heart of the Berkshires that is a superb base for exploring both culture and nature on the Northeast road trip.

A real New England gem in Stockbridge is the Norman Rockwell Museum. Stockbridge was home to the artist Norman Rockwell for 25 years, and the museum honors and highlights his contributions. Norman Rockwell Museum houses hundreds of original works by Rockwell, also known as America’s favorite illustrator.

Before Norman Rockwell lived in the Berkshires, the writer Edith Wharton also did so. Nowadays you can visit her old home in Lenox. Since 1971 the Mount Home is declared a National Historic Landmark. To visit the expansive grounds is an extraordinary experience on the New England road trip. When you visit, you get to explore the remarkable property and of course learn about the life of Edith Wharton.

But it’s the mix of culture and nature that makes the Berkshires so great. For hiking a beautiful spot is October Mountain State Forest. At roughly 16,500 acres it’s the largest state forest in Massachusetts. In the state forest there are both easy hikes and more strenuous ones if you want to try something more challenging.

Trail in October Mountain State Forest
Hiking in October Mountain State Forest.

8. Mystic, CT – A peaceful coastal village on the road trip in Northeast USA

  • Driving distance: 126 mi / 203 km
  • Driving time: 2 h

On the Connecticut coast the village Mystic peacefully sits. It’s a charming place to visit on the Northeast USA road trip. The village embraces its proud history as a waterside community and center for shipbuilding.

Mystic Seaport Museum is one of the leading maritime museums in the US. The museum on the Mystic River banks preserves artifacts of America’s rich seafaring past. It’s an impressive collection that covers 19 acres and includes four National Historic Landmark vessels. Mystic Seaport Museum is a stop for the New England road trip itinerary that’s both educational and fun.

For authentic shopping, diverse restaurants and charming waterfront views Historic Downtown Mystic has got you covered. The downtown area is compact, and you reach landmarks such as the historic Mystic River Bascule Bridge by foot. To see a nowadays unusual drawbridge in action is an interesting experience.

The quiet Mystic River in Connecticut
Mystic River, CT.

Additional stop: An alternative to Mystic or an additional stop on the New England road trip is New Haven, CT. The home to the famous Yale University is also a fun seaside city to visit as you tour Northeast USA.

9. Newport, RI – Salty Rhode Island shores on the New England road trip

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

The salty shores of Rhode Island are next up on the New England road trip itinerary. Newport is an old colonial city that sits on Aquidneck Island. The Rhode Island seaside city offers attractions that cover a wide spectrum of things to do.

A good way to appreciate the beautiful Atlantic coast is to walk the Newport Cliff Walk. The walk is 3.5 miles long along the rocky Rhode Island coast, and the scenery is stunning. With the ocean on one side and Newport mansions on the other the walk is nothing less than glorious. And as the cliff walk in Newport is free, it’s also a great thing to do on a New England road trip on a budget.

The Rhode Island city is strongly associated with its unbelievable Newport mansions. Luckily you don’t have to settle with seeing the luxurious mansions from the outside. A fun experience is to take a Newport Mansion tour to explore how America’s wealthiest and most influential families used to live. The Breakers is probably the most popular mansion tour to pick, but the Elms and Marble House are certainly also very impressive mansions to tour.

Where to stay

Newport Harbor is the area where you find most of the city’s liveliness. However, there are also more secluded options for where to stay when visiting Newport.

Newspaper on green mansion lawn in Newport, Rhode Island
Mansion tour in Rhode Island, RI.

10. Cape Cod, MA – The idyllic Massachusetts peninsula

  • Driving distance: 120 mi / 193 km
  • Driving time: 2.5 h

Cape Cod, also known as just the Cape, is a peninsula in Massachusetts. The peninsula is since 1914 separated from the mainland by the Cape Cod Canal. When you cross the canal from the mainland, you reach an idyllic place with true New England charm.

A healthy way to discover Cape Cod on the Northeast USA road trip is to go by bike on Cape Cod Rail Trail. The paved Cape Cod trail from South Yarmouth to Wellfleet follows the old 19th century rail lines that used to carry tourists to Cape Cod. Today it’s different times, but the Cape Cod Rail Trail makes it possible to explore much of the beautiful peninsula without using a car.

However, Race Point Beach is located further north than the Cape Cod Rail Trail can take you. Still although the beach is located on the very northern tip of Cape Cod, it’s certainly worth the drive up. Race Point Beach is a phenomenal beach with sand dunes that you don’t find anywhere else on the peninsula. It’s also a terrific location for sunsets and a great spot on a romantic New England road trip.

Where to stay

Cape Cod is divided into Outer Cape, Lower Cape, Mid Cape and Upper Cape. Every area has charming places to stay in Cape Cod. The Outer Cape, where you find Race Point Beach and Provincetown, is the area furthest away from the mainland.

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

11. Boston, MA – Finishing the Northeast USA journey

  • Driving distance: 116 mi / 187 km
  • Driving time: 2.5 h

After an unforgettable New England road trip adventure packed with natural beauty, postcard-perfect towns and fine tradition it’s time to round of the Northeast USA journey. The last leg is the drive back to where the adventure started, Boston. From Provincetown it’s 116 miles (187 miles) to Boston, but it’s shorter if you base yourself somewhere else in Cape Cod.

A seagull at entrance to beach in Cape Cod
Beach on the New England road trip.

New England itineraries with days

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

Ultimate New England 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 New England 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 New England 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)
White Mountains on New England fall road trip itinerary
White Mountains in fall colors.

Use the booking tool below to find the perfect places to stay for your Northeast USA road trip. Browse the map for options in various areas, or click on the search button to start with hotels in Boston.

Northeast USA road trip FAQ

You find the answers to some frequently asked questions about the New England road trip below.

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

The ultimate New England road trip is 1217 miles (1959 km) long. To drive it takes about 23.5 hours not including any stops along the way.

What states are included on the New England road trip itinerary?

The Northeast USA road trip includes the 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 included on the ultimate New England road trip are Boston, Portland, Acadia NP, White Mountains, Green Mountains, the Berkshires, Mystic, Newport and Cape Cod. You also find several appreciated additional New England road trip destinations along the way.

What is there to do on a New England road trip?

A New England road trip is as much about its jaw-dropping nature as about its charming towns and proud traditions. In New England beautiful nature meets covered bridges and quintessential lighthouses.

How long do you need to visit New England?

For the ultimate New England road trip it’s recommended to have at least 3 weeks. But you can break the itinerary up and take shorter New England road trips too. Or you can even put all your focus on one single destination and make it a New England weekend getaway.

How can I spend 7 days in New England?

With 7 days in New England it’s as good idea to concentrate on a certain area of the region. A popular combination is Boston and Cape Cod. With that combination you get to see both a lively city and the timeless New England coastal environment.