0  Aerial view of Bar Harbor, Maine.

The Most Beautiful Towns In New England

Known for its south-eastern coasts, culture, art, and fascinating history and architecture, New England shines with many atmospheric towns, with the eight most beautiful towns in the region discussed below. It is to be noted that each of these New England towns offers a vibrant lifestyle, as well as an array of tourist activities and attractions, making them bucket-list-worthy for one's road trip or next getaway out of a crowded megalopolis. 

Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor, Maine. 

Named for its connection between the Bar Island and the mainland when the tide is low, Bar Harbor features a quaint seaside townscape and encompasses a large portion of the nation's famed Acadia National Park, surrounding the town. Visiting in autumn allows one to spectate the most unbelievable fiery scene of hues along the 40-mile stretch of the Acadia Byway, juxtaposed dramatically by the vistas of the ruggedly handsome coast of soaring granite cliffs. Set on Mount Desert Island, with lighthouse tours and adorable ice-cream shops speckled throughout the town, Bar Harbor serves as a popular destination for the romantics and the adventurers.

Victorian architecture in downtown Bar Harbor, Maine
Victorian architecture in downtown Bar Harbor near Frenchman Bay in Maine. Editorial credit: f11photo / Shutterstock.com

The town’s designated historic district, West Street, showcases Victorian architecture along with the elegant mansions of the past, perfectly preserved in their glorious splendor that will amaze even the most avid history-seekers. For more cultural outings, one can attend the concerts and art shows at Village Green, while the Abbe Museum displays Maine’s Native American heritage. The options for an active pastime range from paddle-boating, kayaking, and canoeing on the waters, to hiking and biking on the myriad of the park's trails. The Saltair, famed for its waterfront property looking out and complementing the Frenchman Bay, is the must-stay hotel that is always in demand. 

Brattleboro, Vermont

Creamery Covered Bridge in Brattleboro, Vermont
Creamery Covered Bridge was built in 1879 in Brattleboro, Vermont. 

This gorgeous town is known for its vibrant art scene and having a unique name that no other place in the world possesses. The revitalized downtown area exudes an artsy atmosphere, from art galleries to upper story artists' studios and various art venues. With a whole array of local art brands, one will indeed find a unique quality item to display proudly in their house as one-of-a-kind, as well as stock up on souvenirs for loved ones. A must-visit in Brattleboro is the historic landmark of the Creamery Covered Bridge, constructed in 1879.

Commercial stores and restaurants in Brattleboro, Vermont
Commercial stores and restaurants in the New England town of Brattleboro, Vermont. Editorial credit: jenlo8 / Shutterstock.com

Set along the Connecticut River banks, there are also great wintertime activities to engage in, including skating, hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling, while the edgy downtown area has a wide range of dining options to regain the energy. Pieces by Andy Warhol, Wolf Kahn, and Janet Fish, among others, can be seen in eight exhibitions at the Brattleboro Art Museum created out of a restored railroad depot to offer its own kind of grungy charm. Classic music fans will revel in the fact that the town’s performing art scene makes a point of hosting the New England Bach Festival, as well as the winter Chamber Music Series. 

Burlington, Vermont

The Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, Vermont
The Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, Vermont. 

As one of the larger towns of Vermont known for its dominating art scene, the saying, “you can’t throw a stone without hitting a poet/painter/potter,” fits this town like no other. The Church Street Marketplace at the heart of the town is filled with hip art cafes, galleries, and performing artists at every corner and contains a pedestrianized outdoor mall. Thanks to its driven enclave of college students, regional power brokers, and creative minds, Burlington bears a resemblance to Seattle, with its noticeably progressive social and political scenes.

The City Hall of Burlington, Vermont.
The City Hall of Burlington, Vermont. 

The town's jewel is "The Fleming Museum," featuring a vast collection of artwork set on the grounds of the University of Vermont's campus. The Firehouse Center for the Arts also has year-round exhibitions and art programs, while the Arts Alive Festival is a lively event taking place in June. The Flynn Performing Arts Center, a restored art deco masterpiece for performing arts fans, hosts concerts, plays, and traveling Broadway shows. A spanned-out farmer's market takes place on Saturdays, while locally-grown food is a tradition rather than a trend in Burlington.

Camden, Maine

Aerial view of Camden Harbor
Aerial view of Camden Harbor with fall foliage. 

Located in an ideal place where the mountains meet the Atlantic, Camden is adjacent to Penobscot Bay and the Gulf of Maine, making it postcard-perfect and known as the “Jewel of the Maine Coast." The harbor's schooners, sailboats, and yachts are incredibly photogenic, while the town itself is the setting for numerous movies, including the 2001 feature, In the Bedroom. With a historic working port, local produce, and handmade souvenir shops, Camden has been a popular tourist destination since the late 19th century, when it was considered a prestige holiday getaway for the wealthy.

Stone tower at the peak of Mount Battie, Camden Hills State Park, Maine
Stone tower at the peak of Mount Battie, Camden Hills State Park, Maine. 

One may want to start the exploration of the town by visiting its High Street Historic District filled with classic New England architecture. Adventure-seekers can indulge in taking a sailing excursion around the harbor or hike the scenic Camden Hills State Park with breathtaking fall foliage during the season. One can choose from the many seafood restaurants to dine in and grab a local Maine-made glass of wine on a terrace with a gorgeous mountain backdrop. To stay, the boutique hotel, the Captain Swift Inn, comes complete with a marine atmosphere, featuring nine unique rooms, some with decks, as well as a candlelight breakfast. 

Kennebunkport, Maine

A small harbor in Kennebunkport, Maine.
A small harbor in Kennebunkport, Maine. Editorial credit: Enrico Della Pietra / Shutterstock.com

Set on the banks of the Kennebunk River in the southern portion of the state and only a mile from the Atlantic, the town's unique activities include boating excursions, whale watching tours, and adventures where one can trap a live lobster. The heart of the town, known as the Dock Square, features an array of diverse restaurants, with many focused on seafood and local craft shops, where one can find almost any item done in a marine style to take home as a souvenir. The town is also adored for its Goose Rocks Beach, a three-mile stretch to meander or partake in water fun. 

First settled in the 1600s by shipbuilders and wealthy sea captains who built magnificent mansions that got converted into inns at the present day, the town's Summer Street is also considered an architectural showcase of Federal and Colonial buildings from the past. Other landmarks include the Blowing Cave, the Spouting Rock, and the Goat Island Light, with one of Maine’s oldest lighthouses. The town has also been a favorite destination getaway for the nation's presidents, especially President George HW Bush, whose summer residence is on the grounds. 

Mystic, Connecticut

The Mystic River Bascule Bridge in Mystic, Connecticut
The Mystic River Bascule Bridge in Mystic, Connecticut. Editorial credit: littlenySTOCK / Shutterstock.com

Set centrally between Boston and New York City on the banks of the Mystic River with access to the sea through the Long Island Sound, Mystic attracts tourists for its coastal location and exceptionally picturesque townscape. Not surprisingly, it is the setting of the oldies' favorite diner movie featuring Julia Roberts, Mystic Pizza (1988), that got inspired by the pizza restaurant of the town. Some prominent landmarks include the Maritime Gallery specializing in ship models and contemporary marine art and the movable Bascule Bridge, the state’s most photographed bridge offering an incredible view.

Mystic Seaport
Mystic Seaport. 

One of the nation's leading seaports, the Mystic Seaport, covers 19 acres along the river, while the town's perfectly preserved maritime history can be witnessed at its maritime museum, featuring over 500 ships, one of which is the world's last remaining whaleship. Also containing an aquarium, families can have a day watching the sea lions, seals, and penguins at play, as well as the only beluga whales in the whole state. The Olde Mistick Village is perfect for souvenir stocking, as well as grabbing a bite of delectable homemade fudge at the Franklin’s General Store. 

Newport, Rhode Island

The Breakers Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island
The Breakers is one of the most fabulous mansions built in 1893 for Cornelius Vanderbilt II and his family in Newport, Rhode Island. 

With a waterfront downtown and picturesque lighthouses, Newport is a yachting center of the nation and the destination for sailing its Narragansett Bay. Founded in 1639, it is set some 40 miles southeast of Providence and two hours south of Boston as a bustling sea-bound city with beautiful historic mansions. The Breakers, the grandest mansion of all, is a 70-room mansion that has a gross area of 11,644.4 sq.m and 5,804.8 sq.m of living area on five floors. Set on the edge of the Narragansett Bay, this Gilded Age mansion was designed by Richard Morris Hunt and built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II between 1893 and 1895. Other Gilded Age mansions on the Bellevue Avenue of the town were also modeled after European palaces.

Castle Hill Lighthouse in Newport, Rhode Island
Castle Hill Lighthouse sits on the rocky coastline of Newport, Rhode Island. 

The artistic minds will surely revel in visiting the Newport Art Museum, the Island Art gallery that brims with contemporary pieces, and the Newport Fine Arts Festival that takes place every year in September. The hikers and photography enthusiasts are pulled to the town for the raw nature of the rugged shoreline along the aptly-named trail, the CliffWalk. Another notable landmark is the twinkling arch of the Pell Bridge; while eating out, one can choose one of the cozy Colonial taverns speckled throughout the town.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Market Square in downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Historic buildings on Market Street at Market Square in downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Editorial credit: Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock.com

Just an hour away from Boston, Portsmouth features numerous upscale farm-to-table eateries, seafood restaurants, and a lively downtown scene with a Market Square filled with white-steepled churches, rustic brick shops, art galleries, and sidewalk cafes. Settled in 1623, Portsmouth is the third oldest city in the United States, with colonial, Georgian, and Victorian architecture-filled streets and many museums to explore the town's lengthy history. The Strawbery Banke Museum is a 10-acre living history museum with a neighboring Prescott Park Strawbery Banke that is perfect for picnicking among its beautiful gardens that also pose as the centerpiece at the Prescott Park Arts Festival's concerts and foodie events.  

Portsmouth waterfront at dusk
View of Portsmouth, New Hampshire waterfront at dusk. 

The scenically famous tug boats on the Piscataqua River of the town have appeared on Forbe’s list of America’s Prettiest Towns and are a must-see for some memorable shots. Another fun fact about Portsmouth is that it has been named the “Christmas Capital of North America” by Travel & Leisure in 2017, with right out of The Grinch movie townscape and the “Vintage Christmas” month-long celebration that starts on the first of December each year. 


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