When September and October arrive and the summer definitively comes to an end, and we start making our homes cozy for the upcoming cold days, a trip to our friends in New England on the other side of the Atlantic is worth considering.
Because during this specific time, the forests along the East Coast of the USA shine in unique autumnal colors, transforming the landscape into a colorful patchwork of deep yellow, orange, and red that seems to stretch to the horizon. This is the "Indian Summer", a spectacle that lures people year after year to the northeastern USA along the Atlantic. But New England has so much more to offer during this magical late summer and autumn period than just colorful leaves. From enchanting lighthouses and idyllic coastal towns to historic landmarks and wild nature, and of course, good food – in New England, there's truly something suitable for every traveler.
Come with us on a road trip through the picturesque New England during the most beautiful time of the year, always guided by delicious and aromatic signposts.
Our journey begins with a touchdown in historic Boston, the largest city in the state of Massachusetts, after a long flight across the Atlantic. In our luggage, along with rainproof clothing, hiking boots, and spare batteries, we have a lot of enthusiasm and a healthy appetite.
If jet lag strikes, take the chance to pause, as our journey will cover a distance of nearly 1,300 miles (approximately 1,900 km) – that's more than triple the driving distance between Munich and Hamburg – through 6 of America's perhaps most beautiful states. So, even though the anticipation is high, a good amount of sleep wouldn't hurt.
We recommend (as we do throughout the trip) a traditional stay at one of the many B&Bs or family motels, of course with a typical American Breakfast the next morning. This is the chance to enjoy a classic American Breakfast with pancakes, bacon, and waffles, accompanied by some absolute taste classics from New England and the neighboring states – like maple syrup and blueberry jam – which you definitely shouldn't miss during a trip to the region.
Massachusetts Part 1 – Boston, Salem & Co.
Finished with breakfast? Then let's get started, because there's a lot to see.
Boston is perhaps one of the most historically significant cities in the entire USA. Who hasn't heard of the Boston Tea Party, for example? But even in the present day, the city has plenty of attractions to offer. It's home to the world-renowned Harvard University, and all sports enthusiasts are likely to head towards Fenway Park, the home of the Red Sox.
If you prefer a more relaxed pace, you can stroll along the waterfront promenade before we hop behind the wheel and our journey truly begins.
The first part of our journey takes us a short way out of Boston towards the north. Here awaits the idyllic, almost sleepy-seeming town of Salem. This name is likely familiar to many as well. In the 18th century, the Salem Witch Trials took place here, in which many young women were accused of being witches and condemned to death by burning at the stake. This spooky history still lingers in the city today, and especially in the fall, with Halloween approaching, participating in one of the many night and ghost tours through historic (and allegedly haunted by ghosts) locations is worthwhile.
Salem is probably familiar to many bookworms through the vampire novel "Salem's Lot" by Stephen King. In fact, many of King's books are set in the New England states, although not all locations, like Salem, are real places in real life. And King is in good company here, as the unique horror classics by author H.P. Lovecraft are also set primarily in and around Boston.
For the perfect spooky atmosphere similar to Salem's, we recommend the wonderful Halloween Limited Edition scented candles by Kringle Candle, also authentically from New England (we'll find a chance for on-site purchase later). The scents include ones that are directly based on King's books or have direct parallels, such as "Redrum" or "Black Cat".
Instead of heading directly north from the city, it's worth taking a small detour over the Yankee Division Highway to the east towards Cape Ann. Here, you'll find a few charming coastal towns like Rockport, which entice with picturesque beaches and delicious seafood. Our special recommendation for anyone looking to try local lobster is "The Lobster Pool" at the northern tip of the peninsula. Not only is the food top-notch here, but the view out over Ipswich Bay is well worth a pit stop.
On the way back from our short excursion, don't miss stopping by the towns of Essex and Ipswich. Especially Ipswich, with its many historic neighborhoods, shouldn't be missed. If lobster isn't your thing, be sure to try the local clams, the quality of which is celebrated annually at the big Chowderfest. Clam chowder is a clam soup thickened with crackers. A hidden gem that we definitely don't want to miss on our journey (or at home).
After the short detour, it's slowly time to head north. Even though our route follows Highway 95, we recommend taking Route 1 instead from Ipswich. The road is a special hidden gem and, in our opinion, perhaps the most beautiful coastal route in all of New England.
New Hampshire Part 1 – Passing through Portsmouth
After our small literary and culinary excursions, our journey continues along the coast heading north and for a short while through the picturesque state of New Hampshire. Along the way, we pass through the idyllic town of Portsmouth, with its harbor and houses in a vintage look, inviting you to linger and stroll.
While our first stop in New Hampshire is very brief, it won't be the last.
Maine – Stonewall Kitchen, Portland & Acadia
Our first destination along Maine's long coastline is just about 20 minutes north of Portsmouth. Crossing the bay and simultaneously the state border into Maine and following Route 1, you'll soon arrive in the charming town of York. For food enthusiasts and fans of Stonewall Kitchen, a visit to the local Company Store is worth it. Considering our long journey, some provisions can't hurt, and outdoor enthusiasts, in particular, should take the opportunity to stock up on some goodies that can be enjoyed quickly and easily on the go with just a few ingredients.
From here, let's depart the Route 1 for another short trip east to the coast for a special kind of postcard moment. The Cape Neddick Light is one of the most well-known lighthouses in the northeastern USA and a classic photographic subject in the area. While visitors can't reach the lighthouse itself as it sits on an offshore island, the view from the eastern end of the Cape Neddick Peninsula over the offshore islet and the vast Atlantic beyond is a magical experience and definitely worth a detour to marvel and snap some photos.
Before we venture further into scenic Maine, it's worth making a stop in Portland (not to be confused with Portland, Oregon). Particularly the Downtown Arts District and the harbor are worth a visit. Those interested can also take a ferry and make a detour to the islands in Casco Bay. A world-famous photo opportunity awaits just a short distance further along the coast. The Portland Breakwater Lighthouse is not only famous as a postcard image but also holds historical significance. As the first lighthouse in the United States, it was personally commissioned by George Washington.
In general, Portland is an ideal hub for all lighthouse enthusiasts, as many of the most beautiful lighthouses along the coast can be reached in a short time from here. So, a brief stay is definitely recommended.
For those drawn to the outdoors rather than lighthouses, our next destination will surely bring joy. Even though we'll be making a significant detour from our round trip route, traveling about 3 hours northward, it's well worth it. Don't worry if it feels like we're driving into the middle of nowhere. That's by design. Because our destination is pure nature in Acadia National Park.
The national park is mostly situated on the Mount Desert Island and is home to many impressive wildlife such as moose and bears. Along the coast, a variety of seabirds call it home, and with good weather, you might even spot a whale in the distance. The Cadillac Mountain at the center of the island might not be the tallest mountain on our journey at 505 meters, but the unobstructed view across the entire island is definitely worth it. Experienced hikers can try to climb the mountain early in the morning and greet the new day from the point where allegedly the first sunrise in the US can be witnessed. Those who want to stay longer can embark in Bar Harbor, a small town on the island, situated picturesquely in a bay on the northeast end of the island.
For those who don't mind a significant detour, take the opportunity while we're so far north to visit one of the most picturesque (and also the easternmost) points on the mainland USA. The West Quoddy Head Lighthouse is about 2 hours northeast along the Atlantic coast. This classically red and white striped lighthouse allows you, on a clear day, to gaze across the waves of the Quoddy Narrows to Liberty Point in neighboring Canada. Despite the substantial detour, it's definitely a journey worth taking.
On the way back west towards Augusta, where we'll begin our journey inland, let's take the time to savor the local specialties. Seafood caught right off the small coastal towns is an absolute must. Whether it's lobster, oysters, or delicious fish – seafood lovers simply can't miss the many eateries along the Atlantic.
New Hampshire Part 2 – Mount Washington
Our travel plan now takes us for the first time deep inland and far away from lighthouses and the rugged Atlantic coastline. But don't worry – our new destination is equally as picturesque as the rugged East Coast beaches, if not more so. On this leg of the journey, our destination is the scenic state of Vermont, but along the way, we'll also pass through New Hampshire once again.
All mountaineering and hiking enthusiasts should consider making a detour to nature, not far from here, before we cross into Maine. Just about half an hour south of the exit from Route 2 in Gorham, you'll find the impressive White Mountain National Park, which captivates every hiker. Here rises the Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeastern United States, towering over the surrounding area by up to 1,400 meters. The summit is reachable by a toll road until October and offers a unique view of the expanses of New England, along with a visitor center and a cafeteria.
Vermont Part 1 – Home of Indian Summer
Vermont is the home of the world-renowned "Indian Summer". Even those who might not be familiar with the term have surely seen images of this impressive natural phenomenon that leaves you in awe. From August to October, Vermont's vast forests are illuminated in vivid and colorful hues. Fiery red, orange, and yellow, occasionally interspersed with the last hints of green, paint the wide valleys and imposing mountainsides in a unique and extraordinary display of colors. And as the sun sets slowly behind the hills in the evening, the scenery is bathed in shades of amber, turning the horizon into a virtual blaze. A forest walk or a drive along winding roads is particularly enjoyable during late summer and autumn.
For those who don't want to miss this atmosphere even at home, you can bring the unique ambiance with New England autumn scents from Country and Kringle Candle back home with you (an opportunity for this is coming up later).
Vermont, with its magical autumn atmosphere and many small, often secluded vacation homes, is the ultimate destination for romantic getaways. So, if you're traveling with your significant other, take a short break and savor the truly unique ambiance. For the perfect setting for intimate moments, don't forget to indulge in matching aromas and culinary delights.
We also recommend Vermont's forests as great destinations for late autumn and winter outings. However, be prepared for heavy snowfall and many cozy hours indoors. But even then, you can pass the time enjoyably, for instance, by baking cookies with our cookie cutters from Vermont, available in many wonderful designs.
Vermont Part 2 – A Paradise for Hikers
For those who'd rather be out in nature instead of cozying up under a warm blanket, the northern part of Vermont has a lot to offer, especially with its many lakes. You can rent kayaks almost anywhere and enjoy a peaceful autumn evening on the clear, calm waters.
For all outdoor enthusiasts, the excitement will definitely continue at our next stop.
After our romantic break, we head southward along Highways 89 and 91, the Connecticut River, and the state border to neighboring New Hampshire. While New Hampshire is mainly dominated by its proximity to the Atlantic coast, the atmosphere further west, in the heart of the state, is entirely different. Southern Vermont is shaped by the Appalachian Mountains and the rain that comes in from the Atlantic and precipitates on the mountains. The region's natural weather barrier, consisting of rustic forests and valleys and mountaintops almost eerily shrouded in fog, lends an almost enchanted atmosphere to the area.
A bit off the highways lies the Green Mountains National Forest, a national forest covering over 3,000 square kilometers and home to some of the world's most famous and beautiful hiking trails. Among them is a section of the Appalachian Trail, which starts at Springer Mountain in Maine and spans over 3,540 kilometers to Georgia, crossing through 14 states. More than 3 million people hike parts of this trail each year, and about 3,000 people attempt to hike the entire trail annually – only 25% succeed in the end. The section through Vermont's forests, especially in late summer, is an absolute highlight.
Just make sure not to forget your waterproof clothing in the car, as the weather can change quickly here.
Massachusetts Part 2 – Visiting Kringle Candle
Although we are currently just passing through and will spend more time in picturesque Massachusetts towards the end of our trip, there's one point on our southward journey that we absolutely can't miss. As we follow Highway 91 from Vermont towards New Haven, we pass through the town of Bernardston. Although this quaint town has just over 2,000 residents, it holds a very special highlight for fans of our products: it's the birthplace of our beloved Kringle and Country Candles.
A stop here is the perfect opportunity to stock up on souvenirs that will keep the unique atmosphere of our New England journey alive at home for a long time.
Connecticut – Bridges & Maritime Flair
Continuing our journey southward, we cross the border into a new state on our tour. Connecticut is versatile with both maritime and rural influences. The northern part of the state is particularly famous for its picturesque “Covered Bridges”, a New England landmark. If you don't want to miss perhaps the most famous and beautiful of these bridges, you need to leave the highway and travel westward for about an hour into Connecticut. Here, you'll find the scarlet West Cornwall Covered Bridge, which stands at 52 meters. An iconic photographic subject.
Following Highway 91, we reach our next destination in the southern part of the state: New Haven. The city is mainly known for Yale University, and visitors can experience the atmosphere of this prestigious institution firsthand. For fans of classical art, almost hidden on the university's campus, there's the publicly accessible Yale University Art Gallery, where you can admire over 250,000 original works by renowned artists like Degas, Monet, or Manet.
The southern part of Connecticut is dominated by the coastline and the adjacent Long Island Sound, with Long Island extending at its other end. For those willing to venture beyond New England and not afraid of traffic, a side trip to New York City to the south is recommended. It's just about an hour and a half drive from New Haven to downtown Manhattan, where you can grab a souvenir, provided, of course, that traffic cooperates.
For maritime interests, a stop along the coast in Mystic is worthwhile as we continue our journey eastward from New Haven. The popular Mystic Seaport offers a variety of attractions, including shopping, strolling opportunities, a planetarium, a publicly accessible shipyard, and history represented by traditional wooden boats and vintage-style houses. The Mystic Aquarium is also worth a visit, especially for young travelers.
Rhode Island – Mansions & Beaches
From New Haven, we head east along the coastline and soon reach the last new state on our journey: Rhode Island. Known as a vacation destination, the state particularly attracts visitors with its many beaches during the summer, even though by autumn, only the most daring vacationers may be willing to brave the cold waters for swimming and surfing.
Before we turn northwards and head inland from the picturesque coast, a short detour to Newport is worth it. This city situated on a peninsula is renowned for its coastal character. The Newport Cliffs in the southern part of the city are world-famous for their blend of rugged nature and historical architecture. While Rhode Island is generally known for its impressive estates, the most opulent mansions in the entire state are found here in Newport. Especially on a beautiful day, taking a few hours off the itinerary to stroll along the wide streets and green spaces, exploring buildings reminiscent of France and England, is worthwhile. The most famous publicly accessible mansion is undoubtedly “The Breakers”, a lavish structure with 70 rooms built in the Renaissance style.
We leave Newport behind and start making our way northward again. In fact, it's only about 100 km from here back to Boston, where our journey began. However, before we reach that point, we make one final detour to Providence. For the right vacation vibe, we recommend taking a ride through the canals on one of the many gondolas. It almost makes you feel like you're in Venice instead of the US. Lucky visitors in October might also get to witness a special sight. Every year in May and October, “Providence WaterFire” takes place, an event where fires placed along the riverfront are lit, bathing the water in a warm orange glow during the evening hours.
All set? Then let's head to the definitely "last but not least" part of our journey.
Massachusetts Part 3 – Cape Cod & the Islands
Instead of driving from Providence just about 50 miles (approximately 90 km) north to Boston, we'll make one last detour southeastward. Here, we'll find some of the most beautiful and globally renowned destinations of our entire journey.
Our first port of call is the Cape Cod peninsula. This historically significant place is where the Pilgrims landed in America in 1620. Provincetown at the northern tip of the Cape is a popular tourist destination. On the whale-watching tours organized from here, you have the best chances in the country to witness whales live. The city is also famous as an artists' haven. If you're looking for a souvenir, you're sure to find something, and all golf enthusiasts should take the opportunity to try their luck for a hole-in-one on one of the 15 local golf courses.
If you'd like to conclude your journey with a few absolute highlights, you can use the local ferries from Cape Cod to visit the nearby islands.
In the south of Cape Cod, you can take a ship from Woods Hole to the legendary Martha’s Vineyard. A stroll along the beach houses and mansions, especially in the twilight with the sound of the sea in the background, will transport you back to warm summer days even in the fall. It's no wonder the island is a dream vacation spot for many Americans. Beach enthusiasts and lighthouse hunters will also find plenty to enjoy here. Additionally, wildlife enthusiasts have the opportunity to visit the local seabird park against a uniquely scenic backdrop.
Alternatively, you can charter a ferry from Lewis Bay, just a short distance from Cape Cod Airport, to the more remote island of Nantucket. Even though the island gained historical fame primarily for whaling, it's now a hotspot for sailors, and the many whales that camp near the island at different times of the year make for better tourist attractions. Still, don't miss the chance to visit the local Whaling Museum before we slowly start contemplating the journey back home.
On our way back northward along the Massachusetts coastline, we take one more pause for a final stop in Plymouth, the unofficial birthplace of the United States. Alongside Plymouth Rock and the National Monument of the Forefathers (which is the third-largest statue in the US), visitors can find a replica of the “Mayflower” ship that brought the Pilgrims to America. And south of today's city center, a visit to the replica of the original Pilgrim settlement, now functioning as an interactive open-air museum, is well worth it.
With the origin of the USA marking the conclusion of our journey, it's time for the return to Boston, where our flight back home awaits. Of course, there's so much more to discover in New England, but unfortunately, our time is limited, and all good things must come to an end. But don't worry. The fact that we couldn't see everything just means one thing at the end of the day:
We'll be back.