Portland Head Lighthouse, Maine

The things we love about New England

Unbelievably, we’ve been in New England for nearly two months now; the time has flown by in a whirl of scenic drives, golden foliage, forest walks and pancake breakfasts. This week finds us in Portland, Maine, facing the tail-end of our journey in this incredible corner of the country. Although we’ll be moving on to other parts of the US in a week or so, my heart still breaks a little at the thought of leaving. With that in mind, here are some of the things we’ve loved about New England.

Our Favourite Things about New England

Autumn foliage

*Update: you can read our complete 2016 New England Fall Foliage Guide here. This includes tips on where and when to see the best foliage, what to eat, which festivals to visit, how much our fall trip to New England cost and our favourite destinations in New England.*

This time last year I remember sitting in our little apartment in Vietnam with the air-con on, sun blazing through the window, while I dreamed of a crisp, golden autumn and began planning this very trip to New England. I’d read that the foliage here was spectacular but it really has surpassed our expectations, especially in Vermont. Some freakishly warm weather in September caused the leaves to change colour later this year, which has fortunately meant that we’ve seen some incredible foliage in almost every state we’ve visited.

fall foliage in New England

Scenic highways

New England’s scenic highways are in a league of their own; in the last two months we’ve spent hours driving countless miles down some seriously beautiful roads. I know some of my strongest memories of this trip will be of us driving down windy forest roads lined with autumn-painted leaves while Keith Urban’s John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16  plays on the radio. Some of our favourite routes have been the Kancamagus Highway, the loop in Acadia National Park, routes 9 and 100 in Vermont and route 1 in Maine.

Vermont road and fall foliage

Lighthouses and the Sea

The sea has played a big role in our New England trip. We took a very successful whale watching trip from Gloucester, sailed over to Martha’s Vineyard for the day, visited numerous beautiful seaside towns and walked along windswept beaches and jagged cliff-tops. We’ve explored dozens of harbours and eaten delicious clam chowder, fresh fish and lobster rolls. One of my favourite things about New England has been the dazzling-white, picture-postcard lighthouses that we’ve encountered dotted along the coast line.

Portland Head Lighthouse, Maine

Maine Lobster Roll

Ships in Camden Harbor, Maine

Tiny towns and independent shops

I’d heard the phrase ‘small-town America’ before but I didn’t realise exactly what that meant until we came to New England.  Many of the towns here really do consist of just a handful of shops, perhaps a pharmacy, grocery store, book shop and café; all the locals seem to know each other and there’s a real sense of character and community.  The towns are full of unique, independent, locally-run shops, restaurants and cafés, which I love. In the UK I feel like many towns have the same, soulless feel these days, sporting an endless repeat of chain coffee shops and big name stores.

Cute independent stores in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire

The small town of Bellows Falls, Vermont

Olde Mystic Shopping Village

Farms and local food

In the same independent, local spirit, much of the food in New England is locally grown, caught or handmade and sold in nearby stores, restaurants and at farm stands. Seafood is freshly caught by fishermen, cattle and chickens graze in huge open fields and milk and cheese comes from locally-run co-ops. Particularly in Vermont, we had an amazing time sampling all the cheeses, apples and produce from the area.

Farmstands in Vermont

Lakes, mountains and forests

We came to New England expecting beautiful, unspoilt scenery and that’s exactly what we got. We’ve trekked through forests and national parks, hiked up mountains, kayaked on a lake in New Hampshire and strolled along scenic coastal paths. Some of our favourite hikes were in Acadia National Park in Maine, where we experienced a mixture of New England’s treasures: coastline, mountains, lakes and forests.

Looking down the Mt Washington Autoroad

View of Jordan's Pond from the south

View from Jamaica State Park, Vermont

Breakfast, Brunch and Diners

Breakfast and brunch appears to be a big thing in America, particularly at the weekends when we’ve had trouble finding a table in many eateries. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day so I’ve taken to this aspect of American culture easily, relishing trips to local diners for piles of blueberry pancakes, bowls of granola and yogurt, eggs and bagels and steaming mugs of tea. Some of our meals probably haven’t been the healthiest though, so this brunch habit is one we’re going to have to curb when we get back the UK – particularly the pancakes!

Delicious breakfasts from around New England

Whole Foods

We haven’t just been stuffing our faces with pancakes in New England, we’ve also found plenty of healthy food here and we’ve fallen in love with Whole Foods. This supermarket is packed with healthy food and produce, we love their salad and hot food bars and have picked up takeaway food for dinner from there many times. Yes, it may be a bit pricey but we love shopping there; I know a couple of Whole Food stores have opened back in London, I hope they spread throughout the UK.

We spent two months travelling around New England in the fall, here are the things we loved about it from foliage and scenery to diners, pancakes and people.

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Friendly people

From the minute we arrived in Boston we were taken aback by how open and friendly the local people were and that has continued as we’ve travelled through New England. We’ve stayed with some lovely Airbnb hosts who’ve been interested in our travel tales and have invited us to eat meals with them; some fellow guests in Vermont even invited us to stay with them in the future. While we’ve been out and about exploring people in cafés and shops have asked us where we’re from and offered help and advice – it has been a pleasure travelling here.

The Harbor in Belfast, Maine

We used Airbnb for all of our accommodation in New England and stayed in some amazing places, we found this option much cheaper than booking standard hotel rooms. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, you can get £20 free credit to spend on the site if you sign up using this link.

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14 Comments
  • Gilda Baxter
    Posted at 10:16h, 01 November Reply

    I can’t believe you are at the end of your trip? Thank you for sharing the gourgeous scenery, delicious food and taking us along the National Park trails. I have thouroughly enjoyed it and would love to see it all myself one day. The end always feels a little sad, but it is onwards and forwards into new adventures ahead.

    • Amy
      Posted at 15:34h, 01 November Reply

      Yes, sadly we have only just over a week left in New England 🙁 We can’t be too sad though as we’ll spend the rest of November in Philly, Washington D.C and NY City before we fly back to the UK. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it, hope you make it there one day.

  • Jenia
    Posted at 22:42h, 03 November Reply

    Breakfast is my favorite meal too! I LOVE it. New England really is beautiful and you guys found a beautiful time to visit. You must get out though before it gets too cold 😉

    • Amy
      Posted at 03:06h, 04 November Reply

      Breakfast in America is amazing, by far the best meal 🙂 Actually, the weather has warmed up a bit just as we head to Cape Cod for a couple of days, we have been incredibly lucky with the weather!

  • Patti
    Posted at 03:21h, 04 November Reply

    Ah… you found the wonderful world of Whole Foods. It’s like no other, right?! If you ever make it to Austin, Texas, that is the location of their hub store and it is beyond words wonderful.

    For you first visit to the U.S. you certainly chose a great time of year to visit the east coast! The color has been spectacular this year.

    • Amy
      Posted at 15:18h, 05 November Reply

      Yes, we love Whole Foods, I bet visiting the hub store is an experience! We have been so lucky with the weather this year, it has been amazing and the foliage has exceeded my expectations. I almost don’t want to leave New England!

  • Louisa Klimentos
    Posted at 01:10h, 09 November Reply

    Lovelly drives in the US .USA has some huge National Parks ,huge cities and even huge farms such as cattle stations that go for miles and miles and corn fields too.The USA is big and beautiful.I remember going to Roselands in Sydney when i was young and whatched a movie inside a big dome called America the Beautiful and loved it.You will not be able to grasps how big their rural areas are.What an amazing country

    • Amy
      Posted at 02:14h, 09 November Reply

      Hi Louisa, hope you’re well. I’ll have to try and look up that film, it sounds interesting. Coming from little old England I’m always amazed by how huge and diverse other countries like America and Australia are, there’s so much to explore.

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