New England is such a beautiful place to visit, and it can be difficult to decide where to spend your time when it’s all so wonderful. We’ve put together a 4 day, 3 state itinerary based on our recent trip through the Northeast. We’ve included all of our favorite things, added some suggestions for where to stay, and finished it out with tips on how you can extend the trip if you have a few more days to explore these beautiful states.
But before we get started with our 4 day itinerary to see Vermont, New Hampshire, & Maine, here are a few quick tips.
New England Road Trip Tips:
Prepare for all different weather. Spring comes late in the Northeast and we still needed jackets for the mornings and evenings in early June. But we also experienced a heat wave come through, so pack everything from sweatshirts to shorts.
Buy the souvenir at the first place you find it. You’ll probably see plenty of maple syrup for sale even in New Hampshire and Maine, but consider everything else a specialty item and get it when you see it.
If the weather is nice, be prepared for crowds. Winter is long in New England, so when the weather is nice, everyone is out enjoying it. If you’re traveling while the fall foliage is on display, be prepared for even more crowds as everyone wants to do some leaf peeping.
Our Favorite Road Trip Souvenirs
Choosing souvenirs on a road trip is hard, because you’ll see so many amazing options. Here are our favorite souvenirs that won’t just sit around and collect dust.
- Christmas ornament – This is our #1 choice for souvenirs and often the only one we purchase. We love seeing all our mementos from past trips every year when we put up the tree.
- Gourmet foods – Wisiting Vermont and Maine and NOT buying gourmet foods would be a challenge! The most obvious choices would be maple syrup and blueberry jam, but you’ll find everything from tea and honey to candy and cookies.
- Tshirt or sweatshirt – My favorites are national parks shirts and state map shirts. Classy and simple and something you’ll wear over and over. Another fun and useable clothing item: socks.
- Tea Towels – Tea towels are beautiful and useful and if you’re like me, you could always use a fresh new one.
- Books – We saw so many amazing collections of local books for kids as well as nonfiction and fiction books for adults. Local bookstores often have their state’s books in their own labeled section for easy browsing.
- Puzzle – A photograph you don’t have to take and an activity for the whole family.
- Postcards – We have a postcard collection as well as an ornament collection, so it’s fun (and cheap!) to pick out a new postcard when we go somewhere new.
New England Road Trip Itinerary
Day 0 – Get to Stowe
Dinner: Have dinner at the Trapp Family Lodge or the Von Trapp Beirhall.
Accommodations: Stay at Trapp Family Lodge or Green Mountain Inn
Day 1 – Explore Stowe, Waterbury, and Montpelier
2 hours of driving
When you think of Vermont, you probably think of covered bridges, quaint towns, changing leaves, maple syrup, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. We’re going to experience all those things in one day, changing leaves not guaranteed.
Start the day with a maple latte at Black Cap Coffee and spend an hour wandering Stowe Village. Take a photo with the Stowe mural on the side of Laughing Moon Chocolates. Browse the beautiful kitchen items at The Country Store on Main. Pop into Bear Pond Books Store for a kids book, coffee table book, or puzzle about Vermont. Pick up gourmet Vermont foods at Stowe Mercantile.
Gold Brook Covered Bridge
Also called Emily’s Bridge, this piece of Vermont history has a spooky story.
Cold Hollow Cider Mill
Learn about cider making and sample the delicious cider at the back of the store. If you are looking to bring home souvenirs, this is a great location to find a wide variety of Vermont-made goods. Stop for lunch next door at Apple Core Luncheonette.
Ben & Jerry’s
Take the Ben & Jerry’s Factory tour to learn more about this Vermont institution. Then walk through the infamous Flavor Graveyard to see past flavors that have bitten the dust. If your day isn’t too full of sugary treats already, get a cone from their scoop shop.
Bragg Farm Sugar House
Get your fill of maple goodies at Bragg Farm. Start with their video to learn about sugaring. Taste their four kinds of maple syrup and choose a jug of your favorite. Pick up some maple candy or maple kisses to take home with you. Grab a maple creemee (or a maple chocolate twist – both delicious!) and visit the resident goats and ponies outside.
Coburn Covered Bridge
Many covered bridges in Vermont are now pedestrian only, but you can drive through the Coburn Covered Bridge and it’s just a few minutes away from our next stop.
Martin Covered Bridge Park
Walk through Martin Covered Bridge and continue down the mowed trails if you’d like to enjoy this little green space.
Drive 1 hour to Franconia, NH
Accommodations: Stay overnight at Sugar Hill Inn, Inn at Sunset Hill, or Franconia Inn.
Day 2 – Explore Franconia Notch State Park and the Kancamagus Highway
4 hours of driving
Old Man of the Mountain Historic Site
The Old Man of the Mountain is New Hampshire’s signature site, featured on all of their state route signs, their license plates, and on the back of their statehood quarter. Deterioration of the fragile stone profile has been documented for over 100 years, and multiple attempts have been made to repair and preserve it using steel rods and turnbuckles. In 2003 the formation collapsed.
Now you can visit the historic site. A paved walkway leads to Profile Lake and a viewing platform with steel ‘profilers’ that allow you to see what the Old Man used to look like. Coin operated viewfinders at the base of the cliff show a before and after of the mountain profile. If you’d like, you can return via part of the Pemi Trail, by crossing the wooden bridge and following the rocky trail back up towards the parking lot.
Take the half mile out and back Basin Cascade hike or make it part of a longer hike along the Pemi Trail. Either way, you’ll enjoy the Pemigewasset River as it winds and falls right alongside the path, giving you something new to look at with each new turn. This is a great hike for keeping kids engaged.
There’s also a wheelchair accessible path to the Basin.
The drive from Lincoln to Conway is full of beautiful overlooks and amazing spots to stop and explore. We spent an entire day on the Kancamagus Highway, so you’ll have to move pretty quickly if you want to make more than a couple of stops. Our favorites were Sabbaday Falls and Rocky Gorge Scenic Area. Lower Falls is also a great stop if you’d like to do some swimming. These White Mountain National Forest sites have a $5 parking fee but are free if you have a National Parks Pass. Parking lots fill up quickly on weekends with good weather.
Drive 3 hours to Camden, Maine.
Accommodations: Stay at one of the historic local inns. The Inn at Ocean’s Edge is a short drive from Camden and looks particularly lovely. 16 Bay View is right in the center of town with views of the harbor.
Day 3 – Explore Camden
2.5 hours of driving
Camden is such a cute little coastal Maine town! It’s incredibly walkable and so scenic with views of the harbor and beautiful old architecture. If you like boutiques, you’ll love the shopping here!
Explore Camden on Foot
Start your morning with coffee at Owl & Turtle Bookshop Café. Browse French & Brawn Marketplace and try Moxie, a local favorite soda. Have lunch on the water at Camden Deli or Marriner’s. Walk through Harbor Park down to the waterfront to see Megunticook Falls. Then cross the street to see the Camden Amphitheater and the beautiful architecture of the public library. Don’t miss the beautiful circle of stone benches and book carvings. Grab a cone from River Ducks ice cream and enjoy it on the Tannery Lane Footbridge and enjoy the flower baskets lining the bridge.
Drive down Bay View Street to Camden City Park and walk down the hill to the rocky beach. Continue a little further down this road to the Curtis Lighthouse Overlook. This short path through the woods is marked with a simple wooden sign.
Red Barn Marketplace
Hop in your car and check out Red Barn Marketplace, driving past the historic homes on High Street. Shop for antiques and locally made gifts or enjoy coffee and pastries, or both!
Merryspring Nature Center
Take a leisurely walk at this free nature garden. With over a dozen different garden sections and 4 miles of trails, you could spend an entire day enjoying Merryspring Nature Center.
Camden Hills State Park
Camden Hills State Park offers an overlook of the town and harbor as well as the historic Mt. Battie Tower. It’s also a popular sunset spot.
Drive 1 hour and 45 minutes to Bar Harbor.
Accommodations: Book a room at one of the many local inns for 2 nights.
Day 4 – Explore Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park
One day at Acadia National Park, like most national parks, is hard to narrow down. Here’s our suggestions for one full day exploring the two biggest highlights of Mount Desert Island: the town of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.
We’ll give you 2 options, the sunrise option and the sunset option.
2.5 hours of driving
If you don’t mind starting the morning very early, sunrise at Cadillac Mountain would be an excellent choice. You’ll need to make a reservation for this well in advance of your trip as sunrise access to this area of the park is limited.
Park Loop Road
Drive the one-way loop of Park Loop Road, stopping to see Egg Rock Lighthouse at Schooner Head Overlook. If you’d like a challenging trail and you’re not afraid of heights, the Beehive Trail with iron rungs up the face of the mountain has beautiful views from the top. If you’d prefer a flatter hike, the Jordan Pond Path is also lovely. Sand Beach is also a beautiful stop, but it shares a parking lot with the Beehive Trail, so this can be a difficult place to find parking starting in the late morning. If it’s high tide, stop at Thunder Hole and see if you can hear the thunderous boom of the crashing waves. Finish the loop with a stop at Jordan Pond. Bring a picnic to eat on the rocks or stop for lunch on your way back to Bar Harbor.
Afternoon in Bar Harbor
Drive to Bar Harbor for the afternoon. Wander the Village Green. Get blueberry ice cream at Mount Desert Island Ice Cream or CJ’s Big Dipper. Do some shopping on Main Street. Two of our favorite stores were The Acadia Shop and Sherman’s Bookstore. Have some seafood at Thirsty Whale Tavern or enjoy the kitschy décor and classic American fare at Route 66 Restaurant. Walk down to Agamont Park to see the harbor or if it’s low tide, walk the Bar Island Land Bridge. Keep an eye on the tide schedule though. The land bridge is only accessible for a few hours and if you lose track of time, you might find yourself stranded on Bar Island for hours until the next low tide.
Bass Harbor Lighthouse
Drive to the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. If you want to be there for sunset, go early because the parking lot is not large and it’s a popular spot. If you go early in the evening, Ship Harbor Trail, Wonderland Trail, and Echo Lake Beach are all on your way back.
Breakfast in Bar Harbor
If you opt for a slower morning, stop by Mount Desert Bakery or A Slice of Eden for a pastry or bagel. Spend a few hours wandering the shops in Bar Harbor. The Acadia Shop was one of our favorites. You might also enjoy Agamont Park and if it’s low tide, you can walk out to Bar Island on the land bridge that appears for about 3 hours around low tide. Be careful to allow time to walk back. Otherwise you will be stranded for about 9 hours until the next low tide.
Bass Harbor Lighthouse
Drive to the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. Take the paved path on the right to the lighthouse itself, or take the trail on the left down some stairs to the rocky lighthouse overlook. While you’re on this side of the island, you might also enjoy hiking Ship Harbor Trail or Wonderland Trail or stopping at Echo Lake Beach.
Have lunch at the Travelin Lobster, The Upper Deck, or Abel’s Lobster on your way around the island.
Park Loop Road
Next you’ll follow Park Loop Road around the main part of Acadia National Park, stopping at overlooks and trails that interest you. Our favorites were the view of Egg Rock Lighthouse from Schooner Head Overlook, Sand Beach, and Jordan Pond. If it’s high tide, climb down the rocks at Thunder Hole to hear the thunderous crashing waves. The Beehive Trail is a challenging but short hike with iron rungs and stone staircases. Jordan Pond Path is a lovely flat hike, if that appeals more to you. Sand Beach and the Beehive Trail share a parking lot, so it can be tough to find parking here mid-day. Have dinner at Jordan Pond House Restaurant or pack a picnic to eat on the rocks at Jordan Pond.
Watch the sunset at the top of Cadillac Mountain. You’ll want to park in the first lot on the left and find a place to sit on the large expanse of rock facing west. If you have time to explore a bit, drive to the top overlook first, but you’ll want to come down and park in the lower west-facing lot for sunset. Note: During peak season, you will need to reserve timed entry to Cadillac Mountain and parking in the sunset lot will fill up fast.
Extend the Trip:
5 Days: We always think National Parks deserve more than a 1 day visit, so additional days in Bar Harbor and Acadia is the first place we’d recommend adding time. Our four day Coastal Maine itinerary LINK outlines how to spend 2 days in Bar Harbor and Acadia.
Make it an RV Trip:
If you’d like to expand this road trip into an RV adventure like we did, the secret is having a Harvest Hosts membership. We built this entire road trip around 24 hour stays at Harvest Hosts with 2 longer campground stays in the middle, Fransted RV Park in Franconia and Blackwoods Campground at Acadia National Park.
After you sign up for a Harvest Hosts account, you’ll be able to see all the amazing businesses in New England that would be happy to host you and you can start building your trip. And the best thing is that some of the destinations I mentioned in this post are host businesses! How amazing would it be to tour a maple sugar farm, enjoy maple creemees on the lawn, and then camp for the night with no fees beyond the purchases you made at the farm? And then you wake up and have the place all to yourself for a few hours! Let me tell you, it’s pretty great! (Learn more about why we love Harvest Hosts here!)
Our loose 3 week itinerary for the trip:
Days 1-2: Traveling to New England
Days 3-7: Vermont
Days 8-12: New Hampshire
Days 13-20: Maine
Days 21-24: Traveling home