The Seven Wonders of New England

5 Sep

I’m not going to lie. I think I know New England pretty well. After all, I live here and I have been to many parts of it. Seven places stand out to me in New England as the seven wonders of this region. And this has been a tough “Seven Wonders” post for me to make, because I know New England so well and there’s so many great places to go. But anyway, I’ll try my best to narrow it down into seven wonders.


New England’s urban highlight is without a doubt its largest city. Boston has its rough spots, like any US city, but it’s a great place to explore. The city has a unique blend of old and new. On one hand, it just might have the most to offer for history buffs of any major US city. It’s got plenty of old houses and buildings. The city also has a distinctly modern, dynamic flair, brought over by students from all over the world coming to Boston to study at one of it’s famous colleges. The city is just one of the most interesting cities in the United States for just taking a walk. You can walk a few blocks in the North End after having a fine Italian meal, then you can cross a major road and then by in a downtown that seems to have both big new skyscrapers and old cobblestone streets. Then you can cross Boston common and walk through Beacon Hill. It really is a great city made up of a patchwork of interesting neighborhoods. I’ll post more advice for Boston later this week but it definitely is a place to check out if you’re coming to New England.


New England has plenty of great hiking areas, but the one that is rightfully the most popular and most famous is New Hampshire’s presidential range. It’s unique among hiking areas in the Northeast US, not just because of the height of the mountains, but because of the massive areas with no trees and huge ravines. Mount Washington is the biggest peak in the range and highest peak in New England. You can take the Cog Railway up to the summit or you can hike up. Or you can hike up and take a shuttle down. Or you can drive up. The views from the top are absolutely stunning. Don’t attempt to hike Mount Washington if there’s any sign of bad weather though. There’s plenty of stories of people who’ve died climbing up when its windy. It’s the windiest mountain on Earth. It once had the record for fastest winds on the planet. The record was recently broken by a typhoon in the Pacific, but it’s still very windy.


You haven’t seen New England beach culture until you’ve seen Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Old, battered houses on beaches with pieces of driftwood. Fishing for striped bass. Cold, salty water. Salt Marshes. Barnacle-covered, eroded wooden supports for piers. Rusty red and white lighthouses with paint peeling off the wood. Windy days. You get the idea. Anyway, Marthas Vineyard is a great place to experience it. You can take a car ferry, or you can fly from Logan on Cape Air. Yes, it’s a detour, but it’s a place you should definitely come and check out. There’s a reason this is the place affluent locals like to own summer beach houses.


There’s nice parks and reservations all over New England, but this place is real wilderness. This place feels very remote but is really just on the edge of the massive wilderness interior of northern Maine. The nearest proper town is Greenville. It’s a nice town with lots of hiking options. But don’t stay in Greenville. Do the hour long drive on dirt roads from Greenville through deep woods to an Appalachian Mountain Club camp like Little Lyford or Medawisla. Then take some days to go on nice hikes through local gorges and mountains, or get up at 4am and catch a bunch of trout for breakfast in the stream. Yes, there’s some nasty mosquitoes. But who cares? Just bring bug spray and remember that it’s all part of the authentic Maine experience.


Close to the Hundred Mile Wilderness you’ll find Baxter State Park. It’s enough of a drive from the wilderness camps to justify giving it its own spot on the list though. What you’ll find here is the Northern end of the Appalachian trail. And they sure chose a pretty stunning spot to start the Appalachian trail. What you’ll find here are lakes and a mountain called Mount Katahdin. It’s got a very different shape than most mountains in this region. What gives the mountain its shape is that it is a spire of magma that was pushed above ground by geological forces. The hiking here is stunning.


So it’s a large area by New England standards, but the Green Mountains of Vermont are a beautiful region. New England’s four distinct seasons are all very visible here. In the winter, a mix of skiers ranging from wealthy suburbanites with vacation houses to ski freaks who just want to ski come up here each weekend. In the spring, the snow is melting, flowers bloom, and things turn green. In the summer, the area is very green. The fall, however, is when New England, and particularly Vermont, shows off its famous fall foliage. The mountains may not be as big and rugged as those found in New Hampshire, but great hiking opportunities do still exist. The Long Trail, the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the country, which goes along the top of the Green Mountain range, covers the north-to-south length of the entire state.


Acadia National Park is New England’s only National Park. The beaches, with the exception of one, are more rugged and rocky than sandy. There’s a pretty town called Bar Harbor and a lot of good hiking. The mountains, while small, are very rocky and steep. The most famous hike is the Cadillac Mountain South Ridge trail. Cadillac mountain is the highest mountain on the east coast of North America from which you can see the sea. I’d highly recommend that you hike it but try some others too. You can also drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain. The hikes on the western side of the park, like Flying mountain and Acadia mountain, are very beautiful but not as crowded as the ones on the eastern side of the park.


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