New England summers are fleeting yet picturesque. As a lifelong resident, you know to take advantage of the long days and warmer weather while you can. The options for enjoying a New England summer are plentiful, from coastal escapes to mountain retreats and everything in between. Whether you’re seeking an active adventure, cultural experience, or relaxing getaway, there’s something for every taste. From the rocky shores of Maine to the rolling hills of Vermont, summer in New England is a special time of year. Make the most of it by trying some of these memorable and quintessential summer activities in New England. A quick road trip can transport you to a new landscape brimming with opportunities for exploration and enjoyment. Seize the summer and experience all this stunning region has to offer. The memories you make will warm you for seasons to come.
Things to Do in New England in the Summer: A Local’s Guide
Discover the magic of summer in New England! Explore our top 10 things to do in New England in the summer. Start your adventure now!
Enjoy the Beaches and Go Swimming
Summertime in New England means enjoying the picturesque beaches and going for a swim. With over 1,500 miles of coastline, there are plenty of spots to choose from.
For a classic beach experience, head to Cape Cod National Seashore. Spanning 40 miles with pristine sand dunes, hiking trails and historic lighthouses, the seashore offers swimming, sunbathing, sailing and more. On the bay side, the warmer waters of Cape Cod Bay are perfect for families with young children. The colder Atlantic side sees higher waves better suited for surfing.
In Rhode Island, visit Narragansett Beach with over 3 miles of sand and a lively boardwalk. Or check out Misquamicut State Beach, a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, beach volleyball and building sandcastles.
If you prefer a more natural setting, Maine’s Ogunquit Beach and York Beach feature scenic rocky coastlines, secluded coves and tide pools teeming with marine life. Pack a picnic lunch, go beachcombing or bird watching along the Marginal Way footpath in Ogunquit.
No summer in New England is complete without a trip to the beach. Whether you like swimming, sunbathing, beach sports or beachcombing, the northeast offers a perfect stretch of sand and surf for you. Take a dip in the refreshing waters, soak in the summer sun and make memories that will last long after the season fades.
Go Hiking in the Mountains
One of the best ways to experience the natural beauty of New England in the summer is to go hiking in the mountains. The region is home to stunning mountain ranges like the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the Green Mountains of Vermont, and the Berkshires of Massachusetts.
You can choose from hundreds of hiking trails of varying difficulty levels. For sweeping vistas, hike to the top of Mount Washington in New Hampshire or Mount Greylock in Massachusetts, the highest points in each state. The strenuous hike up Mount Washington rewards you with panoramic views of the surrounding White Mountains. Alternatively, the Greylock Glen Trail offers an easier 3.5-mile round trip hike to the summit of Mount Greylock.
Deep in the White Mountain National Forest, you’ll find stunning mountain lakes ideal for short hikes and picnics. Two of the most scenic are Franconia Notch State Park’s Profile Lake, a 1-mile hike, and Zealand Pond, a 3-mile round trip hike. The trail around Zealand Pond goes through dense forest and offers views of the pond’s clear waters and surrounding mountains.
The Long Trail, which runs the length of Vermont, and the Appalachian Trail both traverse breathtaking mountain scenery. For a challenging day hike, try the 8-mile round trip to the summit of Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak. The 360-degree views from the top make it worth the effort.
New England’s mountains offer the perfect escape from the summer heat. Lace up your hiking boots, pack a picnic, and go discover a scenic trail that matches your ability. The fresh air, stunning vistas and sense of accomplishment will leave you refreshed and recharged.
Check Out the Lakes Region
The Lakes Region of New Hampshire offers a welcome respite from the summer heat. Centered around massive Lake Winnipesaukee, the largest lake in the state, the region contains over 200 lakes and ponds surrounded by mountains, forests and small towns.
Explore the Lakes
Rent a boat, kayak or paddleboard and spend a day exploring the lakes. You can rent equipment at many marinas and campgrounds in the area. For a unique experience, take a cruise on a historic lake steamship like the MS Mount Washington or Doris E. If power boating is more your speed, many places rent speedboats, water skis and other recreational equipment.
Visit Weirs Beach
Weirs Beach on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee has an old-school boardwalk, arcade, bumper cars, mini golf and more. Walk along the docks and see the historic tour boats. Get ice cream or fried seafood and sit on the beach, or stroll along the boardwalk. Weirs Beach is a quintessential New England summer experience.
Hike in the White Mountains
Just west of the Lakes Region are the stunning White Mountains, with scenic trails for hiking and camping. Climb to the top of Mount Major for panoramic views of Lake Winnipesaukee, or tackle a section of the Appalachian Trail. Short on time? Take a gondola ride to the summit of Cannon Mountain instead. The dramatic mountain vistas, waterfalls and wildlife will make you forget the summer heat.
Visit Castle in the Clouds
This mountaintop estate in Moultonborough offers gardens, hiking trails and a scenic restaurant with views of the lakes and mountains. The estate gets its name from the clouds that often obscure the mountaintop. Take a tour of the historic mansion, then explore the waterfalls, ponds and trails on over 5,000 acres of conserved land.
The natural beauty, outdoor recreation and small-town charm of the Lakes Region provide an ideal New England getaway in the summer. With mountains and lakes galore, you’ll want to come back again to experience more of what this special place has to offer.
Explore the Coastline and Go Whale Watching
One of the highlights of summer in New England is exploring the picturesque coastline and going whale watching. The coastal areas offer stunning sea cliffs, sandy beaches, historic lighthouses, and the opportunity to spot magnificent whales in their natural habitat.
Go Whale Watching
New England’s coast is one of the best places in the world to see whales up close in the wild. Head out on a whale watching cruise to spot humpback, fin, and minke whales. The best time to see whales is from April through October. Some top spots for whale watching include:
- Cape Cod – Cruises depart from Provincetown, Barnstable, and Plymouth. Humpback and fin whales are commonly seen.
- Boston Harbor – Cruises leaving from Boston and surrounding towns like Gloucester and Salem frequently spot whales. It’s only a 30-minute ride to Stellwagen Bank, a prime whale feeding ground.
- Portsmouth, NH – Whale watching cruises explore the waters of the Isles of Shoals, where humpback, fin, and minke whales can be seen from May through October.
- Bar Harbor, ME – Take a cruise from Bar Harbor out to the waters of the Gulf of Maine and Acadia National Park to see humpback, fin, and harbor porpoise. Finback and humpback whale sightings are very common, especially in August and September.
- Newport, RI – Newport whale watching cruises head to areas like Brenton Reef, Seal Ledge, and Block Island to spot humpback and fin whales from April through October. Newport’s coastal waters are a major feeding ground, so whale sightings are frequent.
Exploring the picturesque coast of New England in the summer and going whale watching are experiences you will never forget. Witnessing these majestic creatures up close in their natural environment is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The stunning sea cliffs, beaches, and historic lighthouses along the coast provide a perfect backdrop for a summer whale watching adventure.
Visit Some Historical Sites and Museums
New England is home to many historic sites and museums that provide a glimpse into the region’s storied past. When the summer heat becomes oppressive, spend a day exploring some of these air-conditioned attractions to escape the sun while learning about local history.
At Plimoth Plantation, see how early English colonists lived after settling in Plymouth in 1620. Reenactors demonstrate life in the 17th century, showing how the Pilgrims built their homes, cooked, farmed, and interacted with the Wampanoag people. The plantation aims to provide an authentic portrayal of life in the 1600s.
Old Sturbridge Village
The largest living history museum in the Northeast, Old Sturbridge Village depicts life in a rural New England town during the 1830s. Costumed historians demonstrate trades, crafts and daily activities on the village’s 200-acre site. Explore historic buildings, take wagon rides, visit farm animals, and watch craftsmen like blacksmiths, potters and textile workers practice their trades using traditional tools and methods.
The Mark Twain House & Museum
Visit the former home of author Mark Twain in Hartford, Connecticut. Twain lived in the Victorian Gothic house from 1874 to 1891 and wrote several famous works here, including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Go on guided tours to see the billiards room, conservatory, and Twain’s second-floor study. The museum includes exhibits on Twain’s life, work, family and the Gilded Age.
Mystic Seaport Museum
At Mystic Seaport Museum, discover Connecticut’s seafaring history and explore a recreated 19th-century coastal village. See historic ships, including the Charles W. Morgan—the last wooden whaleship in the world. Demonstrations show how ships were built, learn about whaling and fishing, and experience life as a sailor. The museum is a haven for maritime and history enthusiasts, especially on hot summer days.
New England’s rich history comes to life at these museums and historic sites. Enjoy a glimpse into the region’s colonial past and 19th-century daily life while escaping the summer heat. A trip to any of these destinations will be an educational experience for both children and adults.
Take a Food Tour and Sample Local Cuisine
New England is renowned for its picturesque landscapes, historical charm, and delectable cuisine. No summer trip to the region is complete without sampling the local fare. A food tour is an ideal way to taste your way through the best of New England’s gastronomic delights.
Explore Local Specialties
Each state and town has claim to signature dishes you simply must try. In Maine, dip into a lobster roll bursting with fresh seafood or a bowl of clam chowder. Vermont is all about cheddar cheese, maple syrup, and craft beer. Massachusetts boasts creamy clam chowder, fried clams and Boston cream pie. Connecticut is home to New Haven-style apizza and lobster rolls. A guided food tour will take you to the spots locals love for these regional specialties and more.
Meet the Makers
New England’s food scene is fueled by artisanal producers of cheese, beer, spirits, coffee and chocolate. A food tour may visit small craft breweries, family-run creameries, distilleries using local grains, roasters sourcing fair trade beans or chocolatiers crafting gourmet treats. You’ll get to chat with the makers, learn their stories and philosophies, and taste the fruits of their labors.
Discover Hidden Gems
While researching top restaurants is easy, finding the under-the-radar eateries beloved by locals can be challenging. A knowledgeable food tour guide can steer you away from tourist traps to neighborhood nooks serving up delicious fare. They know the food trucks with the longest lines, the bakeries with the flakiest pastries, the diners dishing out decadent breakfasts and the dockside shacks with the freshest seafood. Let them lead you to places you’d never discover on your own.
A summer food tour is an edible education in New England’s diverse food culture. With tastes of signature dishes, encounters with local producers and a glimpse into hidden neighborhood haunts, you’ll experience the region’s cuisine in the most authentic way possible. Savor every bite—these are the flavors of summer in New England you’ll crave long after your vacation ends.
Go Kayaking or Canoeing
New England offers some of the best kayaking and canoeing in the U.S., especially during the summer months. Gliding across the glassy surface of a lake or river, you’ll experience the region’s natural beauty from a unique vantage point.
Explore the Coastline
The coastal areas of New England provide the perfect playground for paddling. In Maine, kayak through tidal pools and inlets along the rocky shores of Acadia National Park. Or navigate the historic harbors of Bar Harbor and Camden. Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay and the coastal salt ponds of Cape Cod in Massachusetts also offer scenic waters for paddling.
Paddle Rivers and Lakes
Inland, New England’s lakes, rivers, and streams provide opportunities for multi-day canoe camping trips. Paddle down the Connecticut River, the longest river in the region. Or traverse the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, which winds through Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Quebec.
Rent or Bring Your Own
If you don’t have your own kayak or canoe, many outfitters throughout New England rent equipment and provide shuttle services to help you paddle back to your starting point. Some also offer guided tours for those looking to learn the basics or wanting an experienced guide. However, for frequent paddlers or long trips, bringing your own kayak or canoe may be more convenient and cost-effective.
While the summer months bring warm, calm weather perfect for paddling in New England, be aware of your skill level and the difficulty of the waters before heading out. Scout the river or lake ahead of time to identify any potentially hazardous areas. Always wear a life jacket, carry essential safety gear like a whistle, and let someone know your planned route and schedule before shoving off. By exercising caution, you’ll be primed to fully enjoy your paddling adventure.
Check Out a Summer Festival
Summer festivals are a quintessential part of experiencing New England in the warmer months. From food to music to art, there are numerous festivals spanning genres and interests throughout the region.
One of the largest summer festivals is the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island. This multi-day event features dozens of musicians and bands on multiple stages. Genres range from folk and blues to rock and country. Notable past performers include Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and Fleet Foxes. Tickets often sell out months in advance, so plan ahead if you want to attend.
For food lovers, the Maine Lobster Festival is a must-do. Held annually in Rockland, this massive seafood extravaganza celebrates Maine’s famous crustacean. You can enjoy lobster prepared in every way imaginable, from lobster rolls to lobster mac and cheese to lobster tacos. Live music, crafts, contests and activities round out this popular summer festival.
Art aficionados will appreciate the Vermont Open Studio Weekend. During two days in June, visitors can tour the studios of over 200 artists across the state. You’ll find ceramics, photography, painting, sculpture, fiber arts, and more. It’s a wonderful opportunity to view and purchase original artwork directly from the creators.
Outdoor and adventure enthusiasts should check out the New Hampshire Highland Games. Watch athletes compete in traditional Scottish athletic events like caber tossing, stone put, and the hammer throw. You can also enjoy live Celtic music, dancing, food, and other cultural activities. The scenic White Mountains provide a perfect backdrop for this weekend of Highland revelry.
New England summers offer no shortage of ways to experience the region’s culture, cuisine, music, art, and outdoor activities. Exploring one of the many summer festivals is a memorable way to join in the seasonal festivities like a local. Pick an event that sparks your interest and start planning your summer adventure.
Things to Do in New England in the Summer FAQ
Many visitors wonder what there is to do in New England during the summer season. The summer months offer mild weather perfect for exploring the region’s natural scenery and cultural attractions. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about summer activities in New England and suggestions for places to visit.
What outdoor activities are there to do?
New England’s summer weather lends itself well to outdoor recreation. Some options include:
-Hiking and camping in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the Green Mountains of Vermont, or the Berkshires of Massachusetts. There are trails for all skill levels.
-Visiting Acadia National Park in Maine to bike the carriage roads, hike the trails, or go rock climbing.
-Whale watching or puffin cruises along the coast. Many companies offer tours from Massachusetts, Maine, and other states.
-Swimming or sunbathing at coastal beaches like Old Orchard Beach in Maine, Hampton Beach in New Hampshire, or Cape Cod National Seashore.
-Golfing at some of the region’s world-class courses like Pinehurst in Vermont or the Cape Cod National Golf Club.
-Touring wineries and breweries, especially in Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Many offer outdoor tastings with scenic views.
What cultural attractions can I experience?
There are also many cultural destinations to enjoy:
-Exploring historical sites like Plymouth Plantation, Salem Witch Museum or Mystic Seaport in Connecticut.
-Visiting art museums like the Portland Museum of Art, Clark Art Institute, or Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
-Taking in a show at summer theaters like the Berkshire Theater Festival in Massachusetts or Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut.
-Learning about maritime history at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut or Maine Maritime Museum.
-Touring the summer homes of historical figures like the Mark Twain House in Connecticut or Edith Wharton’s The Mount in Massachusetts.
With its natural beauty and rich history, New England offers an array of cultural and recreational activities for visitors to experience during the summer season. There are destinations to appeal to any interest, making it an ideal summer getaway.
There are endless opportunities for adventure and exploration in New England during the summer months. As a local, you have the benefit of knowing all the hidden gems and secret spots that most tourists overlook. From hiking mountain trails with stunning vistas to enjoying fresh lobster rolls on the coast, summer in New England is meant for making memories. Though the season is fleeting, the experiences you gain will last far beyond the fading warmth of August. So get out and enjoy all this beautiful region has to offer—and maybe you’ll gain a new appreciation for the place you call home.