A Moveable Feast
Explore your world with The Improper’s personalized itineraries.
It’s late fall. The summer tourists have vanished, the air snaps with a taste of frost and the trees are shedding their autumn finery. This is the best of times in New England. Each of the following five road itineraries focuses on a different style of adventure—but all highlight the premier locations to fuel your particular obsession. You can delve into the wilds of northern Maine, or feed your locavorous appetite with the rich fare of northern Vermont. Drinkers will prefer the deep end of a brewery tour through the Green Mountains, while cognoscenti peer at the marvelous art collections in the Berkshires. And old salts, of course, can immerse themselves in the maritime history of Maine’s rocky coast. Whatever your fancy, here are ways to make New England yours.
In a Nutshell: Not so long ago, the cove-dimpled shore of Maine’s Midcoast region was the site of a great shipbuilding industry. Vessels from the town of Bath are still remembered and celebrated along this stunning stretch of tide-swept inlets.
Stay: Sleep in a historic Coast Guard lifesaving station right on the sandy shores of a six-mile-long beach at the Popham Beach Bed & Breakfast (4 Riverview Ave., Popham Beach, Phippsburg, Maine, 207-389-2409, pophambeachbandb.com).
Eat: Solo Bistro (128 Front St., Bath, Maine, 207-443-3373, solobistro.com) is a fun, modern spot for delicacies like five-spice sea scallops and lobster risotto, and it has an impressive list of wines by the glass. Up the road in Brunswick, El Camino (15 Cushing St., Brunswick, Maine, 207-725-8228) serves surprisingly good Mexican fare with the odd New England touch, like Maine-crab enchiladas.
Play: Relive Bath’s shipbuilding glory at the enormous Maine Maritime Museum (243 Washington St., Bath, Maine, 207-443-1316, mainemaritimemuseum.org), situated on the banks of the Kennebec River. Home to historic ships, an active waterfront and fascinating exhibits on everything from lobsters to six-masted schooners, you can max out your maritime mind. Then head south to Popham Beach State Park (14 miles south of Bath on Route 209, 207-389-1335) to relax in the wave-swept splendor of a pristine coastline.
In a Nutshell: The wilds of Maine offer mighty woods, waters and the idyllic natural backdrop for a lakeside sporting camp. Head north for superior hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country ski trails.
Stay: Medawisla Wilderness Lodge & Cabins (Greenville, Maine, 207-695-2690, 603-466-2727 reservations, outdoors.org) is nestled northeast of Moosehead Lake on the shores of Second Roach Pond, and provides both full-service dining and rustic, pet-friendly cabins that are far, far from the madding crowds (meals included January–March, self-service Nov. 1–20, closed late November and December).
Eat: Auntie M’s (13 Lily Bay Road, Greenville, Maine, 207-695-2238) dishes up breakfast goods to locals in a no-frills, real-deal atmosphere. The Rod-N-Reel Café (44 Pritham Ave., Greenville, Maine, 207-695-0388, rodnreelcafe.com) celebrates the region’s piscine bounty and the anglers who live for it.
Play: A network of summer and winter trails radiate from Medawisla, providing extensive opportunities for hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and even a dog-sledding tour with a local guide. During the warmer months, add paddling and fly-fishing to the menu of outdoor adventure.
In a Nutshell: The cornucopia of Vermont pours into the restaurant scene around Burlington, fusing into exceptional, locally-sourced cuisine. In-depth foodie knowledge stems from some of New England’s best restaurants, resorts and university classrooms.
Stay: Pleasures of all sorts await visitors at Vermont’s Culinary Resort & Spa (70 Essex Way, Essex, VT., 802-878-1100, vtculinaryresort.com). In addition to luxury amenities and two fine-dining spots, the venue offers the Cook Academy, an onsite culinary education program.
Eat: The menu of the acclaimed Bluebird Tavern (317 Riverside Ave., Burlington, VT., 802-540-1786, bluebirdvermont.com) rotates daily (and seasonally) to emphasize the freshest local produce.
Play: The Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheeses (255 Carrigan Wing Building, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT., 802-656-8300, nutrition.uvm.edu/viac) offers a range of classes on all things cheese, including a one-day “sensory evaluation” lesson that teaches the techniques used by professional cheese tasters. The Burlington Farmers Market (City Hall Park, Burlington, VT., 802-310-5172, burlingtonfarmersmarket.org) purveys the region’s bounty every Saturday until the end of October, continuing through the winter on the third Saturday of every month in Memorial Auditorium.
In a Nutshell: Vermont boasts more than 20 breweries creating some of New England’s most delicious pints. Familiar names like Magic Hat, Long Trail and Harpoon give beer lovers a taste of the Green Mountain State.
Stay: Fullerton Inn & Restaurant (40 the Common, Chester, Vt., 802-875-2444, fullertoninn.com) sits on the village green in this tranquil town, a perfect slice of New England that serves as home base—and tour guide (see below)—for exploring Vermont’s breweries.
Eat: Warm up your palate on the way to Chester—and put some alcohol-sponging grub in your belly—at the Harpoon Brewery (336 Ruth Carney Drive, Windsor, Vt., 888-427-7666, harpoonbrewery.com), where you can savor beers and pub-style fare while overlooking the bottling line.
Play: Solve the “nobody-wants-to-be-the-driver-on-a-brewery-tour” dilemma with Fullerton Inn’s one- to three-day brewery tours, which include a chauffeured visit to four different breweries a day.
In a Nutshell: In the shadow of Mount Greylock, classic Berkshire scenery and a profusion of exceptional art defines the cultural and culinary landscape of Williamstown and North Adams.
Stay: The Guesthouse at Field Farm (554 Sloan Road, Williamstown, 413-458-3135, thetrustees.org/field-farm) sits in the pastoral swales west of Mount Greylock on a sculpture-studded property owned by the Trustees of Reservations.
Eat: En route to the Guesthouse, Mezze Bistro and Bar (777 Cold Spring Road (Route 7), Williamstown, 413-458-0123, mezzerestaurant.com) dishes out contemporary American cuisine—with ingredients sourced from the surrounding farms—in a 19th-century building on three bucolic acres.
Play: The museums in this area boast some of the best collections in New England, including an exceptional selection of French Impressionist paintings at the Clark Art Museum (225 South Street, Williamstown, 413-458-2303, clarkart.edu). Modern works get their due at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, 413-662-2111, massmoca.org), while the Williams College Museum of Art (15 Lawrence Hall Drive, Suite 2, Williamstown, 413-597-2429, wcma.org) has an enviable stock of American paintings.