9 Under-the-Radar Destinations in New England

Encompassing the states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Maine, New England is a suitable getaway year-round. Its towns ooze charm from every direction, from the lush green spaces perfect for fall foliage and rocky stretches of coastline, to the historic buildings dotting quaint streets and snow-capped mountains luring skiers. And while you may have heard of popular destinations like Martha's Vineyard, Kennebunkport, and Stowe, we've rounded up nine under-the-radar spots that are also worth a visit. Check them out and start planning your quintessential New England escape.

1. Camden, Maine

Camden Hills State Park; Doug Kerr/Flickr

Although less well-known than Portland and Bar Harbor, Camden is a quaint town about halfway up the state's coast. Its population of around 5,000 swells with tourists in the summer months, but it never loses that New England charm. Visitors can take a boat tour that leaves from the harbor, hike Mt. Battie in Camden Hills State Park for stunning panoramic views of the area, and wander around the cute historic district. Fine-dining restaurants and cheap eats fill the town, and the colorful River Ducks Ice Cream shop has a daily special where visitors from a specific state get two free scoops. 

2. Middlebury, Vermont

Alan Levine/Flickr

Perhaps most famous for housing Middlebury College -- a private liberal arts college founded in 1800 -- Middlebury is located about an hour's drive south of Burlington. Much of the town was burned by the British during the Revolutionary War, but it was rebuilt and now offers a good range of activities for travelers. Outings to surrounding preserves, parks, and skiing mountains are popular, as are visits to the UVM Morgan Horse Farm and Henry Sheldon Museum. No matter the time of year, drinking at Otter Creek Brewery, Lincoln Peak Vineyard, and Appalachian Gap Distillery are worthwhile pastimes.

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3. Mystic, Connecticut

Steamboat Inn/Oyster

Situated along the sea near the eastern border of Connecticut, Mystic is a village and census-designated place that was home to the Pequot Native Americans until the Pequot War in 1637. Today, it's divided by the Mystic River into West Mystic (Groton, CT) and East Mystic (Stonington, CT), and packed with maritime flair. Mystic Seaport is the nation's largest maritime museum, and other must-visit attractions include the Mystic Aquarium, Denison Homestead Museum, and Indian and Colonial Research Center. Grab food at Mystic Pizza (made famous by the 1988 Julia Roberts movie), pick pumpkins and apples at Whittle's Willow Spring Farm, and savor some homemade fudge at Mystic Sweets & Ice Cream Shoppe.

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4. Gloucester, Massachusetts

Bass Rocks Ocean Inn/Oyster

Just a 50-minute drive up the coast from Boston, and 15 minutes from Manchester-by-the-Sea, Gloucester is considered an important center of the fishing industry. It draws tourists largely during summer months with its picturesque rocky coast, lovely stretches of sand, and hemlock-filled parks. The Fishermen's Memorial Monument, Hammond Castle, and Eastern Point Lighthouse are not to be missed, and the Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House is great for those who enjoy historic and eclectic homes. Multiple festivals -- from strawberry and blues music -- a plethora of dining options, and a unique shop-filled Main Street add even more appeal.

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5. Narragansett, Rhode Island

Chuck D/Flickr

Although it does see an influx of Rhode Islanders during the summer months, Narragansett is largely an overlooked destination. Situated 45 minutes south of Providence, and 25 minutes west of Newport, the town packs something for every traveler: several gorgeous sandy beaches, excellent seafood in the fishing village of Galilee, a classic lighthouse in Point Judith, and the 1886-built Towers that survived what's known as the Great Fire of September 12, 1900. Around The Towers, in the Narragansett Pier area, are condos, fast-food joints, and even an amusement park, but the town still retains undeniable charm -- particularly outside of June through August. 

6. Gilford, New Hampshire

Wilson Bilkovich/Flickr

While it lacks Conway's easy access to Mt. Washington and the stunning White Mountain National Forest, Gilford is an attractive destination in New Hampshire year-round. It's set along Lake Winnipesaukee for water-based fun, and home to Gunstock Mountain Resort, which offers skiing and snowboarding in the winter, zip-lining with breathtaking views, hiking, and off-road Segway tours during the summer and fall. Head to the Beans & Greens Farm to stock up on fresh produce, try and make it through their corn maze, and satisfy your sweet tooth with their array of fresh-baked goods.

7. Blue Hill, Maine

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region/Flickr

You won't find any run-of-the-mill souvenir shops in Blue Hill, Maine, which boasts an artistic community. Gorgeous vistas are also rampant here, from the bay and several scattered ponds, to the multiple trails within Blue Hill Mountain. The tiny town has a book store, wine and cheese shop, and gallery selling pottery, jewelry, and textiles, plus a market and cafe with local produce. A creative air pervades this quiet place, and artsy types can book a rental along the water.  

8. Deerfield, Massachusetts

Doug Kerr/Flickr

Incorporated in 1673, Deerfield, Massachusetts, sits along the Connecticut River just over an hour's drive north of Hartford, Connecticut, and two-and-a-half hours west of Boston. A weekend trip here is like going back in time, as travelers can head to the Old Deerfield Village Historic District to see restored museum houses adorned in period furniture and live demonstrations of old-timey work like silversmithing, tailoring, and hearth cooking. Grab pub fare next to a fireplace at Champney's Restaurant & Tavern and delectable chocolate treats at Richardson's Candy Kitchen.

9. Hartford, Vermont

Quechee Balloon Festival; rubberduckee/Flickr

Hartford, Vermont, is a city of about 10,000, located under a 20-minute drive from Woodstock along the Vermont and New Hampshire border. The most popular attraction here is the Quechee Gorge, which is 165 feet deep and can be seen from its namesake bridge and the adjacent state park. Outdoor activities abound here, and a hot air balloon festival with private rides provides stunning vistas over the lush region. Vermont Spirits Distilling Co. offers a great tasting and Briggs Opera House is well-reviewed.

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