Boston is a great base camp for day trips in New England. You can reach New Hampshire, Rhode Island, or Maine in a couple of hours.
Sure, the heart of the city is bursting with historical attractions, and you could easily spend an entire vacation enjoying the local sights. But if you’re a nature lover, you’ll want to leave the metropolis for a bit.
Today, we’re exploring five of our favorite destinations around Boston to help you plan your next trip.
Let’s check it out!
Boston is one of the oldest cities in America. It’s not only the capital of Massachusetts, it’s the financial epicenter of New England. Culturally, it’s known worldwide as a must for any art or science lover.
Pilgrims escaping England’s tyranny landed on Massachusetts’ shores in 1620. Within ten years, they’d settled in several communities, naming Boston their most distinguished hub. Laws were written, wars were fought, and revolutionaries dumped tea into the harbor to divert British rule.
Boston earned the nickname Beantown because of their yummy baked beans during this time. But don’t call it that in front of the locals.
Today, visitors flock to the city for annual events like the Boston Marathon and the 4th of July on Boston Harbor. Sports fans love Fenway Park, and shoppers love Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
But if you want to get away from the city buzz, you’ve got plenty of great day trips near Boston to choose from. Here are our top picks for places to visit just outside of Beantown.
Pro Tip: Ditch Boston and go on a day trip instead! These are 5 Reasons to Avoid Boston.
#1 Martha’s Vineyard
Martha’s Vineyard is an island located about 90 miles south of Boston. It’s known as a summer haven for the wealthy. But that’s never stopped everyday people from traveling down for the day. Visitors can book a roundtrip bus and ferry to the island for themselves and their vehicles.
Whether you book a shuttle bus or pay extra to bring your own car, you’ll have plenty to do on Martha’s Vineyard. The lighthouses and multi-colored Aquinnah Cliffs are stunning. And bikes are available to rent if you’d like to ride along the beach into town.
If you only have time to visit one of the six island hamlets, check out Edgartown. The 1672 Vincent House and Flying Horses Carousel are a must.
#2 New England Coast
Driving along the New England coast makes for a great adventure if you’re open to a long day in the car. The shores along Maine and New Hampshire feature loads of scenic vistas.
From Boston, drive north to Salem, home of the infamous witch trials. This charming seaside town is packed with 17th-century architecture and old-world charm. And the Witch City Mall is something to behold. It’s like a gothic Las Vegas.
Next, pull over anywhere by the seaport in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. You can simply walk around, take in the scenery, or visit downtown landmarks like the Music Hall.
Your last stops will be in the weird and wacky state of Maine. Its coasts are lined with fishing villages, old cottages, and picturesque beaches. But remember that this is the place that inspired Stephen King.
#3 The White Mountains
If you’re heading to Boston in the fall, a day trip to New Hampshire’s White Mountains is essential. The colorful fall foliage is bursting with contrasts of yellow, orange, and bright red leaves. Dark green pines and fir trees give the vistas an extra special touch.
You can leave your car behind and book a roundtrip fall foliage coach. Busses leave from various hotels in the morning and return about twelve hours later. But if you want to explore on your own terms, plan for about four hours each way.
Folks looking to stay overnight should check out nearby Jackson, Lincoln, or Bretton Woods hotels. That way, you can take more time driving through North Conway, Kancamagus Pass, and Mount Washington. At 6,288 feet in elevation, Mount Washington is the highest peak in the northeastern U.S. Check out the gondola rides if you have time!
FYI: Not everyone agrees, here are 5 reasons to avoid the White Mountains.
#4 Cape Cod
It might be challenging to squeeze Cape Cod into a day trip from Boston. Technically, it’s only about two hours away, but once you’re there, chances are you won’t want to leave.
Cape Cod is the most eastern region of Massachusetts that looks like the tip of a Christmas elf’s shoe. It’s best known for its white-sand beaches and quaint seaside villages. And if you make it up to Provincetown, you might as well settle in and stay the night.
Nightlife in Provincetown is abundant and historically very inclusive. After all, this is where the freedom-seeking Pilgrims landed in 1620. But if you’d prefer a quiet night under the stars, check out campgrounds like Dune’s Edge and Coastal Acres. The best campground, North Truro Camping area, is a little harder to find but worth the hunt.
In the morning, you can grab a bite at a quaint diner and go whale watching in the Atlantic. And on your drive home, stop in towns like Sandwich and Hyannis Port. Even if you only have time for a long day drive, it’s worth it.
#5 Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Last on our list of great Boston Day trips is a federally protected body of water. If you draw a line from Boston into the ocean and another from Provincetown upwards, you’ll hit the spot. And it’s only available to the public from May through October via whale watching tours.
This 842-square-mile national marine sanctuary is home to mammals like fin whales, humpback whales, minke whales, and dolphins. You may also see harbor porpoises, seals, and sea turtles. You can spend a few hours watching these beautiful creatures for a small price. Researchers accompany each cruise to explain and support the overall mission of conserving and protecting marine wildlife.
Although it’s possible to go diving and fishing in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, we discourage it. It is dangerous and makes for more chances of humans mucking up a peaceful animal living space. So enjoy the experience from the safety of a guided ship.
Explore Boston, then Enjoy a Scenic Day Trip!
Our list of great Boston day trips is only the tip of the iceberg. Since this area was established centuries before the automobile existed, it’s jam-packed with places to see. And if you have a car, you can explore every little nook and cranny of the eastern New England shoreline. The opportunities are endless.
That said, if you start with our top five, you’ll get a good lay of the land surrounding Boston. From there, you can choose your own adventure.
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