Discovering New England: my itinerary on the road along the Northern coast, from Lynn as far as Bar Harbor, from Massachusetts as far as Maine. Stages, curious issues and tips. A “slow” journey into the history, the traditions, the literature, the landscapes and the savors of one among the most suggestive and scenic paths on the Atlantic Ocean.
About 500km of pure beauty discovering the farthest New England, among indented coasts, forests, lighthouses, fishermen’s villages, museums, scenic roads and historic dwellings.
Through the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway first and the U.S. Route 1 then (known also as Coastal Route), from Lynn as far as Bar Harbor, from Massachusetts – passing by a fragment of New Hampshire – as far as Maine.
Find down here the detailed itinerary, with useful tips about what to do and what to see.
For any other path, info or tip concerning a journey to New England through all its 6 wonderful states (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island), check here the wide dedicated section already present on this website.
Discovering New England: itinerary on the road along the Northern coast, from Massachusetts as far as Maine
A path that many people usually do in a day, with overnight stay in Portland and its neighborhoods and short stops at the marinas – to taste the Lobster Roll and many other crab and lobster specialties at the typical Fish Shack and Truck – and at the most iconic lighthouses, and then reach quickly Bar Harbor and the Acadia National Park. But in my opinion it deserves at least a couple of days to enjoy calmly the landscape, the atmosphere and all those views and magical places unplanned you’ll bump into on the road.
My tip to optimize travelling times is to reckon two overnight stays leaving from Lynn Salem, one in Kennebunkport and the other one near Rockport, both in Maine.
The Essex Coastal Scenic Byway – a wonderful scenic road which is an integral part of the Essex National Heritage Area – develops along a spectacular track of about 150km, sneaking into the indented coasts of Cape Ann, the Ocean, the fishermen villages, the historic sites and the forests, uninterruptedly from Lynn as far as Salisbury.
If you want to cover it all and you have a GPS, remember to select the highway box.
Follow the indications and the road signs – always present along the track – related to the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway, in correspondence of (in order of distance) Route 127, 127A, 133 and Route 1A.
Historic town located literally at the back of the more popular Salem, founded in 1626 and indissolubly tied to the events of the American Revolutionary War. Peabody – besides being a valid and cheaper alternative to stay overnight in the area – has a picturesque and nice old town and keep an important passage of the Literary Trail of Massachusetts. In the old South Cemetery – besides many heroes of the Lexington Battle – in fact is buried the writer Elizabeth Whitman, author of the revolutionary novel “The Coquette”.
Known by everyone as the City of the Witches due to the facts related to the historic “Hunt to the Witches” – really occurred in the late 1600 – Salem is actually a town rich in cultural itineraries related to the passage of the Pilgrim Fathers coming from Plymouth, to its literary roots – don’t miss the tour of The House of the 7 Gables – and an ancient harbor: already from 1700 the ships sailed to the East looking for spices, silk and jewels, and today it finds its best expression in the really beautiful Peabody Essex Museum.
Before leaving Salem don’t forget to stop and admire the view of the Ocean and the ancient colonial district of the near Marblehead.
An obliged stop to admire the coast made famous by the 2016 movie with the same name “Manchester by the Sea”. Stop and have a walk along the Singing Beach, called after the sound the sand produces when wind and people pass.
The Hammond Castle is a pure Gothic style castle on the cost of Massachusetts, built as house and lab by the inventor John Hays Hammond Jr between 1926 and 1929. Today it is a museum exhibiting his collection of relics dating back to the roman, mediaeval and renaissance era, as well as exhibitions about his life and his inventions.
The view of the Ocean is priceless.
Gloucester is another picturesque fishermen small town of New England made famous by successful novels and movies, like the book “Courageous Captains” by Rudyard Kipling and the 2000 movie “The Perfect Tempest”. Stop and admire the monument to the fallen at sea – the Gloucester Fisherman’s Memorial – and if you are interested in the history of the community, reckon a tour to the Cape Ann Museum.
The near Good Harbor Beach is a nice stretch of sand where to relax and enjoy the view of Salt Island and of the Ocean.
The fishermen village that most of all – in my opinion – represents the coastal New England.
Rockport is a real treasure, enhanced by the famous Fish Shack-Motif 1, the old most loved fishing shack portrayed by painters and artists.
Don’t forget to walk along the Bearskin Neck – a strip of land sneaking into the sea, rich in stores, cafés and venues – and to stop and taste the lobsters and the lobster roll at Roymore Lobster Co.
Finally, don’t forget to have a landscape stop at the suggestive Halibut Point State Park.
If you want to find out the origins and the story – starting from 1600 – of the schooners and the fishing boats typical of the New England, then you have to stop at the antiques stores and the ancient dwellings.
A stop to take photographs – or relax – recommended in the near and suggestive Crane Beach, very appreciated for its fine sand and the water incredibly transparent.
The Essex Coastal Scenic Byway ends between Newburyport and Salisbury.
The first one was born at the end of 1600 as mercantile port and it is perfectly preserved in the architecture and the structure of the old town. To visit: The Cushing House Museum & Garden – federal style house-museum rich in object coming from the Indies – and the Custom House Maritime Museum.
Salisbury Beach is a famous summer holiday destination.
Both give access to Plum Island, an island 14km long – besides being protected nature area – preserving this trait of coast of Massachusetts from the Ocean.
From Salisbury keep going on progressively northwards, through New Hampshire and Maine, following faithfully the Coastal Route 1, with some short detours to reach lighthouses and beaches, as far as taking immediately after Ellsworth the ME-3 arriving directly to Bar Harbor.
A total path of 350km about.
Gone past the border with New Hampshire, gone past the huge sand dunes of the Hampton Beach State Park, stop in Portsmouth, a nice tourist small town founded by the first colons in 1653. If you have time, stop in some cafés in Market Square and visit the district of the historic houses – among them the Pitt Tavern, where it seems the first ideas giving life to the Revolutionary War were spread – gathered into the Strawberry Banke Museum, the most ancient district of New Hampshire being settled by the European people.
Gone past the border with Maine, if you love shopping stop in Kittery and take advantage of the reductions and the very good offers of the Kittery Premium Outlets.
The area called “of York” is one among the most beautiful and fascinating ones of the whole coastal Maine.
From the ancient York Village – first English settlement of this state – to the tour of the historic buildings of the Museum of Old York-Historical Society, as far as a relaxing walk along the York Harbor. And immediately after through the York Cliff Trail to admire the beautiful dwellings and the cottages of the nineteenth century along the cliff. Then reach finally York Beach in the wonderful frame of Cape Neddick – about 6km more northwards – and visit the “old” Nubble Lighthouse, one of the most beautiful lighthouses in Maine.
Another picturesque village of fishermen, Kennebunkport is the ideal place where deciding to stay overnight to cut the journey and give oneself an evening at one of the suggestive Inns on the coast. All this after have walked through the wonderful Parson’s Way Shore Walk, the path following the coast from downtown Kennebunkport as far as Walker’s Point. Gastronomic stops recommended to taste lobster roll, crabs, clam chowder, shrimps and fried crab legs at The Clam Shack’s near Dock Square and Nunan’s Lobster Hut shortly before arriving in Cape Porpoise.
Noteworthy the Old Orchad Beach, about 25km northwards, a beach very crowded in Summer with stores, venues and amusement parks.
The Portland Head Lighthouse is one of the most beautiful lighthouses of New England and the most ancient ones of Maine. It was built in 1791 wanted by George Washington and still today it lights the access channel to Portland harbor area.
Today the guardian’s old house it a maritime museum dedicated to the history of the site and run by the Fort Williams Park.
Portland is a town highly underestimated, often used only as a place where to stay overnight and that instead it has in store several surprises. Founded in 1633 it keeps perfectly in the Old Port streets and buildings – have a stroll in the lively Harbor Fish Market – tied to its past of fishermen village. If you love literature you can visit the Longfellow House, maybe after have tasted a Whoopie – a typical filled biscuit of Maine – at Wicked Whoopies.
Brunswick is seat of the ancient and prestigious Bowdoin College where Nathaniel Hawthorne – the author of “The Scarlet Letter” and “The House of the 7 Gables” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – who finished the first integral translation of the “Divina Commedia” in English – and the 14th President of the United States – Franklin Pierce – studied. At 63, Federal St. it is possible to visit – upon appointment – the house and the room above all where Harriett Beecher Stowe wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852.
Left Brunswick, stop in the near Bath – called the “ships’ town” for its yards – to have a walk on its elegant and beautiful Main Street. Before going back northwards have a little detour southward on 127A to reach the Doubling Point Lighthouse, an old lighthouse dating back to 1898 still working on the Kennebec River.
Wiscasset is another picturesque fishermen village – defined by many “Maine prettiest village” – founded in 1663. Besides the harbor, the historic houses and the Red’s Eat – one of the best Fish shack where to taste the fresh catch of the day – it is popular for its vintage furniture stores and antiques stores.
About 30km northwards, always keep going along the Coastal Route 1, stop even only to have a coffee and a whoopee pie at Moody’s Diner, a historic diner of the ‘50s continuously working.
A detour of 30 km on the ME-32 will take you admiring the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, the most loved lighthouse by artists located on the tip of the widest peninsula of Maine.
Through the Penobscot Bay – one among the most suggestive traits of Maine coast – reach another very beautiful lighthouse, The Marshall Point Lighthouse, built in 1842 and become famous as the “Forrest Gump’s Lighthouse” because present in one on the 1994 movie scenes.
Rockland is another fishermen village become a popular tourist destination over time.
Give yourselves at least a walk in its colorful Main Street and a tour of the Maine Lighthouse Museum. Reckon a bit longer stop – even better an overnight stay to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere, the stores and the seafood delicacies – if you are going to be in the area in the first week of August, when the town is crowded with tourists for the Main Lobster Festival. If you are interested in discovering the coast and the neighborhood islands, know that from here the ferries for the Penobscot Bay Islands leave.
I recommend to you in the nearby another wonderful worthy Lighthouse: The Owls Head Lighthouse, built in 1825 right at the entrance of the Rockland Harbor.
Little northwards, always following the Coastal Route 1, you’ll run into other quaint settlements on the sea. Not to miss along the route Rockport and Camden: The Camden Hills (you can easily reach them by car) give an amazing view of the whole bay.
Passing by Verona Island and then take the road to Mount Desert Island you’ll cross the Penobscot Narrows Bridge, the bridge with the highest watchtower in the world. If you have time, go up as far as the top to enjoy the view of this particular trait of Maine made of lagoons and indented peninsulas. If you are interested, you can visit also the near Fort Knox with the same ticket giving admission to the watchtower.
Ellsworth – considered the gate to Mount Desert Island by locals – is a lively small town where to give oneself a break to explore downtown, the antiques stores, the cafés and the fish shacks, of course. Take note of these names and you won’t be disappointed: Union River Lobster Pot, Airline Brewing Company and Old Whitney House Antiques.
And finally you’re in Bar Harbor, lively tourist town of Mount Desert Island where to stay overnight and ideal leaving point to explore and discover the Acadia National Park.