By: TC Webb, Contributing Writer
Well EO readers, summer is officially here! Let’s get on the move, we deserve a little break. For your summer fun and relaxation, here are our favorite picks for catching good times. No worries about air fare New Englanders, these state parks and beaches are all in New England!
Don’t forget your SPF, hats, and tons of H2O to keep you healthy and beautiful.
ROCKPORT BEACH, ROCKPORT, MAThis space has always been one of my personal favorites. Rockport offers seven different beaches, stretching over the vast Atlantic shoreline. My personal favorite is hands-down Front Beach. This stretch of beach offers eateries, Rockport’s infamous salt-water taffy, tons of art, lovely shops at decent prices, with most items made by locals. Rockport also features a number of festivals, many on Cape Ann, New England’s oldest seaport. Last February, Mavis Staples headlined at Front Beach’s very own Shali Liu Performance Center. Definitely a family hotspot, but don’t forget there are six other beaches with features of their own.
CRANE BEACH, IPSWICH, MAThis serine shoreline is six miles of protected beach. Presented as a gift from Chicago and Bridgeport, Connecticut manufacturer Richard Crane, Ipswich residents may enter this year-round wild life preserve and beach free. For all others, a mere fee of $25 is required to enjoy this home of protected birds, such as the piping plover that is now near extinction. Plum Island is visible and reachable at low tide, which provides a whole other adventure. This gifted beach is accessible via Purple Ipswich Line on the MBTA commuter rail, then a short bus ride directly from the station. Even better, you’ll only pay $2 as a walk on fee. See you there! Look for me at the refreshment stand!
OLD ORCHARD BEACH, ORCHARD BEACH, METhis concept may first confuse and then blow you away. Old Orchard Beach is in York County, Maine. The beach itself became so populated with summer condos, beachfront properties, etc., that it is called a Census Designated Place (CDP). The beach, although spacious, is so concentrated that it had to be incorporated for census reasons. Old Orchard Beach is full of history and kid friendly attractions, including a newly built Ferris wheel, a 25,000 sq ft arcade, and 25 rides for adults and children makes this hotspot a winner for the whole family! This “Garden by the Sea” can also be reached by Amtrak’s “Down-easter” with a stop right at Old Orchard Beach, accessible by North Station. Go for it!
BLOCK ISLAND, RHODE ISLANDTechnically part of Rhode Island, Block Island is deeply rooted by the three states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Long Island’s coast is just fourteen miles east, making Block Island a tourist destination to be reckoned with. While being drenched in history, Block Island has a ton for you and your family’s enjoyment. Like most small islands of the east coast, the lighthouses are as monumental as the historic wars fought on the islands by Natives and Europeans, along with settlers. You can tour two very popular lighthouses, both fairly updated. Both nautical and land attractions bring visitors to one of the protected places on the list, consisting of twelve sites in the Western Hemisphere called The Last Great Places. Year round residents make the island very welcoming to visitors. Diving for wrecks, cycling over 40% of the islands protected conserves, hiking, observing a boat race on yacht week, enjoying the anticipated Fourth of July Parade, or simply chilling on one of the beaches are all popular and worthwhile activities for EO vacationers. I might miss the last ferry out, so I would stay at one of the quaint B&B’s on the island. Visiting Block Island will give you all you would want from a small postcolonial town “all grown up”. That was an abridged version- it will take at least the weekend to take it all in. Book ahead, and look for Leonard Webb and his family there, it’s one of their favorite places.
QUECHEE GORGE, QUECHEE, VTYes, this place, also dubbed “Vermont’s little Grand Canyon,” is as cool as it sounds. Besides the usual attractions, this town has an antique mall! WOW! Quechee ( KEE-CHEE) Gorge was naturally carved out 13,000 years ago and is 165 ft deep. While touring this protected state park, look for markings on caves, often seen there from eons before. Some have called it one of the best places to whitewater raft. Like Old Orchard Beach, Quechee is a CDP for census purposes. Ottauqucehee River flows through the park and gorge, and houses a planned community. If none of these grab you, you love blown glass, the town houses the Simon Pearce glass blowing studio and a restaurant in the old mill, named after the town. The sheer majesty of the gorge may just lead you to pack a lunch and explore – park rangers lead a tour of the gorge daily. The covered bridge connecting Woodstock to Rutland is newly rebuilt and has been said to be “picturesque. “ Bring your bikes, or just you and yours, and explore the “Grand Canyon of Vermont”.
WHITE MOUNTAINS, NHWhen you say “White Mountains”, some may not think of New Hampshire, for the range is quite lengthy. Yet sticking to the New Hampshire range is an adventure itself. Its highest peak, Mount Washington, is often a point of interest and is called “#1 New England Fifty Finest” for the 51 peaks over 4,000 feet. You would actually be hiking part of the Appalachian Mountains, without the hefty southern travel. The Old Man in the Mountain was one of the trail’s big attractions until his nose fell off from weather beaten years. No fears- it is being repaired and will once again become accessible. The mountains house many recreational state parks for fishing, picnicking, swimming, and almost any outdoor activity you can imagine. Summers are near perfect for outlet mall outdoor shopping in the towns connoted by winding mountain roads. Though the outdoors is just as amazing as Quechee Gorge, the hiking is easier for the less experienced and White Mountain towns are FULL of family friendly resorts, water parks, and native historical sites. My favorite is Waterville Valley, where I learned to ski and my cousin attempted to learn how to bicycle. I challenge you to pick a range and climb it, then treat yourself at one of the resort spas.
SILVER SANDS STATE PARK, MILFORD, CTI don’t if this beach is cooler at low or high tide. This state-managed park allows you to swim in Long Island Sound and is rumored to have buried treasure on low-tide accessible Charles Island. Treasure you say? There is a boardwalk, 297 acres of park, bird watching, and for the hiker, many tree covered trails. The birds are protected by sanctuary on Charles Island, and who knows what kind of birds you’ll find while searching for that buried treasure! There’s plenty of room for picnicking, so pack some food, and enjoy the grills. Coming from Milford, you can get in from Meadow Side Road Park, and enjoy exploring and relaxing.
ROCKY NECK BEACH STATE PARK, EAST LYME, CTHave you ever seen an osprey or a rose sparrow? If not then this park screams for your attention. The wildlife lover can see all seasonal wildlife here, fish for mackerel, or blackfish. The Pavilion features fireplaces and places to buy refreshments. The pillars carved trees also cover the entrances for fine dining. The diversity of this park has it on the list of National Register of historic places. I may visit late August, utilize the fireplaces, and maybe catch some fresh flounder for dinner. How about you?
If you happen to visit any of the gems on our list, let us know via Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. We would love to see your pictures, and who knows, you may even see yourself on one of the pages of Ethnic Online. Happy trails, and enjoy your summer!