Seven Wonders of New England
Acadia National Park
Echo Lake Beach gives visitors a chance to see peregrine falcons, but keep an eye out for black bear and moose throughout the park. Get near the water on Acadia's only ocean-sand beach, appropriately called Sand Beach, but don't miss the well-known Thunder Hole for a perfect example of the power of the ocean roaring through a breach in the rocky coast. The free Island Explorer bus system stops at a number of spots throughout Acadia's Park Loop Road -- just watch for bus stop signs or flag the bus down if you need a lift. Acadia National Park is 1 hour from Bangor, ME.
Take a quick trip to Plum Island -- connected to the city by a winding road that passes the tiny Plum Island Airport -- and try your hand at the renowned surfcasting in the shadow of the Plum Island Point lighthouse. Striped bass run throughout the warmer months, while hearty bluefish will test anglers in the later part of the summer.
The Cog Railway
At a speed of roughly3 miles-per-hour on the ascent, passengers have plenty of time to ponder the nearly 40-degree angle that the train achieves during its climb and the breathtaking view of New Hampshire's White Mountains range. The journey up through the lush forests and above the treeline to the top takes a little more than an hour, while the return trip is made in about 40 minutes. The round-trip expedition can test the mettle of those afraid of heights, but the view from the top of Mount Washington is unparalleled.
Take a carriage ride through the village and explore an authentic period lobster shack, a cooperage or the Fishtown Chapel. Musicians belting out sea shanties and storytellers spinning colorful sea yarns help transport visitors back to the 1800s-era New England coast. The Mystic Seaport is 2 hours from Boston and New York City, and less than 1 hour from Hartford, CT.
The roadway, a winding path hewn from the mountains, will take travelers by Sabbaday Falls, Rocky Gorge -- where you can traipse across a footbridge above the Swift River -- and the Lower Falls. The end of the Kanc will drop visitors back into modern-day New Hampshire, but here's one pro tip: Top off that tank before embarking on this winding, wondrous trek.
The Casco Bay Islands
Just off the coast of Portland, ME, is a chain of islands that stretches from South Portland all the way through Machias Bay. Peaks Island, a 20-minute voyage from Portland, offers sandy beaches, restaurants and an artists’ community. Bike the dirt roads of Cliff Island, visit the site of Fort McKinley on Great Diamond Island -- now a striking collection of stately homes -- or stay the night at Chebeague Island and awake for an early round of golf.
The Casco Bay Lines will ferry visitors along their island-hopping tour, stopping at several of the major islands in the bay. Several islands use golf carts for intra-island transportation, providing perfect opportunities to catch deer grazing in the dense forests. Saltwater flows through the soul of the Casco Bay Island communities, from the way residents make a living to reaching these scenic, stubbornly individual plots of land staggered throughout Portland's stretch of the Atlantic Coast.
Accommodations are plentiful, ranging from ski chalets to resorts packed with suites. The Trapp Family Lodge -- founded by the family made famous in The Sound of Music -- is an Austrian-inspired lodge with sweeping views of the Green Mountains. A short trip outside of Stowe will bring visitors into nearby Waterbury, VT, and the Cabot Annex Store and the Ben and Jerry's ice cream factory -- as close as you'll ever come to touring Willy Wonka's factory. Stowe is 3 hours north of Boston, and 30 minutes from the state capital, Montpelier.