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New England Outdoor Activities

All sorts of things to do outdoors in New England: antique autos, beaches, biking, birdwatching, camping, canoeing, kayaking, skiing, train excursions, whale watching, windjammer cruises, and more.

Canoeing at Old North Bridge, Concord MA
Canoeing on the Concord River, Concord MA.

Auto Museums

New England has several excellent classic car museums near Boston and along the Maine coast. More...


All of the New England states have beaches on ponds and lakes, and all but Vermont have sea beaches. Pond and lake water can be warm, the sea is usually cold, but on a hot August day, it feels good! More...


Bicycling is popular in both New England's cities and countryside. Leafy lanes, easy grades and marked bike trails and paths make it among the region's most pleasant sports. More...


New England has a history of preserving wildlife areas and important migratory areas. New England birders are active, welcoming, helpful and enthusiastic. New England organizations dedicated to preserving open spaces— The Trustees of Reservations, Massachusetts Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Emerald Necklace Conservancy and more provide many venues for exploration.

If you don't live in New England, our partners at Active Travels can arrange a guided tour or a unique itinerary for your New England ornithological explorations. More...


Lots of public and private campgrounds in local and state parks and national forests, resort areas, and in the backwoods along hiking trails. Because of heavy use and fire danger, camping is regulated.

Lonesome Lake AMC Hut, a hikers' dormitory high in New Hampshire's White Mountains operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club.


This is one of the original lands of the canoe, its lakes and rivers perfectly suited to small, light, maneuverable craft. Lots of places rent canoes and provide equipment, drop-off and pick-up service.

Canoes, Concord MA

Rent a canoe for an hour or a half-day, or join an overnight river trek in the wild.

Thanks to New England's glacial landscape, with its thousands of lakes, ponds, rivers and creeks, there are lots of possibilities.

There's canoeing within easy reach of Boston MA, for example, in my home town of Concord MA.

Canoeing on Walden Pond, Concord MA
Canoeing on Walden Pond, Concord, Massachusetts...

For wilder treks, consider Lincoln NH and North Conway NH, which have several outfitters offering canoe and kayak trips.


New England's ponds and lakes are good for trout and other fresh-water varieties, and the deep Atlantic holds the really big ones. Surf-casting from the beach or shore is cheap, easy and often successful.


The Appalachian Trail and the Appalachian Mountain Club's system of trails and mountain "huts" (hikers' dormitories) are of prime interest, but there are hundreds of shorter local trails in towns, state parks, forests and wilderness areas. More...


Both fresh-water and salt-water kayaking are popular sports. If you come without your kayak, lots of places will supply them, with other equipment and drop-off, pick-up service.

The variety of water areas, seascapes and landscapes makes New England an excellent place for the sport.

Kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and canoes are available for rent near Boston:

Boating in Boston, 2401 Commonwealth Avenue, Newton

Charles River Canoe & Kayak, 455 Nahanton Street, Newton, at Nahanton Park on the Newton/Needham town line

—Bearskin Neck in Rockport MA is one of many places where you can rent a kayak and go with an experienced leader out for a paddle in the ocean.

Kayaks, Rockport MA
Kayaks awaiting renters on Bearskin Neck in Rockport...

You glide between the yachts of Rockport harbor, then past the breakwater and out into the sea, staying close to shore, of course.

It's a great way to spend a beautiful summer day!

Trains: Historic & Nostalgic

Trains are a useful way to travel to some parts of New England, but scenic, historic and nostalgic trains, including steam locomotives and even a cog railway, are less useful but more delightful. More...

Skiing & Snowboarding

Map of New England ski resorts

Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine have popular, well-equipped skiing and snowboarding resorts on challenging mountains, with lots of snowmaking capacity. Massachusetts has a dozen good ski resorts, and there are even a few in Connecticut and Rhode Island. More...


When the snow is deep—as it often is in deep winter—this is a great way to exercise and enjoy the outdoors. Modern snowshoes are small, light, sleek and comfortable.

If the idea of putting narrow little boards on your feet and hurtling down a slippery mountain slope has no appeal for you, consider this: the deep winter months of late December, January, February, and early March can be just perfect for snowshoeing in New England.

The fun of snowshoeing is that anyone can do it—and have fun doing it. No lessons, no lift tickets, no special gear except your snowshoes and appropriate winter clothing.


As winter and the snow cover deepens, particularly in the northern New England states, snowshoes are a great way to get out and enjoy the winter scenery.

Once you have your snowshoes you can walk anywhere, but many resort areas—especially in the northern New England states of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine—have special snowshoe facilities: trails to the most scenic points and lookouts, maps, safety guidelines, and cozy places to relax after a day of walking among the wonders of nature.

About snowshoes: They're the tool that makes hiking possible in several feet of snow.

You can get small, modern light-weight snowshoes made of space-age materials. Tubbs Snowshoes is a prominent brand and a traditional Vermont company (although it's now a part of K2 Snowshoes headquartered in Washington state).

For the larger, traditional snowshoes handmade of white ash wood, contact Russell & Rachel Dubois of Upcountry Snowshoes in Temple ME (tel 1-207-491-4341).

The Appalachian Mountain Club keeps three of its White Mountains hikers' huts open all winter, and you can hike to them with snowshoes. More...

The "huts"—actually spacious lodges—provide shelter, heat, light, kitchen facilities and mattresses, but you must bring your own sleeping bag and food.

It's less than two miles (3.7 km) up from the Franconia Notch State Park campground to the Lonesome Lake hut, a snowshoe hike of about an hour if you're in shape. More...

For a longer hike (just under 4 miles/7.4 km, 2-1/2 to 3 hours), is the one to the Carter Notch hut along the 19-Mile Brook Trail ("19-Mile" is the name of the brook, not the length of the trail!). More...

The Zeeland Falls hut can be reached by any of four trails, with hiking distances/times from 5.5 miles/10 km (4+ hours) to 7.3 miles/14 km (5 hours). More...


The quintessential New England spectator sport. In the 1800s, New England whalers went after the behemoths of the deep for oil, whalebone and ambergris. Now, just sighting them is thrill enough.

Whalewatchers, New England
Heading out of Gloucester MA on a whale watching cruise.

Whale watch cruises usually last between 4 and 5 hours, and thus take up a full morning or afternoon.

Most New England port towns have companies offering whale watching cruises.

Whale Watch Tips

Bring warm clothing, even on a warm day, because the maritime breezes out on the water will make the ambient temperature at least 10 degrees cooler than on land, and the wind-chill factor might make it feel even colder.

Remember your sunglasses to ward off the glare from the water; and sunscreen, because that same glare, combined with the bright sun, can really give you a burn.

Wear rubber-soled shoes if you have them.

You can buy soft drinks and snacks on board most whale watch boats.

What You'll See

Once out on the water, keep your eyes peeled for humpback whales, 30-to-40-metric-ton creatures 14 to 17 meters (46 to 56 feet) long which seem to love their briny habitat, breeching and playing for hours, accompanying themselves with their own curious songs.

A cousin of the humpback is the finback, about twice as heavy and up to 80 feet (24 meters) long, making it second in size to the great blue whale. Long and slender, it's a super-fast swimmer, propelling its great bulk through the deep at speeds of 20 knots (23 mph/37 kph) or even more.

The minke whale (MINK-kee) is "small," weighing only 11 tons, and growing to 30 feet (9 meters) in length. Minke whales have a well-developed sense of curiosity, and may snoop around your boat just to see what's up.

You may also see right whales, dolphins, pilot whales, seals, sharks, and seabirds such as petrels, shearwaters, gannets, and gulls.

Windjammer Cruises

Maine windjammer sailing ship

Gliding with the wind along the verdant coast of Maine in a historic sailing vessel, stopping at a remote island for a lobster bake.... Sound good? It's a Maine windjammer cruise. More...