What is back in fashion, in this wild time when businesses are shut down and the natural world is opening up? Answer: the Sunday (or any day) drive. Fortunately, all the New England states have glorious scenic roads – usually several in every state – and May is bursting with flowers and leafing-out trees and balmy temperatures. This is something people can do without crossing state lines. It’s part of the Home State Advantage season in New England!
Here is a taste of the scenic drives in every state, and links to our pages, with more information. Pack a lunch or look at each state listing below for a link to restaurants that are serving orders as take-out. If you are an excellent planner, you could predict where you excursion will take you by lunchtime or dinnertime, and call ahead to order. (always a good idea to call ahead, anyway.)
Connecticut Scenic Drives — Connecticut could have been created with the pleasure of a scenic drive in mind. A shoreline drive from New Haven to Stonington passes through many sweet, picturesque towns and views of Long Island Sound. Unlike some other drives, you can load up with fresh take-out food at Bishop’s Orchards in Guilford as you set out upon or finish this drive. The whole state is included in the Connecticut Barns Trail, which takes you past the farm structures of an idyllic rural era. The Litchfield Landscapes drive also guides you through pastures and pretty towns. CT restaurants offering takeout (call ahead).
Rhode Island Scenic Drives — Narragansett Bay divides Rhode Island into a few distinctive chunks that are kind of handy for talking about beautiful drives. Many of us have heard of Ocean Drive in Newport, which traces the southern edge of Aquidneck Island and overlooks the rocky shores of the bay, and it is a beauty. But please don’t overlook a jaunt through the East Bay towns of Barrington, Warren, Bristol, and Tiverton. This area is rural, passing along farms and delightful towns, with bay views to the west. On the Rhode Island mainland, beautiful and often-overlooked roads and towns are plentiful in the southern inland area between West Kingstown and the state’s western border with Connecticut. And Routes 1 and 1A along the Atlantic shoreline are flush with water views. RI restaurants offering takeout (call ahead).
Massachusetts Scenic Drives — We all know Massachusetts is a big, diverse state, so any talk of drive tours needs to take the Bay State a bite at a time. The Western Berkshires, the Pioneer Valley, and Central Massachusetts are mostly rural, with small towns, so a drive here is a no-brainer. Views from the heights are wonderful. North of Boston, also known as Cape Ann, and South of Boston, in the area of Plymouth and Buzzard’s Bay, offer the added zing of water views and waterside walks, where allowed. Cape Cod can be reached by two bridges and it has three major roadways, Route 128, Route 6, and Route 6A (the King’s Highway). People don’t usually think of cities as a place for a Sunday drive, but with traffic at a low ebb, a weekend also could be a time to meander the old streets of Boston. MA restaurants offering takeout (call ahead).
New Hampshire Scenic Drives — Do you love views across blue, blue lakes? How about views through mountain passes? And, as always in New England, there is the shoreline. New Hampshire scenic drives offer all of these options, including the world-famous Kancamagus Highway in the White Mountains and a route that is no-kidding called the Currier & Ives scenic byway in the south-central part of the state. The Lakes region byway circles giant Lake Winnipeusakee and her nearby sister lakes, where you can also break off and climb the mountainside into, say Moultonborough, for a view of the lakes from above. NH restaurants offering takeout (call ahead).
Vermont Scenic Drives — Vermont is known for its covered bridges (the highest number per capital of any state), so you want to find one or two of these sturdy structures. If passing traffic allows, peer around inside the bridge and enjoy the simple, classic engineering methods that have been keeping these standing since the 1800s. Vermont is the place of mountains, so prepare to enjoy the ups and downs and wonderful views. Some of the most popular and beautiful drives touch on Route 9 between Brattleboro and Bennington; Route 7A in the Shires region, between Pownal and Manchester; and Route 100, up the center of the state. VT restaurants offering takeout (call ahead).
Maine Scenic Drives — Scenic drive choices in Maine break down generally into the categories of shoreline or forested mountains. One of the shoreline drives, called the Maine Lighthouse Drive, takes you from one lighthouse to the next – a favorite occupation for many Maine visitors. In contrast, the western part of the state offers the Rangeley lakes Scenic Byway, for magnificent views of vast lakes and forests. Drives nearer to the northern border of Canada could yield views of moose – especially during feeding time, which is around dusk. As we said above about Boston, in times of low traffic, why not take a drive through or around the delightful city of Portland and its famous Portland Head Light? Maine restaurants offering takeout (call ahead).