Island Vacations in New England


Beaches, dunes and grasslands on Nantucket

Each day in the summer when the ferry leaves Woods Hole, Massachusetts, for Martha's Vineyard, you can be sure it's crowded with more than a few blue bloods from Boston and the rest of New England who are headed for stellar beach vacations. Martha's Vineyard also attracts an entire population of college kids packed into shared housing, who arrive for steady summer work in bars and restaurants. Nearby Nantucket Island, accessible via a ferry from Cape Cod, is less populated and even more upscale. In these two exceptionally affluent island getaways, expect yacht clubs, high society, and private jets.

Maine's Acadia National Park, the only national park in New England, includes a vast swath of Mount Desert Island and Isle au Haut. The islands' shores are marked by particularly rocky coastlines and the only natural fjord in the eastern U.S. Summers bring crowds of vacationers and the Bar Harbor upper crust, but it's easy to find quiet places to explore along wild headlands jutting into the sea, or to hunt for sea life in tide pools without bumping in to anyone.

Bird watchers and harbor seals both love spending time on Monhegan Island, a one-square-mile outcropping just ten miles off the coast of Maine. Year-round, locals work in a vibrant fishing industry, while resident artists and visitors from the mainland help support a growing tourist industry. Hikers and walkers enjoy more than 17 miles of trails that lace through the small island and along the pebbly shore.

Rhode Island may not boast much in the way of territory, but the 11 square miles of fascinating Block Island only 12 miles off shore make up for it. This gem of a weekend retreat for northeasterners tired of city life features no traffic lights, great seafood, quaint cottages, sandy beaches, high sea cliffs, and a landscape tailor-made for bicycle vacations.

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