Hello, my husband and I are planning a trip to New York City and Mendham, New Jersey in June. We live in South Africa so it's quite a big trip for us. We have good friends in Mendham hence the visit there. We have another 3 to 5 nights spare and were wondering what best to do. One option is to fly to Bangor and visit Bar Harbor / Acadia which is a dream of mine. But if there is another area or areas which stunning natural beauty (where we can walk, visit cute villages and shops, go to good local restaurants etc) within driving distance from NYC or Mendham I am completely open to it. Does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks so much! Lauren
My first thought was to go to Bar Harbor if that is your dream, however I'm not sure it's the place for you if you are looking for pleasant walks with shops.
I have been to Acadia NP/Bar Harbor more than a dozen times, and love the area. Great for hiking, kayaking, and other outdoor pursuits. Not great for strolling and shopping unless you like tee shirt and souvenir shops.
You might enjoy the North Fork at the end of Long Island. One of the towns there is Greenport, which is a former whaling port and ship-building town and one of the many charming villages on the North Fork. You'll find unique shops, loads of wineries in the area, lovely views of the water and historic old homes. There are also many festivals, wonderful restaurants, museums and art galleries to visit but also beautiful vistas of farmland and grape vines. It's one of my favorite places to visit. It's about a 2 1/2 hour drive from the city.
Google "North Fork Long Island" and you'll find plenty of references and images to look at.
Connecticut has some nice towns on the water. Check out the coastline.
The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts fits the bill perfectly . Three and one half hours drive from NYC , one meanders up Route 7 through Connecticut into Massachusetts , stops on the way - Kent CT , Falls Village CT , Great Barrington , MA , Stockbridge MA , Williamstown MA . In West Cornwall CT this iconic covered bridge is an easy stop - https://cornwallct.org/explore-cornwall-ct/cornwall-ct-covered-bridge/ If you decide to visit , let me know for driving directions and hotels along the way .
Maine is probably the best natural scenery in the region.
If you do look at things within driving distance instead, look at finger lakes NY. If you stay in Ithaca and have a car you can visit lakes, wineries, forests, waterfalls, etc.
I’ve also heard good things about the Vermont/NY border - the Adirondack mountains, lake Champlain, that region. Both are areas to consider if you want to be closer to NYC
If you prefer the New England coast , the I - 95 corridor ( same drive time ) will take you to Mystic , CT . In the Town of Stonington CT resides Mystic Seaport Museum , and notably , Stonington Borough ( The vilage within the town ) a one mile long peninsula that juts into the Atlantic . A fishing village first established in 1630 , it has changed little over time -https://www.stoningtonboroughct.com/ and this https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=tK5l2%2F8J&id=49F0C404643BBC86E345AFFA42336A2BCC6D0E18&thid=OIP.tK5l2_8JdtX4PFCYTYes-gHaFj&mediaurl=https%3A%2F%2Fimages.fineartamerica.com%2Fimages%2Fartworkimages%2Fmediumlarge%2F3%2Fstonington-ct-aerial-2-paul-coco.jpg&cdnurl=https%3A%2F%2Fth.bing.com%2Fth%2Fid%2FR.b4ae65dbff0976d5f83c50984d87acfa%3Frik%3DGA5tzCtqM0L6rw%26pid%3DImgRaw%26r%3D0&exph=675&expw=900&q=stonington+ct&simid=608054493309397914&form=IRPRST&ck=7DE53F4C8FB92CA626F12FB594A74283&selectedindex=2&ajaxhist=0&ajaxserp=0&vt=0&sim=11
This newsboard does not specialize in the USA, but you have some good hints. Note that resort areas have minimum stays (especially on weekend nights) and generally book up well in advance for the Northern Hemisphere summer. Car rental prices are way up worldwide right now, and you will need a car.
The scenery is not the equivalent of Acadia National Park, but both New Jersey and Long Island NY are famous for their beaches. Most of them are not really public, even though the space below the high tide mark is nominally public in the US. That simply means that motels and hotels lend you a beach badge or something while you are there. Parking is highly restricted. It is fair to say that these beach areas are highly developed (at least with single-family homes), although in some cases high-rise buildings are not permitted or don't exist. I just mean, they're not "wild" like a National Park. There are also plenty of mountains in the area
I know what you mean by cute villages, but there isn't a firm definition of that. People who own bungalows (look that up) at the shore want it to be exactly the same, year after year. So the pancake houses, ice cream shops, and bakeries stay as much the same as possible. But it's not like they were built by colonists in the 18th century!
If you're interested in colonial towns, they are mostly "in captivity", like Shaker Village, Sturbridge Village, or Colonial Williamsburg. Would you be interested in Mohonk Mountain House. There is serious hiking in the Catskills. (You did not give your age or abilities.) That's not far north of NYC. Acadia aside, do you really want "wilderness?"
I haven't been to any of the other places mentioned in this thread, but I would stick with Bar Harbor/Acadia. We also love Cape Cod.
I live in NY state, and have traveled extensively through just about every one of the locations in the posts above. I have vacationed in Bar Harbor and spent time in Acadia National Park. With the exception of the Mystic/Stonington Connecticut area, I don't think you're going to experience something comparable to Bar Harbor, but I can't think of anything in that area reminiscent of Acadia. Walking along the carriage trails and watching the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain are something very unique and special to that lovely place alone. As wonderful as most of the other areas are, I think that for the incredible distance you'll have traveled, if Bar Harbor is a possibility for you, that is the place you should visit. I would hate to think that you would get back home and have any regrets about not getting there. I think the way that things are going in the world, I'd go where my heart was taking me and have no regrets or what ifs. Safe travels!!
The link below might provide you with some other ideas that hadn't been discussed. It's from the official travel site for New York state.
May I suggest the Hudson Valley. For a day trip take Metro North Railroad from Grand Central Terminal on the Hudson Line. The route follow the Hudson River. Sit on the river side of the train for the best views, that is the left side of the train as you face front. Cute villages include Hastings-On-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry and Irvington. Further north is the Village of Cold Spring (these are all in New York State).
You can easily drive this route and I would suggest using Route 9 rather than a highway. (Note: the author Washington Irving's home is in Irvington; Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow has Philipsburg Manor, the church and bridge associated with the Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Kykuit. Near by Rockefeller State Park has hiking trails. Lyndhurst is an historic estate from the age of the Robber Barons and was used to film the soap opera Dark Shadows. Anthony's Nose is further north, off the Taconic Parkway; there are hiking paths in the area with fantastic views from the top.
Another option is Amtrak to Albany (NYS capital).
A third choice is to drive on the New Jersey side of the river to Highland Falls/West Point area with a visit to Bear Mountain State Park for hiking. Further north are the Catskill Mountains with too much to list here.
Bar Harbor can be a congested mess when the cruise ships are in port - which unfortunately seems to be most days.
We stayed on the other side of Mt Desert Island near the town of Southwest Harbor a couple of years ago and enjoyed it immensely. No crowds, easy access to the park and a variety of other hiking trails, and generally a more mellow vibe than Bar Harbor. Might be just what you're looking for.
We've spent a week in Bar Harbor (in the late fall, when it was quieter) and spent over half of the time hiking Acadia NP. When the knees needed a break, we took some nice, random drives around the region (Blue Hill, Stonington, Castine, Southwest Harbor, etc) and the pedestrian-only mail boat/ local ferry from Northeast Harbor to the Cranberry Islands. Lots of pretty scenery and history in the area so you'll find stuff to do even if not much of a hiker. Can you ride bikes? You might enjoy some spins on the car-free carriage roads, or explore some of them on foot or via horse-drawn carriage.
Yes, the little town of Bar Harbor can be VERY busy when a cruise ship is in so getting out of Dodge, sort of speak, via hiking trails, bikes or area drives can provide some breathing room during the hours their passengers are land side. The drives are SLOW - roads are generally two lane and winding - so it took some time to putter about.
Niagara Falls? Go to Acadia national park (bar harbor). It’s 12 hours away from NYC - not really driving distance - but that’s the one I would recommend in the northeast as well. Nothing else in this region comes close to Acadia. Cute villages and shops is not an American thing - you will find it in many towns (bar harbor, Camden in Maine) but it’s not comparable with Europe.
I was going to suggest the north fork, and specifically Greenport, but have been beaten to it. Last time I was there was in the mid-1960s so my information may be slightly out of date - but probably not.
Or Fire Island, in a quite different but very pleasant way.
Mount Desert Island (Acadia) is in my top 3 favorite places in the USA, perhaps #1... There are pleasant old carriage paths that are easy to walk, and easy or harder hiking trails to Mt Cadillac, etc. Bar Harbor is only one of the small towns/hamlets on the island, and it is the most touristy, but not overwhelming, IMO. You wouldn't just stay in the town during the day anyway...but that's where you will find the most restaurant choices and people watching at night. Northeast Harbor and Southwest Harbor are quieter and more for the residents or that's my experience where I know people who live or lived. You want to explore the entire island by car. Also, June is not the most crowded part of the summer season in Maine, so I wouldn't think you would be overwhelmed by tourists, but I have no idea about cruise ships' schedules.
I'm not a morning person, but I have gotten up at dawn to watch the sunrise on the island. I'd recommend it...search out your sunrise spot the day before.
There are many nice places in New England, but this island takes the cake. again IMO.
As has been noted , Acadia is a rather long shlep from the NY City metro area .One of the places that is about a third of the time and distance is Wray's hometown , Gloucester , MA , and the surrounding area of Cape Ann, is magnificent . We have spent a fair amount of time there since the nineties . It's New England seacoast at its best . From Gloucester , north east along the coast , charming towns like Essex , Ipswich , and Rowley up to Newburyport. A stunning coastline and a fifteen thousand acre salt marsh , mark the area . A huge amount of historic sites , and arguably , the best whole belly fried clams anywhere . Gloucester itself boasts a fine museum of local culture and art https://capeannmuseum.org/ We hold a membership there , it's a longtime favorite . Lastly , if you want to look further , this book by Mark Kurlansky tells the whole " TALE " of Gloucester - https://www.amazon.com/Last-Fish-Tale-Atlantic-Gloucester/dp/1594483744 EDIT !!! - I've almost commited a cardinal sin here in not mentioning Rockport MA , probably the most iconic town on Cape Ann - pictures here https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=ziU%2fQGuB&id=DC6A756D6BBD53557AA7C9CC52EC2366C6A0461B&thid=OIP.ziU_QGuBedwYEte3QYVQsgHaEe&mediaurl=https%3a%2f%2fi.pinimg.com%2foriginals%2f03%2f0b%2fc5%2f030bc5b6d8b82befeb80e63861bf6b6f.jpg&cdnurl=https%3a%2f%2fth.bing.com%2fth%2fid%2fR.ce253f406b8179dc1812d7b7418550b2%3frik%3dG0agxmYj7FLMyQ%26pid%3dImgRaw%26r%3d0&exph=2768&expw=4576&q=rockport+massachusetts&simid=608044765203337398&FORM=IRPRST&ck=EF579F5F4382A143CF77E5E2632498B3&selectedIndex=2&ajaxhist=0&ajaxserp=0
We did a combo NYC with Newport, Rhode Island and really enjoyed that trip! We took the train from NYC to New Haven, Connecticut to pick up a rental car. Newport has some nice B&B’s to get a nice local feel of the area. If you’re interested, I can look up the one where we stayed. Newport also has lovely mansions; we toured several of them one day.