How to Travel Sustainably in New England: A Visitor’s Guide

Tips to Travel Sustainably in New England

By Gretchen Stuppy Carlson at Chasing ADNVTR

From quaint fishing villages and craggy mountains to long stretches of sandy beaches and the bustling food scene of Boston, the six New England States are a year-round vacation destination.

Each year, millions of people visit New England for the traditional charm and opportunities for adventure from the coast to the mountains. Choosing to travel sustainably in New England helps to protect the people and environment of these special places.

New England Travel

Tucked in the Northeast corner of the United States, the densely populated states of New England have year round appeal with brightly colored fall foliage, outdoor winter activities and a short and busy summer season. Steeped in Colonial history, New England boasts many historical attractions, but the abundance of outdoor activities is what attracts the most people.

Despite a commitment to sustainability, New England’s towns and tourist sites feel the strain of the millions of people that visit every year. At popular sites, such as Acadia National Park and Cape Cod, crippling traffic and a high demand on local resources impacts the small town culture and fragile environmental areas. Increasing costs in the gorgeous coastal regions of New England have recently forced locals to move inland, disrupting the authenticity of these places.

New England is quickly rising to the challenge of promoting sustainable travel, and there are many ways that people traveling to New England can support ecotourism in the region including choosing eco-friendly resorts and tours, using public transportation and more. Below, you can find 5 practical ideas for sustainable New England travel.

The Welch-Dickey Loop Trail Hike in New Hampshire
The Welch-Dickey Loop Trail Hike in New Hampshire
Credit: Chasing ADNVTR

5 Tips to Travel Sustainably in New England

1. Enjoy the Outdoors and Respect New England’s Natural Places

Getting outdoors and developing a love and respect for the natural beauty of New England helps build a community of people dedicated to sustainability. New Englanders have a history of working and living outdoors, and even today many people make their living outdoors, such as lobstermen and fishermen who work year round on the water.

Spending time outdoors helps develop a love for these places and when you love and appreciate a place, you are more likely to protect it. Here are suggestions for eco-friendly outdoor activities in New England:

Explore the coastline and hiking trails in Acadia National Park: Enjoy coastal views, hikes, biking trails and more in Acadia. As one of the 10 most visited National Parks in the United States, Acadia faces challenges with overcrowding. Consider traveling in the off-season, visit less popular parts of the park, or visit in the early morning or late evening to help balance the crowds

Hike in the White Mountain of New Hampshire, the Green Mountains of Vermont, or the many trails throughout the interior of New England: The best hikes in the White Mountains offer rocky trails, beautiful vistas, and countless waterfalls. Always practice leaving no trace when hiking and help preserve the trails for others.

Take a Whale Watch: There are many whale watches that leave from the New England Coast for a few hours viewing these massive animals. Most whale watches focus on the safety of the whales and provide education about these animals, and many are connected with animal rights organizations to assure they are respecting the whales.

Visit the Beaches in Cape Cod and the Islands: Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard are home to many sandy and beautiful beaches. Unlike the rockier shoreline of northern New England, this area is relatively flat and the perfect place to spend the day near the water. Help preserve the marine environment by picking up your own trash, or consider doing a beach clean up as part of your visit.

Get out on the Water: With countless lakes, rivers, and a stunning coastline, spending time on the water is a great way to appreciate New England and contribute to sustainable tourism. Some of the best ways to get out on the water include renting kayaks for the day, take a stand up paddleboard tour, or heading out on a traditional tall ship like the gundalow PISCATAQUA in Portsmouth, NH

flat bottom sail boat on a river
The Gundalow, on the Piscataqua River
Credit: Chasing ADNVTR
Tug boats in Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Portsmouth, NH Tug Boats
Credit: Chasing ADNVTR

2. Choose an Eco-friendly Resort

As sustainable travel continues to gain popularity, many resorts around New England are making a commitment to becoming eco-resorts. So what makes a resort eco-friendly? The resorts below have all made a commitment to the environment through energy or water conservation and are making innovative choices to protect the earth.

Saybrook Point Inn & Spa: This inn uses an innovative energy system to heat and cool their rooms and provide hot water.

Meadowmere Resort: This resort is family friendly and serious about being eco-friendly with a solar set-up and green cleaning practices.

Nonantum Resort: a beautiful resort with eco-friendly landscaping including rain barrels and edible gardening.

The Colonnade Hotel: The Colonnade’s creative approach to sustainability includes staff driven environmentally friendly mini-cars and green cleaning systems.

Christmas Farm Inn: you will find 12 different lodging options here set amid a christmas tree farm. They also use a local stream to gravity feed their water system.

The Inn at Weathersfield: During the summer months,100% of the food served at this Inn comes from within a 20 mile radius. You can also take a cooking class to learn how they make their delicious meals.

You can find many other resorts and hotels in the area that are making eco-friendly choices, don’t hesitate to ask before booking for ways they are supporting the environment and the local community.

Dock, with boat shed and crab creates
Rockport, MA
Credit: Chasing ADNVTR

3. Support the Local Food Scene

With a reputation for excellent seafood such as lobster and classic New England Chowder, the New England food scene is increasingly focused on locally grown food and the farm to table movement. Many restaurants source the majority of their food locally and insist on sustainable and organic farming practices. On the other hand, it’s not uncommon to find styrofoam packaging for takeout and bottled water in single-use plastic.

Look for restaurants in New England that promote themselves as eco-friendly and use a leed certified building, organic and sustainable food, recycled to-go materials, and locally-sourced food. Most restaurants that are committed to being environmentally friendly promote these practices on their website or menus.

Another excellent option is to visit some of the many farmers markets throughout New England and cook your own food for a meal. Most local seafood shops in New England will be able to tell you exactly where your fish or seafood comes from. You can also support local farms directly by picking your own berries in the summer, apples in the winter, and visiting sugar shacks in the late winter where you can watch the process of tapping and boiling sap to make maple syrup.

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4. Travel in the Off-Season or Choose Less Popular Destinations

Traveling in New England during the busy summer season increases the demand on the local communities and forces businesses to operate seasonally. Many shops in high tourist areas shut down completely during the winter and rely on just a few months each year to make a profit. By visiting during the offseason, you are helping to decrease the demand during the high season and create more sustainable local communities.

The busiest season in New England is typically July and August and the fall foliage season in late September and October. Consider staying mid-week or check out your favorite New England destination in May and June when the flowers are coming up. Winter is also an excellent time to visit New England. Enjoy skiing, ice fishing, winter hiking, and snow covered classic New England towns.

If you don’t have the flexibility to visit during the off season, it’s also worth checking out the less popular destinations. While most of the coast is crowded during the summer, you can look at towns just a few minutes from the coast to escape the crowds. Even just 10 miles inland, you will find many locals enjoying smaller and less crowded towns and sites. The mountain and inland lakes can also get busy, but not nearly as overcrowded as the coast.

Travel Sustainably in New England: Coastal Island in Maine
Coastal Island in Maine
Credit: Chasing ADNVTR

5. Choose Public Transportation to Get Around

Depending on where you are heading in New England, public transportation can be an excellent way to explore while reducing your carbon footprints through car travel. Amtrak offers train service up into many small towns in Vermont and up to Portland Maine from Boston and New York City. From Boston, you can take the bus to a number of regional towns including up into the White Mountains.

As a region with a strong history on the water, there are many ferries that run between towns and out to islands. Take the ferry from Boston to Provincetown or from Southern Massachusetts to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. From Portland visit the islands of Casco Bay, or head further north to find many small ferries that connect the Maine islands to the mainland.

If you are looking to travel without using fossil fuels, you can also look into a bike trip, kayak trip, or hiking trip in New England. The Maine Island Trail Association manages a series of coastal campsites and picnic sites to help you put together your trip, or consider staying in one of the White Mountain Huts.

Final Thoughts

As a local who was born and lived most of my life in New England, I am still finding hidden gems and beautiful places to explore. New England is a remarkable place to visit and an increasingly easy place to navigate as a sustainable traveler. Making the commitment to protect this region by choosing eco-friendly travel will go a long way to maintaining this place for future travelers.

About the Author

Gretchen Stuppy Carlson

Gretchen was born and has spent most of her life in New England. She writes about travel, outdoor adventure, and how to live sustainably. You can find her at Chasing ADVNTR ( or on Instagram (