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Boating in New England

By The Ahoy! Crew
Published June 22, 2022|Last updated June 28, 2022

What makes New England one of the most fascinating boating areas in the country? 400 years of maritime history on this rugged, tree-lined coast give this region unmatched charm and beauty. 

The first European settlers arrived here on sailing ships. The boatbuilders that followed used the abundant timber they found to build whaling ships, sailing schooners, and lobster boats. Reminders of this nautical tradition are still found throughout New England.

Where is New England?

New England consists of the six states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. These states make up the northeastern corner of the United States. 

Boaters love the countless coastal islands, rivers, and lakes in the region. Here you can cruise with a backdrop of modern city skylines, historic architecture, and quaint cottages among forested hills of evergreens and deciduous trees that come alive with color in the fall.

Whether your taste is mega yachts, family cruisers, fishing charters, pontoon boats, or kayaks, you can find what you're looking for here. Few places offer the history, beauty, and variety of boating experiences available in New England.

Coastal Cruising
Mega yachts and mansions

Some of the most famous coastal cruising in New England centers around the coast of Massachusetts south of Boston.

Many popular weeklong cruising charters begin in Newport, Rhode Island and finish in Boston Harbor. Heading southeast from Newport, yachts make overnight stops on the affluent islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. 

These beautiful islands are lined with beaches and a rocky coastline. You can see the mansions of wealthy entrepreneurs from the past and modern celebrities in the small towns on the islands. The local food in the upscale restaurants is fresh from the sea.

Continuing the journey, yachts continue north from Nantucket past the long peninsula of Cape Cod and stop for the night in the protected harbor of Provincetown. The pilgrims spent several weeks here before continuing on to settle on the Massachusetts mainland at Plymouth in 1620.

Many cruisers complete this excursion in Boston Harbor. The Boston skyline is a mix of historic buildings and modern skyscrapers. Many of the city’s famous restaurants and pubs are close to the harbor.

Quiet islands and historic fishing towns

If you’d like to cruise in less developed areas, you don’t have to travel far. You can find quieter and less crowded areas near the famous cruising routes.

Sailing southwest out of Newport, you’ll come to peaceful Block Island. This small island has just 900 inhabitants. It's known for quiet beaches, bike riding, and seafood restaurants. 

Closer to Martha’s Vineyard is Cuttyhunk Island. This quiet island at the entrance to Buzzards Bay is a great place for beach walking, bike riding, and birdwatching. There was once a British colony and fort here before the pilgrims landed nearby.

Sailing northeast through Buzzard’s Bay you'll find many inlets and islands to explore. You can continue on to Cape Cod Bay through the inland Cape Cod Canal. Just south of Boston you can explore the Boston Harbor Islands State and National Parks.

If you're looking for more adventure and seclusion, you can sail further north along the coast through New Hampshire and Maine. This route offers fantastic views of lighthouses, rocky coastline, cliffs, islands, and small historic fishing villages and lobster ports.

Thousands of lakes

If freshwater fishing and watersports are more your thing, there are literally thousands of lakes to explore in New England. From small ponds to lakes with hundreds of miles of shoreline, you’ll find a lake that suits your fancy. 

Walden Pond in Concord, MA is famous for its history and deep, clear water. This is the glacial pond that Henry David Thoreau wrote about and loved. It’s now a popular summer swimming destination.

Squam Lake in Holderness, NH was the location for the movie On Golden Pond. It’s now popular for pontoon boats, paddling, and swimming.

Lake St. Catherine in Poultney, VT, is a large lake in Lake St. Catherine State Park. It’s known for excellent fishing in the summer and ice fishing in the winter.

The largest lake in Maine is Moosehead Lake. With 280 miles of shoreline, it’s the second largest lake in New England. Located in the mountainous interior of Maine, it holds over 80 islands and is surrounded by forest.

Lake Champlain has nearly 590 miles of shoreline. The shores of the lake lie not only in New England, but also in New York State and Canada’s Quebec province. Outside of the few cities next to the lake, including Burlington, VT, much of the shoreline remains undeveloped.

Whatever your boating interests and recreation style, you’ll find more opportunities than you’ll have time to pursue in New England. The combination of history, natural beauty, and sheer number of boating destinations make New England one of the finest boating regions in the country.  

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