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8 Scenic Places to Visit on a New England Cruise

Discover top stops, from Maine to Massachusetts, for the ultimate Northeast sailing.

U.S. News & World Report

8 Scenic Places to Visit on a New England Cruise

The Portland Head Light at sunrise just outside of Portland, Maine.
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Explore quaint towns, picturesque parks and storied attractions on a journey to remember.

While Canada's exciting and diverse ports entice discerning cruisers, ports across New England offer plenty of natural attractions, charming towns and worthwhile outdoor activities. With a short cruise season – typically from April to October – cruise lines pack a full itinerary to visit as many ports as possible on a single cruise. You can visit cities steeped in U.S. history, explore national parks, bike along rugged coastlines and relax at quaint cafes. If brushing up on history and indulging in freshly baked pie piques your interest, then a cruise through New England should be on travel list your list. Read on to discover not-to-be-missed New England cruise ports.

An early morning view of Bar Harbor, Maine and the fall foliage of the surrounding mountains.
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(Getty Images)

Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor is one of the few ports in New England that requires ships to anchor offshore. Popular cruise lines, including Holland America Line and Regent Seven Seas, deploy tenders to ferry guests between the ship and the harbor. Located on Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor was once a summer refuge for the rich and famous. Today, Bar Harbor attracts visitors with its spectacular mountains, lakes, cliffs and beaches. During your visit, take an excursion into Acadia National Park and head to Cadillac Mountain or spend time in downtown Bar Harbor for shopping and a bite before heading back to your ship.

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Explore quaint towns, picturesque parks and storied attractions on a journey to remember.

While Canada's exciting and diverse ports entice discerning cruisers, ports across New England offer plenty of natural attractions, charming towns and worthwhile outdoor activities. With a short cruise season – typically from April to October – cruise lines pack a full itinerary to visit as many ports as possible on a single cruise. You can visit cities steeped in U.S. history, explore national parks, bike along rugged coastlines and relax at quaint cafes. If brushing up on history and indulging in freshly baked pie piques your interest, then a cruise through New England should be on travel list your list. Read on to discover not-to-be-missed New England cruise ports.

Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor is one of the few ports in New England that requires ships to anchor offshore. Popular cruise lines, including Holland America Line and Regent Seven Seas, deploy tenders to ferry guests between the ship and the harbor. Located on Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor was once a summer refuge for the rich and famous. Today, Bar Harbor attracts visitors with its spectacular mountains, lakes, cliffs and beaches. During your visit, take an excursion into Acadia National Park and head to Cadillac Mountain or spend time in downtown Bar Harbor for shopping and a bite before heading back to your ship.

Newport, Rhode Island

Almost everyone has heard of Newport, once nicknamed the "American Versailles." The glamorous mansions of the Vanderbilts, the Astors and the Morgans line Bellevue Avenue, awaiting daily visitors who marvel at the opulence and splendor of a bygone era. While you'll likely want to tour at least one of the storied mansions, other activities can include exploring Rose Island Lighthouse and strolling along the Cliff Walk, a picturesque 3.5-mile path that bisects the backyards of the mansions on Bellevue Avenue and the rocky Atlantic coastline.

Boston

For history lovers, Boston is an enticing destination, with its storied landmarks, library, public park and heritage that extends back hundreds of years. Today, cruise lines such as Norwegian, Princess Cruises and Cunard Line offer itineraries to Beantown, enabling visitors to embrace the city's cobbled streets and gaslight districts. Walk or hop on a trolley along Boston's famous Freedom Trail before stopping in Little Italy for cannoli and coffee. Many cruise lines offer excursions outside of Boston, too. Visit Salem, home of the 1692 witch trials and the Salem Witch Museum, or enjoy walking along the ivy-laden grounds of Harvard University in nearby Cambridge.

Portland, Maine

Nestled in Casco Bay, Portland is a popular stop on a variety of New England sailings, including itineraries offered by Oceania Cruises and Holland America Line. The birthplace of American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Portland prides itself on its beautiful Victorian brick homes, storefronts and museums. Downtown Portland, located just steps away from the cruise ship terminal, impresses visitors with its 19th-century buildings at the Old Port Exchange. Stop at the Wadsworth-Longfellow House to explore the poet's childhood home. Even better, two classic New England small towns brimming with Victorian mansions and colorful fishing boats – Kennebunkport and Yarmouth – are just a short drive away.

Eastport, Maine

If you want to visit the easternmost city in the continental U.S., consider cruising with Blount Small Ship Cruises to Eastport, a destination comprised entirely of islands. Eastport's cruise port is located on Moose Island, the largest island in the archipelago. Cruise ships dock in the heart of downtown, within walking distance to the town's main street. From there, explore the beautifully preserved 19th-century Italianate architecture, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Another must: touring Roosevelt Campobello International Park and visiting Franklin Delano Roosevelt's beloved summer cottage. For a memorable souvenir, pick up a jar of Raye's mustard from the only remaining traditional stone-ground mustard mill in North America.

Gloucester, Massachusetts

Located just north of Boston, on the Cape Ann promontory, Gloucester is the oldest working seaport in America. Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the 1.2-mile Harbor Walk before making your way downtown to embark on a self-guided historic and cultural tour of Gloucester. Artists have been drawn to this iconic seaside town for decades, and the result is a thriving modern-day community. The Rocky Neck Art Colony is the go-to place for handcrafted souvenirs, paintings and ceramics. If there's enough time, step aboard The Lannon, a 65-foot schooner, for a two-hour harbor cruise. Small ship cruise company American Cruise Lines offers sailings to Gloucester on its New England itineraries.

Rockland, Maine

Nestled in Penobscot Bay, Rockland is nicknamed the Jewel of the Maine Coast. And it's about as charming a New England town as you can find. Cruise companies such as Norwegian Cruise Line and American Cruise Lines offer itineraries to Rockland. Historic landmarks abound, including nine schooners of the Maine Windjammer fleet, over a dozen lighthouses and the beautifully preserved Rockland Main Street. Rockland's most popular indoor attraction is the Farnsworth Art Museum and the Wyeth Center art collection, which houses three generations of Wyeth artwork. If you're a car buff, visit the nearby Owls Head Transportation Museum to check out the first aircraft and automobiles from the late 19th and early 20th century.

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Located 7 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard is known for its stately lighthouses, gingerbread cottages and charming towns. You'll want to explore historic Edgartown before making your way to Oak Bluffs to admire Victorian cottages and take a spin on Flying Horses Carousel, the oldest continuously operating carousel in the country. If you arrive hungry, rest assured the island offers everything from home-made honey-covered donuts to fresh steamed lobster to old-time ice cream parlors. And of course, you won't want to miss grabbing a bite at the legendary Black Dog Tavern in Vineyard Haven. A variety of cruise lines, including Regent Seven Seas and Blount Small Ship Adventures, sail to the island.

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