Can't decide on a place to take the family for an exciting, educational and productive summer vacation? These top-rated hotspots offer plenty of diversions, plus some of the best angling opportunities in the Northeast. (June 2006)
Planning a vacation that will meet the needs and tastes of every family member can be a real challenge. Luckily, the New England region is so diverse that "something for everyone" can be found on any travel itinerary.
Accommodations range from the rural campsite with a pit privy to the finest of hotels fitted with 500-count Egyptian linen bedding. Family fun activities include communing with nature on the region's countless miles of hiking trails, abundant wildlife-watching opportunities and boating along the thousands of lakes and rivers.
History buffs won't be disappointed. Visitors would be hard-pressed to find a New England town that doesn't offer a mix of rich local lore and beautiful historical homes to explore. Even if history isn't your family's hobby, New England's museums are devoted to a wide range of subject matter including basketball, toys, authors and trolley cars.
One thing that remains a constant in these very different regions is great fishing that can be found nearly everywhere. From world-class saltwater action to kids-only put-and-take trout ponds, it's all here, so start planning your New England family fishing vacation now!
Recreation in the River Valley
The Nutmeg State's Connecticut River valley is home to standout trout fisheries including Angus Park, Batterson, Broad Brook Mill and Brookfield ponds, and a number of major trout streams. Wild Trout Management Areas may be found along the Tankerhoosen River in Vernon and Salmon Brook in Granby. The Upper Moodus Reservoir, Hayward Lake and Pickerel Lake, all in East Haddam, are Big Bass Management Areas.
Through the region runs the Connecticut River, bringing anglers excellent opportunities for largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike, catfish and many other species.
The Wolf's Den Campground in East Haddam has 205 campsites, picnic tables and fireplaces, rental cabins and trailers, an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a game room.
For more information, you can call (860) 873-9681 or visit their Web site: www.wolfsdencampground.com.
Markham Meadows in East Hampton has 100 sites, a recreation hall, a camp store, swimming, fishing, hiking, planned activities and more. For details, call (860) 267-9738.
Cabin camping can be a great compromise between family members who want to sleep in real beds and use private bathrooms and those who just want to get away from it all for a few days.
Sunrise Resort in Moodus is on the Salmon River, centrally located between the Upper Moodus Reservoir and the Connecticut River, with Pocotopaug Lake to the north. The resort features 200 guest rooms and cabins as well as campsites.
Families will have plenty to do, with an outdoor pool, hot tub, tennis courts, paddleboats, rowboats, canoeing, a game room, basketball, dancing and many organized activities.
Guests may choose to visit the Echo Farm Nature Preserve next door. There is a restaurant on site, and room rates include three meals a day, an evening snack, use of the resort grounds and on-site entertainment and activities.
For more information, interested vacationers can call (860) 873-8681 or visit www.sunriseresort.com.
More than 80 vintage aircraft are available for viewing at The New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks and the Old Newgate Prison and Copper Mine in East Granby. Visitors should plan to attend daily cannon-firing ceremonies at the Old State House, site of George Washington's Revolutionary War meeting with the French.
For a trip farther back in time, check out Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill, where more than 2,000 early Jurassic Period dinosaur footprints have been discovered. A museum, built directly over the tracks, displays 500 footprints for up-close viewing. Don't miss the casting area, where visitors who bring their own materials may make plaster casts of a life-sized dinosaur footprint to take home. Call (860) 529-5816 for more information.
Visit the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat exhibit, where train and riverboat rides are available. For details, call (860) 767-0103, or log on to email@example.com.
Or pick up the pace with weekly NASCAR auto racing at Stafford Motor Speedway in Stafford Springs. Cockaponset State Forest in Haddam is the second-largest state forest in the state, covering 15,652 acres. Fishing, hiking, swimming and a picnic area are all available to the public. Call (860) 566-2304.
Devil's Hopyard State Park, in East Haddam, is worth the trip to see 60-foot Chapman Falls. The park is also popular for its hiking, freshwater fishing and scenic picnic spots.
In Canton, the Roaring Brook Nature Center has walking trails, live animals and an Indian longhouse. Call (860) 693-0263 for more information. Or visit the Connecticut Audubon Center, next to Earle Park in Glastonbury. This science and nature center offers exhibits on area wildlife and plants, a hands-on area for kids, educational programs and a gift shop. Call (860) 633-8402 for additional information.
For more on places to eat and stay in Connecticut, plus even more things to do, visit www.tourism.state.ct.us.
The Boothbay region offers great saltwater fishing opportunities and plenty of diversions for the vacationing family. Shoreline anglers will find plenty of tinker mackerel and schoolie striped bass. Venture out to deeper seas for a chance to land big stripers, tuna, cod, haddock and sharks.
Like any coastal Maine town in summer, things can be crowded, with parking spots few and far between. If the family is up for a 10-minute walk and there's not too much gear to lug, park for free in the spacious lot behind Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church. A short jaunt up the street and across the walking bridge brings travelers back into the downtown area.
For deep-sea angling action, take to the seas aboard The Blackjack with Captain Dan Stevens at (207) 633-6445), or try your luck with the crew at Sweet Action Charters at (207) 633-4741.
t the rod away for a while and enjoy one of the many other cruises offered, like Cap'n Fish's Nature Cruises at (207) 633-3244, Balmy Days Cruises at 1-800-298-2284, or Boothbay Whale Watch at (207) 633-3500. Spend some time on the water here, and harbor seals, dolphins, finback and humpback whales will reveal themselves.
Stop by the Marine Resources Museum on McKown Point Road. Park at the Meadow Mall across from Hannaford's Shop 'n Save to enjoy a free Rocktide Trolley ride to the museum. The displays include a huge blue lobster and a touch tank. To learn more, call (207) 633-9559 or visit www.maine.gov/dmr or.
Unusual shops line the streets of Boothbay Harbor. Angels Unawares is worth a visit, as is Glass Blowing by Hasenfus. Don't overlook Enchantments with its unique Gothic exterior. The interior holds so many magical items that the shopper of your family may want to pitch a tent right there.
Without a doubt, the best Boothbay buys can be found at the town's Memorial Library where used books are sold on the wrap-around porch for just a dime apiece.
Grab a cup of java at the Type A Café, or lunch at The Crazy Chicken. For finer dining, try the Tugboat Inn, which is fronted with the better part of an old tugboat and offers harbor views all around.
If do-it-yourself seafood is on the menu, stop by the Lobtermen's Co-op around 2 p.m. when the commercial vessels begin returning with the catch of the day.
There are plenty of places to stay in the Boothbay area, from the rural to the regal. Little Ponderosa Campground has 96 sites including 36 on a tidal inlet. Sites include full hookups, a camp store, a snack bar, recreation hall, mini-golf, swimming, fishing and more. For more information, log on to www.littleponderosa.com, or call (207) 633-2700.
Shore Hills Campground has 150 campsites, a recreation hall, a camp store, a playground, swimming, hiking and more. Wooded, open and waterfront sites are available. Visit www.shorehills.com, or call (207) 633-4782 for details.
For rural digs that come with a real bed and private bath, head for Linekin Bay Resort. Located at the end of a dead-end road one mile from town, this secluded resort is the perfect compromise for families divided between hotel hopefuls and diehard campers.
There are 37 cabins and five lodges spread over the 15-acre resort. Rooms are charming, rustic, comfortable -- and without televisions, radios or locks on the doors.
Three meals are served each day, and are included in the price of the room. The twice-weekly lobster feeds and Sunday night smorgasbord are big hits with guests. There's plenty on the menu for those who favor turf over surf, as well as vegan and children's selections. A morning camp for kids, use of the resort's kayaks, canoes, rowboats and sailboats are all included in the vacation package, as are free sailing lessons and crewed sailing excursions. Two long docks provide great shoreline fishing access.
For more information, you can visit www.linekinbayresort.com, or call (866) 847-2103.
Quabbin Reservoir Trout
The region surrounding Quabbin Reservoir offers families some great fishing, with plenty of other activities to do nearby.
Quabbin is fed by three branches of the Swift River, and seasonally by the Ware River. One of the largest unfiltered water supplies in the world, it is the main drinking water supply for 2.5 million people.
Fortunately, Quabbin Reservoir is also one of the best fisheries in the state. Trout, salmon, bass, pickerel, perch and bullhead abound here. The state-record walleye (11 pounds) was pulled out of this reservoir. The 2005 state champion lake trout (21 pounds, 5 ounces.) also came from the Quabbin.
Shore and boat fishing are allowed at designated access points. Stream and pond fishing regulations vary, depending on which part of the watershed is affected.
Accommodations can be found in Orange, Athol, Ware, and Amherst and near the turnpike access in Chicopee. For information on state park camping, call (617) 727-3180. For private campground information, call (617) 727-3201.
Call the Quabbin Visitor Center at (413) 323-7221, or you can log on to www.mass.gov/mdc/quabfish.htmto learn more about special regulations, boat launch locations and the best places to go for coldwater and warmwater fishing.
The Lake Dennison Recreation Area in Winchendon is part of a 4,221-acre parcel of recreational land that is open to the public. Lake Dennison has 150 campsites, a beach, an access ramp, hiking and interpretive trails, horseback trails -- and of course, fishing. Call (978) 939-8962 for more information.
Otter River State Forest in Baldwinville is centered on Beaman Pond and offers 85 campsites, a beach, a ball field and picnic areas. Yurt camping is also available.
Trails are available for hikers, mountain bikers and wildlife watchers. Call (978) 939-8962 for details.
Family fun is just a short drive away. Winchendon, known as "Toytown," is home to the Top Fun Aviation Museum. Test-fly a paper airplane or balsa glider, watch aviation-related films in the media center or just browse the many displays. Top Fun is the only toy museum in the world devoted to aviation-related toys, and boasts a collection of more than 1,500 toys from around the globe. Visit www.topfunaviation.comor call (978) 297-4337.
For unique Winchendon souvenirs, check out Cozy Cupola Gifts, Antiques and Collectibles, and Second Treasures.
Sports enthusiasts will want to visit the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield. The history of the game from its founding in 1891 to the present day is accessible here. Visit www.hoophall.com or call (413) 781-6500 for details.
Theodor Geisel, best known as Dr. Suess, grew up in Springfield. A sculpture garden contains statues of the doctor with the Cat in the Hat, a 14-foot-tall Horton the Elephant, the Grinch and his dog, Yertle the Turtle (who is 10 turtles tall!), the Lorax, Gertrude McFuzz, Thidwick the Moose and of course, Thing One and Thing Two.
To learn more, call (413) 263-6800, or visit www.catinthehat.org.
While you'are in the area, plan on a tour of the zoo in Forest Park, where more than 100 varieties of exotic and indigenous critters are available to view, plus train rides and lush gardens to enjoy, along with a snack bar and gift
shop. For details, visit www.forestparkzoo.com, you can call (413) 733-2251.
For more information on things to do, plus other food and lodging in the Springfield area, call the William C. Sullivan Visitor Information Center at (413) 750-2980.
For general Bay State travel information, visit www.massvacation.com, or call (617) 973-8500.
One of the Last Great Places
Block Island, an 11-square-mile piece of fishing paradise 12 miles off the Rhode Island coast, has been heralded as "One of the Last Twelve Great Places in the Western Hemisphere." The island has long public beaches and 365 freshwater ponds.
The Block Island Nature Conservancy operates a large trail system through grassy meadows, quiet woods and sandy shorelines. Shops and eateries line the bustling streets of Old Harbor, which is served by ferries operating out of Point Judith. The hour-long ferryboat ride is the most popular way for visitors to reach the island, although a 20-minute commuter flight is available from the airport in Westerly.
Best of all, when it comes to tackle-busting saltwater action, Block Island can't be beat. The state-record sea bass, striped bass (70 pounds), scup, mako shark (718 pounds), bluefin tuna (1,142 pounds, 12 ounces.), tiger shark (597 pounds) and white marlin (125 pounds) have all come out of the waters off Block Island. Bluefish and striped bass are the most common sportfish, both inshore and offshore.
For fishing, guide and charter boat services, bait, tackle and fly-fishing outfitting and pleasure cruises, contact the Block Island Fishworks office at (401) 466-5392, or Block Island Sportfishing Charters at (401) 487-2425.
This tiny island isn't short on hospitality. Cresent Pond Cottages in New Shoreham has cottages and cabins. Call (401) 466-2033 for details.
Lewis Farm Cottages, also in New Shoreham, is contiguous to 400 acres of wildlife refuge and open-space land and is bordered by the sea, with 1/2 mile of private road entry. It operated as a working farm until 1964, when the buildings were converted to summer rentals. The farm buildings were renovated into living quarters while maintaining their traditional New England farm flavor.
For more information, call (401) 466-2113.
The pace of living here is laid-back, but there's still plenty for a family to do. One option is to follow the National Wildlife Sanctuary trails to the North Light. This was the fourth lighthouse built on the shifting sands on Block Island's Sandy Point. The building was opened in 1993 as an interpretive center.
The Southeast Lighthouse is also open to the pubic. The Mohegan Bluffs rise abruptly to a height of about 200 feet above the sea and stretch for nearly three miles along the southern shore, offering spectacular scenery.
Children might enjoy a visit to Abrams Animal Farm, where an outdoor zoo includes exotic animals from around the world, including llamas, Sicilian donkeys, fainting goats, a zebu, Indian runner ducks, emus, camels and an immense Scottish Highland steer called Mr. McDuff. Call (401) 466-2421 for details.
To reach the Block Island Ferry, call (401) 783-4613.
For more information about Block Island's vacation attractions, visit www.blockislandinfo.com, or call (401) 466-5200. For more about Rhode Island or to plan a vacation, visit www.visitrhodeisland.com.