What to pack for traveling in New England this summer, according to locals

July 17, 2021, 1:00 PM UTC

New England draws visitors year-round for its scenic landscapes, rich history, and thousands of miles of shoreline that inspire a host of waterfront activities.

Find sailing in Newport, R.I., secluded beaches for swimming and sunbathing on Nantucket, Mass., and a seemingly endless string of waterfront lobster shacks dotting Maine’s craggy coast. (Of New England’s six states, Vermont may be the only one landlocked, but hundreds of lakes and rivers more than make up for that.)

To get the most out of a trip to this charming and multifaceted part of the country, we gathered advice from locals and experts who know it best. Whether you’re planning to fly-fish in Vermont’s Battenkill River, sip spirits on a mountainside in Tamworth, N.H., or just seek out the closest patch of sand, here are 11 things to pack for a trip to New England.

Nantucket Island, Mass.
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Fleece: Did you know that half of Nantucket—the island located about 30 miles off the coast of Massachusetts—has a different climate classification from the continental United States? “With summer temperatures dipping into the 50s or 60s at night, visitors should pack a warm outer layer,” says Garison Beale, GM of Greydon Hotel Group on Nantucket’s Broad Street. “The extra-long fibers in the material of the Re-Tool Snap-T Fleece Pullover from Patagonia (SRP: $129) help retain warmth, so vacationers can enjoy late night walks down the cobblestone streets and strolls along the beach.”

A lobster shed in Maine
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Cooler: “We bring up an empty cooler so we can take some Del’s back home with us,” says Everett Abitbol, founder of the new Providence boutique hotel Dye House. Whether you’re passing Cranston, R.I.’s famed frozen lemonade stand or get your hands on another regional delicacy—say Maine’s live lobsters or Nantucket’s bay scallops—try the Yeti Hopper soft cooler (SRP: $250). It’s lightweight and keeps ice frozen for hours—and thus can keep the Del’s frozen during Abitbol’s five-hour drive back to his home base in Philadelphia.

The Brant Point Lighthouse in Nantucket, Mass.
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Penny: “Many Nantucket visitors look forward to the time-honored tradition of the penny toss,” says Heather North McGraw, founder of NannyTucket, an on-island childcare placement agency. “While rounding the Brant Point Lighthouse, it’s customary for visitors to toss a penny off the back of the ferry and make a wish—some even believe it will ensure a trip back to Nantucket.” With the rise of Venmo and Apple Pay, it’s easy to leave cash and change at home, so find a handful to toss in your wallet pre-trip.

Newport, R.I., about 30 miles south of Providence and known as the City by the Sea, is one of America’s premier vacation destinations. Newport has more 18th-century architecture than any other city in the U.S.
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Rain jacket: “A jacket that looks equally chic at a historic mansion but is also all-weather for sailing trips is a must-have when visiting Newport,” says William Rademacher, general manager at the Wayfinder, a boutique Rhode Island hotel. “It’s not uncommon to find yourself on land and ocean on the same day; you’ll want to feel free to do what you want without having to change your attire.” Rademacher suggests the Newport Rain Slicker for women (SRP: $196), and the Color Block Hooded Parka for men (SRP: $229), both from Tyler Böe, which also has a location in nearby Bannister’s Wharf for those who forgot to pack one. “Both will offer the same versatility in cooler months,” he says.

On a beach in Nantucket, Mass.
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Beach read: While there’s plenty to keep you busy on Nantucket—from biking to Madaket to sipping flights of craft beer at Cisco Brewers—any visit should also include plenty of time relaxing on one of the island’s 80 miles of beaches. “Travelers come to the island to unplug and relax, so a good beach read is a must,” says Eric Landt, managing director at the Wauwinet. The charming luxury property is ideally located between two private beaches, “so a page-turner, or two, is key,” he says. “We also have a library on property if you make your way through your collection before the trip is over.” Landt’s latest read is The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom (SRP: $17): “A memoir of her family’s life in New Orleans pre- and post-Hurricane Katrina, it’s the 2021 winner of Nantucket’s annual book festival, One Book One Island.”

Hiking Vermont’s Franconia Ridge
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Portable chair: With plenty of outdoor concerts, hiking trails, and beaches to wander, Steven Grasse, founder of New Hampshire-based, small-batch Tamworth Distilling, recommends packing a compact, portable chair like the Cliq (SRP: $99). About the size of a water bottle when folded, the weatherproof chair easily unfurls for instant seating anywhere. “Perfect for enjoying a relaxing riverside spirit tasting at Tamworth Distilling, or hiking up a mountain with a bottle of Chocorua Straight Rye, you’ll have a seat to enjoy a sip with the perfect New England view,” says Grasse.

The Battenkill River, world-renowned for its trout fishing.
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Fishing gear: A premier location for outdoor enthusiasts, a visit to Manchester, Vt., isn’t complete without a fly-fishing excursion on the Battenkill River, according to Rob Booth, director of sales and marketing at the Equinox Golf Resort & Spa. He suggests bringing along a fly line, like the Hydros Trout from Orvis (SRP: $79). “The waters of the Battenkill invite fishers—both experts and beginners—to test their skill among the clear currents, alongside seasoned pros,” Booth says.

A campfire on the beach in Portland, Maine.
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Layers: “When coming to Maine, or on any coastal New England vacation, remember that the weather changes quickly,” says Blueberry Beeton, vice president of Shelter Institute in Woolwich, Maine. “In one day you can go from 40 degrees, to 95, and back to 65, so layers are critical. Try the L.L.Bean Airlight Knit Full-Zip Hoodie (SRP: $79), or Beeton recommends local favorite Renys department store, which sells crewnecks and sweatshirts, like the unisex hoodie (SRP: $25.)

A wharf in Nantucket Harbor
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Reusable water bottle: Last summer, Nantucket banned the sale of single-use plastics, so bringing along a water bottle is a must to stay hydrated on long beach days, says the Wauwinet’s Eric Landt. “Fifty percent of Nantucket remains under conservation, and we want to ensure that we maintain and preserve our miles of pristine beaches, walking trails, wildlife refuge, and sea,” he says. A favorite is the leakproof 32-ounce Nalgene (SRP: $12).

Adirondack chairs in dunes on a Nantucket beach.
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Beach chair: With hundreds of miles of sandy and rocky beaches from Maine to Connecticut, there’s a good chance a visit to New England will mean a visit to the beach. If you’re driving, bring along a chair or two, says Nantucket-based photographer Lauren Marttila. “It wouldn’t be a complete trip to Nantucket without getting up to watch the sunrise on the east side of the island at least once,” she says. “It is magical. And at the end of the day, plan a detour to the west side to catch the sunset over the water.” This foldable rattan sun lounger (SRP: $245) is both chic and portable, but if you’d rather pick one up when you’re there, Washington Street boutique Milly & Grace carries a similar version.

The Newport, R.I., Cliff Walk runs alongside a stretch of rocky shoreline.
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Walking shoes: Sure, sandals and flip-flops will get space in your luggage, but don’t forget a pair of comfortable shoes, says Dant Hirsch, president and managing director of Ocean House Collection. “The Rhode Island Atlantic coast has some of the most stunning beaches in the country,” notes Hirsch. “As someone who loves being outdoors, my advice is to bring your favorite loafers or athletic shoes for a long and scenic walk along the water.” Keep with the New England theme and pack a pair of boat shoes like those from Sperry (SRP: $95).

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