The New England landscape is littered with landmarks that tell stories of the region's history and punctuate its majesty. From the Connecticut coast to New Hampshire's granite mountains, from Boston to the tranquil farmlands of Vermont, there are sights so iconic, they immediately say "New England" to the beholder. Here are 10 outdoor landmarks you can collect in one epic road trip or over the course of your life.
Near the waterfront in Plymouth, Massachusetts, America's most iconic rock sits inside a magnificent outdoor pavilion befitting its stature. Legend says this stone is what remains of the boulder upon which the Pilgrims first trod when they made this their permanent settlement in 1620. Four centuries later, more than one million people still visit Plymouth Rock each year to remember the promise this land held for these freedom seekers.
The Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts, looms large in American history as the site of the "shot heard round the world:" the opening blast in the Battle of Concord, which ignited the American Revolution on April 19, 1775. The bridge has been rebuilt several times, but strolling across its span still reminds visitors the magnitude of that turning point in the nation's history. At South Bridge Boat House, you can rent a canoe or kayak and paddle to the Old North Bridge to appreciate its graceful arc from a different angle. On the western side of the bridge, another well-known landmark stands sentry. Daniel Chester French, best known for the seated sculpture of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial, sculpted the Minute Man Statue which launched his career.
Cape Neddick "Nubble" Light
While there are so many beautiful lighthouses in New England, with more than 60 in Maine alone, just one was used to represent the magnificence of life on Earth: Cape Neddick Light, better known as Nubble Light. In 1977, a committee headed by the late astronomer Carl Sagan had to select 116 images to represent Earth when NASA placed a Golden Record of sounds and sights aboard its twin Voyager exploratory spacecraft. From Sohier Park, you'll have a spectacular view of this Victorian lighthouse and its red-roofed keeper's house, both of which stand offshore on Nubble Island. The still-active lighthouse's red lamp pierces the dark at six-second intervals, warning boats away while summoning lighthouse lovers with its romantic glow.
Travelers still pull off I-93 at Exit 34B in New Hampshire, even though the Old Man of the Mountain is only a memory. The chiseled stone face, which vanished from the mountainside on May 3, 2003, remains a symbol of New Hampshire, and Franconia Notch is a striking sight, particularly when leaves are aflame in the fall. Stop at Profile Plaza in Franconia Notch State Park, and you can glimpse the Old Man the way he used to appear thanks to the installation of an interactive steel sculpture consisting of seven Profiler rods that recreate his stony countenance. Here on the shores of Profile Lake, where generations have stood to admire nature's artistry, you'll appreciate the Old Man of the Mountain's enduring significance to the people of New Hampshire.
New England's whaling industry brought remarkable riches to the region's port cities, with the peak of activity occurring shortly after the 1841 launch of the Charles W. Morgan. Today, this tall-masted wooden whaling ship is the last survivor of its kind and is America's oldest commercial ship still afloat. You can see and often board the Morgan at Mystic Seaport, an outdoor living history museum in Mystic, Connecticut. The well-built ship, which has been the subject of paranormal investigations, strikes an imposing presence on the riverfront, and it can also be viewed from the opposite shore if you want to skip paying admission.
Think of Vermont, and your mind can't help conjuring up rural scenes complete with leafy country lanes, softly rolling hillsides, red-painted barns, and, of course, cows. While landscapes like this aren't difficult to find in the Green Mountain State, in-the-know photographers cherish one farm above all. Jenne Farm in Reading, Vermont, is reputed to be New England’s and maybe even North America's most photographed farm. Situated a 15-minute drive south of Woodstock off Route 106, this privately owned property with its rustic red barns and backdrop of lush trees has appeared in magazines, calendars, TV commercials, and in the films "Forrest Gump" and "Funny Farm."
Known as kissing bridges, New England's covered bridges allowed courting couples to steal moments of privacy back in the horse-and-buggy days. Vermont and New Hampshire are known for their dense concentrations of these historic structures, which still enchant visitors. Between the two states, there are more than 150 of these romantic landmarks. If you see only one, make it the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge, which crosses the Connecticut River and links the two states. At around 450 feet long, it is the longest wooden bridge in the country and the longest two-span covered bridge in the world. A slow drive across this 1866 lattice-truss bridge is a bit like traveling back in time.
As you travel the New England coast eating your fill of fish and shellfish, take a moment to appreciate the hardworking fishing boat captains and crew members. In Gloucester, Massachusetts—America's oldest seaport—there's a landmark that commemorates one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Known to most as "The Man at the Wheel," the Fisherman's Memorial on Stacy Boulevard has stood since 1925 as an iconic symbol of the city many have come to know through "The Perfect Storm" and "Wicked Tuna." The 8-foot-tall bronze monument honors "They That Go Down To The Sea In Ships" including some 10,000 Gloucester fishermen who have perished in the waters.
A walk along Boston's Freedom Trail leads to historic landmark after historic landmark. These points of significance are tied to the turbulent, Revolutionary period in Boston's history and they're worth seeing, of course, but nothing raises spirits and encapsulates Boston like the "Make Way for Ducklings" statues. On display since 1987 in the Boston Public Garden, these nine bronze ducks sculpted by Nancy Schön were inspired by Robert McCloskey's beloved 1941 children's book of the same name, which takes place in the Public Garden. Find the statues of Mrs. Mallard and her eight offspring near the corner of Beacon and Charles Streets.
Take a self-guided walk around Newport, Rhode Island's Fort Adams: the largest and most intricate coastal fortress in the country. Built between 1824 and 1857 and in active service through World War II, the enormous fort was designed to protect 2,400 troops with 468 cannons. Situated on a peninsula jutting into the Atlantic, the fort has a new life as the backdrop for summer music festivals and yachting races. Follow signs within Fort Adams State Park to the 2.2-mile Fort Adams Bay Walk along Narragansett Bay, and you'll see more Newport landmarks along this scenic trail including three lighthouses.