If New England is about anything, it must be the sea, the root of its original prosperity through trading, whaling and shipbuilding ever since the Mayflower dropped anchor in Plymouth Bay, Massachusetts. The rewards of that nautical heritage could still be seen in the elegant homes of Newport, R.I.; Portland, Me.; and Boston’s Back Bay; along the wharves of previous seaports such as Mystic, Conn.: and in the picturesque angling villages of Cape Cod, Mass., and the Maine coast.
For a sample of nautical life, visit Mystic, Conn., to ramble over the Mystic Seaport, a dazzling reproduction of a 19th-century seafaringcommunity. Wander the wharves, walk the whaling vessels, then watch as scrimshaw artists exquisitely engrave whalebone. For a more conventional maritime slant, tour the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in nearby New London, and Groton, "The Submarine Capital of the World."
Rhode Island offers the alternate side in Newport, "The Yachting Capital of the World," a gleaming remnant of America’s Gilded Age. The scene is glorious, a shining sapphire of water flecked with billowing white sails and populated by masts. You’ll wonder as you tour the collection of opulent mansions, each more astonishing than the last.
Don’t leave out The Breakers, a breathtaking Italian Renaissance palazzo, and Marble House, inspired by the Trianons of Versailles. Then rub elbows with sailors and socialites at one of the numerous regattas.
Veteran sailors and landlubbers alike flock to Maine’s wild rocky shore, scalloped with coves and inlets and ornamented with rustic fishing villages and fashionable resorts. The south coast features the widest, sandiest beaches.
Sophisticated Portland bears a lovely collection of Victorian houses, and its waterfront has been tastefully renovated, with chic galleries, restaurants and boutiques occupying handsome stone warehouses. Stop in at L.L. Bean, the famous outdoor clothing emporium in Freeport, just northeast of Portland, then head for the delicious retreats of dignified Brunswick, swinging Booth-bay Harbor and quaint Wiscasset.
The greatest glories of Maine’s coast start past Penobscot Bay: Mount Desert Island, scissored with fjords, heavy copses of fir tumbling down its craggy peaks to a silvery sea. The area is so sensational that John D. Rockefeller and other wealthy conservationists bought and donated much of it to the U.S. government, which declared it Acadia National Park. Then go along past the last resort of the rich, elegant Bar Harbor, and be rewarded by genuinely unspoiled fishing villages. Wherever you go in New England, you will understand why the come-on of the sea endures to this very day —particularly for travelers.
© 7/6/2011 Athena Goodlight on Factoidz