Last-Minute Road Trip Idea: New Hampshire

What are you doing this summer? If your plans are still up in the air, here's a suggestion: go to New Hampshire. Drive there, if you can. 

The fifth-smallest state makes up for its lack of square footage with an abundance of variety, be it scenic topography that mixes mountains, valleys, lakes, beaches, and a coastline or the ample amount of artisanal producers of wines, cheeses, chocolates, and brews. That means you can plan a delicious itinerary that caters to all your gastronomic vices, all while driving through some of the most picturesque territory the nation has to offer.

Choosing which region to explore is the tough part.

The White Mountains up north are where you'll discover moose tours and waterfalls, and on the eastern coast you'll find breweries and beaches aplenty. The Connecticut River Valley on the western border is dotted with cheese-producing dairy farms and wineries, and the sprawling Lakes Region makes for an idyllic getaway, whether you're seeking adventure hikes or want to relax and do tax-free shopping. Scenic train rides and boat cruises, historic sites like Canterbury Shaker Village and the Castle in the Clouds, and laid-back inns and B&Bs are all waiting to be discovered in this tiny state that you most likely know solely for those outspoken "Live Free or Die" license plates.

One place you can't miss is Hermit Woods Winery, located in Meredith, just east of I-93 and smack in the center of the Lakes Region. Known for its luxurious meads, or honey wines — often made sans grapes, with fruits like locally grown blueberries, kiwi berries, elderberries, and apples — Hermit Woods is putting New Hampshire wines on the map with its unconventional approaches. Don't assume all of Hermit Woods' honey wines are sweet, either; they also produce dry libations, so you can find bottles to pair with any course.



Beer-wise, New Hampshire is also killing it. From coastal breweries like Smuttynose and Throwback Brewery to Moat Mountain and Woodstock Inn Brewery up in the mountains, the state has plenty of spots for tasting suds right at the source. Most of the breweries allow for drop-in visits, too, so you can add stops for beer tastings all along the itinerary of any road trip through New Hampshire (so long as you've got a designated driver).

Round out your trip with visits to Cava, executive chef and owner Gregg Sessler's tapas and wine bar in Portsmouth, and Dancing Lion Chocolate in Manchester, where you'll find decadent candies turned into gorgeous art that you'll feel guilty for eating. But not too guilty.

You can fly into Manchester (close to the southeast coast) or Lebanon (near the western border, just over 70 miles northwest of Manchester) to be in the Connecticut River Valley and close to the mountains. Or just take a scenic drive from wherever you live and let New Hampshire be your goal. Wherever you land, your final stop will be a sight to behold.