Best Places to Beat the Heat in the Northeast: Maine, Nantucket, etc.

When the summer holiday season rolls around and daytime temperatures regularly hit the 90s, you have pretty much two options for cooling off in the northeast: head north or go on the water. In fact, do all three of these – sometimes it’s best to go north and get in the water.

If you need a quick escape from the summer heat, plan a getaway to one of these family-friendly summer destinations. They are all within a driving distance of most major metropolitan areas in the Northeast, making them more manageable for families.

From Maine to the Adirondacks to Canada, there are plenty of cool places to consider:

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1. South Coast Maine

Visiting Ogunquit?  Check out the winding 1.25 mile cliff walk called The Marginal Way.

When it’s very hot in Boston or New York, chances are it’ll be cool and comfortable along the south coast of Maine. Average summer temperatures in the quaint towns of Ogunquit, Wells, and Cape Neddick are about 10 degrees cooler than nearby tourist hotspots like Portland and Kennebunkport.

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With summer highs typically reaching the mid-70s Fahrenheit, these postcard-perfect New England coastal towns and seaside villages are a great place to cool off and soak up some local Maine charm. It’s easy to get out on the water, enjoy public beaches, and stroll through historic villages on Maine’s south coast.

In Ogunquit, one of the nation’s top family beach destinations, don’t miss the winding 1.25-mile cliff walk called The Marginal Way; in Wells, catch a free summer concert at Wells Harbor Park. Wherever your summer getaway takes you along Maine’s southern coast, cooling sea breezes are sure to follow

2. Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada

The winding road of the Cabot Trail, viewed from above on the Skyline Trail at sunset in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia.

With seasonal highs in the 70s, Cape Breton Island off the Atlantic coast of Canada is perfect for an extended summer getaway. It is also one of the most popular family vacation destinations in Canada. Part of the appeal, beyond Nova Scotia’s spectacular natural beauty and rich Celtic tradition, is the thrill of getting here.

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Although Cape Breton is accessible by plane and car, the most enjoyable way to start your summer getaway is by high-speed ferry from Bar Harbor, Maine, aboard the Cat, to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. . From there, it’s a long but exceptionally scenic drive to your final island getaway destination. Once in Cape Breton, the highlights are almost all natural: the rugged coastline, deep forest and marine wildlife viewing are some of the best things to experience in Cape Breton.

You’ll need a car for this cool summer getaway so you can drive the famous Cabot Trail, a loop road that loops around the most scenic parts of the island. Outdoor enthusiasts should plan to tackle the easy Skyline Trail inside Cape Breton Highlands National Park; the trail overlooks the Gulf of St. Lawrence. If your getaway is long, also plan an overnight trip to Prince Edward Island (of “Anne of Green Gables fame”).

3.Nantucket, MA

Nantucket is like a timeless island off the coast of Massachusetts.

Long considered a fashionable summer home for New England’s rich and famous, little Nantucket is like a timeless island off the coast of Massachusetts. With its cobbled streets and charming old port centre, the pace of life here is dictated more by cool summer breezes than busy summer schedules. Low-key highlights include strolling the ‘Sconset Bluff Walk, picnicking on the sandy beaches, and a sunset cruise from the harbour.

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For active weekend or mid-week warriors, Nantucket offers miles of bike trails and nearly endless opportunities for paddling. (Kayak and bike rentals are not uncommon on the island.) In the evening, settle in for a cocktail at one of the many upscale restaurants, or find a small B&B by the water to call your own and watch the sunset on a rooftop terrace as the salty ocean air keeps you cool all night long.

4. Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, Maine

Bar Harbor is the perfect home base for any Maine family getaway, especially if you're heading to Acadia National Park.

Head to the northern tip of Maine for great views, great seafood, and great summer weather. There’s plenty to do on and around the water in Bar Harbor – sea kayaking is a particular favorite here – and when you tire of the ocean, head to the mighty peaks of northern Maine for a bit of fresh alpine air (not to mention epic sunrises for early risers).

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In nearby Acadia National Park (one of the best family vacation spots in the United States, as well as one of the most affordable family vacation destinations), you can explore more than a hundred kilometers of trails and old carriage roads, many of which are shaded by century-old trees that provide pleasant protection from the summer heat.

Not that the weather gets too hot here: average summer highs are in the mid-70s and typical lows are in the 50s. It’s perfect weather for outdoor fun, no matter if you prefer the ocean or the mountains.

5. Lake Placid and the Adirondacks, New York

Lake Placid and the surrounding Adirondack Mountains are about as cool and low-key a summer destination as you'll find anywhere in the northeast.

In Lake Placid, summer temperatures average in the low to mid-70s for the months of June, July, and August. And while this quiet little resort town will always be best known for its winter Olympic glory (“Do you believe in miracles? Yes!), Lake Placid and the surrounding Adirondack Mountains are about as cool and low-key a summertime destination. that you’ll find anywhere in the northeast.

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There’s no shortage of things to do here either. With countless upscale hotels and gourmet restaurants, a lovely downtown area with shops and cafes, several historic Olympic sites to visit, more mountain trails than you can shake a stick at, and plenty of ponds and lakes to go canoeing or kayaking (maps and rentals are readily available), your only regret will be that your summer getaway isn’t longer.

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Corina C. Butler