Boston might be Massachusetts' main attraction, but the state has a multitude of endearing small towns that are just as special. Spread between the region's stunning capes and up into the hills, each town has a wealth of cultural and historical landmarks that delve into New England's fascinating past.

    Whether you're planning to visit during the gorgeous summertime or alpine-style winters, the immaculate landscape is overflowing with sandy beaches and lush hiking trails. Explore New England's mining heyday before diving into its highly rated dining and nightlife scene. For the best possible experience, visit these towns in Massachusetts and make the most of your trip.

    1

    Stockbridge

    Enjoy outdoor spaces and cultural history

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    Stockbridge is one of the most charming towns in the Berkshire Hills, featuring an array of green spaces and backcountry trails that make for a tranquil vacation. Whenever the sun is shining, a visit to the stunning house and garden of Naumkeag is a must, while the Berkshire Botanical Garden features an equally impressive collection of ponds and picnic spots.

    Stockbridge is also highly regarded for its cultural history, with the renowned painter Norman Rockwell having lived and worked in the area. Visitors can find many of his most famous works on permanent display at the Norman Rockwell Museum. Elsewhere, the Chesterwood Museum and the Schantz Galleries Contemporary Glass will undoubtedly prove popular with art lovers.

    Location: Stockbridge, Massachusetts, USA

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    2

    Rockport

    Visit this former mining town for its legendary harbour and stone beaches

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    Rockport is located along a picturesque stretch of Cape Ann, having emerged from its 19th-century beginnings as a granite-mining town. Much of its glowing reputation has come about due to the town's well-known stone beaches, which people travel across New England to enjoy during the summer months.

    Throughout modern history, Rockport's harbour has also captivated a wide array of artists. In particular, the famous red fishing shack – Motif #1 – has appeared in countless paintings and photographs. Meanwhile, enthusiastic hikers will love Halibut Point State Park, which features an idyllic mix of trails, picnic areas and tidal pools. Plus, Rockport's tiny peninsula of Bearskin Neck offers some of the region's top restaurants and bars.

    Location: Rockport, Massachusetts, USA

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    3

    Northampton

    Explore a 19th-century conservatory and a selection of acclaimed museums

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    Northampton is a thriving town situated in Western Massachusetts along the shores of the Connecticut River. Here, the wide-open boulevards are flush with much-loved boutiques, galleries and theatres, with Main Street home to many of the best.

    Take a stroll along this stretch of Northampton and duck into the independent stores found within Thornes Marketplace. Nearby, you'll also come across the stately R. Michelson Galleries, which regularly presents art exhibitions on local and international talent. Make a quick trip across town to the college campus and find The Botanic Garden of Smith College. It features one of America's few remaining 19th-century conservatories, housing over 3,000 species of plant life.

    Location: Northampton, Massachusetts, USA

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    photo by chipmunk_1 (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    4

    Wellfleet

    Immerse yourself in unspoiled lakes and tidal flats

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    Wellfleet is a holidaymaker's dream, with bayside beaches and tidal flats along an incredible section of Cape Cod. Make the most of the pristine landscape by taking a hike or bike ride to Jeremy Point at the tip of Great Island. This hidden away spot can only be reached when the tide is out.

    In Wellfleet, there are plenty of other water-based activities to enjoy, including 20 freshwater ponds offering superb swimming and kayaking opportunities. Once you've finished exploring the outside world, head along to popular restaurants such as Wellfleet Beachcomber and Moby Dick's, where you can feast on seafood delights like lobster rolls and fried clams.

    Location: Wellfleet, Massachusetts, USA

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    5

    Concord

    Learn about New England's history and visit some top-notch local cafes

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    Concord offers a host of natural, historical and family-friendly landmarks in Massachusetts. Just a 45-minute drive from Boston, it's one of New England's most attractive towns with a leafy town centre positioned at the meeting point of the Sudbury, Assabet and Concord Rivers. Here, you'll find a selection of cafes and bakeries dotted between fashion boutiques and bookstores.

    On the outskirts of town, there are several stellar parklands to wander through, with the Minute Man National Historical Park and the Walden Pond State Reservation serving as particularly serene locations. Also in the area, you'll discover the site of the Battle of Lexington and Concord – one of the major conflicts during the American Revolutionary War.

    Location: Concord, Massachusetts, USA

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    6

    Provincetown

    Soak up the sun before enjoying a first-rate dining and partying scene

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    Provincetown bustles in peak season with those looking to experience the town's renowned beachfront. Fortunately, there's no shortage of sandy shoreline to enjoy along the 70-mile peninsula, with Race Point Beach and Herring Cove Beach proving particularly popular. Here, the waters are relatively calm with plenty of nearby cafes and snack bars to grab a cold drink.

    Within Provincetown, the most famous landmark is the Pilgrim Monument. Based on the Tower of Mangia in Siena, Italy, this soaring granite structure honours the Mayflower Pilgrims who arrived from England in 1620. Provincetown also has an excellent collection of restaurants, nightclubs and galleries to enjoy, with Commercial Street where you'll discover many of the best.

    Location: Provincetown, Massachusetts, USA

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    7

    Sandwich

    Dive into this town's numerous galleries and stellar natural landmarks

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    Sandwich is Cape Cod's oldest seaside village, having been founded back in 1637. The town is widely recognised for its appealing selection of museums, where you can explore landmarks like the Sandwich Glass Museum and Hoxie House. The Thornton Burgess Society showcases the work of its acclaimed namesake author and environmentalist.

    As you roam the age-old streets, admire the numerous buildings dating back to pilgrim times in the 17th century. Next, head out towards the nearby coastline where you'll come across the Sandwich Boardwalk stretching out into Mill Creek and its surrounding marshes. Back across town, the 100-acre Heritage Museums & Gardens features galleries, a cosy cafe and a unique collection of Dexter rhododendrons.

    Location: Sandwich, Massachusetts, USA

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    8

    Gloucester

    Take a tour of several historic museums

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    Gloucester is a brilliant summertime destination on the Cape Ann waterfront. As the oldest harbour in America, you’ll come across numerous historical landmarks, including a group of charming lighthouses. The Eastern Point Lighthouse is one of the most impressive, dating back to 1832.

    For holidaymakers, Gloucester's collection of sandy beaches is bound to be high on any to-do list. Good Harbor Beach is the most popular, while across the bay, Wingaersheek Beach presents the chance to wander out to sea during low tide. Meanwhile, the whole family will love taking a tour of the medieval-style Hammond Castle Museum or the Cape Ann Museum, which delves into the area's extensive maritime history.

    Location: Gloucester, Massachusetts, USA

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    9

    Sturbridge

    Hike into a former lead mine and experience life on the American frontier

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    Settled in 1729, Sturbridge provides an amazing opportunity to step into the past. Maintaining much of its original charm, the town's most highly regarded attraction is the Old Sturbridge Village – a living history museum presenting life as it was in the 18th and 19th centuries. This authentic experience is led by a host of dedicated guides that'll show you through 40 antique homes and other fascinating recreations.

    Wells State Park is another must-visit destination for visitors to Sturbridge. Situated just outside the town centre, this sprawling mass of hiking and biking trails spans 1,400 acres of wonderful woodland park. Elsewhere, Tantiusques is an outstanding hiking area that takes you into a former lead mine.

    Location: Sturbridge, Massachusetts, USA

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    photo by John Phelan (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    10

    Edgartown

    Relish high-end seafood dining and an unbeatable coastline

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    Edgartown might have once been a simple whaling port, but over the last 200 years, it's become one of the most cosmopolitan spots on the New England coastline. Reachable by ferry from the mainland, this island escape has many of the region's beloved attributes, including enchanting brick footpaths, immaculately presented homes, and a scenic harbour.

    Head along to the eastern edge of the island for excellent swimming and fishing at Norton Point Beach. Next, wander through the peaceful Mytoi Japanese Garden's ponds and seasonal flowers. Back in town, there are high-end clothing boutiques, jewellery stores and dozens of refined seafood restaurants to perfectly close out the day.

    Location: Edgartown, Massachusetts, USA

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    Hudson Brown | Contributing Writer

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