Mad Tom Orchard in East Dorset, VermontPhoto Credit : Courtesy of Mad Tom Orchard
With its varied, hilly landscape, New England has some of the most beautiful orchards in the country. And while there are many great reasons to visit a pick-your-own orchard, immersing yourself in this kind of beauty is an awfully good one. Looking for a few top places to pick? Amy Traverso, Weekends with Yankee co-host and author of the award-winning The Apple Lover’s Cookbook, shares her list of the most beautiful orchards for the best apple picking in New England.
Apples grow best in ample sun, so the west-facing hillside on which Alyson’s Orchard sits not only lends a beautiful view of the Connecticut River Valley and Vermont, but also gives each tree better exposure, which produces exceptional fruit. The orchard is run by Homer Dunn, a true-blue New Englander who takes tremendous pleasure and pride in his fruit. He grows all the regular favorites but has a soft spot for rare heirlooms like Ashmead’s Kernel, Hudson’s Golden Gem, and Esopus Spitzenburg. The orchard (which also grows peaches, plums, nectarines, and berries) spreads over 450 acres, and there’s a seasonal farm stand, plus family-friendly entertainment on weekends. One visit and you’ll see why it’s one of our favorite apple orchards in New Hampshire.
Gould Hill Farm boasts views that span 75 miles, with glimpses as far as Lake Winnipesaukee and the White Mountains. It’s a simply breathtaking spot. Sample the 80 apple varieties that Tim and Amy Bassett now grow, and don’t miss the excellent cider doughnuts in the farm store, or the other tasty baked goods and local crafts. One variety worth noting: Hampshire, a tree that sprang up from seed on this very farm and, with its abundant juice and rich flavor, makes a great pie.
Early in Vermont’s history, farmers discovered that the modulating effects of Lake Champlain extended the region’s growing season by several weeks; as a result, the Champlain Valley became a center of apple growing. Champlain Orchards, founded more than a century ago as Larabee Point Orchard, is one of the oldest continuously operating orchards in Vermont. Bill Suhr and Andrea Scott grow 146 varieties of Eco Apple–certified apples, plus pears, stone fruits, quinces, ancient medlars, currants, and berries on 220 acres of gently rolling farmland with views of the lake and the Adirondack Mountains beyond. The farm market sells pastries, doughnuts, preserves, and produce, as well as Champlain’s own brand of hard cider.
Nestled in the hills of southern Vermont, with views all around, this family-owned orchard is a classic pick-your-own experience: small, friendly, welcoming toward families, with cider doughnuts made fresh on the weekends. Sylvia and Tom Smith purchased the orchard in 1999 and restored it, bringing eight acres back into production. McIntosh and Cortland grow in abundance, along with newer varieties like Honeycrisp, Ginger Gold, Zestar, Fuji, Gala, and Crimson Crisp. There are cherries and raspberries in summer. And for pie bakers, there are plenty of Northern Spy apples on offer.
A few years ago, USA Today named Shelburne Orchards one of the 10 best apple orchards in the country. Owner Nick Cowles grew up on this land and was growing commodity fruit for supermarkets when he realized that his location on Lake Champlain’s Twilight Bay made it the perfect spot for a pick-your-own business. In addition to the gorgeous lakeside scenery, you’ll find a charming red barn farm stand, fresh cider, pies, doughnuts, live music, hay rides, an apple brandy distillery, and a tasting room.
The view from the top of the hill at Apex Orchards is so dramatic, you’ll need a minute to take it in. It’s not just one of the most amazing orchard views in New England, it’s one of the best views, period. The fruit trees blanket the hills in neat rows, and the Green Mountains roll out before you. The farm has been active since 1828, through seven generations of the Peck and Smith families, who found success attracting visitors who come not just for the views, but also for apples, peaches, nectarines, apricots, quinces, pears, blueberries, grapes, Christmas trees, and pumpkins.
The landscape in central Connecticut isn’t as dramatic as in northern New England, but Belltown Hill Orchards is nestled into a landscape of tree-lined hills that rise and fall around you as you ride the tractor-drawn trailer out to your grove of choice. There are two dozen varieties of apples here, along with cherries, berries, nectarines, peaches, plums, and pumpkins, and while the cider doughnuts are delicious, the apple fritters are truly extraordinary. Stop by the farm store for a variety of local produce, preserves, and gifts.
Located just above Newport on Aquidneck Island, Sweet Berry Farm is so pretty that it’s one of Rhode Island’s most popular wedding destinations. Anchored by a barn-style market and café, with beautifully manicured flower beds, this is a destination where you can pick fruit, have lunch and ice cream, and buy the best locally sourced and artisan ingredients for dinner. In the summer and early fall, raspberries, blueberries, peaches, and blackberries are popular with the pick-your-own crowd, but the fall offers more than a dozen apple varieties (including Honeycrisp, Jonagold, and Cortland), plus pumpkins galore.
Did we miss your favorite scenic apple orchard with a view? Let us know in the comments below!