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5 Outdoor Attractions to Explore in Central Massachusetts

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Posted by Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism

If Cape Cod’s calling card is beaches and western Mass is best known for its rolling hills, central Mass can stake a claim to having some of the top outdoor adventures in all of Massachusetts.

From skydiving to cave crawling, there are all kinds of intriguing ways to do something fun and see some place new in central MA.

For your planning purposes, here are five of the best places.

Doane’s Falls in Royalston, MA

In one of the Commonwealth’s quieter corners, Lawrence Brook causes a comparative ruckus. The brook begins to bubble en route to Tully Lake (another very good outdoor destination), creating a series of waterfalls along the way, including Doane’s Falls.

Doanes Falls

Doane’s Falls, as seen during autumn, by Dorothy Miller

A half-mile trail leads down one side of the stream, making Doane’s Falls accessible by foot. The waterfall is open daily and year-round; it also happens to be right near Coddings Meadow, a good launch point for kayaking or canoeing. Visitors can consider some more time at Tully Lake Campground to extend their stay or shorten their drive.

Purgatory Chasm in Sutton, MA

Sutton’s best-known gorge gives guests the opportunity for recreation of a different variety. Despite the imposing name, Purgatory Chasm is quite a good time, especially for climbers and picnickers. The pathway runs for about a quarter of a mile, snaking between two granite walls on either side that rise as high as 70 feet.

Purgatory Chasm

Navigating Purgatory Chasm by Matt Runkle via Flickr

Purgatory Chasm’s various trails led to several different rock formations, including romantic ones like Lover’s Leap and slightly-less-romantic ones (The Coffin, Fat Man’s Misery). Very young ones can take to the playground near the visitor center and canine friends are welcome, too, so long as they behave themselves. For overnights in the area, the Putnam House B&B is a good nearby option.

Nashoba Valley Winery in Bolton, MA

Located just a bit west of Interstate 495, Nashoba Valley Winery sits at the center of Massachusetts apple country. With all that fresh bounty, it’s no surprise then that Nashoba is the Commonwealth’s leading fruit wine producer and has been recognized to the tune of 100+ medals.

Nashoba Winery

Out on the deck at Nashoba Winery in Bolton, MA

In addition to the vino, which has earned accolades from Food and Wine, Boston Magazine, Yankee Magazine and many others, Nashoba features homemade beer, plus a restaurant. Wine tours are available seven days a week, with exceptions for holidays. For overnights, the Nashoba Winery website suggests a range of suitable choices.

Rock House Reservation in West Brookfield, MA

Rock House Reservation is a mix of geologic and anthropologic history, formed by glaciers and then brought to attention by indigenous tribes who populated the area. The reservation’s signature piece is a gigantic stone enclosure, which is perched over man-made Carter Pond.

Rock House Reservation

Carter Pond during autumn via Facebook

Among Rock House Reservation’s 196 acres, there are 3+ miles of trails and wooded roads, with moderate-to-strenuous hiking. Visitors to the reservation should keep their eyes peeled for company, too, as turtles, turkeys, beavers and a number of other critters are known to inhabit the area. To learn a little more history, not to mention sleep and eat comfortably, the Salem Cross Inn is just a couple miles away.

The Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, MA

The Harvard that makes its home in Cambridge might be a bit more famous, but the Fruitlands Museum located in the town of the same name is a real gem. The museum is a combination of four historic buildings, which offer plenty to see inside, and 210 acres of sprawling, verdant grounds.

Fruitlands Museum

The Fruitlands Museum grounds at their best by Matthew Rasmussen

For walking, there are 2.5 miles of footpaths where you can stretch your legs. For shopping and dining, there’s the gift shop and the Fruitlands Museum Café. The museum also hosts a handful of events each month and those are listed here in the calendar. From April to November, the Fruitlands Museum is open each day except Tuesday and the Friendly Crossways Hostel is down the road.

If you’re interested in seeing more of what makes the outdoors great in central and the rest of Massachusetts, just click here. You can also discover more destinations to seek out here.

When you need time outside, where do you like to go? Let us know below in the comments!


  • Anna Leighton

    Going in October .Would love to visit some of these places if time allows.

    • JessBee

      Anna – so you know, fruitlands in Harvard and Nashoba Winery in Bolton are in adjacent towns! So, if you are making plans, that could make for a nice day out!

      • MassVacation

        Definitely! Thanks for adding that, JessBee.

        Anna, all of these spots are great during fall, but if you only have time for a couple, we’d opt for Doane’s Falls and Fruitlands Museum. The foliage is absolutely amazing at both, and if you got to Fruitlands, Nashoba is a quick drive away as well 🙂

      • Anna Leighton

        We will be staying in Dennisport ,Ms.and going into Boston ,Martha’s Vineyard and possibly other places.Maybe even into Vermont if time allows. We only have 1 week and travel will eat up the first day .So we do have some places written down especially in Boston proper.The Cheers Bar and The Old North Church.I am sure we will run out of time before we run out of things to do.

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