16 Nostalgic New England Smells That Remind Us Of Home

Smell is the strongest sense tied to memory. Every now and then I catch a certain aroma on the breeze that transports me back to my kindergarten classroom and the smell of my very first “cubby.” I couldn’t tell you exactly what it is – some combination involving wood, floor polish and Play-Doh – but it never fails to spark the nostalgia.

The following 16 aromas are so classically New England you can’t help but be transported back to your childhood – no matter where you live these days!

Burning Leaves

As lovely as the autumn leaves are each year, once they fall, they bring the not-so lovely task of raking! The good news? After the kids are finished jumping in the leaf piles, you get the pleasure of burning them off creating that marvelous late-fall aroma!

Freshly Split Maple Trees

When it comes time to stock up on firewood, many New Englanders choose maple for the glorious scent that permeates from the freshly split logs.

Sausage Vendors on Yawkey Way

Fenway Franks are great and all, but for my money, I’ll take a sizzling, hot sausage from a sidewalk vendor outside the park on Yawkey Way. Nothing beats that sweet, spicy scent and that first flavorful bite before the game!

Low Tide

To some, low tide is more of a stench than a pleassant aroma. But for coastal New Englanders, this smell is reminiscent of joyful summer days spent on the beach until the sun went down!

Fresh Steamed Lobster

Sure, they serve lobster outside New England! But chances are they weren’t caught and steamed that very day!

Apple Orchards

The sweet perfume of an apple orchard in full bloom is my personal favorite New England scent. The sugary tartness of the fruit combined with the crisp early autumn air just seems to cleanse the soul!

Potato Fields

Every year some of the country’s finest potatoes are harvested in Northern Maine’s Aroostook County. Although the potato does not carry a powerful aroma, there is a starchy earthiness to the fields as the fresh soil is dug free releasing the state’s number one crop.

Daily Catch on the Docks

When the fishermen return to the docks and unload the day’s catch of lobster, cod, or haddock, the entire harbor fills with the familiar reek of fresh seafood. Having grown up in Scituate, MA it is a smell I will always associate with my childhood.

Spring Lilacs

These heavy, fat purple blooms grow wild throughout New England. I remember sneaking into neighbors’ yards to steal a few for my mother on my way home from school! A lilac bush in full bloom carries a cloyingly fragrant scent that seems to cling to the inside of your nose for hours.

Hot Maple Syrup

There is a distinct difference between the artificially sweet smell of Aunt Jemima syrup and the perfume of freshly collected Vermont maple syrup! Lucky New Englanders can always spot an imposter pancake-topper!

Beach Roses

The incredibly hearty beach roses of New England grow just about anywhere including sandy dunes, shores, rock cliffs or ledges, roadsides, and vacant lots. Although they thrive in our home states, they are not actually native to New England. They were introduced by European immigrants in the late 19th century.

Balsam Fir Trees

It’s not Christmas in New England until you adorn your home with the sticky, sap-smeared branches from a New England Balsam Fir! Whether it’s a handmade wreath or just a few sprigs by the door, Balsams are a winter must!

Fair Food

A memory of a day at the fair always brings to mind the salty stench of popcorn combined with the overwhelmingly sweet smell of cotton candy and gooey candy apples. For me, fried dough will always be my favorite New England fair food – and no, funnel cake is NOT the same thing!!

Wet Leaves in Fall

The earthy, atmospheric perfume of fallen leaves drenched in rainfall is classically New England.

Fresh Cut Grass in Summer

New England doesn’t have the monopoly on fresh cut summer grass – unless of course it is the perfectly manicured field at Fenway Park!


There is some debate as to whether or not snow truly has a smell. Perhaps it is just the aroma of cold, crisp air, but I think any New Englander would attest that there is certainly a scent carried by freshly driven snow!


H/T to NewEngland.com

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