When it comes to fall, there’s perhaps nowhere better to take in the glorious changing leaves than in New England. Sleepy coastal towns make the perfect backdrop for the occasion. Plus, Northeasterners know how to celebrate this time of year with food, drinks and activities that suit the season perfectly.
Plan your road trip through one state, or cross borders and see everything New England has to offer this autumn. Here are eight of the best stops to work into your route.
- Acadia National Park: There’s a reason why fall is the ideal time to visit this perennially popular destination. For one, the leaves put on quite a show here, changing from green to bright orange and deep red and stretching as far as the eye can see. But Acadia National Park’s peak touristy time is over for the summer, so you should have a bit of a quiet visit as you begin or end your road trip within the confines of this nature reserve.Another thing to consider is the fact that fall brings the perfect hiking weather along with it. So, get out of the car and stretch your legs for an up-close-and-personal view of the fall foliage. The park is in charming Bar Harbor, Maine, where you could easily fill a three-day weekend with activities within the town and Acadia, too.
- Portland: Much like the national park, Portland tends to clear out in autumn, too. That means you’ll have a peaceful retreat into the natural beauty that surrounds this bayfront city. Opportunities to explore abound, with hiking trails and kayaking excursions among the many activities this coastal community offers.To that end, Portland’s fishing community is alive and well, so a visit to the Old Port will have you smack-dab in the middle of an active — and, for you, tasty — industry. Entrepreneurs have converted nearby warehouses into shops and restaurants, and the city’s also known for its bespoke breweries that serve up local craft beer.
- Kancamagus Highway: According to NewEngland.com, the Kancamagus Highway might be the best-known route for fall-foliage chasers in all of New England. The road stretches from Conway to Lincoln, N.H., and has incredible scenery on display alongside the changing leaves. From babbling brooks to mountainous peaks to quaint covered bridges, you’ll get a full dose of New England on just a short drive. Plus, because there are many shifts in elevation along the way, you can traverse the highway throughout fall and see leaves changing at some point on your journey.
- Lake Winnipesaukee: From the Kancamagus Highway, a drive down to Lake Winnipesaukee takes only 90 minutes. There’s plenty to do around the lake itself, but this is a road trip — fortunately, it’s pretty easy to chart a drive around the lake’s edge to see fall leaves border the reflective, placid surface. The best way to do it is to start at Alton Bay, which resides on the lake’s southern side. From there, drive west to make the 75-mile trek around the body of water. Along the way, you’ll find plenty of charming shops, family restaurants and even a boardwalk where you can grab an ice cream or a pumpkin spice latte, depending on the temperature outside.
- Montpelier: Vermont’s capital city is a nearly three-hour drive from Lake Winnipesaukee, but the trek from state to state is sure to be stunning. And, once you arrive in the nation’s smallest capital, you will quickly understand why you made one of the longest drives of your road trip. From the quaint city, you’ll have an excellent jumping-off point to visit Northfield Falls, situated just 15 minutes outside the capital. There, you’ll be able to see a pair of covered bridges — in fact, they’re so close together that you can capture them both in the same photo, should you be inclined to snap pictures along the route. If so, you’ll be pleased by the fall foliage that paints the backdrop an array of warm fall hues.
- Woodstock: If you thought Montpelier was a quaint stop on your journey, wait until you make it to Woodstock. The historic town — home to just over 3,000 residents — is quintessential New England. But it’s juxtaposed by stunning, grandiose pieces of natural scenery. Take, for example, Quechee Gorge. It’s known as Vermont’s Little Grand Canyon, which a glacier cut through rock thousands of years ago. Of course, sharp edges of the gorge will be painted in the autumnal colors you’re driving around to see. You can stop by the visitor’s center or take a hike around the grounds.
- Skinner State Park: The last leg of your road trip will bring you through a particularly stunning stretch of Massachusetts. You can stay the night in South Hadley while you explore nearby Skinner State Park. There, you can drive — or hike — to the summit of Mount Holyoke, from which you can check out the Connecticut River — it will be worth the view.
- South Dartmouth: Finally, you should end your trip along the New England coast as an homage to where it began. Your drive from Skinner State Park to South Dartmouth will have you passing through Rhode Island — and its capital — before you arrive on Apponagansett Bay. There, you can view the water from Padanaram, a quaint fishing village that will give you a final dose of that New England feel and, of course, those fall colors you’ve been driving all around the country to see.
Following this route will have you in your car for a nearly 13-hour journey. Breaking it down over a couple of days will make it completely doable. And, once you see the beauty the area has to offer you this autumn, you’ll quickly realize it was entirely worth your time behind the wheel.