New England One Week Fall Foliage Tour
New England’s fall foliage is legendary. Across the region, leaves turn from green to gold and scarlet, purple and orange. The show is magnificent – and free! Follow this week-long itinerary to see ‘the color’ along valleys and across mountains, from aerial tramways and ferries, by the sea and, for something unexpected, in award-winning vineyards! (Note: for another one-week option see Connecticut River Blueway Driving Tour).
Trip ideas and itineraries are meant as suggestions only. They are intended as ideas and to highlight all there is to see and do in New England.
Boston to Rhode Island: Drive to Providence, Rhode Island (50 to 120 miles/80 to 193km)
Fall means grape-picking time in southern New England. With New England’s longest growing season, the sunny climate is similar to northern France – and boasts vineyards with a burgeoning reputation. An hour south of Boston, follow part of the Coastal Wine Trail, dropping in for tastings at award-winning vineyards. In Massachusetts, Travessia is in New Bedford, Running Brook is in North Dartmouth, and Westport Rivers is in – Westport! In Rhode Island, Newport Vineyards is just a short drive or shuttle from the town center. Or visit the 35-year-old Sakonnet Vineyards in Little Compton. Stay in Providence with its history, museums and fine dining.
Rhode Island to Massachusetts: Drive to Deerfield, Massachusetts (115 miles/185km)
Drive through central Massachusetts. On your way is Old Sturbridge Village, the largest outdoor history museum in the Northeast. Here, history interpreters (staff in authentic costume) take you back to the 1830s. The extensive grounds are thick with mature trees, decked in fall finery. Seasonal events include Apple Days and Harvest Days. In the Connecticut River Valley, 300-year-old Historic Deerfield is still a living village. Shaded by flaming maples, many of the 18th and 19th-century houses along its one-mile/1,500m avenue are still family homes. Some are open to the public; and the Flynt Center of Early New England Life is well worth a visit.
Massachusetts through New Hampshire to Vermont: Drive to St. Johnsbury, Vermont, along the Connecticut River (150 miles/250km)
Old Man River
There is color galore across the hills to the east and west of the Connecticut River. This is the border between Vermont and New Hampshire. Both states have classic New England towns, each with nearby attractions. Stop in Brattleboro to see Rudyard Kipling’s home, Naulakha. In Rockingham, the Vermont Country Store is full of useful old-fashioned things that grandma used. Across the river in Cornish, see the summer home, studio and gardens where sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens created his statues of President Abraham Lincoln. Hanover is home of prestigious Dartmouth College. From Hanover, head straight up Route 91-North into Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. Even at the height of foliage season, this area remains uncrowded. Its unofficial capital is St. Johnsbury (called St. Jay by locals). Check out the Athenaeum, the Fairbanks Museum, and the Northeast Kingdom Artisans Guild with its beautiful local crafts.
Vermont into New Hampshire: Into the White Mountains (71 miles/114km)
Mountains and Valley Views
Cross into the state of New Hampshire and follow scenic Route 3. In Franconia Notch State Park, the 80-passenger Cannon Aerial Tramway provides an oh-wow panorama of the foliage as it glides up to the 4,200 ft. (1,280m) summit of Cannon Mountain. Take the famous Kancamagus Highway (Route 112 East to Conway) for an easy drive and splendid vistas. Along the way, adventurous travelers may want to stop at Loon Mountain for a zipline highwire adventure soaring 700 feet across the Pemigewasset River. Children will enjoy the climbing wall and bungee trampoline, or the whole family can go mountain biking. At the end of the Kancamagus/Route 112, turn left and follow Route 16 North to the town of North Conway for some serious "retail therapy" in the many shops and at Settler's Green Outlet Village. From the town center, board the Conway Scenic Railroad for a sightseeing journey or, even better, the dinner train. Also in town is the Mount Washington Observatory Weather Discovery Center, an interactive science museum.
White Mountains of New Hampshire to Coastal Maine (65 miles/104 km)
From Conway, New Hampshire, head into Maine. The hills along this part of the route are heavily wooded and ablaze with color in the fall. Take Route 302 East to Fryeburg and Bridgton, then to Naples along Long Lake; Naples is a bustling lakeside community. Rent a kayak, take a seaplane ride, or board the Songo River Queen II, replica of a Mississippi River stern paddle boat. The center of town has a few interesting shops and some great places for "lobster in the rough." A short drive away is the Songo Lock, the last of 27 locks that once connected inland Maine to the Atlantic Ocean. From Naples, stay on Route 302 through Raymond and Windham to the working seaport of Portland. From Portland's Old Port, the historic waterfront district, take a trolley ride for an excellent overview of the city, or the 11am Diamond Pass Run, a scenic cruise of the Inner Bay, passing Little and Great Diamond Island and also Peaks Island. Spend an afternoon in the galleries of the Portland Museum of Art, or shopping. And for foodies, this city is a real delight – called a "Down East Banquet" by the New York Times.
Portland, Maine, to Portsmouth, New Hampshire (52 miles/83km)
Sun & Sea
Leaving Portland, head out to Cape Elizabeth, with its iconic Portland Head lighthouse standing tall against deep blue sky. Stay along the coastline or head onto Old Route 1. Stop to enjoy special coastline towns. Visit the tiny gem of Cape Porpoise and enjoy lunch on the deck at the Cape Pier Chowder House. Continue through seaside communities such as Kennebunkport, Wells and Ogunquit, busy with fall festivals. In Kittery, stop in the many shopping outlets with top brand names. Cross the Piscataqua River back into New Hampshire with its historic seaport city of Portsmouth and picturesque 18-mile coastline. Portsmouth is a small city with a young feel – sidewalk cafés, unique shops, excellent restaurants, and beautiful gardens along the river. Stroll streets with lovely historic homes. Visit the Strawbery Banke Museum, a living history museum with 42 restored properties reflecting four centuries of Portsmouth life. Drive south along the coast through the picturesque towns of New Castle and Rye (home of best-selling author Dan Brown of The Da Vinci Code fame) or on I-95 South to zip back into Boston!
Portsmouth to Boston (56 miles/90km)
For another one-week driving itinerary, see: Connecticut River Blueway Driving Tour