• Strawbery Banke Museum, New Hampshire
    Strawbery Banke Museum
    Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Maine and New Hampshire

Two Week New England Tour — Coast & Mountains

To get the best out of this route that links ocean and mountains, stay two or three nights in each of the five stopovers and follow our Top Tips sections for each trip segment.

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.

Rockport Massachusetts Harbor - (MOTT-Tim Grafft)

Boston & the North Shore — Massachusetts

Spend a couple of days in Boston, New England's gateway city, to see the sights. The “T,” the public transport system, is efficient and inexpensive — and Boston is the most walkable major U.S. city. Wait to rent a car until you are setting off. Once you do hit the road, follow the coast North of Boston, where historic towns include Salem, Rockport, Essex, and Newburyport. You may want to overnight at a cozy inn or ocean resort on Cape Ann. Continue through the state of New Hampshire on Interstate 95 (the route returns via Portsmouth, New Hampshire) and on to Portland, Maine (150 miles/240 km).

Portland Harbor Skies 6907 - Credit-Maine Office of Tourism

Portland, Maine

One of America’s most historic cities, revitalized Portland has the Old Port (Historic Waterfront District), with its lively pubs and restaurants, as well as thriving Arts District, with a classy Museum of Art. This city is a foodie favorite — you'll find plenty of good eats to choose from, including award-winning restaurants and chefs.

Top Tips

  • Maine has more than 60 lighthouses. See four by boat with Portland Discovery — Land & Sea Tours. The highlight is Portland Head Light, the state's oldest (1791) and most photographed lighthouse.
  • Explore Peaks Island: Spend a day hiking or cycling; the island is just a 15-minute ferry ride from Portland.
  • On The Maine Brew Bus's Casco Fiasco Tour, visit four of Portland's finest breweries and brewpubs: taste, meet the brewers, and let someone else drive!

Continue along the rugged coastline, with its scarlet blueberry barrens and glorious foliage. Stop in Freeport, one of the USA's prime outlet shopping destinations; at L.L. Bean, sign up for a free in-store clinic to learn fly-fishing techniques, knot tying, geocaching, kayak paddling techniques and more with the L.L. Bean Discovery School. Continue up the coast to explore historic communities, such as Brunswick and Bath, Wiscasset, Boothbay Harbor, Damariscotta, Rockland and Rockport to Camden.  (100 miles/160 km).

Camden, Maine (Credit-Maine Office of Tourism)

Camden, Maine  

Set on beautiful Penobscot Bay, Camden is a sophisticated destination, with art galleries and restaurants, an opera house and, in nearby Rockport, fine museums. Around the corner, Rockland is the lobster capital of New England.

Top Tips

  • Drive or hike up Mount Battie in Camden Hills State Park: From its summit (800 ft/245 m) the panorama includes Camden and Penobscot Bay.
  • Take a cruise: Board a Maine windjammer, a historic sailing schooner, to see the foliage from the water. Depart from Camden, Rockland or Rockport; dress warmly as sea breezes can be chilly.
  • Visit Maine's first vineyard: fall is harvest time at the Cellardoor Winery at the Vineyard in Lincolnville.

Leave the coast and head inland via Belfast and through splendid scenery to China and on to Waterville, the home of Colby College. Follow a sweep of the Kennebec River, then head back into the mountains for Farmington (80 miles/130 km).

Rangeley Lake - Maine (Credit-Rangeley Lake Cruises)

Rangeley, Maine

With unspoiled wilderness at your door, Rangeley is a excellent base to enjoy some of New England's finest fall foliage. The woods are alive with moose, deer and birds. Learn more at the Rangeley Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum with the feel of a century-old ‘sporting camp.’

Top Tips

  • Drive the spectacular Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway: foliage, wild life, endless panoramas.
  • Reach for the sky: see the foliage from a floatplane with Acadian Seaplanes; land in a remote lake.
  • Escape to the lake: see bald eagles, loons and more on Rangeley Lake Scenic Cruises; explore some of Maine's most remote paddling areas in comfort and safety with Mothership Kayak Excursions.

On the way to Rumford, visitors are few even at the height of the foliage season. Keep following the Androscoggin River; see Bethel’s traditional village green, then cross in to New Hampshire and Gorham (90 miles/145 km).

Great Glen Sluice - Gorham, New Hampshire (Credit-Debbie Ryan)

Gorham, New Hampshire

Surrounded by the grandeur of the White Mountains, Gorham is at the northern end of the Presidential Range. Just 10 minutes away is 6,288-ft (1,916m) Mount Washington, the tallest mountain in the northeastern United States.

Top Tips

  • Drive up Mount Washington: The 150-year-old Auto Road is amazingly steep; views and the Mt. Washington Observatory are at the top.
  • Visit the Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center; Hike, bike or paddle for great fall vistas.
  • At Wildcat Mountain, ride New Hampshire's highest scenic gondola and picnic at the 4,000-ft summit. And, be sure to try the exhilarating zip line!

Drive south through pretty Jackson, where fall brings the Pumpkin People displays, and on to busy North Conway, filled with shops and designer outlets, and Conway. Continue to New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, with its charming communities. In Center Sandwich, buy authentic juried works from Sandwich Home Industries, an 80-year-old founding member of the League of NH Craftsmen. Arguably America's first summer vacation destination (1771), Wolfeboro is on Lake Winnipesaukee, one of New England's largest lakes and best explored on a cruise. Continue to Portsmouth, New Hampshire (120 miles/200 km).

Portsmouth, New Hampshire - Seaport City

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

In the walkable downtown, cafés and boutiques are matched by heritage. After all, Portsmouth dates back to 1623! No wonder it appears on lists of America's Prettiest Towns, America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations and America’s top 100 walking cities.

Top Tips

  • Tour Strawbery Banke: One of New England’s best living history attractions covers four centuries and has a fun Fall Festival in October.
  • Cruise the river: A leisurely trip inland to Great Bay or the Cocheco River provides a relaxing view of the fall color.
  • Join the locavore movement and enjoy fall's bounty on a plate. Portsmouth has one of the highest restaurants per capita in the United States.

Return to Boston (60 miles/100 km).