The 5 Best Fall Day Trips From Portland, Maine

Rangeley Lake Maine
Danita Delimont / Getty Images

Even though coastal Maine is not a prime leaf-peeping destination, the seaside city of Portland is still an ideal starting point for not-so-faraway fall foliage adventures. The central location of Maine's largest city places you within a few hours of iconically scenic places, such as Georgetown Island and the Rangeley Lakes. During autumn, the Maine Department of Conservation provides weekly reports on foliage conditions throughout the state, so check to see where leaves are peaking before you hit the road.

01 of 05

Rangeley: Leaf Peeping and Mountain-Rimmed Lakes

Forest Landscape Along Rangeley Lake
James L. Amos / Getty Images

A back-roads drive to Rangeley is one of your best bets if you're eager to see the state's legendary fall foliage. The Rangeley Lakes Region treats visitors to scenes of sparkling lakes framed in fall splendor, mountain silhouettes, rivers edged with reds and golds, covered bridges, and more. You can even take a cruise on Rangeley Lake—a 90-minute outing with Rangeley Region Lake Cruises and Kayaking showcases South Bog Preserve and the fall colors of Bald, Saddleback, and Spotted Mountains.

Getting There: Leaving Portland, set your GPS first for Rumford, then for Rangeley—this way you'll get off the highway and onto more scenic roads. Route 17, which chases the Swift River, has some especially stunning views. The 120-mile journey takes about two hours, 30 minutes without stops.

Travel Tip: Don't miss the incredible scene of the lakes and mountains from the Height of Land pulloff. This cherished spot offers one of the best drive-to foliage views in all of New England.

02 of 05

Freeport: Shopping With an Old-Timey Feel

L.L. Bean Inc. Flagship Store, Freeport

 L.L. Bean Freeport

Freeport is a haven for holiday shopping, with big-name factory outlets like Calvin Klein and Vineyard Vines, all housed in a charming, village-like setting. It's best known for being the headquarters of iconic outdoor apparel retailer L.L. Bean, with its legendary giant boot in front. Other nearby attractions include Wolfe's Neck Woods State Park, which has easy wooded hiking trails along Casco Bay and the Harraseeket River; Bradbury Mountain State Park; and the Desert of Maine, a natural attraction known for its peculiar sand dunes, open through mid-October.

Getting There: The drive from Portland to Freeport is half the fun. It's a 20-minute jaunt up Interstate 95, but for a more scenic day trip, take Route 1 from I-95 to Route 88, which showcases stately homes and autumnal oaks along the coast.

Travel Tip: A short, quarter-mile hike to the summit of nearby Bradbury Mountain offers spectacular views of the surrounding fall foliage, Casco Bay, and the White Mountains.

03 of 05

Sabbathday Lake: The Last Surviving Shaker Village

Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village

 Wolf Cove Inn

The Shaker sect of Christianity that flourished in the mid-19th century is now almost obsolete, except on the shore of Sabbathday Lake, the only place in the world where Shakers still live. Six historic buildings showcase the characteristic handicraft of the devout community and they're open to the public through mid-October. Located just 25 miles from Portland, this simple-living oasis feels like a world away—the village is situated on 1,800 acres of farm and forest land and its historic structures date from the 1780s through the 1950s. You can take a guided tour, visit the museum, and shop for crafts in the Shaker store.

Getting There: Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester is a 35-minute drive from Portland on Route 26 or the Maine Turnpike (take Exit 63). Be sure to stop at the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray on the way.

Travel Tip: Try to align your trip with Apple Saturdays, a Sabbathday Lake fall tradition featuring cider pressing, apple arts and crafts, and a homemade donut sale.

04 of 05

Georgetown Island: 80 Miles of Serene Coastline

Reid State Park, Georgetown Maine

TripSavvy / Kim Knox Beckius

With more than 80 miles of shoreline (and only about 1,000 inhabitants), the island of Georgetown offers some of Maine's most spectacular coastal scenery. There are endless coves, harbors, marshes, and beaches to explore on Georgetown Island, and wildlife enthusiasts will be giddy to catch glimpses of bald eagles, moose, and harbor seals. A drive along Route 127 will offer views of marshlands, rugged cliffs, and wild woods. At the mouth of the river, you'll find the Seguin Island Lighthouse standing guard. Even though this little island can't rival inland spots for leaf peeping, the blue of the ocean and rivers against the fall colors still provides infinite photo ops.

Getting There: There is no direct public transport from Portland to Georgetown Island, but you can get there in less than an hour by car. Travel north on Route 1 and take the Route 127 exit at the end of Bath's Sagadahoc Bridge. Follow this road over a series of bridges to Georgetown.

Travel Tip: Refuel for the return journey at Five Islands Lobster Co., a rustic seafood haunt whose location on a working wharf offers optimal harbor views.

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05 of 05

The Maine Antique Trail: A Day Trip Through Time

Maine Antiques Store in the Fall

rossandgaffney / Getty Images

Maine is one of the best places in the U.S. for antique shopping. Treasure troves can be found inside more than 50 old barns and farmhouses along the Maine Antique Trail (encompassing a chunk of I-95) in the southern part of the state. A particularly noteworthy antiquing destination along this route is Wells, a town filled with flea markets, antique stores, and rare book dealers. Here, a multi-dealer shop called Cattail Farm Antiques occupies an entire 10,000-square-foot barn. As you travel south on Route 1 toward Kittery, be sure to stop by Centervale Farm Antiques in Scarborough—one of Maine's largest single-owner antique shops—and Antiques USA in Arundel.

Getting There: Simply drive Route 1 from Portland to Kittery, stopping off at the antique stores along the way. It takes roughly an hour, 15 minutes to travel the route, but for a faster return, follow I-95 North for 50 minutes.

Travel Tip: Serious antiquers will want to drive to Arundel first for the Arundel Swap Meet, an al fresco flea market that operates year-round (in good weather). The best finds are gobbled up early—sometimes even before the 10 a.m. opening.

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