While coastal Maine is not a prime leaf-peeping destination, the seaside city of Portland can still be an ideal home base for fall foliage seekers and autumn adventurers. Centrally located and a hub for its cultural and culinary offerings, Maine's largest city places you within about a two-hour drive of iconic scenic places, historic attractions, and enticing shopping destinations.
Stay in Portland, and you'll have the best of all worlds: city amenities including the state's best restaurant scene at night, easy access to scenic drives that take you out into the autumn countryside or to quintessentially Maine places by day. The Maine Department of Conservation offers weekly reports on foliage conditions throughout the state during the autumn months, so check first to see where leaves are peaking before you hit the road.
Admire Fall's Beauty in the Rangeley Lakes Region
A backroads drive to Rangeley, Maine, is one of your best bets if you want to view Maine's legendary fall foliage. Leaving Portland, set your GPS first for Rumford, Maine, then for Rangeley, and you'll leave highways behind for scenic routes and unforgettable views, especially along Route 17, which chases the Swift River. Don't miss the incredible scene of mountains and lakes from the Height of Land pull-off. This cherished spot offers one of the best drive-to foliage views in not only Maine but all of New England.
When you reach the Rangeley Lakes Region, you'll enjoy scenes of sparkling lakes framed in fall splendor, mountain silhouettes, rivers edged with the reds and golds of autumn, covered bridges, and more. You can even take a cruise on Rangeley Lake. A 90-minute fall foliage cruise with Rangeley Region Lake Cruises and Kayaking highlights the fall colors of Bald, Saddleback, and Spotted Mountains and South Bog Preserve.
Freeport is a quick, 20-minute drive up Interstate 95 from Portland, but for a more scenic day trip, follow this back road driving tour instead.
With dozens of big-name factory outlets including Calvin Klein and Vineyard Vines, Freeport is a shopper's paradise. Best known for iconic outdoor and apparel retailer L.L. Bean, this quaint coastal Maine town is wonderfully walkable in the fall.
Other nearby attractions worth visiting on your day trip include Wolfe's Neck Woods State Park, with easy wooded hiking trails along Casco Bay and the Harraseeket River; Bradbury Mountain State Park, where a short, quarter-mile hike to the summit will reward you with spectacular views of the surrounding fall foliage and of Casco Bay and the White Mountains; and the Desert of Maine, a natural attraction known for its peculiar sand dunes, open through mid-October.
Step back in time at the last surviving active Shaker community in the world, where six historic buildings are open to the public through mid-October. Located at the edge of beautiful Sabbathday Lake, only 25 miles from Portland, this oasis of simple living feels like a world away. The village is situated on 1,800 acres of farm and forest land. Historic structures date from the 1780s through the 1950s.
You can take a guided tour, visit the museum, and shop for handcrafts in the Shaker store. Return to Portland via back roads for more views of the changing leaves. You may want to stop at the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray on your return trip.
Just 10 minutes off Route 1 near Bath, the island of Georgetown has some of Maine's most spectacular scenery, plus little restaurants like Five Islands Lobster Co. that serve seafood with a view. Follow this driving tour, and you'll see everything that makes Maine... Maine! A lighthouse, sandy beaches, marshlands, rugged cliffs, cozy harbors, and wild woods all await your exploration.
Against the blue waters of the ocean and rivers, bursts of fall color really pop. So, even though this coastal destination can't rival inland spots for fall foliage, you'll find photo ops galore.
Maine is one of the best places in the country for antique shopping. Many back roads have antique shops tucked away in old barns and farmhouses, so you're likely to stumble upon worthwhile stops on any fall foliage drive. There are 22 antique shops to visit along the Maine Antique Trail in the southern part of the state.
A particularly noteworthy antiquing destination in southern Maine is Wells, a town filled with antique shops, flea markets, and rare book dealers. Cattail Farm Antiques in Wells is a multi-dealer shop in a 10,000-square-foot barn.