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.
Rangeley: Leaf Peeping and Mountain-Rimmed Lakes
A back-roads drive to Rangeley is one of your best bets if you're eager to see the state's legendary fall foliage. 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. 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.
When you reach the Rangeley Lakes Region, you'll be treated 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.
Freeport is a 20-minute drive up Interstate 95 from Portland, 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. 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, where a short, quarter-mile hike to the summit offers spectacular views of the surrounding fall foliage, Casco Bay, and the White Mountains; and the Desert of Maine, a natural attraction known for its peculiar sand dunes, open through mid-October.
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. Head back to Portland via back roads for more views of the changing leaves and be sure to stop at the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray on your return.
Just 10 minutes off Route 1 near Bath, the island of Georgetown has some of Maine's most spectacular coastal scenery, plus local eateries like Five Islands Lobster Co. that serve seafood with a stunning view. With more than 80 miles of shoreline (and only about 1,000 inhabitants), 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.
The Maine Antique Trail: A Day Trip Through Time
Maine is one of the best places in the U.S. for antique shopping. There are dozens of treasure troves to be found inside 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. You'll find dozens of others, too, as you travel south on Route 1 from Portland to Kittery, including Centervale Farm Antiques in Scarborough—one of Maine's largest single-owner antique shops—and Antiques USA in Arundel.