Fall Colors Tour: Maine & Canada's Eastern Provinces

by Don & Ann Jackson

For nearly twenty years we’ve talked about doing a fall colors tour to New England, placed it on our bucket list and for a variety of reasons just kept postponing. This past fall season we finally got our act together, put it onto our travel schedule, and opted for a late September time period. Although numerous luxury bus firms offer fall color tours we opted for renting a car and doing it on our own. And that was a great decision.

We started the trip by flying into Boston, renting a car and immediately heading north and here’s our recommended itinerary.

Kennebunkport and Portland, Maine:
Boston directly to Portland can be a short two-hour drive but we recommend you take an extra couple of hours and head to the coast to visit Kennebunkport. This very quaint and famous ocean front town is easy to walk and known for the coastal estate home of former President George Bush and first lady Barbara. Although not open to the public the Bush compound is worth a few minutes drive to view their gorgeous seaside setting. As you next head to Maine’s biggest city of Portland we recommend staying in nearby Cape Elizabeth where checking into the gorgeous Inn by the Sea is a no brainer. This lovely resort boutique-like property offers a state-of-the-art spa, beautiful accommodations, and an ocean front setting offering wonderful beach walks. Their Sea Glass restaurant, serving up sustainable seafood in creative presentations, was a culinary highlight of the trip, InnbytheSea.com And don’t miss seeing the famous Portland Headlight, one of our country’s most photographed lighthouses, and taking a city of Portland trolley tour and a harbor cruise on the picturesque Casco Bay, PortlandDiscovery.com Another choice dining pick is Walters, a local foodie favorite, WaltersPortland.com For tons of info on Maine’s premier city visit: VisitPortland.com

Pineland Farms, Maine:
After leaving Portland head about a half hour northwest to one of the state’s most beautiful settings at Pineland Farms where the fall colors were incredible. This former campus has been converted into a unique travel destination, plus an exceptional meeting and recreational venue. Pineland’s distinctive development is one of those unique locations for family getaways, romantic escapes, small group meetings, and reunions. Special features include: historic home choices for lodging; jogging/cross country skiing/snowshoeing/sledding/mountain biking trails; tennis courts; country market/deli; orienteering; and more. Educational visits to their creamery, home to award winning cheeses, and their world class Equestrian Center, specializing in Olympic dressage training, are other hallmarks. For much more information on Pineland visit: PineLandFarms.org And to find countless additional things to see and do in this colorful state: VisitMaine.com

Maine Coast on the way to New Brunswick Province, Canada
After leaving Pineland head due east back to Maine’s dramatic coast, in constant contact with a multitude of fall colorizations, and be sure to stop and stroll the quaint seaside towns of Camden and Rockport. Drive on to Bar Harbor and don’t miss a hike into Acadia National Park for more fall color splendor. Next drive on to the Canadian border of New Brunswick Province at Lubec and take the International Bridge over to Campobello Island. This historic island is home to the Roosevelt Campobello International Park, the only park in the world equally funded and operated by two countries and site of the former vacation estate of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Be sure to sign up well in advance for the complimentary ‘Tea with Eleanor’ that provided us many interesting insights into some of the unpublicized circumstances of this famous first family’s personal lives, Fdr.net
Your next destination should be the very delightful coastal town of St. Andrews-by-the-Sea where we hunkered down at the famous Algonquin Resort that lived up to it’s world class reputation. And enjoy strolling the nearby award winning Kingsbrae Garden and downtown’s colorful Water Street, AlgonquinResort.com
Grand Manan Island by ferry from Black’s Harbor, is one of the Maritime Province’s favorite vacation spots and our recommended succeeding layover when leaving St. Andrews and heading further north on the beautiful New Brunswick coast. Try booking a room with Inn at Whale Cove Cottages where the chef/owner is well known for her gastronomic creations. Hiking the coastline in and around the island’s lighthouses is our number one recommended outing on Manan. WhaleCoveCottages.ca
Your next destination should be Saint John, Canada’s oldest incorporated city and a vibrant walkable downtown on the edge of the Bay of Fundy, home to the world’s highest and lowest tides. Our stay at the local Hilton Saint John was a great choice and their bellman’s recommendation to go to Rocky’s Sports Bar so we could catch the television broadcast of our favorite pro sports team proved memorable. A customer at Rocky’s and a brand new acquaintance, who learned we were celebrating our wedding anniversary, put on a surprise party for us at Rocky’s that will forever be remembered and appreciated. RockysSportsBar.com
Following Saint John you must visit the upper Bay of Fundy via Fundy National Park, the lobster fishing village of Alma and the famous Hopewell Rocks. Hiking in the park and down into the Rocks area, where at low tide you can walk on the ocean floor was an iconic New Brunswick experience unlike any we’ve ever had.
For many more interesting things to do and places to experience in this wonderful Maritime province go to: TourismNewBrunswick.ca

Nova Scotia Province:
After leaving New Brunswick we headed for a short two day visit to explore this other Maritime Canadian Province. On the drive to the capital city of Halifax overlooking the Atlantic Ocean we had wonderful stops at the Shubenacadie Provincial Wildlife Park, an amazing sanctuary, and the Anne Murray Centre museum in Springhill to learn more about one of our all-time favorite singers. While in Halifax we stayed at the classic boutique style Halliburton House Inn with delightful complimentary breakfasts and an ideal location to walk the downtown and the wharf area. And be sure to stroll the Public Gardens and then on to Citadel park for great city views below. And don’t miss taking the time to drive about an hour to the quaint fishing village of Lunenburg just to visualize one of the most colorful groups of painted houses anywhere. On the way to the next Province of Prince Edward Island try to take the time to go to Nova Scotia’s west coast to see more views of the Bay of Fundy and charming seaside towns. For more tempting things to see and do in this wonderful province: Novascotia.com

Prince Edward Island:
Also known as PEI, this Maritime Province is reached by heading back to Port Elgin in New Brunswick and taking the Confederation Bridge to reach the island. This curved 8 mile long bridge is the longest in the world crossing ice-covered water in winter seasons and endures as one of Canada’s preeminent engineering achievements of the 20th century. You’ll definitely need to start your visit at the capital city of Charlottetown. If you can book a room at the Great George Hotel you’ll love the choice as it’s close to the walk able downtown and provides first rate accommodations, complimentary breakfast buffets, fresh yummy afternoon cookies and evening drinks. Award winning Terre Rouge Bistro Marche on Queen Street provided an excellent dining choice. Be sure to visit nearby PEI National Park, the beautiful coastal beaches, Green Gables Heritage Place, the Farmer’s Market, the Dunes Gallery & Gardens, and time permitting drop in for lunch at the very popular PEI Preserve Company-much more than a preserves business. Heritage Place is the home that inspired the famous book-Anne of Green Gables. PEI is one of the favorite getaways for Canadian citizens and is becoming more popular with stateside folks, as well. For much more information and to watch a beautiful 10 minute video tour of this glorious island go to:

Two last tips: 1-Try to allow at least two weeks for this trip to fully experience all there is to offer in spectacular Fall colors and Atlantic coastal splendors. 2-Be sure to dine often on the Maine and Canadian coastal lobsters, considered by many as the best in the world. Some folks have strong convictions as to which of the two are best. Not us. We loved them both equally.
(Publisher’s Note: Our travel team next month will bring readers their recommendations on visiting our country’s seventh largest city of San Antonio and a few surprises they learned about the famous River Walk and The Alamo)