There’s still time before the snow flies to visit one of Maine’s most scenic areas, the lovely Schoodic Peninsula and the villages of Down East. To get there, begin by taking I-295 North from Portland to Brunswick, then travel Route 1 North to Ellsworth.
Lumber trucks rumbling by as you near Ellsworth are a reminder that Maine’s vast woods lie just to the north. Consider a stop at Helen’s for coffee and their famous pie before continuing on to Winter Harbor, one of the state’s most scenic spots. I love the Winter Harbor 5&10 where you can find all kinds of stuff you had no idea you needed. At this time of year the tourist crowds are gone and you can enjoy this pretty town just as the locals do.
From Winter Harbor, turn east on Route 186 and follow the signs to Acadia National Park. That’s right — a small portion (about a 6-mile driving loop) of the park is here on the mainland. You may well have it all to yourself, so if it’s not too cold, it’s a great chance to get out and walk in the scenic woods.
While you’re in the area, also visit the pretty little towns of Prospect Harbor and Corea. Then leave the Schoodic Peninsula and head toward Machias, stopping first at Jonesport and Beals Island for a look at fishing villages that seem untouched by time. Then it’s on to Machias, site of the first naval engagement of the American Revolution. You’ll find lots of historic buildings in this area and lots of friendly people eager to tell you about their town. Keep in mind that many historic sites and restaurants keep seasonal hours from now through spring, so it’s always wise to call ahead. Bundle up and enjoy late autumn Down East!
This was not the best year for foliage viewing anywhere in New England because of the rainy and warm fall. Still, this period between the end of leaf-peeping and the first snowfalls can be a great time to visit anywhere in the 6-state area. For example, the crowds are gone from Quechee Gorge in Vermont, making it easier to explore this natural phenomenon known as Vermont’s Little Grand Canyon. You can stop at pull-offs along Route 4 for a quick look, but better still is the walk into the gorge from the Quechee Gorge Visitor Center along a forest trail lined with pines and hemlocks. Quechee State Park encompasses the gorge. The water rushes clear and cold, birds chatter overhead, and all in all, this is a nice time to visit. (vtstateparks.com/htm/queechee.htm)
While you’re in the area, stop at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science Nature Center (VINS), home to eagles, hawks, and other raptors that have sustained injuries that make it impossible for them to return to the wild. (vinsweb.org)
Another must-stop is Woodstock with its picturesque village green–one national magazine has called Woodstock the prettiest small town in the country–and its all-around, all-American look. You’ll find the expected, such as farmers’ markets, and the surprising, such as five bells cast in the Paul Revere foundry–the most Paul Revere bells in any one location in the country.
For a great place to stay and/or dine in the area, check out the Woodstock Inn & Resort — lovely rooms, a cozy bar, and terrific food in the Red Rooster Dining Room. (woodstockinn.com) I also like the Easy Street Cafe and Restaurant in nearby Waitsfield for casual meals. (easystreetmarket.com) Nice people, too — when I inadvertently left my jacket behind, I called to see if they’d found it and they offered to mail it back. It reached home before I did. Now that’s good service!
Next time I want to share the delights of Bennington and Brattleboro and then it’s on to the charms of Maine in late fall and winter.