7 Day Fall Foliage Tour Along the Coast of Maine – Your leaf peeping guide to Kennebunkport, Freeport, Newcastle, Rockland, Camden and Bar Harbor, Maine
While most start their Maine Coast itinerary in Southern Maine, this itinerary can be enjoyed from North to South too. Better yet, mix it up and start in Midcoast Maine, then go North or South. No two Inns Along the Coast are more than two hours from one another, and many are as close as twenty minutes from one another.
If you’re seeking the perfect fall foliage inn to inn itinerary along the Coast of Maine, you’ve come to the right place. From the scenic beauty of the mountains meeting the sea to flickering fires and cozy inn accommodations after a day of leaf-peeping along Maine’s craggy coast, this inn-to-inn option offers options for boat tours, fall hikes, wine tasting and more. We’ve highlighted several options for each region or customize your own itinerary with the help of your Inns Along the Coast innkeeper. Most importantly, don’t forget the camera! You will want to capture the beauty of Maine’s fall foliage along the coast.
We’re often asked what day the leaves will peak along the Coast of Maine. Only Mother Nature knows the answer to that question, as weather impacts the fall colors in Maine significantly. However, generally count on late September to late October for the ideal leaf peeping time along Maine’s Coast.
Day 1: Kennebunkport, Maine: Stay at Captain Jefferds Inn
Your day starts with a hot, full breakfast at Captain Jefferds Inn to fuel your day, served by your innkeeper with any food allergies or restrictions in mind (be sure to tell the inns of these food needs prior to arrival).
Spend some time going over your itinerary for the day with your innkeeper who will offer maps, directions, tips on great photo hotspots, and little known places to discover Maine’s coastal
Start with a fall driving tour of Kennebunkport, stopping along the way to walk on the many beaches to smell the salt air and even take a dip in the cold Maine waters. Along the way photo stops will surely include Walker’s Point, President Bush’s summer home, and St. Anne’s Church, set on a cliff overlooking the ocean.
Next, head to nearby York Beach for a view of the quintessentially Maine Nubble Light and a walk along York Beach’s wide sandy shores. While there, meander through Historic York Village for a taste of Maine history too. The historic oaks and maples here will offer a canopy of fall colors for your photos.
Return to Dock Square to visit the beautiful shops and visit Alissons Restaurant, famous for their seafood or The Clam Shack, famous for its lobster rolls, open through October. For lunch, enjoy a trip to Mabel’s Lobster Shack, a favorite of President Bush’s, or Cape Pier Chowder where you can dine on the pier on fresh lobster off the boat through October.
For a view of Kennebunkport’s foliage from the sea, book a cruise aboard the Schooner Eleanor and take a maritime leaf peeping tour of the Southern Maine Coast.
Take some time to walk through the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, taking in the color along the salt marshes.
Return to the inn for complimentary afternoon refreshments. Choose a room with a private fireplace and relax fireside as you check out the colorful photos of the day.
Day 2: Kennebunkport to Freeport, Maine: Stay at Brewster House Inn
Fuel up for the day with a homemade and hearty breakfast at Captain Jefferds Inn.
Start your day by getting in on one of the Kennebunkport Foodie Tours. Enjoy a walking tour of Kennebunkport’s locally made specialty foods. (Additional fee; open June through October). Note Foodie Tours are also offered in Rockland and Bar Harbor too.
Now it’s time to start heading north to explore what Coastal Maine has to offer. Next stop, Portland, Maine.
Just under a half hour from Kennebunkport is Fort Williams State Park and the Portland Head Light guarding the entrance to Portland Harbor. Commissioned by George Washington, the Portland Head Light is a Maine icon, and worth a selfie for sure, especially in the fall. Bring a kite and enjoy time in the park, flanked by Maine’s fall foliage. The more colorful the kite against this fall backdrop, the more colorful your photos!
Be sure to spend some time shopping and grazing your way through Portland’s Old Port where you’ll find shopping galore. A popular stop is Duck Fat, for their fabulous fries cooked in you duck fat. Another famed restaurant here is Eventide Oyster Co, renowned for their oysters and fresh seafood. Portland is consistently named among the top foodie towns in the country. A fall tour of the Old Port offers up options for boat rides, nature cruises and even booze cruises.
Jump on route 295 North and head to Freeport, just 20 minutes up the road. Need any gear for your leaf peeping trip? Binoculars? More comfortable hiking shoes? You’ll find everything you need for your fall trip at L.L. Bean (Maine’s most popular attraction) at any time of the day or night because it’s open 24/7/365. It’s worth a stop, because everyone will ask if you went there. Leave time to visit the other Freeport outlets too, like North Face and Patagonia, Nike, Gap, Brooks Brothers, Banana Republic, Abercrombie & Fitch and many more. From sunglasses to slickers and Sperrys, you’ll find it in Freeport.
Any time after 3:00pm, check into the Brewster House B&B, within an easy stroll of the outlets and restaurants of Freeport. Enjoy some time socializing with your innkeepers and learning all about the area.
Next, it’s off to Bradbury Mountain for an easy hike to the top of the mountain. You’ll be rewarded with a colorful view filled with fall’s colors for as far as you can see. If water views flanked by harvest hues are more to your liking, be sure to visit Wolf Neck State Park where you’ll catch osprey’s swooping in for the catch and take a guided nature walk with a park naturalist.
For dinner, stroll to the Azure Café or the Tuscan Brick Oven Bistro – both of which offer outdoor seating in the warmer months. For those who love good Greek food, the Mediterranean Grill right down the street is another great option.
Day 3: Freeport to Newcastle: Stay at the Newcastle Inn
You’ll start your day right with a three-course hand created breakfast offered up by Chef Dave at the Brewster House Inn. Bid farewell and check out by 11:00am to continue your journey up the Maine Coast. You’ll access Maine’s Route One in Brunswick, and stay on it for the rest of your trip up the coast.
Make sure to stop at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens to stretch your legs and view beautiful gardens and floral exhibits. these gardens are worth a stop. The leaves on the trees and shrubs reveal the pigments hidden in the summer and the grasses, in their autumn splendor, dance gracefully in the breeze. Everyone loves the creative pumpkin displays offered in the fall here too. Another colorful fall selfie opportunity, for sure!
And if time allows, a whale watch or schooner ride - both available in Boothbay Harbor through October - both offer a colorful fall views of the Maine coast from the water.
Check in to the Newcastle Inn after 3:00pm and relax. Take a tour of the history of Newcastle depicted in beautifully displayed photos throughout the inn. Learn all about the Glidden Shell Middens in Newcastle from innkeeper, Julie, then go out to explore them in person. You’ll be able to return home and be the only one who knows the difference between a mitten and a midden!
For a real treat, cruise the Damariscotta River aboard “The River Tripper” – there’s a happy hour cruise at 5:00pm that just might fit the schedule. Or stretch your legs with a walk or a hike nearby at Hidden Valley Nature Center, Dodge Point Preserve, or LaVerna Preserve. This is another perfect fall leaf-peeping hiking treasure.
This is another hot spot for Maine’s active craft brewing and distilling industry. Beer lovers won’t want to miss a visit to Split Rock Distilling for handcrafted, organic vodkas, Oxbow Beer a casual and down-to-earth brewery offering farmhouse Belgian-style ales & a tasting room, open Wednesday-Saturday, or Fat Friar’s Meadery, a Maine farm winery specializing in meads. They’re all located in Newcastle.
Time it right and you may be just in time for the Damariscotta Pumpkin Fest and Regatta over Columbus Day weekend. The main events include a hometown parade, the giant pumpkin drop when 600 lb. pumpkins are dropped from a 180’ crane onto targets like a junked car, and the famous Pumpkin Boat Regatta when colorfully decorated giant pumpkins race head to head down the Damariscotta River. It’s quite a sight to see.
Here’s where you should get your lobster roll fix. Arrive before mid-October or so and then try Larsons Lunchbox in Damariscotta for a lobster roll, Pemaquid Lobster Co-op in nearby Pemaquid or Muscongus Lobster Co-op in Round Pond - all nearby. Other dining options nearby include the Newcastle Publick House, Damariscotta River Grill, or King Eiders Pub.
Return to the Newcastle Inn for a drink in the tavern and relax in the living room with a puzzle or one of the wonderful board games collected here.
Day 4: Newcastle to Rockland: Stay at Granite Inn, LimeRock Inn or Berry Manor Inn
Start the day with a hearty and home cooked breakfast by Julie, and check out by 11:00am.
Head to Route One and on your way up, take a detour in Warren, Maine to Beth’s Farm Market. Here you’ll find a cornucopia of fall colors and produce. From just about any kind of squash you can imagine to pumpkins and mums galore, this is one of Maine’s best farm markets, along with a well-kept secret. There’s even a place for the kids to play in the fall playground here too.
From there, head right up to Rockland to explore all there is to see and do there. Once there, stroll down to Main Street and Rockland’s vibrant harbor front to visit stores and acclimate to your next destination. If walking is high on your priority list, visit the Rockland Breakwater, a .7-mile seawall suitable for walking (wear sturdy shoes or sneakers) to the lighthouse at the end for a fabulous view of the harbor flanked by the colors of fall on shore.
If art and culture in high on your agenda, Rockland’s vibrant arts scene will keep you busy throughout the day. Home to the world-known Farnsworth Art Museum and Wyeth Center, a trip to this museum is a must do while here. In 2016, the Center for Maine Contemporary Art opened, with a revolving collection of contemporary art works. Add in several lovely galleries on Main Street – and you’ve got a day filled with beautiful artworks, all within an easy walk of one another.
Additional museum options include the Maine Lighthouse Museum, but for a true fall treat, head to the Owl’s Head Transportation Museum where you can even arrange for a scenic biplane ride to catch the fall Maine coastal views from the air. This is the perfect way to take in all of Maine’s color and check out how the mountains meet the sea in a harvest picture-perfect scene.
Finish up your museum visits with a stop in at the Project Puffin Center on Maine Street to learn all about the work the Audubon Society is doing to save these quintessentially Maine birds or a visit to the Friends of Maine Coastal Islands Wildlife Refuge Information Center, filled with displays about bird and wildlife on Maine’s islands.
To see Rockland Harbor from the water, consider taking an afternoon or sunset schooner ride with Bufflehead Sailing Charters to learn all about the history of the region and Penobscot Bay and for another leaf-peeping and selfie opportunity.
You’ll find three very different and wonderful historic inn options in Rockland. Check in to Berry Manor Inn, LimeRock Inn or Granite Inn any time after 3:00pm and enjoy complimentary snacks, pie, or cookies of the day. Take some time to relax then walk to town to explore Rockland’s eclectic restaurant scene.
If you like to live like a local, a trip to McLoon’s Lobster Shack, Maine’s most perfect lobster location with a quintessential harbor view surrounding it, is in order. You can pick your lobster right out of traps still in the water, or opt for the world’s best lobster roll ever. It’s traditionally open at least through Columbus Day and often beyond. Or, enjoy dinner at one of Rockland’s original restaurants, Café Miranda, offering a wildly varied menu with an eclectic flair, or take a global tasting journey enjoying fresh Maine food with an international flair at In Good Company. Primo, the region’s most renowned farm-to-table restaurant, offers fabulous fine dining from Melissa Kelly, multiple time James Beard Award winner. but it’s always a good idea to make a reservation there a week or so ahead of time. Primo is open through the fall foliage season, then takes a winter rest.
Day 5: Rockland to Camden: A day on Penobscot Bay and Hawthorn Inn
Start out the day with a gourmet multi-course breakfast served by your innkeepers at Berry Manor Inn, LimeRock Inn or Granite Inn – which ever Rockland inn you’ve chosen. Breakfast at each of these inns is multi-course and a delicious way to fuel another day of leaf peeping along the Maine Coast. Take some time to go over your itinerary with your innkeeper who will share ideas for best routes and things to see along the way.
Today, enjoy a Day on the Bay in Rockland before heading up to Camden. First, jump aboard Captain Jack’s Lobster Adventure and learn all about Rockland’s self-proclaimed title of Lobster Capital of the Universe along with other lobster lore. You’ll pull traps with Captain Jack, a salty Rockland Lobsterman any time through mid-October. Here’s another chance to get out on Penobscot Bay and enjoy the fall views. However, be sure to bundle up as the freshening autumn breezes over the water will be sure to remind you fall is here.
Return to the dock and go for a sail on the Morning in Maine, a historic 55’ ketch where you’ll learn all about the history and natural resources of the region.
Lunch might be at The Brass Compass, just a short stroll from the pier, where we recommend you try the Lobster Club Sandwich, which won a throwdown with Bobby Flay. Better arrive hungry, it’s ginormous! You can also sample some fine home cooking at Home Kitchen Cafe or locally-sourced specialty foods, fall produce and home cooked fare at Main Street Markets.
Now it’s time to continue the journey up Route One through Rockport to Camden, just about six miles up the road from Rockland. You’ll want to leave plenty of time to meander through the shops along the harbor in Camden before checking in to the Hawthorn Inn, just a few blocks from Main Street. Time your check in for late afternoon and enjoy freshly baked treats and a cold or hot drink in the library or on the deck, depending upon the time of year. On a crisp fall day, enjoy a fire in your private fireplace (depending upon which room you choose) or in the parlor of the inn.
The Hawthorn Inn’s beautiful yard slopes down to Camden Harbor. Just steps through their gate is the Camden Harbor Park and Amphitheater, where live shows and the Camden Shakespeare Festival take place through the summer months. The inn’s yard is filled with the colors of fall overlooking Camden’s quintessential Maine five-star harbor.
A visit to Camden isn’t complete without a visit to Camden Hill State Park and a hike to the top of Mount Battie for a fabulous view of Camden Harbor, especially in the fall when the harbor is ringed in fall colors. Wear sturdy shoes, it’s an invigorating hike, with plenty of lookout points along the way.
And wine lovers have plenty of options for tastings in and around Camden. Start at Cellardoor Winery in nearby Lincolnville. Their 200-year-old barn offers complimentary wine tastings, plus a fabulous wine shop and lite food options. If the weather is warm enough, sit on the deck overlooking a beautiful and colorful vista beyond and enjoy locally inspired wines. Savage Oaks Winery and Sweetgrass Winery & Distillery both in Union, Maine and Breakwater Vineyards in Owls Head are both within a short drive, and offer additional chances to try local wines in very local settings.
The Camden dining scene is eclectic and varied. If you love international cuisines, you’ve come to the right place. A must try is Long Grain, a Thai restaurant with a reputation which requires definite reservations. Your innkeepers Lisa and Ted can help you get a table here if you reserve in advance. Francine Bistro offers up ambitious French cuisine to a full house each night. And for something more casual, the Drothy Bear offers up cuisine featuring the best from Scotland, Ireland and the British Isles.
Day 6: Camden to Bar Harbor: Stay at Saltair Inn or Aysgarth Station
Enjoy a hearty breakfast with other guests on the deck or in the dining room at Hawthorn Inn then bid your innkeepers goodbye by 11:00am.
Drive up Route 1 through scenic towns like Belfast and take time for photos at the Penobscot Narrows Bridge. You can take an elevator to the lookout station atop this bridge for a fabulous 360-degree view of the fall colors here. It’s said to be the tallest bridge observatory in the world, making it a perfect stop for your autumn leaf peeping tour of Maine’s coast.
Arrive in Bar Harbor in time to check in at either Saltair Inn Waterfront B&B or Aysgarth Station B&B, both just a few short blocks from one another and Bar Harbor’s bustling downtown area. Enjoy a complimentary afternoon refreshment, and explore the locally owned Main Street shops and eateries.
Spend the rest of the day in Acadia National Park, alive in the colors of fall. Drive the Park Loop stopping along the way for photos and cliff-views or rent bikes and ride on the famous Carriage Trails (45 miles of interconnected car-free gravel roads) under a canopy of fall colors. Be sure to enjoy the delicious hot and steaming popovers at the Jordan Pond House. You’ll want to reserve the rest of the day for exploring Acadia in all its fall glory.
Return to your inn then head into Bar Harbor for dinner at a choice of popular restaurants like Havana, for hip Latin and American cuisine or Café Mache for French cuisine, fine wine and cheeses. Top it all off by trying Lobster Ice Cream at Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium, where a selfie with the smiling lobster is simply a must. Bar Harbor’s bustling downtown businesses stay open through the end of October or so. A handful of stores and restaurants are open year-round, along with Aysgarth Station B&B and Saltair Inn Waterfront B&B.
Day 7: Bar Harbor to home
Early risers may want to get up early (about 4:00am or so) and drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain to be among the first in the country to see the sun rise. This is a favorite activity among visitors to Bar Harbor, and a true one-of-a-kind photo opportunity in the fall. The autumn colors in the first light of the day are a true photographer’s dream.
Return to the inn for a hot and hearty multi-course breakfast, or if you’ve made arrangements ahead the night before, take a breakfast-to-go with you for the day.
Return to the inn to check out and start your journey home. Cape Air, New England’s regional airline, offers flights from Bar Harbor and Rockland. However, if you’re driving home, you get to back track and take in all the sights that you missed along the way.