Ask locals about the best time to visit Maine and you might be surprised at their response. Summer seems obvious, but fall in Maine is a favorite for those in the know. The months of September and October are spectacular along the southern Maine coast. Gone are the beach crowds, but you still have warm sunny beach days. Lobsters are still plentiful and lodging rates are lower than in peak summer. And while the days become cooler and the nights are chilly, the changing autumn leaves are spectacular. The most brilliant reds, oranges and gold leaves cling to the trees, these gorgeous fall colors are often reflected perfectly in the coastal waters, marshes and rivers. You simply must see fall foliage in Maine to believe it. Fall in Maine isn’t just about leaf peeping though, there is so much to see and do, and the weather is perfect for touring the Southern Maine coast, driving, hiking, biking, even boating on those crisp clear sunny fall days when you can see forever.
Fall on the southern Maine coast is also a time of festivals. Mid-September is Maine Open Lighthouse day when guests get free access to Maine’s most famous lighthouses along the coast. York has its annual Harvest Fest, Wells hosts Maine craft fairs and Pumpkin Fiddle at Wells Reserve at Laudholm Farm, Ogunquit celebrates OgunquitFest, and Kennebunk has a wonderful Farmers’ Market each Saturday. Portland gathers the top chefs in Maine for Harvest on the Harbor to name Maine’s best lobster chef at a gala overlooking Casco Bay.
A fall visit to the towns of Kittery, York, Ogunquit, Wells, Kennebunkport, Portland and Freeport offer so much to do – you could easily spend a week in any one of the seaside towns. But given their proximity – all within an hour of each other, you can stay a night or two in each seaside village, enjoy shopping, dining and a beach walk then explore the next stop along your way “Down East”. By the way, the expression Down East refers to going North East, it’s Maine vernacular, capitalizing on the curve that the state of Maine makes as it juts out eastward and up (down) toward Canada.
Outdoor opportunities abound in Maine in the fall. Bring your camera and enjoy a beautiful walk at many of the parks and oceanfront paths like Ogunquit’s Marginal Way, Rachel Carson’s Wildlife Refuge in Wells and Laudholm Farm, Parson’s Way in Kennebunkport along Ocean Ave, and Fort Williams Park in Portland - home of Portland Headlight. The beaches of southern Maine are beautiful in fall, while it may be to brisk for a swim, the sand is soft and the long stretches of beach are un-crowded and inviting for a morning walk or in the evening as the sun sets and lights up the sea in spectacular sparkle. Hearty souls find surfing in the fall to be the best at southern Maine beaches - bring a wet suit.
Golfing, mountain biking and hiking are all popular past time and there are plenty of places to enjoy these sports in southern Maine. Mt Agamenticus in York provides great hiking trails and mountain biking too. The scenery from Mt A’s 692’ peak offers panoramic views of the Atlantic all the way to Boston. The Eastern Trail bike path is beautiful in fall as the autumn leaves are your canopy overhead and the crunch of crisp leaves under your tires are the only sound.
We must mention the shopping on the Southern Maine coast. From the outlet stores of Kittery and Freeport to the artsy boutiques and galleries of Ogunquit and Kennebunkport, the antique stores of Wells and the trendy shops in Portland’s Old Port, there are bargains, treasure and unique finds in each seaside town. Of course, you must visit LL Bean and Kittery Trading Post for the real Maine shopping scene.
Finally, it’s all about the food on the Maine coast. Maine’s best seafood, lobster, is on always on the menu, along with oysters, clam chowder and a bounty of Maine grown food and farm raised beef. Maine’s wine and beer come to harvest in the fall. Picture yourself by a fireplace, sipping a Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale paired with some Maine artisan cheese before cracking into a fresh baked lobster.
Bed and breakfasts and seaside inns in York, Ogunquit and Kennebunkport offer lodging specials and packages in the fall, as do resorts and hotels in Wells, Portland and Freeport. Consider a fall getaway to the Southern Maine coast, even just an overnight or a weekend.
Off all Maine’s season, you may see why many think fall is the finest on the coast. And of course what comes after fall... Winter in Maine of course