From fairs and festivals to scenic drives and moose tours, here are the 10 best things to do in Maine in the fall.
By Aimee Tucker
Aug 26 2021
The Sunday River Chondola offers sweeping views of the Sunday River Valley and Mahoosuc Mountains.Photo Credit : Courtesy of Sunday River
With its rugged coastline, pristine lakes, wild forests, and bustling tourist towns, Maine is the perfect place to visit in the fall, when a backdrop of autumn color makes everything pop. Whether your foliage plans include a leisurely drive, epic canoe adventure, or final lobster roll of the season, here are 10 picks for the best things to do in Maine in the fall.
Fairs and festivals are back in 2021, and we can’t wait to get out and safely enjoy some seasonal outdoor fun. Two favorites:
Common Ground Country Fair (Sep. 24–26, 2021) Hosted by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, this get-together at the fairgrounds in Unity highlights Maine’s rural and agricultural traditions with animal exhibits, cooking demos, blacksmithing, farm and fiber marketplaces, tasty food, and kids’ programming. Headed to a different part of the state? Check out a master list of Maine Agricultural Fairs.
Damariscotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta (Oct. 8–11, 2021) A giant pumpkin contest, pumpkin parade, pumpkin drop —perhaps you’re detecting a theme? Don’t miss the great pumpkin boat regatta finale.
On fall weekends, Sunday River Ski Resort’s “Chondola” (that’s a combination of chairlift and gondola) in Newry whisks visitors 1,000 feet up North Peak to the ultimate picnic ground with sweeping views of the Sunday River Valley and Mahoosuc Mountains. Also of note is nearby Bethel’s annual Harvestfest and Chowdah Cookoff (Sep. 18, 2021), where local restaurants compete for bragging rights.
Maine’s coastal towns are jam-packed in summer, so if you don’t like in-season prices, large crowds, and long waits for lobster rolls, fall is your perfect time to grab a lobster roll in Kennebunk, drive up Mount Battie in Camden, stroll the Marginal Way in Ogunquit, and experience the thrill of a whale watch in Bar Harbor. Just be sure to make sure your plans are scheduled before activities or eateries close for the season!
A fall foliage train tour is one of the best things to do in Maine in the fall if you just want to sit back and enjoy the show. The Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad in Unity offers several fall foliage train tours for both kids and adults. You can book a one- or two-hour journey through the woods, streams, and fields of Waldo County (there’s a version featuring hot apple cider and doughnuts, too), while the kid-friendly Pumpkin Express travels to a patch for pumpkin picking.
The 92-mile-long Allagash Wilderness Waterway is a paddler’s favorite in the northern tier of Maine. This is especially true in autumn, when the mosquitos and the majority of other canoers disappear and the shoreline is ablaze with fall color. A complete Allagash run can take up to 10 days, so many opt to do it in sections. You can hire a guide through outfitters like Allagash Canoe Trips and Canoe the Wild, with trips that range from five to nine days.
Sure, the brilliant colors of Maine’s oaks and maples are a sight to behold, but equally stunning are the large swaths of crimson carpet made by the state’s wild blueberry barrens after the first frost. For the best show, head north of Bar Harbor to towns like Cherryfield and Machias (where Helen’s famous fish chowder and blueberry pie will be waiting!), and don’t miss the quirky Wild Blueberry Land: Built in 2001, this adorable blueberry-shaped building houses a shop, museum, and bakery.
Maine’s largest lake is also one of its busiest playgrounds, so it’s easy to see why planning a visit there is one of the best things to do in Maine in the fall. Book a scenic cruise with Katahdin Cruises on the 1914 steamboat Katahdin for a three-hour narrated cruise past Sugar Island and other scenic landmarks. And for a truly memorable adventure, the experienced folks at Northwoods Outfitters offer half-day or full-day moose tours on water or land.
Autumn and apples are a match made in heaven. Pietree Orchard in Sweden is one of the most scenic orchards in the state. Stephen King and his wife, Tabitha, spent years picking fruit with their children at this orchard with stunning views of the White Mountains, so when it came up for sale in 2007, they decided to buy it and preserve the farmland in perpetuity. Find more than 50 varieties of apple, and, of course, doughnuts. And speaking of doughnuts, the sugar-coated cake cider doughnuts at Rocky Ridge Orchard in Bowdoin are a Midcoast Maine favorite.
To truly behold the splendor of Maine’s coast, trade wheels for sails aboard a windjammer, a tall ship that slows the pace down to maybe 10 miles an hour as it weaves between spruce-blanketed islands and into hidden coves. Windjammer day sails and private charters are offered at a goodly number of New England ports; however, the beating heart of the windjammer scene is in Rockland and Camden, Maine, where the best-known boats make their home. Learn more via Maine Windjammer Cruises and the Maine Windjammer Association.
Many think there’s no better way to enjoy the Maine fall foliage than with a scenic drive. The Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway is a 36-mile route that winds past lakes and mountains and includes the Height of Land on Route 17 — one of the state’s most famous overlooks and a highlight on our list of Best Drive-to Foliage Views. On the coast, Acadia Park Loop is a 27-mile road that offers a grand tour of the forests, mountains, and coastline of Acadia National Park.
What would you add to our list of the best things to do in Maine in the fall? Let us know below!