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Autumn Day Drives from Boston

My wife and I will be visiting family in Cape Cod from October 4th to the 7th. I've read that Cape Cod is the last area in which the foliage turns colors so not expecting much there. We intend to do some day drives looking for the most beautiful foliage at that time. Maybe we are coming in a little early, but would love to get some suggestions for destinations not more than 2 or 3 hours away. We are considering driving up to New Hampshire and Maine. I'm sure there are many options, but maybe you can recommend a day trip that would include beautiful nature, points of interest, great seafood restaurants along the way, and maybe you know of some cool things to do or see that we aren't even aware of. Thanks

Posted by
4145 posts

While many visitors are familiar with Cape Cod , few are familiar with the towns and countryside of Cape Ann and the North Shore . Driving along RT 127 through Gloucester , Rockport , and Essex and then rt 133 to Newburyport will really fit your bill . RT 133 in Essex is home to a number of great New England clam ( and all manner of seafood ) shacks . My favorite is Essex Seafood . These places all are located within The Great Marsh , a twenty five thousand acre protected natural preserve . Currently writing from Venice .

Posted by
50 posts

thanks Steven, I think we have driven in this area and have seen Essex Seafood. Sounds like a good idea. I'm wondering how the foliage is on the coast as opposed to more inland. But we will definitely drive in this area.

Posted by
4145 posts

Phil , you can easily go inland a bit , but the principal factor for the color is the presence of deciduous trees . This area of New England is well endowed , in spite of it's proximity to the coast . Cape Cod has a profusion of scrub pine , and color is less obvious there . You can also head somewhat northwest of Boston and try there . The principal factor in determining color saturation is the degree of rainfall during the preceding spring and summer . If it has been dry , good color will be limited .

Posted by
2871 posts

Consider Lexington and Concord - both pretty little hamlets with the added benefit of being home to a number of American historical sites.

Posted by
3235 posts

Does this mean 2 full days or 4 full days. The best place to see foliage is in NH or VT, but that's an extremely long day trip from Cape Cod and seems like a miserable idea to me. If you only have 2 full days, I wouldn't leave the Cape (even though I'm not a fan of the Cape. I'm with Steven, Cape Ann is much better.) That being said, do go to Provincetown. IMO, the only interesting place on the Cape. You could also drive to Newport, RI, which has a more interesting coastline, robber baron homes open to the public, Revolutionary War era buildings and many seafood places. Travel to Newport via Little Compton, a truly lovely New England town that will also likely have foliage, if any exists this year. I have to ask why you picked Cape Cod for foliage? They have mostly scrub trees/brush. Or come to Quincy, visit the President Adams' Homes and the National Historic Site, and then walk up the Blue Hills to see foliage and look down on Boston. Just a few ideas...

Posted by
4145 posts

I agree with Wray about the Adams National Historic Park . We have visited a number of times being longtime admirers of John and Abigail Adams . They ( and I mean both John and Abigail ) are arguably the most underrated and least appreciated of all American presidential families . A visit to the site is time very well spent . Learn more about them in David McCullough's biography of John Adams . For greater detail about the mind of John Adams , Joseph Ellis' " Passionate Sage " is a must .

Posted by
4145 posts

I almost forgot - the gardens at the Adams home " Peacefield " , are exquisite , even in Autumn , they are impressive .

Posted by
114 posts

That is early for foliage. Western Mass, Northampton, where Smith College is, and nearby Amherst, are two college towns. Nearby is Mt. Tom. Leaves change earlier out there. North of Boston, Salem. Also Plymouth, though probably not much good foliage south. And Newport, RI.

Posted by
4132 posts

The best seafood will be near the coast, but the best leaves will be inland, so take your pick.

You are too early for the peak in your geographical range, but there should still be some pretty leafs to be had.

I'd suggest driving out to Groton and visiting one of my favorite apple orchards, Autumn Hills. This is a bare-bones place (no donuts or corn maze etc.) but very pretty, with about 800 trees spread out on a ridge. You can bring a picnic; it is very pretty.

In Groton there is the Gibbet Hill Grill, good for dinner and also there is a very pretty walk up Gibbet Hill. You can park in the lot there even if you don't go in to eat.

I find that the colors on the coast are never as vivid as inland, also the ocean warming effect means the coast will lag behind the hills.

Posted by
4419 posts

Another vote for the Adams National Historic Park.

Posted by
381 posts

In Western Mass, peak foliage is normally Columbus Day weekend, which is later than your trip.

Driving to NH from Cape Cod would be farther and more exhausting than it sounds. (Traffic on the Cape and through Boston is very slow.) You would probably indeed see good foliage in Maine during that time period but it's even farther and less recommended.

Posted by
1806 posts

Marcia is correct about Western Mass. I've got family out that way and just was out for a visit with them yesterday. It is no where near peak and I can tell you this year is just not shaping up to be a good one for foliage - a lot is going straight from green to brown and dropping right off the trees. I don't think you'll find it much more promising even if you drove up further north into New Hampshire as far as the White Mountains - but that's quite a haul. Taking out the foliage viewing, you may want to just explore more of the Cape - definitely P-Town and you could always go to Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard. Other days trips could be Concord - and since it's October, maybe Salem. And if you wanted to head into Rhode Island, Block Island is nice in October if you like to bike, rent a moped, do some hikes, etc. as the mass of tourists is pretty much gone.

Posted by
11348 posts

Cape Cod has a lot of scrub pines. My family who live there go to VT and NH to see fall colors. It is still early for color in Boston. Right now there is color around Montpelier, VT. Take I-89 north from I-93.

Posted by
697 posts

I live in northern Vermont at a relatively high elevation near Mount Mansfield, and our leaves are just starting to really turn. Still lots of green. Farther south will have even less color. And I agree that it’s not turning out to be one of the greatest years for foliage; especially up north, it’s been very dry all summer and the leaves are browning quickly and dropping.

It’s at least a 5 hour drive up here from the Cape, depending on where you’re staying, and leaf-peeping traffic is horrendous over Columbus Day weekend.

I’d take the advice from others here and keep farther south, enjoy a little less leaf color, eat great seafood along the coast, and sightsee closer to the Cape.

Have a fun visit!