In Part 1, we explored arguably the most beautiful places on the West Coast, Florida and its 17 major islands, and the natural parks of Utah.
In Part 2 of the most scenic American road trips, and as we approach the Autumn months, we take you through Classic New England, one of the most spectacular parts of North America come fall, featuring great sights, excellent food tours and exhilarating outdoor activities en route. And finally, The Mountain Route: Seattle to Montana, through lush rainforests, to Seattle’s lively music scene and some of the best celebrity restaurants, to wine country in the Yakima Valley.
Classic New England
New England is lovely any time of year, but it’s especially delightful in Autumn, when leaves turn bright orange and red and evenings are spent enjoying a glass of wine by an outdoor firepit. Though cities like Boston and Portland have their appeal, there’s much to see off the region’s country roads, like picturesque covered bridges, quaint country stores, and orchards and farmer’s markets perfect for making a picnic lunch.
Start in Boston, one of the major airport hubs on the east coast. You’ll want to spend a few days in the city if possible as there’s plenty to see. History buffs will want to walk along the Boston Harbor or walk the four-kilometre-long Freedom Trail. If you’re more into arts and culture, visit the Harvard University Art Museums or stroll through the impressive Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Be sure also to check out the food scene, as Boston is home to some of the freshest seafood in the country (and some of the hippest bars and restaurants.)
From Boston, head north along the coast, and be prepared to stop for stunning seaside vistas several times along the way. The next step is Portland, Maine. It’s an artsy seaside town filled with Victorian homes and historic lighthouses. The Yarmouth neighborhood is a perfect example of a New England village, with small markets, coffee shops, and artisan boutiques. Both lighthouse visits and brewery tours are popular in Portland, and if you’d prefer to spend time on the water, opt for a sunset sail or try your hand at one of the town’s most popular activities – lobster catching. (Or lobstah, as the locals say.)
From Portland, keep heading north to Bar Harbor. The tourist town is a popular holiday destination for New York City and Boston residents. But you’ll find it far less crowded in the fall, making it a better time to find last-minute reservations at restaurants and hotels. While Bar Harbor is a popular destination in its own right – the food tours are quite popular – it’s mostly known as the gateway to Acadia National Park. The oceanfront park is downright stunning, and popular activities include hiking and photography, beach walks, or renting kayaks and paddleboards to explore the park’s shores from the water. Plan to spend at least a half-day in the park at the very minimum.
After leaving Bar Harbor, you’ll head inland to New Hampshire, home of country towns, covered bridges, and colourful fall foliage. Your destination is the town of Sugar Hill, which exemplifies everything wonderful about new Hampshire: a small-town main street, beautiful gorges and mountains, and Mom-and-Pop pancake houses and country stores. Because New Hampshire is a rather small state, you can opt to stay in Sugar Hill at one of the local bed and breakfasts, or keep driving to a larger town like Hanover or Concord.
From this point, you’ll head back to Boston. While taking the interstate highway is the quickest route, New Hampshire has several scenic byways that make for a much more photo-worthy journey. Scenic byways are routes that offer extraordinary scenery, history, or attractions along the way. Take as long as you like to make the drive down to Boston, and if you’re visiting in the spring, consider making a stop at a roadside maple syrup factory – tapping maple trees for the sticky and sweet syrup is a New Hampshire tradition.
Click here for more ideas on road trips in the New England region.
The Mountain Route: Seattle to Montana
Washington State – not to be confused with Washington, D.C. – is on the west coast, bordering Canada to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the west. This region is called the Pacific Northwest (PNW) and it’s decidedly unlike the rest of the country. Here, waterfalls are tucked away into lush rainforests (the continental US’s only rainforest, actually) and celebrity chefs seem to open new restaurants every month. The unique blend of urban luxury and outdoor recreation makes the PNW one of the country’s most popular road trip destinations.
This road trip starts in Seattle, one of the U.S.’s coolest cities. Seattle has a fabulous live music scene and award-winning restaurants, yet manages to avoid much of the pretentiousness of New York or San Francisco – despite its size, it’s still a pretty laid-back city.
It’s best to spend a few days in Seattle when you arrive. Can’t-miss destinations include the truly immersive Chihuly Museum, where guests can walk through larger-than-life glass sculptures. If you’ve never been to the city, you may want to explore the famous Pike Place Market and waterfront on a bicycle tour or sign up for a whale-watching expedition on the Puget Sound.
Be sure to treat yourself to a luxury dinner while in the city. Canlis is one of Seattle’s most popular – and most exclusive – restaurants. If you’re willing to make a short drive out of town, make a dinner reservation at Salish Lodge instead, perched on the edge of roaring Snoqualmie Falls.
When it’s time to leave Seattle, drive the windy roads through North Cascades National Park. State Route 20 divides the park and offers dozens of amazing views of the stunning mountains. While you can make the drive without stopping, the park has plenty of spaces to pull over for a picnic lunch or quick walk to stretch your legs.
Alternatively, you could go south from Seattle and drive through Washington Wine Country. With climate change causing the wine regions in northern California to have more unpredictable weather, the wine country further north in Washington is quickly becoming one of the country’s favourite places to plant their vines. There are more than 150 wineries in the Yakima Valley, so everyone can find something to suit their palettes.
The next stop is Winthrop, which is likely one of the most American places you’ll ever experience. The town is mostly unchanged from it’s mid-1800s “Wild West” glory days, complete with a wooden boardwalk, vintage shops and mercantiles, and BBQ restaurants and ice cream stands. It’s like stepping back in time and worth a few hours of strolling for the photo ops alone.
From Winthrop, it’s a long but beautiful drive to Glacier National Park, in the U.S. state of Montana. To break up the trip, you could stop in the towns of Newport or Sandpoint, both of which have nearby wineries. However, the beauty of Glacier National Park outshines even the prettiest of its neighbouring towns, so try to save most of your time for the park. Stay just outside the park at the luxury safari tent resort, Under Canvas, or stay in the park at the luxurious (and historic) Many Glacier Hotel.
While in the park, consider taking a boat tour of the park, signing up for a nature photography class, or spending the day driving the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road. This part of the country is best seen on foot, so feel free to stop whenever you spot a cliffside waterfall or scampering mountain goat. Have dinner at least one evening in the recently restored historic Ptarmigan Dining Room; you’ll almost certainly need reservations.
Rather than driving back to Seattle, head two hours south to the university town of Missoula. Book your flight home from here (you’ll probably have to connect in San Francisco or Chicago) or drive further to the state’s main international airport in Bozeman, Montana.
Click here for more Pacific Northwest road trip ideas.