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Need help with fall trip to Maine and family with limited mobility

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I am trying to plan a trip to Maine for myself and 3 family members. We are all adults, traveling without children. We want to go during the prime leaf-changing season. None of us have ever been to Maine. Our primary focus is on taking the most scenic routes, whale watching, and eating some great seafood. I would like to visit Acadia, although it's not absolutely necessary. My sister has cancer and gets winded very easily and cannot walk long distances. We will fly into Maine, rent a car, and are looking at staying about a week.

My questions are:

- where is the best place to fly into and out of (it can be different places)
- what route is the most scenic route
- thinking of staying 3 nights in one place, then 3 nights in another, but that is tentative
- recommendations for tours and restaurants and places to stay would be much appreciated.
- thinking of going first week in October...is that the best time?

Thank you in advance for your input.

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    Portland or Manchester NH are smaller airports and easier to drive to/from. But Boston is also an option. Compare airfares AND car rentals. Frankly, I take a bus when I have to use Logan.

    Manchester is easy access to I95 via Rt 101 even if it's a boring hwy. You could stop in Portsmouth NH or any southern Maine town. If you want a more scenic route, from MHT go north on I293 (not I93) which goes along the Merrimack River with a nice view of the old mill buildings in Manchester. It will connect with I93 and then in Concord take I393 to Rt 4 and head to Portsmouth. You'll have slower going but it's much more scenic. Watch for traffic stopping at antique shops in the Northwood Antique alley area. We've never had a problem. Then you will get the some pretty rolling farmland and the Dover Point section. The bridge over Great Bay is wonderful. Then you'll be a few miles from I95/Portsmouth traffic circle. Lots of traffic at certain times but not difficult.

    You have an option of taking a foliage cruise out of Portsmouth. The dock is not far from the parking garage, an easy walk for most but you might want to drop your sister off. The other nice cruise we've been on is the mailboat cruise out of Portland. Frankly,I would skip whale watching unless you're really set on it. The open ocean isn't that much fun and cruising Casco Bay is much more interesting.

    There's a lot to do in and around Portland. One place for nice rest to enjoy the view would be Fort Williams Park on Cape Elizabeth. You can buy a lobster roll from the food truck and find a good seat. The park is 90 acres with a wonderful view of Casco bay. Great place to watch boats of all sizes. There is a walking path along the edge of the cliff but since the park is hilly, just getting a good viewing seat might be enough for your sister.

    Unfortunately, the Old Port area of Portland is very hilly with some cobblestone streets. It's a busy area of shops and working boats.

    Keep in mind southern Maine has the sandy beaches and is very built up. We enjoy the mid-coast area much more. The scenic drives are out the peninsulas. Some restaurants will still be open but check ahead because the lobster shacks with outdoor tables usually are weekends only after Labor Day and close for the season after Columbus Day weekend. You can drive to the top of Mt Battie in Camden for a tremendous view overlooking the harbor and Camden was voted one of he best foliage spots in New England by Yankee Magazine.

    One way we take time to enjoy the views is to carry bag chairs with us. We'll take a picnic lunch to the top of Mt Battie. The chairs are cheap. You could buy once you get here and then donate. Rt 1 goes right thru Camden but you will have to take local roads and state roads to get to the scenic spots in most towns.

    Acadia could be a long day trip from someplace else since you would just be driving and not hiking. We haven't been to Acadia in quite a few years since we enjoy the mid-coast area so much.

    The foodie tour of Portland is fun but I think the walking would be too strenuous. I believe there is also a trolley tour. In Camden area, I've enjoy Glenmoor by the Sea which offers a variety of accomodations. Not really any view but a place where you can enjoy a private deck.

    We usually camp but the other "hotel" I've liked is the Dunes in Ogunquit. You can rent a cottage or something smaller. Nice landscaping and each unit had Adirondack chairs to enjoy sitting outside. No restaurant but plenty in the area.

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    Portland is the primary Maine airport, but agree with dfrost that you should not rule out Manchester, NH or Boston. I would not rule out heading up to Bar Harbor/Acadia National Park as it is 5-6 hours from Boston and maybe 4 hours from Portland.

    Acadia is scenic and there are some lovely views either from the car or a short walk from a parking area. And the town of Bar Harbor might offer restaurants and enough to do that is not too strenuous. I am wondering if the drive up to Bar Harbor might have some nice foliage - never made it in the fall, so hope someone else can answer.

    I also like Portland - but the cobblestones and hills may make it challenging for your sister. But there are some scenic lighthouses a short drive away with wonderful views from the property and it would certainly be easy for the car driver to drop your sister off at a shop or restaurant and then park the car (although there is a backstreet area of little shops that at least in the summer has limited car accessibility).

    So I might plan for Portland and Bar Harbor as your 2 bases. There is a lot of central/northern Maine area that you will miss - but much of it is quite rural with not much in between the trees that fit your list of interests. Fly into Boston or Portland, spend a few nights. Then head to Bar Harbor, taking the coastal route (although it is not like some west coast coastal drives - you can't see much from the roadway without a detour). After spending some time in Bar Harbor/Acadia, take the more efficient inland highway route back to whichever airport - depending on time of flight stopping in southern Maine (Kennebunk, Wells, etc) or Portsmouth, NH for a night.

    If she is eligible, make sure your sister gets a removable handicapped placard for the car - she should be eligible for at least a temporary one and it will make the trip more pleasant for all.

    I like the 1st week in October for your trip. Early enough that things will still be open. Southern Maine might have more limited foliage, but you should have some nice scenery in your drive north.

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    Are seeing the colors your top priority, or are the activities along the sea? I would make slightly different recommendations depending on the answer. For example, if the colors were most important to you, I would recommend heading inland away from the coast and spending time in the Fryeburg/North Conway area which is the Maine/NH border. Or, based on the projections of when the colors will start changing, something even higher up in the state but still inland. The drives along there are spectacular.

    If the ocean related activities are the priority, then I would say you should base the time in either the Camden/Rockland area, or head up to Acadia. It's not that you'd miss the foliage, you just wouldn't SURROUNDED. It's a different experience.

    Either way, I'd recommend Portland as your other "base". It's true that the old port can be hilly, but with so many restaurants there are plenty of opportunities to sit and rest! And there's lots of scenery to take in within driving distance.

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    Thank you so much for the replies! I had never even considered flying into NH. We really want to see the foliage, as well as the coastal areas. With that in mind, if we flew into Manchester, and headed north to Conway then to Portland, would that give us a nice tour of the foliage before getting more coastal? Should we stay in the Conway area for a couple nights or is just passing through enough?

    I've read that inland is where you will find the best foliage. If we had to pick one inland base, where would you recommend?

    Thank you all in advance for your comments.

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    Here's what I would recommend, and is a good place to launch some more research:

    http://www.yankeefoliage.com/drives/maine

    Fly into Portland, stay two nights with one day being your arrival day and the other being a sea-faring day (there are whale watching tours out of Casco Bay), get started on day 3. Follow their route, and stop in one of their recommended spots for day one. Next day, head over to Bethel and spend the whole day in the area. Drive the covered bridge in Newry, and get out anywhere you want in the Evans Notch area that strikes you. It is so so beautiful. There are plenty of places to stay/small shops to visit/ things to eat and drink because the area is one of Maine's premier ski resorts, so you should be OK if you need some time out of the car that isn't a hike or something. Pick up the trip the next day and head to the Fryeburg area to end. If you go the first week in October, you can go to the fair, which is a big one! Be sure to stop by the baked goods to see if I win for best blueberry pie this year. (cross your fingers! The same three ladies seem to win every category every year.) Don't know where you hail from, but a New England fair, after a New England foliage tour?? What could be better?

    Then, head back to Portland in the morning and spend the afternoon either in the Old Port area if you didn't get to it the first time, or at the lighthouses. If you want a great lobster-eating environment, I'd head down to Two Lights Lobster Shack in Cape Elizabeth (NEAR the state park, but not in it). http://lobstershacktwolights.com/index.html If the weather is nice, you can eat outside, directly on the sea, and if it's not you can eat inside at a window. Plus, it's BYOB. Leave the next day out of Portland.

    I'm pretty sure that gives you 7 days? It's moving about a bit more than you initially indicated, but I think it's not too strenuous.

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    Fryeburg is a very nice fair. Good luck to katiehab on the pie contest!
    If you fly into mht you can head north via I293 to I93. By taking i293 you will go past the Merrimack river and can see the restored mill buildings from the hwy. you can see great foliage along the hwy with glimpses of distant hills and eventually mountains. If you stay on I93 it will eventually go right thru the white mountains but you'll be on the opposite side of state from Conway.

    If you take exit 23 for Meredith you will see Lake Winnipesaukee. Meredith would be a beautiful spot for an overnight. From Meredith, continue around the lake toward moultonboro. Check map to take a left turn for center sandwich which is one of the prettiest small towns in nh. Head toward at worth and the. Connect with rt 16 north to Conway. You will want to see North Conway with great view of mountain from Main Street. Back track to Conway and head to Portland me. Most people rave about the kancamagus hwy which you can take to go west to east thru mountains but I prefer scenery of center sandwich to Tamworth.

    If you want to spend some time in the area, you can take a foliage cruise on Lake W on the ss mt Washington. I think a combination of mountains, lake and sea coast would be ideal. I've done a lot of commuting on I93. We're lucky that its beautiful even on the interstate. However, there are alternate state routes you can take that would be more scenic but slower drive. Up to you.

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