Maine: Kittery to Yarmouth

Check out all five New England road trip routes in our 2012 Fall Travel Guide.

By Clifford Atiyeh | Boston Magazine |

new england road trip fall travel guide

Route: A leisurely cruise up the Maine coast, with stops in Kittery and Portland; a visit to the cliffs where Winslow Homer once painted. Distance: 95 miles. Car: Rolls-Royce Ghost.

new england road trip fall travel guideA tidal estuary along Goosefare Bay. (Photos by Dominic Casserly)

Southern Maine is a lazy man’s ride in the fall. Most of summer’s agonizing 15-miles-per-hour beach-town traffic is mercifully gone, yet there’s little reason to speed now. From Kittery to Yarmouth, I’ve chosen a gentle cruise, hugging the craggy coastline on narrow cove roads. This is a time to one-hand the wheel, sip an iced tea, and drop my bare feet deep into the lamb’s wool rugs of the Rolls-Royce Ghost.

In downtown Kittery, I grab a beer at the Black Birch and chat up a lady with a ukulele under her stool. The bartenders—pulling unlabeled tap handles made from old hammers, steam gauges, and the like—play vintage soul albums on the record player and serve up Allagash-battered fish with fries and house-made ketchup. Veering off Route 1 to Long Beach Avenue toward Cape Neddick, the Rolls floats alongside the ocean in near silence—it has self-adjusting air suspension—and there aren’t any mansions blocking my view of the surging surf. I hook back up with 1, then hop on Route 9, passing through the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge en route to Kennebunkport, where I stop at the swank Tides Beach Club for a lobster roll at the leather-padded, marble-topped bar, flanked by loafer-and-Nantucket-Red types guzzling wine. (My lodging for the night, the Colony Hotel, is more old money and great at mixing gin, but there’s no A/C or TV in my room.)

An hour more along Route 9 lands me at Len Libby, a Scarborough candy shop that features a 1,700-pound chocolate moose. Tempting, but even with an 18-foot-long Rolls, I don’t have room. I hit Route 207 and arrive at a “dead end” sign a few miles down the road. Other cars turn left onto Route 77, but I head past the sign and down Black Point Road to Prouts Neck, passing a golf course, a bird sanctuary, and the stately Black Point Inn, with its own private coast that includes a section of cliffs where Winslow Homer once painted. (The artist’s studio, recently refurbished by the Portland Museum of Art, is now open for tours.) Then it’s back to Route 77 and north toward Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, a 19th-century military outpost with the big lighthouse that shines on postcards throughout the region.

A few miles later and I’m docking the car on Fore Street in downtown Portland. I sample root-beer popcorn at Coastal Maine Popcorn Company—it’s arranged like an ice cream shop, with more than 30 flavors—and then meander through Portland’s narrow blocks, following my nose to the jars of maple glaze and habanero-mango aioli at Stonewall Kitchen. Sated and back on Route 1, I’m on the final stretch to DeLorme, the Yarmouth map company with an enormous globe rotating in its lobby, plus a motley collection of maps, travel guides, and GPS equipment. Such a display might inspire wanderlust in others, but all I want to do is ramble back south along the Maine coast in search of my next lobster roll.

new england road trip fall travel guideA view of the Saco River Reservoir from Route 9.

new england road trip fall travel guideA fisherman walks along a tidal river in Wells.

new england road trip fall travel guideRoadside seafood at Nunan’s Lobster Hut in Kennebunkport.

Check out all five New England road trip routes in our 2012 Fall Travel Guide.