Massachusetts & New Hampshire: Beverly Farms to Holderness

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

new england road trip fall travel guide

Route: An easy trip that turns into a driving workout; outrageous views en route to New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, with stops in Newburyport and Meredith. Distance: 135 miles. Car: Bentley Continental GT.

new england road trip fall travel guideA seaplane idles on Northwood Lake in Epsom. (Photos by Dominic Casserly)

A century ago, lucky New Englanders could enter Prides Crossing in Beverly on their own private railcars. Today, the old green-and-white station post is a chocolatier, and while the commuter rail does stop here, I’m going express in a refined Bentley Continental, making my way, eventually, to Holderness, New Hampshire.

I start out on Hale Street heading toward Beverly Farms, a Victorian neighborhood so incredibly preserved that some of the residents still organize cotillions. Private and quietly upscale, yet only minutes from a hot roast-beef sandwich (Mikey’s or Nick’s?), Beverly Farms is—if not ideal for first-time home buyers—the best place to kick off a North Shore drive. And while it starts easy, this route is a real challenge the rest of the way to New Hampshire’s Lakes Region.

I divert at Manchester-by-the-Sea to meet up with Route 133, gliding by the dandelion wine at Russell Orchards and the antique cars at Paul Russell & Company, where a refurbished 1962 Cobra CSX 2026 is available for $2.75 million. Past Rowley, Route 1A is all flat farmland and brown cattails waving by the Parker River, which often floods the low-lying bridge after a storm. I pause in Newburyport’s red-brick downtown for a Kobe burger at Ceia, then cross the New Hampshire border. There are no stops for me now, not even to buy tax-free liquor, because I’m busy tackling Route 107, a grueling workout on hard asphalt that weaves through 55 miles of forested landscape.

Sharp elevation changes, blind crests, downhill curves, braking, shifting, swallowing to maintain ear pressure—there’s little margin for distraction. And just when you think you can’t take another ab-straining turn, 107 relaxes into a calm, wide straight, then coils back again. I pass a sign in Gilmanton cautioning “outrageous views ahead,” and I’m now 1,200 feet above sea level.

By the time I reach Alton Bay at the southernmost tip of Lake Winnipesaukee, my endorphins are zapped. I’m revived by a stretch of Route 3 along the water and intrigued by the cash bingo, the Broken Spoke Saloon (a biker bar with live music), and Frank’s Firearms, right on Main Street in Meredith.

I follow 3 northwest, almost to I-93, before sinking into the sofas at Ashland’s Common Man and enjoying another burger, this one topped with green-peppercorn aioli. Should you require more back roads, double back to Holderness, where even the gas stations sell fresh pies and produce, and get on Route 113. Better yet: Stay overnight by Squam Lake. You’ll hear nothing but wind rustling through moonlit pines, and the water slapping against the rocks come daybreak.

new england road trip fall travel guideThe kitschy sign welcoming tourists to Weirs Beach on Lake Winnipesaukee.

new england road trip fall travel guideSunrise over Newburyport Harbor.

new england road trip fall travel guideA view of the Pine Hill Town Forest in Gilmanton.

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