I absolutely adore Fall – the leaves, PSLs, Thanksgiving, (and my birthday). New England has always been hyped up as one of the best places to see the Fall colours, so of course I wanted to check it out. While I was in that neck of the woods, I wanted to try one of the staples of New England cuisine – Clam Chowder. I currently live in the Maritimes (just north of New England), and was interested in seeing who did it better.
My parents were planning on driving me back from Halifax to Toronto for Thanksgiving, and I suggested we drive through New England instead of Québec (it takes about the same amount of time). It took about 5 hours to get to the American border from Halifax and cross over into Maine. We took the scenic route (Hwy 1) closer to the coast to get to Bar Harbour. It turns out it’s not that scenic and has very little amenities (e.g. gas stations, restaurants, and washrooms). I did some research, and it seems to get much prettier after you pass Bar Harbour. If you’re driving further south to Portland, it’s probably worth it. If you’re just driving South to Bar Harbour, I’d recommend taking the most direct route because Hwy 1 won’t give you any ocean views.
Driving into Bar Harbour was stunning! The town is situated on an island accessible by bridge and has a magnificent harbour dotted with little islands. In early October, the harbour was still packed with sailboats, and the dreaded cruise ships.
When we were walking through the town, I was shocked to see how crowded it was. There were two giant cruise ships in the harbour that day, and all of their passengers had descended onto the small town. I can’t imagine how jammed pack this place would be in the Summer! The town itself is beautiful, and reminds me of the Canadian town of Niagara-on-the-Lake (very picturesque, but very touristy). The storefronts are so quaint, but if you actually go inside any of them, it’s mostly tourist junk. Go off the main road onto the side streets, and you’ll be more likely to find some real treasures. I couldn’t resist snapping some photos of this antiques store.
We stayed in The Villager Motel, and enjoyed our stay. It was clean, close to downtown, and included breakfast. There are so many beautiful B&Bs in the town too, and one of my favourites was the Ivy Manor Inn. The grounds and exterior were so elegant, and they even had an outdoor fire pit for their guests to enjoy.
After we spent some time resting in our room, we ventured out for dinner. We made reservations at Galyn’s, as their crab cake salad with gorgonzola sounded amazing! The food was phenomenal, and I got to try New England Clam Chowder for the first time. It came with a side of oyster crackers, which is a true sign of authentic clam chowder. I’d also recommend the brussel sprouts, crab stuffed mushrooms, lobster bisque, and the crab cake salad (yes, we ate a lot!). Everything we tried at Gaylin’s was delicious, so I’m guessing you can’t go wrong with this place. Our server mentioned that the whole restaurant (and town for that matter) closes down after Thanksgiving.
The next day, we drove east to New Hampshire to see the White Mountains. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain that day, so we cut all of the stops at the lookouts quite short. I think that the grey sky actually made a great contrast and really brought out the orange and yellow leaves. The National Park had a stream or vista at every turn, which made for some great photo ops. This was our longest travel day, and we stayed in Burlington, Vermont for the night. We basically just parked ourselves in the hotel that night, and didn’t see much of Burlington.
I loved getting to experience New England in the Fall, and think it may be the best time to visit. In terms of the Fall Foliage, I think the Maritimes does it just as well! Since the maritimes are a bit further North, the leaves turn earlier. There are so many stunning places to see Fall Foliage in the Maritimes, and many of them are being discovered by international tourists. During my trip to Cape Breton in October, there was busloads of American tourists checking out the leaves on the Cabot Trail (and taking advantage of the Canadian dollar!). The clam chowder I tried in Bar Harbour was delicious, and is definitely more of an American thing. The maritimes also has some amazing food – including lobster rolls, lobster bisque, and fish and chips.
Let me know in the comments below if you want me to write blog about my Fall roadtrip through the Maritimes!