Travel

11 Perfect Fall Road Trips for When You Need to Escape Boston

From Providence's stellar restaurant scene to romantic Maine getaways.

Michael Steven Burns/Shutterstock
Michael Steven Burns/Shutterstock
Michael Steven Burns/Shutterstock

Who knows what this winter is going to look like? We’re neither foreseers nor epidemiologists, but it’s safe to say the frosty season won’t exactly be awesome this year-which means we all need to amass as many outdoor, out-of-town experiences as we can this fall.

We’ve rounded up some of our favorite weekend autumn getaways, all of which offer divine leaf-peeping (on the way there, at least) combined with terrific (al fresco) dining, shopping, and nightlife options. Make sure to check in on each destination’s regulations regarding masking and vaxxing as Delta continues to, well, suck, and remember to be patient, kind, and generous to all service workers, all the time, now and forever.

The Clam Shack
The Clam Shack
The Clam Shack

Kennebunkport, Maine

Distance from Boston: 90 minutes by car
It’s seaside, it’s dog-friendly, and it’s the perfect bucolic spot to pause and recharge. (There’s a reason Kennebunkport calls itself “the place to be all year.”) Hotel options are nearly endless, but two new spots represent both appealing ends of the spectrum-the Kennebunkport Captains Collection invites you to stay in one of four restored stately mansions, while AWOL KPT provides a modern cabin experience just steps away from Dock Square. There are still plenty of opportunities for outdoor dining, from Striper’s and Pedro’s to Old Vines Wine Bar and the Batson River, which offers fireside dining on chilly nights. Even Mabel’s Lobster Claw has a few seats outside to help you achieve your lobster quotient, while the famous Clam Shack is open until mid-October. Nature activities abound in fall: Wells Reserve is rife with guided tours as well as miles of well-marked trails, a sandy sojourn at Goose Rocks Beach is an absolute must, and Riverhurst Farm offers private guided beach rides for up to two people. And if it’s nightlife you seek, you can do no better than Club Cumming on the Coast, which has extended its run through the second week of October.

Blue - Inn on the Beach
Blue – Inn on the Beach
Blue – Inn on the Beach

Plum Island, Massachusetts

Distance from Boston: 50 minutes by car
Is it a staycation or a getaway? All we know is that Plum Island is our new favorite escape. For starters, the barrier island boasts Blue, a serene boutique hotel located right-like, RIGHT-on the beach. (There’s even a hot tub steps away from the sand.) Then there’s the newly opened Sunset Club, which overlooks both the salt marsh and the Merrimack River and offers tacos, oysters, and frozen cocktails year-round. Mostly you’re there to walk the pristine trails of the island’s Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, which is yet another reminder of why you live in New England. And if you crave mainland living, all the dining, shopping, and nightlife appeals of Newburyport are just a few minutes away.

Flickr/Paul VanDerWerf
Flickr/Paul VanDerWerf
Flickr/Paul VanDerWerf

Mount Desert Island, Maine

Distance from Boston: Four hours 30 minutes by car
Yes, this one demands commitment. But with great sacrifice comes great reward. For whatever reason, Mount Desert Island was suddenly on everyone’s radar this summer, which meant sizable crowds, so you’re smart to explore it at your leisure this fall. The Claremont Hotel is the place to stay-open through October 24, this newly revamped historic lodging is located on the quiet side of the island, with stunning water and mountain views, a spa, a heated outdoor pool, a croquet court, and more (check out the current “Exploration Then Libation” midweek package). Once you tear yourself away from the grounds, you’re heading to Acadia for the unsurpassed kaleidoscope of foliage. Next it’s into Bar Harbor for shopping, a scoop at Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream, and dinner at Havana (or the attached Parilla tapas bar if you struggle to get a table). Seeking one last fresh-from-the-sea lobster feast? Thurston’s is far and away your best bet, with eating through mid-October.

GoProvidence
GoProvidence
GoProvidence

Providence, Rhode Island

Distance from Boston: One hour by car
The City on the Hill is a year-round gem, what with its ever-growing cocktail and dining scene, ample music venues, and sheer walkability. The Beatrice is downtown Providence’s newest luxury boutique hotel, just-opened for bookings with a restaurant and rooftop bar soon to follow. The Dean Hotel remains the gold standard for boutique charmers, complete with a cushy cocktail bar and the city’s sole karaoke lounge. But it’s the dining that keeps bringing us back. Coveted tables include Persimmon, Camille’s, and Sarto (Italian is a must in Providence). We’re also here for RiffRaff, a bar and bookstore in the Olneyville area. For those preferring art over food (who are you?), AS220 is fully reopened and buzzing, WaterFire runs through December, and the Rhode Island Distillers beckons beforehand (okay, so it’s the art of distilling, but still). If it’s chlorophyll you seek, take a trip to the Botanical Center, which showcases 12,000-square-feet of greenery, rain or shine.

Discover Newport
Discover Newport
Discover Newport

Newport, Rhode Island

Distance from Boston: 90 minutes by car
We can’t guarantee that the Cliff Walk will be free of tourists, but come fall, the scenic pathway is at least a little emptier than usual. If visions of the narrow stretch still makes you nervous, simply roll down the car windows and head out on the 10-mile drive spanning real estate favorites like The Breakers-which is once again open for tours. The Wayfinder is the latest addition to the Newport hotel scene, a former motel-turned-adorable boutique hotel that boasts an onsite pool and Nomi Park, a resident restaurant with a tremendous cocktail program. If you crave a harbor sunset with a side of wine, head to the patio at The Reef, which is also equipped with fire pits. And if you’re still not satiated, a trip to Newport Vineyards will do the job-it’s especially gorgeous in fall. The city has also created a list of hiking and walking suggestions, a great way to explore the region and get your nature fix when all that indulging gets old.

The Edgartown Inn at the Edgartown Collection
The Edgartown Inn at the Edgartown Collection
The Edgartown Inn at the Edgartown Collection

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

Distance from Boston: 90 minutes by car plus a one-hour ferry ride
Extensive beach time and an Aquinnah sunset cure all that ails you, even in the off-season. Harbor View Hotel affords you the ability to take daily walks on Lighthouse Beach, Summercamp is the perfect seasonal jumping-off spot from which to explore funky Oak Bluffs, and The Edgartown Inn grants you luxurious modern farmhouse amenities just steps from the shops, bookstores, and restaurants of Edgartown. Bundle up and rent a boat from Island Spirit Kayak (which prefers you call ahead about off-season rentals) or reserve a pass to drink in the barrier beach pleasures of the Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge. There are 44 miles of refreshingly flat bike trails to traverse and, of course, sandy strolls are a must, be it South Beach, Inkwell, or Katama. And now’s the time to catch up on the fine dining you might have missed out on during the summer, with top billing going to L’Etoile, Detente, and State Road.

Stowe Cider
Stowe Cider
Stowe Cider

Stowe, Vermont

Distance from Boston: Three hours by car
Stowe is the perfect introduction to the Green Mountain State’s slower snow-less seasons, with all its hiking, biking, and other outdoor pleasures. Reasonable rooms abound at Field Guide, where you can stoke the wood fire pit at the end of the night, while The Lodge at Spruce Peak is always hard to resist, with its hot tubs and year-round pool. Grab your morning maple latte-and browse some local crafts-at Black Cap Coffee & Beer, then explore the 5.3-mile Stowe Recreation Path via foot or bike. Splurge on dinner at Hen of the Woods in Waterbury, one of the best restaurants in New England-just be sure to plan ahead with reservations. Drink and dine under the eaves at Idletyme Brewing’s outdoor area, live out your Sound of Music dreams at the Von Trapp Brewery, or sample dry hard ciders galore at Stowe Cider. Before hitting the road, be sure to hit up the epic Stowe Farmers Market before it closes for the season on October 10.

Flickr/Kindra Clineff/MOTT
Flickr/Kindra Clineff/MOTT
Flickr/Kindra Clineff/MOTT

Nantucket, Massachusetts

Distance from Boston: 90 minutes by car plus a one-hour ferry ride
Wide beaches and bike paths aplenty makes unplugging here a breeze. Add in the many walking trails and picnicking spots, and you can totally make a sleepy weekend of it. The three intimate Nantucket Resort Collection Properties-Chapman House, Veranda House, and Regatta Inn-are offering a new Dine and Stay package through October 31 that guarantees you a reservation at American Seasons, which was near-impossible to snag in the summer. 21 Broad and 76 Main are smaller in-town boutique hotels that allow you to bunk down with fewer people. Bring or rent your own two wheels-Young’s Bicycle Shop is always a good bet-and cruise over to Bartlett’s Farm, your one-stop-shop for curbside picnic provisions, and Cisco Brewers, your one-stop-shop for al fresco day-drinking (proof of vaccination required). Continue onto Siasconset Beach for some seal and wave gazing, and with fewer people about, now is also prime time to tackle the Sconset Bluff Walk. Buy a Nantucket red face mask at Murray’s and then hit up all the other coveted tables in town before your favorite restaurants close around mid-October-we’ll be aiming for Cru, The Proprietors, and Straight Wharf.

The Mount
The Mount
The Mount

Lenox, Massachusetts

Distance from Boston: Two hours by car
Kripalu is back, baby, and ready to accept you with open arms. And it’s safe to say our bodies could use some detox time. But when you plan your Berkshires visits around high-profile venues, it’s easy to forget about the region’s simpler pleasures. The vibrant foliage, the hiking trails, and the chiller-than-chill Western Mass vibes make for a restorative autumnal sojourn. The old Cranwell has been reborn as the Wyndhurst Manor and Club-its massive grounds make it easy to get your steps in, and the hotel is happy to set you up with a maple syrup tasting, among other fall pleasures. The Mount is the ideal spot to take a nature walk or forest hike (and experience more real estate envy), while the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary will soothe your soul with the sites of wetlands and the sounds of birdsong. In-person dining options have been extremely limited during COVID, but Brava and Alta are both beautiful options. And you simply must visit The Bookstore, a funky, beatnik bookshop that invites browsing and, more importantly, sports an attached wine bar.

Micha Weber/Shutterstock
Micha Weber/Shutterstock
Micha Weber/Shutterstock

Provincetown, Massachusetts

Distance from Boston: Two hours by car
It’s high time to make up for lost debauchery-safely, of course (P-town is on top of it, given what happened earlier this summer). Women’s Week is back in action this October, and Tea Dance is still going down every weekend through Halloween. Besides, the Cape is a revelation in fall, between the shockingly sane driving and pedestrian travel ease and zero Bugaboo traffic. And P-town is the peak of off-peak destinations, with plenty of guesthouses and restaurants still open and excited to serve. Warm up with a long stroll at Race Point or Herring Cove, then snag a last-minute table at Jimmy’s Hideaway or Ross Grill (outdoor seating dependent on the weather), or leash up Spot and head to The Canteen, the go-to for a dog-friendly beachside meal. After waking up the next day and snagging breakfast sandwiches and lattes from Relish (pre-ordering is a must), cruise down 6A to Truro Vineyards and South Hollow Spirits, which is still open and humming-and has reportedly been mobbed with crowds for the last 18 months, so be prepared to wait.

EQRoy/Shutterstock
EQRoy/Shutterstock
EQRoy/Shutterstock

Portland, Maine

Distance from Boston: Two hours by car
There’s never a bad time to head to our beloved Portland, but it’s been nothing short of a savior during the pandemic. Boutique gem The Blind Tiger, a converted mansion in the West End neighborhood, is currently offering weekly rentals. The Francis, another cozy option, feels more like a stately home than a hotel-and includes a spa that specializes in all forms of massage. The restaurant and bar scene has mightily suffered due to COVID-19, so spend generously at the best spots in town (and don’t forget Portland’s all-star lineup of craft breweries). Pregame at The Shop at Island Creek Oysters for bivalves and prosecco on tap or hit up Novare Res Bier Cafe for drinks, where the heat lamps are cranking in the incredibly well-stocked beer garden. End the night with bubbly and views at the new Luna Rooftop Bar (remember to bring your sweater). The next day, learn about lobstering and catching your own dinner on a Lucky Catch cruise or set off on a Windjammer sail courtesy of Portland Schooner.

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Meaghan Agnew is a contributor to Thrillist. You can follow her on Instagram.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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