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Australian couple - driving up the coast to White Mountains

NSW
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Australian couple - driving up the coast to White Mountains

Hello from Australia!

We are a couple in our late 30s, who will be staying in Boston the first week of October 2013.

After some wonderful advice about day trips on the Boston forum, we have decided we would like to do an overnight driving trip up the coast of Maine, and then on to the White Mountains and back down to Boston (one night, two days in total).

I am having trouble deciding where would be a good point to stop for the night, yet still give us time to explore a little.

How far up the coast would you recommend we drive to get a feeling for Maine, yet still be somewhere in the vicinity of the White Mountains by nightfall? Should we drive across from Portland, or some point further south?

I apologise for so many questions, but there are a couple more!

Is there a nice town anyone could recommend we stay the night at? I am looking for a 4.5-5 star boutique hotel, want something really lovely (we are saving for it now, so am happy to splurge on something good). I have been searching online, but am positively lost between the resorts and the B&Bs. Would probably prefer a really nice boutique hotel, but can't find one!

Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks again.

Central Maine
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1. Re: Australian couple - driving up the coast to White Mountains

The trip you're proposing can be done -- but you'll have a couple of full days -- especially in early October, which is prime fall color foliage time in the White Mountains.... Would definitely choose your two days during the week rather than on a weekend -- first, because there will be far less traffic on a weekday (still a popular time for sightseeing, but not nearly as busy as a weekend) and second, because top-shelf lodging will be easire to come by mid-week than on a weekend, although you may find that some lodging places require at least a two-night stay because foliage season is one of their busiest times of the year....

That said, I'd suggest an early-morning start out of Boston (most of the rush-hour traffic will be headed into the city rather than away from it), Stick to I-95 from Boston until you cross the Maine-New Hampshire border and then look for the Maine Turnpike's Exit # 7 for Ogunquit.... A nice little coastal town worth a one-hour stop to see the harbor, visit the shops, walk the shore walk.... Then back on US Rt 1 north and Maine Rt 9 to Kennebunkport -- another nice coastal village where you can visit Dock Square and drive the Shore Road for a nice view of the rocky coastline in that area.... Allow no more than an hour here as well... When you leave Kennebunkport, take Maine Rt 35 west to I-95 North. then take I-95 and I-295 to Portland... where the "must see" features include the Old Port area of restored buildings-shops-great restaurants and a ride out to Portland Head Light lighthouse in nearby Cape Elizabeth.... Allow no more than two hours in greater Portland, then head west on US Route 302 for North Conway or Jackson NH, where you can overnight. North Conway is a larger, more commercial town with a wide variety of restaurants; Jackson is a much smaller, much more "classic" New England village with fewer, but sometimes more upscale, lodging choices and a few restaurants. Some people prefer to stay in Jackson and take the short ride back down Rt 16 to North Conway for dinner because of the wider variety of restaurants there. The above itinerary should take you roughly eight and one-half hours from the time you leave Boston until you arrive in North Conway....

The next day, from North Conway or Jackson, head north on US Rt 302 toward Bartlett NH and on to Twin Mountain, NH, where you will pick up US Rt 3 south to Lincoln, NH, passing through Franconia Notch State Park along the way. In Lincoln, take NH Route 112 east to Conway, NH (along one of the most scenic roadways anywhere in the White Mountains). And In Conway, pick up NH Route 16 south to Portsmouth NH, where you can pick up I-95 South to return to Boston. There are numerous things to do and see as you make the loop drive from North Conway to Twin Mountain to Lincoln to Conway (the Cog Railway up Mt Washington, the historic and photogenic Mt Washington Hotel, Cannon Mountain tramway, The Flume nature area and zip-lining at Loon Mountain on Rt 112 are popular choices that come easily to mind -- but because many of those are weather-dependent, you may want to leave your itinerary a bit looser than for the Maine leg of your trip. For just "driving time" not counting any kinds of stops, I'd allow at least six hours for "Day 2"... Will leave you "some" time for "seeing and doing" but you'll have to ration yourself a bit unless you don't mind arriving back in Boston late in the evening...

The above will give you some idea of what Maine's coast and New Hampshire's White Mountains are like -- neither will give you an experience of real "depth" -- but it's probably the best you can do to visit both areas in just two days...

Have a great trip.

NSW
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2. Re: Australian couple - driving up the coast to White Mountains

Thank you so much for taking the time to provide me with such detail. I really am most grateful.

Can I please ask if day one (8.5 hours) is just driving time alone, or does it include the stops?

I was leaning towards Jackson as a possible overnighter, so thank you kindly for your advice on this. Portsmouth is also on my "must see" list - is it the connecting highway that makes it more suitable for day two? Is route 112 the Kancamagus Highway? From the maps, I think it is...and it was another "must see"!

Luckily my husband and I are very early risers, and like to pack a lot into our travelling. This sounds like a wonderful couple of days. As you said, we realize we are just dipping our toes into the sights of New England, but feel lucky to be able to do even a brief tour of this beautiful region.

Thank you again.

Baltimore, Maryland
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3. Re: Australian couple - driving up the coast to White Mountains

MONG's fingers are probably exhausted.

Portsmouth is a very short distance from boston which makes it a great stop for a few hours, maybe even go a little further to ogunquit or kennebunk but of course more driving then less sightseeing and as you know, you can't do it all.

It is about 2 hours to NC from Portsmouth and is a straight shot up the road. Jackson is a great place to stay but many places will require 2 nights. Now, as much as I love boutique hotels and b&b's, unless you are planning on actually spending some time, then not sure it is worth the extra money just to sleep and have a nice breakfast. Another option is that some of these places serve dinner or maybe visit the Mt Wash Hotel for drinks to have the experience of visiting without the large lodging bill for someplace to sleep.

The lodging pages here have many excellent choices and reviews (need to be careful with the reviews- look for reviewers who have multiple reviews and seem to travel like you do)

Good Luck and enjoy

Central Maine
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4. Re: Australian couple - driving up the coast to White Mountains

Angie --

Re: Itinerary timing -- my bad... I mixed the all-inclusive time for Day 1 with a stops-not-included time for Day 2... primarily because the stops on Day 1 were fairly predictable, but knowing what might or might not interest you on Day 2 was less easy to anticipate. The 8.5 hours for Day 1 does include the stops (for the amounts of time indicated).

Re: Portsmouth -- you'll pass through it on Day 1 going north and again on Day 2 headed south... Since Day 1 itinerary is already fairly long, I'd suggest including it (and allowing time for it as you consider what else to do that day) on Day 2....

Re: Rt 112 -- yes, it is the Kancamagus -- known locally as "The Kanc.." Definitely worth including.....

Ironically enough, I was in Jackson NH myself....today! If your lodging there doesn't include it, can personally recommend a place called "Yesterday's" for breakfast.... their banana-gingerbread pancakes were different and delicious!

NSW
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5. Re: Australian couple - driving up the coast to White Mountains

Forgive my duplication. A member of the Boston forum advised me to post on both the Maine and NH boards, and so I have two threads running. I never expected to get such wonderful, detailed, and thoughtful responses. I really, really appreciate it.

Well, all these suggestions have kept me busy thinking and planning the best way to do this! It's fantastic, because it has challenged me to plan the best trip possible. I have gone from a day trip to a road trip!! Than you so much for your help.

So, after these wonderful suggestions, and a lot of googling and looking at maps, I am thinking of the following.

Thurs 3 Oct. Take a map and a copy of Mainer's directions and head up the coast. Thank you for pointing me in the right direction re which towns are highlights. Then up to Portland and across to Jackson to the Wentworth Inn. We were tossing up between the Marriott Residence Inn in North Conway and the Wentworth Inn in Jackson, but Mainer's comments about Jackson have made me think this may be a better option. Please let me know if I am wrong or there is a better choice in this region. Neslaw, I hate to admit it, but I love a really nice hotel. The ski resorts in the area don't appeal to me as much, but a really nice hotel in a cute town is what I am looking for. Does the Wentworth in Jackson fit the bill? Mainer, those pancakes sound amazing. I will add Yesterday's to my list!

Friday 4 Oct. Off to see the White Mountains and drive down to Portsmouth, overnight. I love the look of Portsmouth, and I am thinking of booking the Wentworth by the Sea at New Castle, which looks very close to Portsmouth.

All this got me thinking about the planning the end of our vacation. First we are flying from Australia, to spend a few days in New York, then a train up to Boston. A few days in Boston, including a day trip to Concord. Then this driving tour. I couldn't see the point in returning to Boston again, and had thought of staying at the Airport Hotel on the last night (Oct 4). We will be flying Qantas and the connecting flight departs at 5pm on Saturday. (I saw there is an airport in Portsmouth, but Qantas don't fly out of it, and it is easier to get the packaged flight from BOS-LAX-AUS).

We are thinking.... Would it be possible to stay in Portsmouth overnight, then drive to Boston on Saturday 5 Oct to catch a flight at 5pm. Can I please ask you.... Is this a better plan? If so, how long should we allow to drive from Portsmouth to Boston? Is the traffic this way usually bad on a Saturday at that time of year, or should we be OK?

Thanks for all your help!

Maine
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6. Re: Australian couple - driving up the coast to White Mountains

Portsmouth to Boston(Logan) should be about an hour drive. Traffic on a Saturday afternoon shouldn't be bad at all.

North Shore, MA
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7. Re: Australian couple - driving up the coast to White Mountains

Please see my post on the White Mountains Forum about the Portsmouth to Logan drive. On that particular day, traffic will be heavier than on the typical Saturday because of the Topsfield Fair (plus Salem's Haunted Happenings adds to the mix). It almost certainly won't be terrible traffic, but I'd allow some extra time.

NSW
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8. Re: Australian couple - driving up the coast to White Mountains

Route 128 and soxfan, thanks for the tip re driving back to Logan from Portsmouth. If we leave Portsmouth by 12.30pm, do you think we will have enough time to get back to Logan Airport?

We are usually up bright and early. On our recent trip to New York, we took the Amtrack and visited Lancaster County for the day. We were at Penn Station for 7am, did the 3 hour train ride there and back, and arrived in NYC at 9.30pm. It was a long day but we loved it. Due to family commitments, we can't stay in the US for weeks, so we maximize our time while we are there!

We were still planning to do Concord separately, because I never thought about combining it (until you mentioned it!) and I have no idea how! I would love to stay at the Wentworth by the Sea in Portsmouth and we have to stay in the White Mountains, and Concord looks like it is in another direction. But I never say never!

I have to laugh, because our original plan was four days in New York, a day getting to Boston, and then four full days in Boston. Now I have plans to travel the countryside! I guess I decided you have to be open minded and thinking about different possibilities for a wonderful trip. Being in New England at that time, and not seeing the fall foliage, which I have always dreamed about seeing, seemed crazy when I thought about it.

Thanks for your help! :)

North Shore, MA
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9. Re: Australian couple - driving up the coast to White Mountains

A 12:30 departure from Portsmouth is probably fine. It depends some on how early you like to get to the airport and how much you'll worry if you hit a little traffic snarl. If I were doing this, I'd leave closer to noon because I prefer to be on the early side and have a husband who prefers to be even earlier!

You're correct that Concord is in the wrong direction, but it's not much of a detour. I'll think more about how it might work, and I'm sure by the time I wake up tomorrow others will have offered many new ideas. ;-)

Edited: 1:01 am, November 10, 2012
Bar Harbor, Maine
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10. Re: Australian couple - driving up the coast to White Mountains

The Wentworth in Jackson does fit your bill. It also has a very good restaurant, just off the lobby. I highly recommend eating there. The main building of the inn is an old wooden hotel. It has lots of charm. But the rooms are not spectacular. I suggest booking a room in one of the outer buildings, like the Fairlawn, for a more luxurious feel.

North Conway is one long strip highway of shopping malls. It's not nice. But Jackson, and especially the Wentworth, is a little walking village with a great stream and waterfall. You might also check out a drink at the tavern -- the Wildcat Inn. It's a fun bar within easy walking distance of The Wentworth.