In New England, historic towns with large bodies of water are not only appealing in summer. They’re fantastic (some might say even better) in the fall. Brilliant leaves glisten against pristine rivers in Vermont, cool country air covers the roads in coastal Rhode Island, and robust flavors fill festivals in Maine. These are five day-trips worth the drive, both on and off the beaten path. Each one has plenty of browsing, walking, eating, and ways to just soak up the season that distinguishes this part of the country from anywhere else.
Travel 60 miles south of Boston on Route 24 and you’ll find the tranquil, not-often-talked-about town of Tiverton. Take the exit for Route 77 south (also Main Road), a whimsical stretch of roadside stands and provincial homes, to the intersection of Route 179. There you’ll be greeted by Tiverton Four Corners, a collection of art galleries, antique emporiums, and cozy boutiques. Visit The Cottage for chic home decor and knock on the door at Perfectly Twisted if you have a knack for knitting.
For lunch, Provender serves perfect picnic foods and in the colder months don’t skip its selection of soups. Owner Jennifer Borden, who loves the town especially in the fall, features seasonal sugar cookies that leave customers smitten with the season. “We love fall flavors the most and use a lot of pumpkin,” Borden said. “We are known for our scones because they’re made from scratch.” According to Borden, the oatmeal date scones are the most popular during fall, but don’t bypass the batch made with sherry-soaked currants.
Continue south on Main Road to West Main Road and enjoy views of the Sakonnet River. Roll down the windows, feel the autumn breeze, and smell the country air. In 3 miles, you’ll arrive at Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyards. Take the dusty, gravel-covered road to what some would consider a wine lover’s oasis. The vineyard offers tastings daily and tours are every hour from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. until Columbus Day. Grab a glass of wine and sit on the outdoor patio with a cheese plate from Carolyn’s Cafe or get lost in more than 30 acres of grape harvest.
162 West Main Road, Little Compton
If you have a green thumb or want to surround yourself with fall flora and fauna, head to Green Animals Topiary Garden in Portsmouth. The once-privately owned home is now part of the Newport Preservation Society. The gardens are expansive and boast remarkable color in the fall with flowers such as petunias and dahlias in full bloom.
In the formal garden, you’ll find plush greenery in the shape of a camel, giraffe, elephant, and teddy bear. Some of the topiaries are original and date to the early 1900s. “It’s unique because it’s a throwback to another time,” said horticulturist Jim Donahue, who works on the property. The garden is open through Columbus Day.
380 Cory’s Lane, Portsmouth
Settled in 1637 and incorporated two years later, Sandwich was the first town established on Cape Cod. A popular beach destination, Sandwich is also known as the “town that glass built” because of its early-19th-century glass industry.
Visit the Sandwich Glass Museum on Oct. 26 for PumpkinFest. Glassmaking artists will illuminate museum grounds with hand-blown pumpkins placed in bales of hay. The museum offers glass blowing demonstrations daily and walking tours through the colonial streets of Sandwich Village select days till Oct. 12.
129 Main St., Sandwich
You don’t have to wait until PumpkinFest to gush over glass gourds. Local artist Michael Magyar, who owns and operates The Glass Studio on Cape Cod, decorates his studio front with glass jack-o’-lanterns in mid-October. Each year Magyar creates up to 200 pieces in a variety of cuts and colors. “I draw inspiration from autumn colors like orange and red, but I also make blue, green, and metallic pumpkins,” Magyar said. Pop in and pick out a pumpkin for $30 to $150. Glass blowing demonstrations are free and take place year-round Thursday to Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
470 Route 6A, East Sandwich
For the outdoor enthusiast, ECOtourz offers bike and kayak rentals. Cycle to the sea or paddle the waterways of the upper Cape. A two-hour guided kayak tour is $150 per couple or $85 per person. Green Briar Nature Center and Jam Kitchen is a rustic retreat that’s open year-round. Experience fall foliage while wandering the wild flower garden and hiking nature trails. Behold the intricacies of jam-making in the working museum dating to 1903. Looking to cover more ground? Explore the copious gardens of the Heritage Museum & Gardens through Oct. 27. You’ll find an alfresco art exhibit and beds of hardy sunflowers, cardinal flowers, and cannas.Continued...