Monday, September 22, 2008

Taking the Road Less Taken in the New England Autumn

Article and Photo by Eric H., at

Sometimes, traveling to less obvious New England autumn destinations works wonders for the soul. Take for instance, the beach, that antiquated travel destination from what already seems like generations ago -- the past summer.

While we strongly encourage touring New England for the once-a-year colorful treat called fall foliage, you might want to consider a beach vacation or day trip, also. Gone are the wall-to-wall people, the traffic jams and in some cases, the high parking rates. Suddenly, the beach takes on a different perspective -- more lonesome, natural and wide open to better encourage those proverbial long walks on the beach without as much distraction.

Long Sands Beach at York Beach, Maine, is one of our favorite fall beach destinations. Walking the two-mile beach with slightly cooler temperatures, vacant beachfront cottages taking a breather for high-energy renters, peaceful views of Nubble Lighouse and the rocky Maine coast in the distance, comfortable windbreakers as the new garment choice, and fewer people on the beach make this stretch seem more like your own special discovery rather than just being another summer face in the crowd.

You can really have the best of both worlds at York Beach. After walking the beach, take a half-hour drive south west to Durham, NH, home of the University of New Hampshire and serene, surrounding countryside. Durham is a great place to walk the tree-lined university streets, rustle through the leaves, and also enjoy walking the small, quaint downtown with cafes, restaurants and locally-owned stores.

After arriving at the Long Sands Beach, however, you might not want to go anywhere else and and just enjoy the relative solitude of the New England coast. If that's the case, there are plenty of lodging options, the best being The Inn at Long Sands, with commanding views of the ocean from every room and an on site restaurant with more nice views. For a truly special treat, however, travel up Route One north for about 10 minutes to Clay Hill Farm(220 Clay Hill Rd, Cape Neddick, ME, Tel. 207-361-2272), a charming, rambling upscale farmhouse, beautifully situated in the countryside of Maine (there's potential here for excellent fall foliage!). We rank Clay Hill Farm as one of our favorite restaurants in New England with amazingly tasty gems like the lobster bisque, and one of my all-time favorite dishes: roasted duckling, semi-boned and crisp served over a blueberry-Merlot sauce with delicious roasted potatoes on the side.

There's a pianist creating a relaxing tone to the spacious, refined-looking farmhouse dining rooms overlooking the gardens.
Clay Hill Farm is also the first restaurant in the country to be certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a wildlife habitat and bird sanctuary, so enjoy gazing at each other but be sure to look out the windows and savor the pristine surroundings to complement your overall experience. Clay Hill Farm has also been named for several years as one of the top restaurants in the country by the Distinguished Restaurants of North America ((DiRoNA).

A great idea for a special night is to eat early at Clay Hill Farm, and then make it back for a relaxing autumn nighttime walk at Long Sands Beach and maybe even a mile walk to Nubble Lighthouse where you can further connect with the sea, the rocky Maine coast and one of New England's most stunningly beautiful lighthouses. It's a refreshing way to spend a different kind of fall vacation in New England.

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