Your Guide to Planning the Perfect U.S. East Coast Road Trip in the Fall

Nothing is quite as stunning as the United States’ East Coast in the fall. The picturesque fall foliage, rugged coast line, scenic drives – and the sweater weather, of course – make for a perfect road trip with your significant other.

We’ve written before about our love for road trips, and three years ago, we drove out to the Grand Canyon, an excursion that took us through nine states across more than 5,000 miles.

We had always wanted to drive up the East Coast, so when we got an invitation to a wedding in October in Charleston, SC, we finally had the perfect excuse to make it happen. This time, we would drive 3,700 miles across 16 states. And while we left a little too early to hit the fall foliage at its prime, we enjoyed every minute of our trip.

Our East Coast Road Trip Itinerary

  • Day 1 – Drive from Indianapolis, IN, to Charleston, SC (12 hours)
  • Day 2 – Explore Charleston 
  • Day 3 – Wedding Day
  • Day 4 – Drive to Baltimore, MD (8.5 hours)
  • Day 5 – Explore Washington, D.C.
  • Day 6 – Drive to Salem, MA (7 hours) 
  • Day 7 – Explore Salem 
  • Day 8 – Drive to Portsmouth, NH (1 hour)
    • Explore Portsmouth
  • Day 9 – Drive to Bangor, ME, (2 hours 46 minutes)
    • Explore Bangor
  • Day 10 – Drive to Acadia National Park (1 hour)
    • Explore Acadia National Park
  • Day 11 – Drive to Lewiston, NY
  • Day 12 – See Niagara Falls then Drive Home to Indianapolis

Where to Stay on Your East Coast Road Trip

Prior to this trip, we had typically preferred staying in hotels for their convenience. This time, however, we decided to try something new by booking accommodations almost exclusively through Airbnb – the only exception being the hotel we booked last-minute while making the first leg of our trip back to Indy.

We lucked out and had great experiences at each of the Airbnbs, so hopefully we can take some of the guesswork out for you. I will note, though, that we didn’t spend a lot of time in any of these places – just long enough to shower, do some laundry (in most cases) and sleep.

Charleston Airbnb

Pros:

  • Spacious and cozy
  • Laundry on-site
  • Big, relaxing balcony
  • Great location to the city
  • Snacks provided

Cons:

  • On a busy street
  • Unit entry was up a flight of stairs outside

Baltimore Airbnb

Pros:

  • Stunning views
  • Small, but peaceful balcony
  • Laundry on-site
  • Modern updates

Cons:

  • Complicated check-in process
  • Only one bathroom
  • Parking garage is on-site, but it’s a trek to get to the unit, especially if you have a lot of luggage

Salem Airbnb

Pros:

  • Cozy – felt like home
  • Personal touches (host provided fuzzy socks and a jar of Halloween candy)
  • Laundry on-site
  • Great location – walking distance to downtown

Cons:

  • None 🙂

Portsmouth Airbnb

Pros:

  • Charming and full of character
  • Great location – right in the heart of downtown
  • Perfect for a one-night stay

Cons:

  • Small
  • Only one bathroom
  • No kitchen
  • No laundry

Bangor Airbnb

Pros:

  • Charming and quaint – felt like staying at grandma’s
  • Quiet
  • Host was incredibly generous
  • Snacks provided

Cons:

  • No laundry
  • Only one bathroom
  • Unstable Wi-Fi

Lewiston Hotel: Niagara Crossing Hotel & Spa

Pros:

  • Beautiful lobby
  • Comfy bed
  • Clean
  • Continental breakfast
  • Great location – 15-minute drive to Niagara Falls

Cons:

  • Smelled a little dingy

What to Do on Your East Coast Road Trip

Charleston

  • Charleston City Market
  • Angel oak tree 
  • 126 Tradd Street
  • Rainbow Row
  • Chalmers Street
  • St. Philip’s Church
  • Folly Beach

Washington D.C.

  • The White House
  • Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin
  • Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool
  • WWII Memorial
  • Lincoln Memorial
  • Smithsonian Museum
  • U.S. Capitol
  • Einstein Memorial

Salem

Portsmouth

  • Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse
  • Market Square
  • Moxy
  • Annabelle’s Ice Cream
  • Portsmouth Gas Light Co.

Bangor / Acadia National Park

  • Stephen King’s House – 47 West Broadway, Bangor
  • Mount Hope Cemetery (where the original Pet Sematary was filmed)
  • Infamous “It” Drain – at the corner of Union and Jackson Streets in Bangor
  • WKIT Radio Station (Stephen King’s radio station and the only sign that bears his name) – 861 Broadway, Bangor
  • Paul Bunyan Statue – 519 Main St., Bangor
  • Acadia National Park

Niagara Falls

We arrived around 10 a.m. on a weekday at Niagara Falls and we were one of the first cars in the parking lot. Granted it was October, so definitely not peak season, but it wasn’t too cold when we visited, so the crowd-free experience was a bonus.

What can we say… the views speak for themselves! Niagara Falls wasn’t originally on our road trip list until we realized it was the midway point between Bangor and Indianapolis. Saying that now seems ridiculous, because it ended up being one of my favorite memories from the trip.

I’m so grateful we added it to our list – the falls were absolutely breathtaking! It was an incredible way to end our road trip.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s