FALL VACATION IDEAS
North America's Most Charming Fall Islands
Nothing amplifies autumn's fiery Technicolor blaze like an island, with its 360-degree waterfront. For your leaf-peeping pleasure, we present the 12 dreamiest places in North America.
SHEFFIELD ISLAND, off Norwalk, Conn.
Admire the copper-and-gold splashes of color that deck the trails of this scenic marine habitat.
The now unused 143-year-old lighthouse is the high point, literally, of this island one mile off the coast of Connecticut. Ferry over from the mainland on a 45-foot catamaran, and hike a trail that passes through a nationally protected wildlife refuge, which covers 47 of the island's 53 acres with colorful deciduous trees, such as chestnuts (yellow-red), beeches (golden bronze), red maples (intense scarlet), and the state's signature white oaks (violet-purple). The island's most notable residents are the seals, who regularly migrate through this region during the winter and can be easily spotted along the shore. Alternatively, take a two-and-a-half-hour Fall Foliage Cruise study tour on Norwalk's Maritime Aquarium's research vessel Oceanic, during which you can inspect animals trawled from the harbor. That tour passes, but doesn't stop at, Sheffield Island. maritimeaquarium.org, $20.50 per person.
Timing Tip: Leaves start to turn in mid- to late October. Check the state's foliage website, or call the foliage hotline for updates. 800/282-6863.
Get There: From Seaport Dock on the Norwalk River, board the Norwalk Seaport Association's catamaran. seaport.org, $22 for adults, $12 for kids 4–12, $5 for kids 3 and under.
MONHEGAN ISLAND, off Port Clyde, Maine
Painters have been drawn to this thriving artist's colony for a century because of its stunning views of Maine.
The brilliant oranges, reds, and yellows of poplars, birches, and sumacs seem all the more colorful against the landscape of dark spruce and pine trees on Monhegan Island, about 10 miles off the coast of Maine. A dozen miles of trails snake around the island and are perfect for leaf-peepers and birders interested in seeing puffins and rare species, such as rusty blackbirds. Since the early 1900s, artists like Andrew Wyeth, Edward Hopper, and George Bellows have come here to sketch, paint, and take photographs. By late October, most of the approximately 20 artists studios have emptied for the season, but the village galleries, such as the Lupine Gallery and Winter Works, continue to display the artists' works.
Timing Tip: Typically peaks in late September. Maine's foliage website posts
Get There: From charming Port Clyde, Maine, hop a departure on the Monhegan Boat Line. monheganboat.com, $32 for adults, $18 for kids 2–12 (all fares are round trip). monheganwelcome.com.
DUFFERIN ISLANDS, Niagara Falls, Canada
These islands have green slanted riverbanks and ancient waterways about a half-mile south of the Horseshoe Falls.
Take in primo views of Crayola-colored leaf-scapes accentuated by green slanted riverbanks as you crisscross the Dufferin Islands. The 11 oases that make up this archipelago are known only by their collective name, but a 1.2-mile hiking trail links most of the islands via 22 small bridges. Researchers believe the waterways have been paddled by canoe-building natives for more than 3,000 years. A self-guided interpretative trail makes it easy to admire hickory oaks blazing orange while poplars and beeches glow yellow. Don't be surprised if you see artists setting up their easels to paint the gorgeous scenery.
Timing Tip: Typically peaks in late September.
Get There: Drive the Niagara Parkway, and take the exit for the Dufferin Islands. No entrance fee, but permits required for camping. niagaraparks.com.
LITTLE AMERICAN ISLAND, Voyageurs National Park, International
This little island is nestled in a lake full with fall color, but it alone went down in history as the site of a major gold rush in the 19th century.
Bordering Canada about five hours north of Minneapolis–St. Paul, Voyageurs National Park is home to countless color-dappled islands. But Little American Island on the west end of the park shines for its history, too. The 1893 mini gold rush drew prospectors in a (mostly vain) hope for riches. Today, the only gold to see is in the bright autumnal color of the tamarack and aspen leaves, mixed with the crimson of red maple. Rent a canoe or rowboat to reach the island, where you can hike along a quarter-mile, wheelchair-accessible interpretative trail, which passes close to historic mine shafts and machinery.
Timing Tip: Typically peaks mid-September. Check out the state's foliage website, or call the state's foliage hotline for more information. 800/657-3700.
Get There: Accessible only by boat. Take Highway 11 east 11 miles to the park's Sha Sha Resort, where you can rent a canoe or rowboat and paddle north and west on Rainy Lake for about 20 minutes. nps.gov/voya, canoe rentals from $10 per day.