Travel Destinations

Best Fall Foliage in the Heartland

October 2013
Miller Kenyon

Fall wraps the Midwestern United States in a brilliant coat of jeweltoned colors, and there's no better way to enjoy the scenery change than from your boat, where seasonal cruising benefits include pleasant temperatures, less crowds and discounted rates. Whether you seek the solitude of natural sanctuaries or the excitement of cityscapes, wonderful venues can be found along inland waterways like the Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee rivers, as well as on welcoming lake destinations. To assist you in planning one more trip before you put the boat into storage or head to warmer climates until next year, we've created a list of some of the top fall foliage destinations in the Heartland.

Cincinnati, Ohio

Whether the game plan calls for a day of Bengals football at Paul Brown Stadium or a city getaway, there's always something exciting to do, including some mega events in the Fall. Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati USA is a worldrenowned German celebration, while the MidPoint Music Festival rocks with some 250 national and international bands playing an array of genres.A unique departure from Cincinnati's bright lights is the Little Miami River, a Class I tributary of the Ohio flowing 111 miles through five counties in the southwestern part of the state. Designated as a National Scenic River, it joins the Ohio just east of Cincinnati and invites boaters to discover several state and county parks, which are dotted with peaceful trails built alongside abandoned rail grades running along the shoreline.The Four Seasons Marina (513-321-3300,, east of Cincinnati, is an ideal port for visitors who want to spend time exploring the both the big city and the Little Miami.

Grand Rivers, Kentucky

The Tennessee River flows into the stunning region of Kentucky known as the Western Waterlands and makes its way to Kentucky Lake home to the quaint town of Grand Rivers.Nicknamed the Village Between the Lakes, Grand Rivers is a charming village dotted with antique shops, boutiques, restaurants and bike paths. It boasts a spectacular view from the jetty (especially at sunset) and a wonderful two-mile trek along its walking trail.Lighthouse Landing (270-362-8201,, a picturesque resort and full-service marina, affords those with an appreciation of the outdoors a secluded yet convenient stay tucked along the Kentucky Lake shoreline just a mile north of the entrance to Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area and three blocks to area landmark, Patti's 1880s Settlement & Restaurant. But, truly, the natural beauty of the area makes it an outdoor destination all its own.

Lake Monroe, Indiana

A short distance from Bloomington is a delightful spot. Lake Monroe, the state's largest lake at 10,750 acres, provides ample boat ramps, beaches, picnic areas, state operated camping facilities, the Fourwinds Resort & Marina (812-824-2628,, two private camping resorts and 24,000 acres that house state-owned forests encompassed on three sides by Hoosier National Forest.The Fall delivers exciting events, including the Lotus World Music Festival and Harvest Moon Weekend, which features programs and activities celebrating autumn and the harvest season at Paynetown State Recreation Area.For incredible, early morning or sunset views, be sure to climb the fire tower at Hickory Ridge or make a trip in town to sample the restaurant fare. If you're there Saturday morning, the Bloomington Community Farmers' Market is a must.

Louisville, Kentucky

There's a variety of things to see and do at this interesting port along the Ohio River. Waterfront Park, located downtown and adjacent to the Louisville Wharf and Riverfront Plaza/Belvedere, provides boaters with at-your-own-risk dockage from June 1 to November 1. Boaters are urged to check that the channel is free of traffic upon approaching or leaving the area.The complex is center stage for outdoor concerts and festivals, including the annual Birthday Bash for the Belle of Louisville, set for October 20. The Belle, built in 1914 and moored at the Wharf, is the oldest operating Mississippi-style sternwheeler steamboat in operation so book your passage for back-in-time voyage.When taking in the downtown sights, the Brown Hotel offers an amazing stop with its impressive English Renaissance architecture. Baseball aficionados will be mesmerized with a visit to the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory.

St. Louis, Missouri

The Gateway City is a splendid Heartland getaway, with a downtown comprised of historical and in-the-now attractions. Alton Marina (618-462-9860, (adjacent to Riverfront Park) and the St. Louis Yacht Club (636-250-4435, afford easy accessibility for cruising this city along the mighty Mississippi.St. Louis' famed riverfront area, Laclede's Landing, is housed in century-old buildings along cobblestone streetsdating back to the early days of explorers and traders. The Landing boasts an array of restaurants, shops, theaters and is a short distance from the city's foremost landmark, the Gateway Arch. A thrilling, 630-foot ride to the top of the stainless-steel monument leads to an outrageous view of the city and Mississippi River. Make sure your sightseeing list also includes a horse-drawn carriage ride during the cool evening, the Museum of Westward Expansion or a stroll the St. Louis Riverfront Trail.One of season's biggest events, the Big Muddy Blues Festival, takes place every Labor Day Weekend and features legendary and local performers at Laclede's Landing.

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wide nautical travel destination for centuries. The scenery is dramatic, with forested mountains that meet the ocean and offshore islands that are an explorer’s
paradise. The 1830s Curtis Island Lighthouse near the harbor keeps watch over the town’s quaint homes, shops, restaurants, opera house and galleries.

Inspired by the area’s natural beauty, the new development’s designers also understood Camden’s historic role in the region and wanted to carry that forward in modern form. They studied vintage photos, matched the style and created 33,000 square feet of new buildings for marine services and mixed-use commercial space.

Lyman-Morse’s Camden boatyard attracts maritime professionals and boaters with essential services for carpentry, mechanics, electronics, rigging and more, and brings the general public back to the working waterfront with amenities such as restaurants, a distillery, a few overnight accommodations, and a boardwalk big enough for a morning stroll or brisk dog walk.

Added bonus: Sensitivity to the environment was not overlooked in construction. Engineers took a sustainable approach when they elevated all structures above the flood plain, installed LED lights and upgraded all systems to today’s energy-efficient levels.

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Camden, Maine

True boaters say the real Maine coast doesn’t start until you reach Penobscot Bay. This is “Down East” from Kennebunkport and Portland. The dramatic stretch of coastline from Camden to Mount Desert Island sparkles with granite shores, dotted with archipelagos of pine-tree covered islands and mountains cascading into the sea. This region offers some of the best cruising ground in the world.

Camden is a magical little seaside town in the heart of Maine’s mid-coast. It’s historic but hip. “Where the Mountains Meet the Sea” is their moniker, as Camden Hills and 780-foot Mount Battie stretch down toward the bustling waterfront where this 1769 New England village sits, creating a postcard scene.

Camden is super foot-traffic friendly, starting at Harbor Park and the beautiful brick Public Library that graces the top of the bay by the Town Docks. Enjoy a picnic on the sprawling park lawn; there’s often a craft festival or free concert at the outdoor amphitheater. From the waterfront, stroll the quaint sidewalks leading to cafés, boutiques, craft stores and art galleries, pubs, and surprisingly trendy restaurants.

You can hike, bike or drive the toll road up Mount Battie in Camden Hill State Park, which encompasses 5,500 acres and 30 miles of trails. Your reward is spectacular panoramic views of the harbor and Penobscot Bay below.

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Camden hosts festivals throughout the summer season of jazz, film and its trademark Windjammers. In winter, the U.S. National Tobogganing Champion-ships are held at Camden’s namesake Snow Bowl – our country’s only ski area with views of the Atlantic.

Camden is an ideal boater’s gateway with all the services and shops you need in walking distance from the waterfront. Excursions from this protected harbor are countless and legendary. A quick cruise brings you to quiet Lasell Island for a sunset anchorage. Farther on you reach Maine’s Maritime Academy home in beautiful Castine, and the rustic islands of North Haven, Vinalhaven and Deer Isle. Ultimately you can cruise north and east through beautiful Merchants Row, or the more protected Eggemoggin Reach, to Mount Desert Island, home to famed Acadia National Park, Northeast, Southwest and Bar Harbors.


Camden Public Landing
Town Docks

Contact the harbormaster for overnight slips, limited but in town, and moorings throughout the harbor.

Lyman-Morse at
Wayfarer Marine

Across the harbor on Camden’s east shores, this revamped marina is a half-mile walk to town, with new docks and a marina facility, home of Lyman-Morse Boatyard and 30 slips plus moorings.


40 Paper

Relish artful cuisine locally sourced from farmers, fishermen and “foragers.” In an historic wool mill in downtown Camden, it’s comfy but chic. Savor octopus, lamb, mussels, salmon and more with fresh produce and creative sides. Save room for dessert made from scratch.

Peter Otts on the Water

Get your chowder and Maine lobster fix from Chef Peter. This classic setting overlooking the harbor is a Camden staple you “ott” not miss. Open for lunch or dinner.

Franny’s Bistro

With a neighborhood feel, Franny’s serves up lobster fritters, crab cakes, shrimp dumplings and land-lubber faves, too. A fun menu in a cozy setting.

Bagel Café

For fresh-brewed morning coffee and daily “boiled then baked” bagels or breakfast sammies served all day.

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Jamestown, Rhode Island

Located on Conanicut Island, Gould Island and Dutch Island, Jamestown welcomes boaters to Narragansett Bay.  Its southernmost point is on Gould Island and marked by Beavertail Lighthouse and State Park. The northernmost point is marked by Conanicut Island Lighthouse.  While Conanicut Island is the second largest island on Narragansett Bay, it is near the western mainland in Kingston, and Newport lies to the east on Aquidneck Island.  Hop on the Jamestown Newport Ferry to get the lay of the land and sea.

Jamestown was settled early in colonial history and was named for James, Duke of York, who became King James II in 1685.  By 1710, many of Jamestown’s current roads were already in place and a lot of its early architecture is well preserved. Soak up some local history at the Jamestown Fire Memorial Museum, Beavertail Lighthouse Museum and Park, Jamestown Windmill, Watson Farm, Conanicut Island Sanctuary, Fort Wetherill State Park, and the Jamestown Settlement museum.

The main town, shops and restaurants are located on the eastern shore of Conanicut Island.  But even from the western side, Dutch Harbor and other attractions are easily accessed with a one-mile walk.


Conanicut Marina

This full-service marina has a ships store/chandlery, gift shop, extensive dockage and a large mooring field.  It’s located in the heart of town overlooking Newport and the Pell Bridge, but bring your fishing poles for the kids.

Dutch Harbor Boat Yard

Located on the west passage of Narragansett Bay, this small, local marina has good moorings, launch service and facilities.  At times, the harbor can be rolly from a SW wind up the West Passage.  The holding ground is excellent for anchoring, but the dinghy dock is by seasonal permit only.

Safe Harbor Jamestown Boatyard

Jamestown Boatyard is renowned for excellent workmanship on all types of boats.  It also has a large mooring field and is in a beautiful location on the East Passage.


Slice of Heaven

This family-owned café and bakery with an outdoor patio is an ideal spot for breakfast and lunch, especially if you’re looking for tasty gluten-free and vegetarian options.

J22 Tap & Table

This lively, year-round restaurant specializes in classic American cuisine and local seafood dishes such as New England clam chowder, lobster tail and seared yellowfin tuna while accommodating meat eaters with wings, burgers and steak tacos.

Village Hearth Bakery & Café

Take a seat inside this rustic eatery or outside on the patio to enjoy wood-fired bread, pizzas and pastries with a cool beer or wine.  To start your day with a smile, order a cup of the eco-friendly coffee.

Bay Voyage Restaurant

Inside the Wyndham Bay Voyage Inn, this casual dining establishment presents a seasonal menu of American cuisine standards and seafood with fresh ingredients and a stellar view of Narragansett Bay.

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