Places to Look at Fall Foliage

Fall Boating Guide

Published on October 24, 2022


Cruisin' into Autumn: Catch Fall's Natural Art Show by Boat

When summer boating season comes to a close, don't worry, you still have options! People do boat in the fall and there are numerous reasons for doing so, including fewer crowds, different wildlife viewing opportunities, and cooler weather for those who prefer a brisker ride. Not to mention the many stunning locations.

Fall boating doesn’t get any better than knowing when and where to see fall foliage from the water. Being in the right place at the right time to watch the leaves turn color takes a bit of planning and flexibility. Fortunately, there are resources like that have links to every state’s best leaf-watching and travel websites to help dial in the perfect time to go throughout the country. If you have the ability to trailer your boat, then you have what it takes to watch nature’s greatest show.


Why Choose Boat Trips to See Fall Colors?

You might wonder why you should opt for a boat ride to witness this marvel of nature. Well, let's dive into the reasons:

1. Nature's Canvas on Water

When you're on a boat, you have a front-row seat to nature's masterpiece. The reflection of colorful foliage on the water's surface creates a surreal, almost otherworldly experience. It's like sailing through a living painting. 

2. Uninterrupted Scenic Views

Unlike road trips where trees may obscure your view, boat rides allow you to flow smoothly on water, offering uninterrupted vistas of the shoreline. Every twist and turn of the river or lake reveals a new tapestry of colors.

3. Relaxation and Tranquility

Boat trips have a therapeutic effect. The gentle rocking of the boat and the sound of water against its hull induce a sense of calm and tranquility, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the fall spectacle.


Tips for an Unforgettable Boat Trip

To ensure your boat trip to see fall colors is a remarkable experience, here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Timing Is Everything: Plan your trip during the peak of fall foliage. Research when the leaves are expected to be at their most vibrant in your chosen destination.

2. Dressing for the Occasion: Autumn weather can be unpredictable. Layer your clothing, so you can stay comfortable as temperatures fluctuate.

3. Camera Ready: Don't forget your camera or smartphone! You'll want to capture these incredible moments to relive the beauty of the season.

4. Snacks and Beverages: You'll want to be able to spend some time and take in the views, so be sure to pack snacks and warm or cold beverages to enjoy during the trip. You're guests will thank you!

5. Respect Nature: Remember that you're a guest in the natural world. Leave no trace, and be respectful of the environment.


Top Boating Trips to See Fall Colors

1. Fontana Lake, North Carolina

Peak Leaf Season: October/November

Located between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Appalachian Trail near Bryson City, N.C., Fontana Lake boasts 240 miles of scenic shoreline and numerous coves over its 29-mile length. The surrounding elevation changes make for majestic leaf viewing, and there are numerous boat ramps and waterside accommodations for easy water access. It’s a deep lake, so even when the water gets drawn down in the fall, there’s still plenty of water for boating.

2. Lake Chatuge, Georgia

Peak Leaf Season: October/November

Near Hiawassee in north Georgia, Lake Chatuge is off the beaten track but still has enough amenities and resources to make this a great getaway. It has 129 miles of largely undeveloped shoreline, which makes it ideal for photography. Unlike many lakes in the southeast that are subject to low water levels, it only varies about 9 feet on average throughout the year, and it's far enough south to allow boating year-round.

3. Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Best Month for Leaf Watching: October

Located on the Wisconsin River, this town in the upper Dells is known for its dramatic rock bluffs. During summer, Wisconsin Dells hums with tourists but after the kids go back to school, it’s less frantic. Take a side trip to Devil’s Lake near Baraboo, which is among Wisconsin’s prettiest.

4. Squam Lake, New Hampshire

Best Leaf-Watching Time: September/October

Although it doesn’t get as much publicity as its larger neighbor, Lake Winnipesaukee, just to the south in New Hampshire, Squam Lake is a great place to watch the fall foliage. Numerous islands dot this gem that was the setting for “On Golden Pond” starring the Fondas.

5. Table Rock Lake, Missouri

Best Time for Leaf Watching: October

This 43,000-acre lake set in the Ozarks near Branson, Missouri, Table Rock Lake is surrounded by large swaths of wilderness on its 750-mile shoreline. Numerous coves are great places to anchor and enjoy the view. In fall, the hordes of tourists are gone, and there are plenty of waterfront lodging options at lower rates.

6. Lake Champlain, Vermont

Peak Leaf Season: October/November

Lake Champlain, nestled in the heart of Vermont, offers a breathtaking canvas of fall colors. The Adirondacks and the Green Mountains provide a stunning backdrop to this 29-mile-long lake. Don't miss the chance to cruise through Vermont's stunning lakes during autumn's peak.

7. Hudson River, New York

Peak Leaf Season: October/November

Sail down the historic Hudson River and witness the Hudson Valley's breathtaking transformation. The combination of lush forests, charming towns, and iconic landmarks like West Point make this a memorable journey.

8. Lake Michigan, Michigan or Wisconsin

Peak Leaf Season: October/November

Take a boat trip on Lake Michigan, either from the Michigan side or the Wisconsin side, and you'll be surrounded by vibrant foliage while enjoying the fresh breeze off the water.

9. Lake Superior, Minnesota

Peak Leaf Season: September/October

Lake Superior's North Shore is a hidden gem for fall enthusiasts. The rugged coastline and dense forests make for a captivating backdrop as you cruise along the largest of the Great Lakes.

10. Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire

Best Leaf-Watching Time: September/October

Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire's crown jewel, is a fantastic destination to witness nature's autumnal artistry. With its pristine waters and charming islands, it's a picturesque spot to savor the fall colors.


Pro Photo Tips

Taking good photos to document your trip is a must, and most cell phones can do a great job by using a few pro techniques:

1. Use a polarizing lens. It makes the sky a brilliant dark blue and helps cut down on unwanted glare.

2. Go before peak leaf season to get more color contrast. A few bright red trees amidst a sea of green really pops.

3. Look for colors reflected in the water. When there is a little ripple on the surface, the impressionist painter-effect is stunning.

4. Go early and stay late. Sunrise can be spectacular with the mist coming off the water. Stay until just after sunset to add a colorful sky to the mix.


Read on for more fall and winter boating destinations!

Looking for your perfect boat to cruise for fall color viewing? Find a Sea Ray boat dealer near you.


This is for general information purposes only. Your use or reliance on any of the information in this Blog is solely at your own risk. Under no circumstance will we have any liability for any loss or damage of any kind incurred as a result of the use of any of the information provided.

Options and features mentioned subject to change. Please confirm availability of all accessories and equipment with an authorized Sea Ray dealer.



Cookie Preferences