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Road Trip from Portland, Maine to Burlington, Vermont

Have you always longed to see Vermont in the autumn when the leaves are aflame with gorgeous seasonal colors? Or perhaps you want to take the kids on a summer voyage.

Either way, Burlington, Vermont is a great destination. How do you get there from Portland, Maine?

To reach Burlington, Vermont, from Portland, Maine, you’ll cross from Maine to New Hampshire before arriving in Vermont. The trip requires about five hours of driving and can be broken up into two days if need be.

If you’re ready to make your road trip plans a reality, this guide will tell you everything you need to know.

I’ll share a scenic route from Portland to Burlington, fill you in on how long it will take you to get there and offer suggestions of what you and your family can do along the way for entertainment.

The Best Route from Portland, Maine, to Burlington, Vermont

The drive from Portland, Maine, to Burlington, Vermont promises picturesque sights and a rather relaxed atmosphere, as this is considered a shorter trip.

As I mentioned in the intro, feel free to make your pilgrimage over a single day if the kids can handle it, or break the trip up into two days.

Here is the route I’d suggest you take.

Portland to Portsmouth

From the lovely city of Portland, you’ll say goodbye to Maine and drive for 51 minutes into New Hampshire, specifically Portsmouth.

This is a straightforward drive southwest.

Situated on the Piscataqua River, the port city of Portsmouth features homes that date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. If your family is full of history buffs, you’ll love it here.

Museums, parks, and even churches from 1855 abound throughout this city, as do boat docks, one of which houses the USS Albacore. That’s an ex-research submarine that visitors can see on display.  

Portsmouth to Manchester

Now that you’ve settled into the New Hampshire portion of your drive, you’ll continue from Portsmouth to Manchester by driving west.

In about 45 minutes – without too much traffic, of course ­– you’ll have arrived in Manchester.

This glimmering city sitting on the edge of the Merrimack River is in the southern part of New Hampshire, so you’ve already made some serious headway on your trip.

If you’re into art museums, Manchester has plenty, as well as museums dedicated to the history of the textile industry.

Parks, stadiums, and theaters make this appealing waterfront city one worth spending time in with the children on your travels.

Manchester to Mount Sunapee

The last leg of your New Hampshire drive is to Mount Sunapee, a mountain ridge that spans five miles.

You’ll drive northwest for just under an hour, passing Concord, Keene, and Claremont on your route.

Mount Sunapee cuts through Goshen and Newbury, two New Hampshire towns. At its highest elevation, the mountain is 2,726 feet.

I recommend stopping at a hotel in the area for the night if you’re feeling fatigued from driving.

Very young kids probably won’t be able to sit patiently enough for a single-day drive from Portland, Maine, to Burlington, Vermont, after all.

Mount Sunapee to Woodstock

Whether you spent a refreshing night at a Mount Sunapee hotel or you decided to continue through with your drive, the next destination on the road to Burlington is Woodstock, Vermont.

That’s right, you’ve made it to Vermont at last, but you have several more stops before you reach your destination of Burlington.

The drive from Mount Sunapee to Woodstock is about an hour northwest.

Woodstock is a town with a rich history, including buildings from the 1880s and 1890s and museums dedicated to 19th-century farming.

The quaint little town is also known for its delicious eats and seasonal events.

Woodstock to Barre

As easy as it is to fall in love with Woodstock, it’s time to gather the kids up, put everyone in the car, and continue your journey. You’re close enough to Burlington now that there’s no sense in stopping.

From Woodstock, drive about an hour to Barre, which is a straight shot north. If you don’t hit traffic, this should be an easy part of your trip.

Barre is a Washington County town in the central part of Vermont that’s embedded in the Green Mountains.

The historic sights continue in this part of Vermont, and there is also a maple sugar works that will certainly entice the kids to get out of the car for a bit.

Barre to Burlington

The last stretch of your journey officially begins once you leave Barre.

Driving northwest for about an hour (unless you hit traffic, then it can take longer), you’ll reach Burlington, which is right at the top of Vermont.

If you kept going, you’d arrive in Canada!

How long will it take you to reach Burlington, Vermont, from Portland, Maine?

Now that you’ve seen how easy it is to get to Burlington, Vermont, from Portland, Maine, you might feel more eager than ever to make the trip. Approximately how long will it take you?

Well, assuming you don’t run into too much traffic, the entire drive is five hours.

As I said before, if you have older kids, they might be able to handle a single-day drive.

Just be sure to take lots of breaks, which won’t be hard once you read about the kinds of activities and entertainment the cities and towns between Portland and Burlington offer.

If you decide to take the drive over two days for the younger kids, then you’ll drive two and a half hours on both days. That’s simple enough!

Must-Visit Destinations on the Road to Burlington, Vermont

Keeping the family entertained while driving to Burlington, Vermont, from Portland, Maine needn’t be hard when you have so many fun, engaging, and memorable places to visit, things to see, and activities to do.

Here’s what I recommend during your driving breaks!

Portsmouth Destinations

  • Water Country Water Park

In Portsmouth, the Water Country Water Park is the perfect destination for families looking to beat the heat during the dog days of summer.

The park opened in 1984 and has continued to entertain and cool off Portsmouth residents ever since!

The park includes an extensive variety of water slides, from the oversized Colossal Curl to the whitewater tubing adventure Big Daddy Falls to the Cutback Water Coaster for the older kids.

The H2O UFO is a water-filled play area for the kiddos that’s much tamer than any water slide.

If you’re looking for more tame experiences at Water Country still, try the Lil’ Surfers Splash Pad, the wave pool Surfer’s Bay, the lazy river Hubba Hubba Highway, or Rock ‘n’ Roll Island.

When the kids have worked up an ample appetite, you can treat them to nachos, burritos, wraps, burgers, chicken tenders, salads, and a trip to the candy shop!

Gift shops throughout the park let you pick up souvenirs.

  • Seacoast Science Center

The nonprofit Seacoast Science Center in nearby Rye will help your children foster a deeper appreciation of the sea.

The Edge of the Sea exhibit features a microscope-powered observation of undersea animals.

The Restoring Reefs exhibit showcases the importance of reefs, while the NH Beaches exhibit is all about the local ocean.

If the kids seem to be getting listless, guide them to the Tide Pool Touch Tank, where they can touch and hold a hermit crab, green sea urchin, or sea star.

Jumpin’ Jay’s Discovery Dock lets kids simulate what life on the sea would be like, which is sure to be fun.

  • Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse

End your time in Portsmouth with a visit to the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, a historic, gorgeous lighthouse that’s been a staple here since 1771.

Be sure to take lots of photos of the tranquil lighthouse before moving on to Manchester.

Manchester Destination

  • SEE Science Center

The SEE Science Center in Manchester is sure to be an educational yet fun experience for the kiddos.

The Electricity & Magnetism exhibit allows kids to learn how electricity works by connecting circuits with their bodies.

The Biologyou exhibit features an oversized DNA model so kids can learn about their own genetic makeup in an exciting, engaging way.

If you really want to see your kids’ eyes sparkle, the Lego Millyard Project will do it.

This permanent installation of Legos showcases Amoskeag Millyard in Manchester and has even won the recognition of the Guinness World Records.

The Gravity Expedition Video Game will surely grab your kids’ interest too!  

  • Livingston Park

If the kids are begging for a break, park the car at Livingston Park and give them an hour or two to burn off their energy.

The green space here includes a soccer field, playground, and baseball diamond. Two playgrounds separate toddler-aged kids from older kids so everyone can play harmoniously.

Walking trails along the park encircle Dorr’s Pond, offering attractive sights. The pond has skating in the winter and fishing in the spring.

Woodstock Destination

  • Billings Farm & Museum

The Billings Farm & Museum has something for everyone.

The museum portion includes exhibits such as Windows to the Past, Trophy Room, the Quilt Exhibition, and Upon This Land.

You can also tour a farm manager’s house from the 1860s, the farmstead gardens, and the sunflower house.

I think the kids’ favorite part will be seeing all the farm animals, including chickens, goats, sheep, oxen, steer, draft horses, and cows.

The Billings Farm & Museum even has an onsite theater.

  • Montshire Museum of Science

In nearby Norwich, the Montshire Museum of Science is another great attraction when you want to take a break from driving.

The exhibits are divided into those offered indoors and outdoors.

All the indoor exhibits are hands-on and very interactive, from the Air Works exhibit about air properties to the collaborative Rigamajig to the Wonder Woods exhibit for kids under five.

Outdoors, you and the family can discover the Woodland Garden, take a walk through the Quinn Nature Preserve, or let the kids enjoy time at The Play Grove.

The David Goudy Science Park is the main attraction outdoors.

It’s called a living laboratory and offers educational experiences centered around natural history, astronomy, motion, sound, and light.

  • Bromley Mountain-Adventure Park

Peru, Vermont might be a bit out of the way, but it will be worth it to see the look on your kids’ faces when you pull up to the Bromley Mountain-Adventure Park.

This park offers scenic chairlift rides and a zip-lining experience called the Sun Mountain Flyer that can achieve speeds of up to 50 miles per hour at five stories high. If you have older kids, they’ll love it!

The Treetop Adventure Course is another zip-lining experience for kids who are at least seven years old. You can even go disc golfing as a family here.

Barre Destination

  • Twin City Family Fun Center

The Twin City Family Fun Center might be the highlight of your kids’ trip, as it’s a haven for children.

Play a game of cosmic bowling or let your kids compete in the arcade to see who comes out on top at video games.

The arcade also includes fun games where kids can win tickets that are redeemable for an assortment of fabulous prizes.

  • Thunder Road

Thunder Road is a car racing track in Barre that regularly hosts live racing. You will have to check the schedule and pick up tickets ahead of time.

Family togetherness like this doesn’t come about all that often, so be sure to soak up every adrenaline-fueled minute! 

What can you do around Burlington, Vermont?

You’ve finally pulled into Burlington, Vermont. You and the kids are ready for your vacation to truly start now that you’re here, so what should you do first?

Here are some attractions and places to add to your itinerary ASAP.

Burlington Greenway

Rent some bikes and make a beeline for the Burlington Greenway Bike Path.

This paved path stretches for eight miles, offering sights such as the Lake Champlain shoreline, the Winooski River on the north side, and Oakledge Park on the south side.

With restrooms and parking nearby, you and the kids will have everything you need for a leisurely ride.

Burlington Farmers Market

How about some shopping?

The Burlington Farmers Market has been in operation since the 1980s and carries some of the freshest foods and wares this side of Vermont.

The market is open in the summer and the winter. The summer season begins in May and lasts until late October while the winter season gets underway from November to December on select weekends.

The market is only open on Saturdays, so make sure to schedule your visit then.

Ben & Jerry’s

Burlington is the home of Ben & Jerry’s, as this is where the ice cream company was founded.

You should certainly treat the kids and yourself to a couple of scoops of the iconic ice cream now that you’re in Burlington!

ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain

The ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain is a learning center for children that offers animal encounters as well.

The exhibits will teach your children about turtle behavior, the weather, invasive animal species, and more.

At the 3D theater, kids can watch such educational films as Sea Monsters 3D, Amazon Adventure 3D, Backyard Wilderness 3D, and Space: Unraveling the Cosmos 3D.

The animals on display here include a huge assortment of reptiles, amphibians, and fish.

The World’s Tallest Filing Cabinet

Your trip to Burlington is not complete without visiting the World’s Tallest Filing Cabinet, which is indeed what it sounds like.

This art installation, also known as File Under So. Co., Waiting for…is a 2002 piece built by Bren Alvarez.

The entire piece exceeds 40 feet in height and includes nearly 40 real filing cabinets all welded together.


Road tripping from Portland, Maine, to Burlington, Vermont is a fantastic way to foster family togetherness and enjoy some truly spectacular sights as well. This trip is easy and offers lots of fun along the route, so I hope you plan to go soon!