New England for non drivers
January 23, 2015 5:13 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I are travelling to Boston for a wedding and will then have the last week of May to relax. We are looking for recommendations for a beautiful remote place in northern New England where we can stay for 5 days. The catch : neither of us drive so it has to be accessible by some combination of public transport.

We're after areas and specific bed and breakfast recommendations in Maine or New Hampshire. Sea side preferred, remote and with good food, and a nice place to stay: a simple but stylish and comfortable bed and breakfast would be ideal, especially one with lovely day hikes in the area and a source of good local food nearby. We're ok with travelling 3-4 hours from Boston but more than that would require something really special. And we won't be driving.

Any recommendations? I'm really keen to visit this part of New England so please restrict recommendations to this area.
posted by tavegyl to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Remote, seaside, and 3-4 hours (by public transit) from Boston are not all compatible, I don't think. Here's the bus schedule/route for Concord Coach lines from Boston to parts of Maine, for instance; four hours just about gets you to Camden/Rockport - which is a lovely little part of Maine, but it is not remote - it's geared for tourists in the spring/summer/fall. I used to live in Rockland (just down the road) and I think five days with no car would be difficult, because as lovely as the area is, there isn't five days' worth of stuff to do just on foot, and transit used to be pretty sparse, though perhaps that's improved.
posted by rtha at 5:32 PM on January 23, 2015

I live in Boston and have lived in New England my entire life. I'm absolutely not trying to give you a non answer here, but outside of Boston itself public transport doesn't exist in any meaningful sense in New England.

A sea side bed and breakfast in Northern New England would limit you to towns available on the Boston - Maine Amtrak line. Those towns do not have transit systems of their own for the most part. You would be limited to what you could find within walking distance of the station.

I'm very much not trying to be a buzzkill, just pointing out that you very well may not be able to find what you're looking for. I certainly can't think of anything meeting your criteria and as I say, I've lived here my whole life.

Check the "Downeaster" Amtrak line and see what you can find near one of the stops. That's the only thing I can think of.
posted by sonika at 5:37 PM on January 23, 2015

You can take a bus from Boston to Northampton, MA in less than two hours. Northampton is relatively walkable, picturesque, with pretty good accessible hikes and lots of good food. It is, however, nowhere near the sea.
posted by telegraph at 5:40 PM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Go to Martha's Vineyard. Bus from Boston then a ferry and then a bus or taxi to a place like this. Bus routes all over island take you to wonderful places.
posted by mareli at 6:03 PM on January 23, 2015 [9 favorites]

Agree with several posters here that public transit in Maine is awful and not something to rely on.

I have one idea that you might like, if you're flexible on the travel time somewhat. Take the Downeaster to Portland, cab across the city to the ferry docks, and take a ferry to Peaks or Chibeague or one of the little islands. There are hotels/B&B's out there, it feels somewhat 'remote' ish (Peaks feels not so remote, but has the most ferries) and Portland is a short ferry away if you need some culture or something from a Walgreens. Portland has terrible public transit but is walkable because it's tiny, and has great restaurants and an old-timey feel.
posted by 100kb at 6:08 PM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Vineyard has decent public transport once you get here, if you decide to do it mefimail me, I'll buy you a beer or six.
posted by vrakatar at 6:13 PM on January 23, 2015

Best answer: I was just writing this up when 100kb posted their info. so will echo what they say.

You can take the Amtrak Downeaster train from Boston to Portland, Maine, then catch a Casco Bay Lines ferry to one of the Calendar Islands, the islands in Casco Bay. It will be off season, but you should be able to find someplace to stay on Peaks Island, Long Island, or even Chebeague Island. Peaks is the most populated and closest to Portland, so would have the most places to stay and the most food places, and the option of easily taking a ferry over to Portland's Old Port which has lots of good food. At that time of year on Chebeague (the island I know best), you would have to either rent a house (a few will be available in May and part weeks should be possible off season) or stay at the Chebeague Inn. It will be very quiet, feel remote (especially the islands further out like Chebeague or Cliff), and you can get around these islands by bike or walking (most Chebeague island houses come with bikes, the Chebeague Inn usually has some, and there is someone on Chebeague who lends bikes out also). I would suggest staying a night or two in Portland in the Old Port area if possible, either before or after staying on one of the islands.

Mr. gudrun and I are non drivers, so we know that this type of trip is doable for non drivers.
posted by gudrun at 6:21 PM on January 23, 2015 [8 favorites]

A bus to Portsmouth NH or the ferry to Provincetown would be my recommendations. Those will get you everything except remote, but May is the off-season so they won't be tourist-clogged. Remote is going to be hard by public transportation by its very definition.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:26 PM on January 23, 2015

Hi! I live in Maine and these posters are correct! There is the Concord bus line and the DownEaster train. I also lived in Mass for many years and my family owned homes in Northern Maine... well, Mid-Maine, because Northern Maine is next to Canada.

I like the Beachmere Inn, which is actually in Southern Maine.

Why do I like it? Because I have been there (to teach an aromatherapy class), and I have met the owner. It is a family owned place, and they have hikes and stuff planned for guests, and a huge lawn looking over the ocean. Ogunquit itself is a really nice place.

You could probably get there by taking the DownEaster train or the Concord and inquiring as to stops. I will leave it to you to look that up on the Google, or call them and inquire.

I think, for expertise in B&B, I would refer you to my acquaintance Dana Moos, who used to be a B&B owner and now sells them. She knows every B&B up and down the Maine coast. She is very accessible on FB and thru her website, she has written a cookbook on breakfast and if anyone knows the answer to your question, it's her. She's on vacay right now, but sure if you write via her website, she will respond soonish, within a week or so. She knows all the B&B owners and she might have a secret hidden spot for you and your requirements.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:28 PM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

I went to school in Western Mass, but when I brought the SO to see everything a few years bac, we ended up renting a car because the PVTA is much less reliable when class isn't in session. Still, there is public transit and there's a hell of a walk score for central Amherst/Noho. If it weren't for your beachfront requirement, the Amherst/Northampton would be perfect for what you're looking for and the Peter Pan bus will get you there from Boston with minimal stoppage. There are B&Bs close to Amherst town center, great day hikes and great food.
posted by theweasel at 6:54 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

There are a couple "Downeaster" Amtrak trains a day from North Station that go past Portland up to Brunswick Maine (not remote but small, walkable downtown) and from there you can take a taxi ($$) to Orr's or Bailey Island which have accommodations. It doesn't look like Casco Bay Lines ferry runs to Bailey Island in May.

But Chebeague Island (train or bus to Portland, CBL ferry to island) is really your best bet in this direction.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:54 PM on January 23, 2015

Newburyport is the last stop on the train line up the north shore, and it's lovely. The train drops you fairly close to downtown (you can walk along the lovely rail trail right to town from the train station), and you can take a taxi wherever else you want to go.
posted by fremen at 8:13 PM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Downeaster's second to last stop on some runs is Freeport, Maine. We don't consider it rural because it does have a retail-filled downtown. But that also means it has several nice B&Bs, a historic inn (the Haraseeket Inn), and lots of restaurants. You could befriend the local taxi service to ride to Wolfes Neck State Park, Winslow Park, and Bradbury Moutain for hiking and wafter access/views (each is 10 minutes from town) or walk to L L Bean and sign up for outdoor exploration classes in kayaking, fishing, etc., all of which come witha shuttle. Trips to islands are available out of South Freeport Harbor. It's not remote by our definition (we drive another 4 hours north for that) but it is beautiful when you get out of downtown and it won't be crowded, since the tourists don't arrive until late June.
posted by Sukey Says at 3:25 AM on January 24, 2015

Response by poster: Thank you for your responses, especially those who gave suggestions for Maine/ New Hampshire. I was a student in Boston but was always too impoverished and carless to go there, but now, whilst still carless, I can at least throw money (within reason) at the transportation problem.

I should have clarified that I visited both the Pioneer Valley and the Cape last year, and enjoyed both thoroughly.

For 'remote' B&Bs I'm happy to substitute 'feel remote' so Chebeague, Freeport, etc recommendations are great.

I also see that there are daily flights between Boston and Bar Harbor which I gather is a bit foul, but must be within reach of lovely places. Any recommendations of places to stay for this part of the coast? If you have B&B suggestions I can see if I can figure out transportation by myself; it's often easier for carless visitors as locals are so used to driving.
posted by tavegyl at 6:32 AM on January 24, 2015

If you end up in the Freeport/Brunswick/Harpswell area, I can put in a strong plug for the Log Cabin inn/B&B on Bailey Island. You won't find any day hikes on the island, although there are some on trails on the next - Orr's Island - but there are at least 4 pleasant places to gorge yourself on clams/lobster/scallops/Allagash, on this 2 mile island, as well as a beach and some other very pretty seaside features like Mackerel Cove and the Giants' Steps.

I grew up in this area and if you want to look more into it please feel very free to memail me, I have a dossier on some favored places in the midcoast area that I put together for a friend and I would be much more than happy to pass it along. I personally think a few days in Harpswell and then another couple in town in the Old Port in Portland would be a particularly pleasant way to spend a week, but I'm biased.
posted by ftm at 11:13 AM on January 24, 2015

If you can get to Bar Harbor, the National Park has a bus system to get you around. I don't know B&B's in Bar Harbor... but it might be a perfect mix of walkable town and take a bus to hikes for you.
posted by LittleMy at 12:56 PM on January 24, 2015

Response by poster: Update: we decided to take a train to Portland and then bite the bullet and get a cab to catch a ferry to Monhegan Island. The taxi fare will undoubtedly be an added inducement to get to work on my license.
posted by tavegyl at 11:11 AM on May 14, 2015

Response by poster: Further update for non drivers - ways to get from Portland to Port Clyde (there to take a ferry to Monhegan island) are :

Bus to Rockland, an overnight stay and a cab to Port Clyde the next day

Airport limo to Rockland or Thomaston (about $100) followed by cab to Port Clyde (about $40).

A cab all the way ($200+).

There are other ferries from Boothbay and elsewhere which may be cheaper to get to but which didn't work for our travel plans.
posted by tavegyl at 4:42 AM on May 30, 2015

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