New England weekend getaway
February 15, 2006 7:24 AM   Subscribe

We live in Boston and would like to get away for the weekend to somewhere woodsy and beautiful. The problem: we don't have a car and can't rent one. What's a good getaway that's accessible by bus or, preferably, train?

The goal would be to leave Saturday morning and come back Sunday evening. I was thinking of somewhere along the Amtrak Downeaster line. Ideally, we'd like to do some walking around in the woods and see some scenery.

Any ideas would be great!
posted by josh to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The towns of Gloucester and Rockport on Cape Ann are lovely, if cold at this time of year. You can get to either town by Commuter rail from North Station - they are on the Newburyport/Rockport line. Plenty of hiking and walking on the beach, nice restaurants - perfect for a short getaway
posted by darsh at 7:37 AM on February 15, 2006

I second the trip to Rockport- so beautiful!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:49 AM on February 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Taking the Downeaster to Portland is fine, but you won't get much in the way of "woodsy" unless you have a car once you get there. It's urban and less quaint than, say, Gloucester and Rockport, but there's plenty of fun things to do for a day trip.
posted by briank at 7:51 AM on February 15, 2006

For an overnight, I second Gloucester and Rockport. As long as you are willing to walk, a lot, you can get your woodsy and your quaint New England harbor quota.

If you're interested at all in just a day trip, I highly recommend the Breakheart Reservation in Saugus, which is accessible by bus from the T. The lake was man-made in the 1900s, but the paths and woods around it have grown up into a nice little retreat.
posted by whatzit at 8:10 AM on February 15, 2006

I also recommend Gloucester and/or Cape Anne. It's off-season there this time of year, so some of the restaurants and touristy things may be closed, but the beaches are beautiful, and you can get there by T, commuter rail, and bus.

We got married in Gloucester a few years ago, and most of our NYC friends came by public transportation. Some of them rented bicycles in Gloucester to get around the Cape (Anne) on.

Ipswich is also very nice, and there is a ton of outdoorsy stuff to do there like canoeing the river, kayaking the sea and salt marshes, great beachcombing, etc.

Note, however, that it is off-season right now. Any Cape Anne (Ipswich, Gloucester, Rockport, etc.) destination would be much more fun if you can wait until April when the canoe outfitters and whatnot open for business.
posted by mds35 at 9:22 AM on February 15, 2006

Boston Hiking Guide with MTA info
posted by caddis at 9:30 AM on February 15, 2006

I really loved Ipswich the couple times I've been there. It's sleepy New England historic town (if I'm remembering correctly, it has some of the oldest existing houses in the state) but there's lots of woods and walking, too. I remember hiking up through a cemetery on a hillside and being able to see the tops of rolling hills, churches, clapboard houses -- the works. It also felt a little less tourist-y than Rockport, but that may have just been because I've been in Ipswich more off-season; whatever the reason, Ipswich feels more "hidden getaway" to me.
posted by occhiblu at 10:49 AM on February 15, 2006

You can go up north to Brattleboro, Vermont by bus in about three hours. Walks, a few decent restaurants, bed and breakfasts, etc...
posted by copperbleu at 11:02 AM on February 15, 2006

Best answer: Have you ever been to Martha's Vineyard? It's terrific this time of year. The off season is the best time to be there, in my mind. You can get there by train from Boston (though I have never done this myself).

Believe it or not, it is woodsy, particularly up-island where the landscape is gently rolling hills and oak forest. But even in town, this time of year, peace reigns, and you can hear the whisper of the surf no matter where you go. Plenty of gorgeous beach walks and short hikes are available. A few decent restaurants remain open. You'll be able to meet people easily in the watering holes; locals are far more open and engaged than they are during the tourist season. There is enough to do to avoid boredom, but not so much that you feel pressured to run around. It's indescribably relaxing, and makes you feel that you've gone far, far away from regular life.

A typical off-season 3-day weekend for me and my travelling buddies: Day 1: get off the ferry, get a coffee, browse in the Bunch of Grapes for an hour or two, stroll up the street and see what one movie is playing at the one theatre, check in to the guest house, loll about, walk out for dinner or maybe go to Lola's, walk around the harbor, go for drinks and low-down live blues and dancing at the dive bar known as the Ritz Cafe, or the beer sampler and laid-back conversation in Edgartown at the Newes. Day 2: Breakfast at the ArtCliff Diner, outdoor excursion to one of the many many beaches (recommended: the cliffs at Gay Head or Cape Pogue on Chappaquidick), or to one of the many pieces of forestland with trails. Stop in at Alley's, decompress, dinner, drinks again. Day 3, breakfast at Linda Jean's, more bookstore browsing, sitting around the wharf watching water, more coffee, ferry back to the mainland.

More tips if you want: email in profile. I am an expert at Affordable Vineyard, been going there off-season for 15 years now.
posted by Miko at 11:39 AM on February 15, 2006 [2 favorites]

You can take the bus to the Blue Hills reservation from Ashmont. The hiking there is better than you think.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:34 PM on February 15, 2006

You can take the bus to Williamstown in the Berkshires and you can take Amtrak to Amherst/Northampton. Both are a little further than some of the other places suggested here, but they're both lovely and interesting places with lots nice woodsy areas and good museums and restaurants and so on.
posted by dseaton at 7:42 PM on February 15, 2006

I live on the Cape, and I'm stunned to find out you can get to Hyannis by train! Train might be nicer and quicker, but the Plymouth & Brockton Bus Line is significantly cheaper. I definitely second the Vineyard recommendation, and there was just a piece in the Globe today about Nantucket off-season, so that might be another option (I've never been myself, though.)
posted by Rock Steady at 8:39 PM on February 15, 2006

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