New England Travel by Train

by Melania Mitchel

Let the Train Take the Strain

Want to tour New England but don’t want to drive? No problem. It’s easy and convenient by train, especially along the New England coast. On Amtrak’s network as well as a couple regional lines, you can reach well-known vacation destinations in all six states. Go direct, or stop along the way to see the sights. Not only do you travel in comfort, some routes also provide marvelous views!

Providence, Rhode Island Skyline - credit Providence CVB - New England

Amtrak’s Northeast Regional Line

This service suits those on a budget (learn about the high-speed Acela below), but it still makes the trip from Boston to New York in under four hours. Headed south from Boston, you can get off and explore historic Providence, the capital of Rhode Island, with its trendy restaurants — there’s even a trolley to give you a narrated tour of the city. From here, the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority serves many communities, such as Newport, famous for its Gilded Age mansions, summer music festivals and more. Or, stop for a stay at a romantic inn in Westerly to explore the coastline.

Further south, stop off at Mystic, Connecticut, with Mystic Seaport and the popular Mystic Aquarium; and New Haven, Connecticut, home of Yale University with its interesting museums, art galleries, and architecture.

Island Connections

Also south of Boston are Amtrak train stops where you can easily hop a ferry for an island adventure:

  • New London, Connecticut: the station is a 10-minute walk from the Block Island Express Ferry port, with crossings to tiny but spectacularly beautiful Block Island (Rhode Island).
  • West Kingston, Rhode Island: connect to the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. In season, the Amtrak shuttle service takes you from the station to the Vineyard Fast Ferry.

Boston, Massachusetts

In New England’s gateway city of Boston, the capital of Massachusetts, there’s much to see. As well as Amtrak services, it is also the hub of an excellent local and regional public transport network. So, stay here and take easy day trips to nearby historic destinations, such as Salem, Concord, and Lexington in Massachusetts, as well as Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Amtrak Downeaster to Freeport, Maine, New EnglandAmtrak Downeaster to Freeport, MaineAmtrak Downeaster to Freeport, Maine

Amtrak’s Downeaster: North of Boston Up to Maine

In New England-speak “Downeast” means you are heading in or into the northeast coastal section of the United States, so on this train line you will be headed north. Lovely scenery, great shopping, and bustling Portland are all offered on this service.

  • Dover, New Hampshire: At the station, the connecting COAST bus service takes you to the small city of Portsmouth, a historic — and lively — seaport.
  • Wells, Maine: in season, the Shoreline Explorer provides connecting services from this station to the southern beach towns of Ogunquit, Wells, York, Kennebunk, and Kennebunkport.
  • Stop in Old Orchard Beach, Maine where the station is within walking distance of this popular beach and boardwalk.
  • Spend time in Portland, Maine, in the Old Port area with its waterfront, museums, shopping, and restaurants. This city also makes a great base; take day trips using the Metro bus service, ride bikes or take Casco Bay Ferries to visit some of the islands just offshore.
  • Freeport, Maine, is famous for shopping, with 170 upscale outlets and regular stores, including the legendary L.L. Bean. Stay in one of the hotels and you can shop for even longer!
  • Brunswick, Maine is a pretty college town — and the end of the Downeaster line.

Keyes beach - Hyannis, Massachusetts

The CapeFLYER: Seaside Fun on Cape Cod

Ride a train from Boston to one of New England’s favorite seaside retreats! From late-May through mid-October, the CapeFLYER, which is an extension of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, runs on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays between Boston and the town of Hyannis on Cape Cod, one of America’s most popular vacation destinations. In Hyannis, use the free, seasonal Hyannis Area Trolley to visit sights, such as the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum. Ride the buses of the CCRTA (Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority) to towns and villages up and down the Cape, which offers more than 100 beaches. Or, catch Hy-Line Cruises to the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The CapeFLYER trip takes 2.5 hours each way. Children 12 and under travel free.

Mark Twain House - Hartford, Connecticut - New England

Amtrak’s the Vermonter

This route from Connecticut’s south shore offers gorgeous scenery, particularly through the Connecticut River Valley, on the way to central Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and northern Vermont.

  • New Haven, Connecticut is the home of Yale University, whose two art museums — Yale Center for British Art and the Yale University Art Gallery — are both world-class.
  • Hartford, the capital of Connecticut, was home to two of the USA’s favorite writers: Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Visit their houses, right next door to each other. Also worth visiting is the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.
  • Springfield, Massachusetts is home to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. After all, the sport was invented here in 1891! Also, visit the Springfield Museums with its five different venues and the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden.
  • Amherst, Massachusetts bustles with students at several colleges but is best known as the home of 19th-century poet Emily Dickinson.
  • St. Albans, Vermont is the end of the line. The maple trees that provide the fiery fall foliage also provide delicious syrup in the spring. Taste some during the Vermont Maple Festival on the last weekend of April.

For maps of routes and stations visit Amtrak’s Northeast region website.