Big City RVing Guides: Boston, MA & Portland, ME

Published Categorized as RVs

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Getting in and out of most urban areas of New England can be extremely difficult in an RV, especially if you are pulling a trailer or driving a class A motorhome. While this part of the country is quaint, picturesque and historic, much of its road design was laid out over 300 years ago when people traveled by horse and buggy, so navigating a bigger RV through those tiny streets can be very challenging and sometimes just plain impossible.

In this part of my series about RVing popular urban areas, I’ll share some of my secrets for visiting Portland, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts without my rig and I’ll share some good ideas how you can do this as well. While boondocking in New England can often be difficult due to local overnight parking ordinances, I’ll also share with you one site I found that had no problem with me spending a night or two so I could leave my RV to visit Portland and Boston.

Where to stay

Much like an L.L. Bean store or a Camping World retailer, the Kittery Trading Post is dedicated to serving the outdoorsman as well as RVers. Located just nine miles from the Dover, New Hampshire Amtrak station, at 301 U.S. Route One, Kittery, Maine, this retailer welcomes RVers to stay in there parking lot overnight free of charge provided you register your RV and park in their designated areas. There are no facilities such as electric, sewer or water, so if that’s what you’re looking for, then you should probably plan on staying at one of the many paid campgrounds located nearby. Also, if you’re traveling with a trailer, you should plan on calling an Uber or Lyft for transportation to and from the train station because leaving your trailer unattended and disconnected from your tow vehicle is highly discouraged. Remember, this not a campground and you should treat it like what it is…a place to park your rig for a few hours and not a few days.

Visiting Portland, ME

It’s a one-hour journey on the Amtrak train to Portland, Maine from the Dover, NH station and it’s well worth the cost of a $10 coach seating ticket. For $25 you can ride in business class, but you really have to ask yourself is whether purchasing a business class ticket for additional $15 is worth the free bottle of water or juice, and a package of cheap snacks is worth the cost. If you’re like me…you’ll opt for the coach seating and save your money for a good lunch.

Schedules courtesy of Amtrak

While well worth the experience, visiting Portland, Maine using Amtrak from Dover, New Hampshire will be a short-day trip as opposed to other urban journeys in this series. The first departure time on Amtrak from Dover, NH to Portland, ME is 10:35 AM, and last departure time from Portland southbound is 4:58 PM.

Things to do in Portland, ME

Portland was once a thriving fishing and lobstering community and it still is to this day. However, over the past couple of decades, the vibe there has changed, and its downtown district has evolved into a much more eclectic area filled with numerous farm-to-table eateries and lots of art galleries that feature nationally know artists as well as many talented local artists.

A visit to the Maine College of Art is always worth the trip and best of all, it’s free to explore and located within walking distance of the downtown train station. Admission to their galleries and campus is open Wednesday-Sunday from 11 AM – 5 PM, so it gives you plenty of time to explore their grounds, have an excellent lunch downtown and still explore some of their downtown waterfront before you board that 4:58 PM train back to the Dover station.

Visiting Boston, MA

Visiting Boston from your campsite in Dover, NH has a lot more options than visiting Portland, Maine in terms of the number of trains and departure times and arrival times. However, you should know that when visiting Boston, your best station to disembark or board your train back to Dover, NH is the South Station in Boston as this puts you closest to the downtown district and within walking distance of numerous historical sights, and of course the popular shopping and dining areas.

Schedules courtesy of Amtrak

While there are six trains to-and-from Boston, MA and Dover, NH daily, be advised that four of those trains will let you board and disembark at South Station. The other two north and southbound trains will require you to access one of the other stations and this will require you to board a transit bus and it will add on 30 minutes to your journey. My advice is to avoid these connections as they are designed for commuters and are likely to be far more crowded and far less accommodating for visitors.

As a rule, it’s 1.5 hours to South Station direct from Dover, NH. The cost of the ride is $21 for an adult coach fare and $31 if you choose to purchase a business class ticket.

Things to do in Boston

Once you’ve chosen your train to and from Boston, you’ll be amazed at the things to visit there. If you love history like I do, the Freedom Trail is an amazing 2.5 mile journey you can explore on your own. This hike takes you through numerous historical sites as well as several museums that explain this part of historical New England as well as our nation’s history.

Artists and followers should gravitate toward the Harrison Avenue district which is home to some of the best art galleries in New England. Additionally, if you’re a sports fan, a visit to Fenway Park may be on your to do list.

In short, there are numerous options to visit this beautiful city with or without your rig. I always advise choosing a place to camp or boondock away from the city and visiting the city by train.  Generally, older cities in New England can be unforgiving to the RVer or boondocker when it comes to visiting their city with a rig that is too high or wide to navigate their historic streets as well as restrictions involving overnight parking.

As always, my fellow travelers, thanks for following along in this series as well as my other columns. Stay safe, stay healthy and I hope to see you out on the highways soon.

If you don’t own an RV and want to rent one for your travels, read Mike’s guide on the best RV rental companies.

By Brian

Born and raised in Michigan, contributing writer Brian C. Noell is a retired hospitality industry professional that now works remotely as a visual artist, writer and photographer as he travels around the United States in an RV with his dog Lizzy, an eighty pound Appenzeller hound dog.