Days: 434-439 (2 September 2015 – 7 September 2015)
Total distance travelled: 111,852.9 kilometres (69,473.83 miles)
When we began seriously considering a New England excursion, our research soon revealed one problem.
A severe shortage of public transportation options.
That left us one option, hire a car.
Given that I don’t drive (having never had a license), that left Sarah as our sole person behind the wheel.
Thankfully she’d recently driven a lot of distance in Canada, so was used to driving on what was for us, the ‘wrong’ side of the road.
We found ourselves a good priced hire car (all in advance), devised a route, and after a few days in Boston, off we went.
Day 1: Boston to Wareham (via Plymouth and Cape Cod) 337km
We were off nice and early on what was yet another glorious sunny day having utilised the free bus service from the airport to the hire car, and it was a pretty uneventful cruise down the highway to Plymouth.
This historical town was never actually a destination we’d had in mind, but we were passing right by, so what better place to stop, than a town with so much history attached to it!
Famously founded by the pilgrims, those folk who crossed the Atlantic on board the Mayflower, it’s actually a cute little seaside town, when we were there (thankfully), not overrun with tourists.
The pilgrims, at least according to popular folklore, landed at the site of Plymouth Rock (distinguishable as the only sizeable landmark along this stretch of shore), however these days the rock is a shadow of its former self, as souvenir hunters for a century or more, chipped away chunks to take home their very own bit of pilgrim memorabilia.
Still, the town itself is a cute little spot.
Back on the road, we continued south, eventually veering towards the east and onto Cape Cod itself.
We took a detour off the main road as we journeyed along the cape, hopeful that it might give us some scenic water views along the way.
It didn’t, so it wasn’t until we hit Provincetown, a picturesque harbour town with a decidedly gay friendly vibe (it was great to see all the rainbow flags and male couples… either that or they’re all descended from the Incas) that we could once again see the sea.
By now it was well and truly time for lunch, and although there were copious amounts of eateries, this place had very much a tourist feel, so very little was cheap (plus we also felt like seafood with fries was the order of the day given where we were).
Julie had been hankering for a Lobster Roll since we’d hit New England, so that was what we got, whilst Sarah and I indulged in a lunch special of Clam Chowder and a Fish Burger each.
It certainly hit the spot, we finished with a wander of the gorgeous little streets with their colourful, weatherboard clad buildings, before heading towards the less sheltered, Atlantic facing side of the peninsula.
Out the back of the dunes there, sits the Old Harbor Life-Saving Station, a cool relic from those past days before the US Coastguard existed (although it was operated by them for a time before it was retired from service).
It’s raw wooden shingles give it a real look of age that I especially loved, although the steep parking prices for vehicles near the beach, saw us instead park a kilometre or two away and walk to the dunes.
Now we’d hardly be doing New England justice if we didn’t visit any of their hundreds of lighthouses as well.
The first we ticked off on this roadtrip, the Highland Light (otherwise known as the Cape Cod Light), although we arrived too late in the day to be able to take a peek inside.
As the suns intensity slackened, it was a sure sign that we needed to get a wriggle on, lest we be trying to find our Airbnb booked room in Wareham in the dark.
We did still have time however to grab ourselves a few beers to help us relax after a good first day on the road!
Day 2: Wareham to Milford (via Onset, Mystic and Norwalk) 343km
We had a very deliberate reason for heading to Norwalk on the Connecticut coast, and that was to indulge in something we considered very New England.
For that very night, we had tickets to a good old fashioned, New England Clambake!
Unfortunately, searching for a room (or rooms) for three people had priced us out of Norwalk itself, so we were instead headed for motel half an hour distant in Milford… it was the best we could do!
Our day kicked off with a short visit to Onset, a cute little Massachusetts harbour town we’d been worded up on by our host of the previous evening.
We didn’t linger too long, hitting the road once more and this time headed west towards Connecticut.
We hit Rhode Island pretty soon, and before long, had left it behind as well (well it is only small) before turning off the road when we spied signs to Mystic.
Our Pennsylvanian friend Josh had said it was well worth the detour, so we decided to make it our lunch stop for the day.
Mystic Seaport is apparently the largest maritime museum in the world, however we weren’t prepared to fork out the money or commit the little time we had to wandering about.
From what we could see from without, it looked pretty cool, especially for families.
Instead, we strolled into town in search of lunch.
We soon found something, and it wasn’t until we waltzed on in that we realised we were walking in the footsteps of fame.
Welcome to Mystic Pizza, made famous not by us, three Australian tourists munching on some slices and enjoying a cold beer, but rather by the movie of the same name starring Julia Roberts.
The name did ring a bell once we began to think about it, but we couldn’t recall ever actually seeing it…
We continued our westward trajectory, checking into our motel in the mid to late afternoon, freshening up and then travelling on our merry way to Norwalk, or more correctly, South Norwalk as our Clambake awaited.
The experience (to which I’m dedicating a post all of its own), saw us through to the end of our second day.
Day 3: Milford to Plainfield (via Springfield and South Royalton) 418km
As we travelled north on the morning of day three, happily (but certainly not healthily) munching on a breakfast of donuts, we’d set ourselves the task of travelling through four states in our quest to hit Vermont for the night.
First stop after breakfast was another famous city, Springfield.
As one of the thirteen cities and eleven towns in the US that bear the name, it’s not because of The Simpsons that we took time for a stop here.
I was instead dragging my two lovely companions, to the Springfield Armory.
The primary site for arms manufacturing in the US for nearly two hundred years, it now sits as a National Historic Site.
We took a little wander, which included an exhibit on weapons provided by the armory for Hollywood, before noting the glazed look on the ladies (Sarah and Julie’s) faces and taking our leave.
Springfield however, isn’t all about guns.
It is also host to the Basketball Hall of Fame (which wasn’t really of interest to us), and another slightly quirkier attraction, the Dr Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden (which was of interest).
We eventually tracked it down, enjoyed the familiar faces from our childhood, before getting back on the road.
As we travelled, we began to spot signs directing us to the birthplace of Joseph Smith (that would be the founder of Mormonism), now ever curious and amused since our joyous night at the irreverent Broadway show, The Book of Mormon, we decided to go and take a peek.
We were offered a guided tour by one of the ‘Elders’ which we decided to partake in, I’ll admit I did probably ask too many questions and thus prolonged the affair longer than it need have been…
At least they had some beautiful gardens and a stunning monolith!
We were by now in Vermont, so it didn’t take us too much longer to make our way out to Plainfield… and then on past Plainfield to where we’d booked another Airbnb for the night.
By now it was too late and we were all a bit too tired to cook (my navigating had been a bit sub par), so it was pizza and beers for dinner in this lovely country setting.
Day 4: Plainfield to Portland (via Littleton) 282km
For the second morning of the trip, we kicked things off based on a recommendation, and this meant that our first stop wasn’t in fact too far from Plainfield.
That’s how the morning (yet another stunning sun filled one), saw us turning off the main road and into Goodrich’s Maple Farm.
Now I’ve never really been a Maple Syrup fan, however I think that the reason for that is that it really doesn’t have as strong a presence in Australia as it probably should.
Most of the product you’ll find will be imitation shit, and the flavour is indicative of the quality, pretty poor.
Glenn, one half of the owner operator pair that are the farm, talked us a bit through the history of the farm and the industry in general which was a truly enjoyable listen (he was completely engaging and got us all involved).
Then came the sampling, and after getting our tongues into a couple of Maple Syrup tasters, we were instant converts!
The flavours were amazing, one of which tasted like butterscotch, but was all natural.
We loaded up on a few bottles of our very own, thanked Glenn for his time and hospitality, and continued our journey on this glorious day.
Today’s ride, presented us with stunning views.
Lush green woods, lakes and even mountains.
It was after passing back into New Hampshire on our eastern trajectory that we entered the White Mountain National Forest, and deemed it the perfect place to take some time out for lunch.
With vistas like this, I’m sure you can hardly blame us.
It wasn’t long after lunch that we’d even left New Hampshire behind, such is the size of these New England states and were presented with Maine, the newest on our North American adventures.
Eventually in Portland and back on the coast, we thought there’s nothing more Maine than Lighthouses (and possibly Lobster), and being back on the coast we immediately had a hankering for some seafood.
Well the two looked like meeting perfectly when we discovered that right near an area known as Two Lights (where you can see two lighthouses) sits the well regarded seafood eatery, The Lobster Shack.
What we hadn’t considered was that this particular evening was a Saturday… at the end of a gorgeous, sunny day… on a long weekend.
The queue for tables was immense, and the wait for even take away food, was huge.
As a result, that night we dined on Mexican!
Day 5: Portland (no road tripping)
The beautiful weather continued for our Sunday, a day that was to be spent wholly in and around Portland (giving Sarah a welcome rest from those hours of driving).
It was a very cute town (or should that be city?), although perhaps given that it was a Sunday morning, there wasn’t all that much going.
We were struck by how many great sounding brew-pubs there were, as well as quite a few purveyors of craft beer in general (something to keep in mind for those beer fans like us), but eventually struck true gold with the best cheese shop we’d come across in all of continental USA.
Forgive us for being snobs, but in general, we’ve never really been in love with American cheeses (famous for introducing to the world plastic cheese slices, and for some inexplicable reason, there’s a penchant to dye all cheese orange), but this place had some truly delicious wares… all of which we gluttonously sampled!
We were back into our set of wheels for another brief trip over to South Portland (where last night we’d been met with those massive queues), this time however, food was not on our minds.
Rather we were here to see the lighthouses, and first amongst those is possibly Portland’s most famous, the Portland Head Light.
Completed in 1791, it stands as the oldest lighthouse in Maine, and after briefly dipping our feet in the waters, we walked up to the headland to take in the lighthouse and its views.
There were great views up and down the coast, not to mention glimpses of a couple of offshore lighthouses as well.
It certainly wasn’t hard to get our lighthouse fix for the day.
We got wind that a couple of smaller lighthouses were also open and worth a look, but both were so low in elevation, that the entrance fee certainly wouldn’t have justified the views we’d receive.
Back in Portland, we got treated to a nice street performance in the form of some Jazz, courtesy of the State Street Traditional Jazz Band whose sounds kept a transient crowd of Sunday sippers and walkers well entertained.
Come dinner, and we finally got our seafood fix and Julie, well she was able to at last tuck into her long desired Maine Lobster!
Given its size, it was certainly an impressive effort for one of such small a frame.
The sacrifices we all make…
Day 6: Portland to Boston (via Salem) 174km
Our final day on the road saw less than a couple of hundred kilometres ahead of us, which we thought would allow ample time for a stop in Salem to indulge in some Witch Hunt history before hitting Boston in time for our afternoon baseball indulgence.
Just as the Witch trials of the time were poorly judged, so too was our time, especially when we’d selected a route off the main highway so as to avoid paying any tolls.
By the time we made it to Salem, there wasn’t time enough to explore any of the museums, so we settled for a quick roam around the town, including one of its older cemeteries before getting back on the road.
In truth, a real shame for a place that promised to be extremely interesting.
It just goes to show, when you have the chance, arrange for a later return time for the hire car, and when your girlfriend suggests maybe we should get up a little earlier on the final day of the road trip, you probably should listen!
Still, at least we got the hire car back in time…
We were a little too early to catch New England in the golds, reds, oranges and yellows of Fall (Autumn), but it was still a lovely part of the US to be able to explore.
* To travel around New England, we hired a care through Sixt which cost us the equivalent of $207.57 AU (which equates to $34.60 AU per day between three people).
* We refuelled only 3 times (once on the last day to return our car at full) for a total 23.68 gallons at a cost of $55.21 US.