I’m a big fan of train travel. I find it to be a relaxing way to get to your destination. You don’t have to worry about traffic, security lines, tolls, or checked luggage. You can move about freely, the bathrooms are roomy, and you can get a hot meal, cold beverage or snacks in the café car. Amtrak now provides free WiFi on many of their trains as well. Since we visit Old Orchard Beach regularly with family, I’ve had a few opportunities to travel on the Downeaster which makes stops in Brunswick, Freeport, Portland, Old Orchard Beach, Saco, Wells, Dover, Durham/UNH, Exeter, Haverhill, Woburn, and Boston. It’s a great way to travel the coast for a day trip or even a vacation.
Downeaster trains are standard regional Amtrak trains with cloth reclining seats, power outlets, WiFi, Café Car, etc. They also offer upgraded Business Class seating with reserved leather seats and a complimentary beverage and newspaper.
The best part of Downeaster trains, other than the fantastic destinations of course, is that Amtrak has partnered with several local food sources to provide authentic Maine snacking experiences. I enjoyed some Green Bee Ginger Buzz Soda sweetened with honey from Maine wildflower honey. I also had an Amato Whoopie Pie (all of their documents list Wicked Whoopie pies as their source – yum – but my Amato dessert was delicious anyway). Some of the other local treats you might find are Wilbur’s of Maine candies (gummy lobstahs, anyone?), Shipyard microbrews, Captain Eli’s Sodas, and Amato sandwiches and salads. As someone who takes other Amtrak trains on a regular basis, I was so surprised to see all of the special offerings on the menu. Quite the treat.
As further proof that Amtrak sees the Northeaster as a vacationer’s train (although it is equally useful for commuter/connection purposes), they also work with TrainRiders Northeast to provide trained volunteers onboard to help riders make the most of the journey. I haven’t bumped into a Train Host just yet, but if you see one, feel free to ask questions about your destination.
Northeaster tickets from Boston to Brunswick, the full length of the trip, range from around $24-33 with discounts available for seniors, AAA members, and others. Travelers should note that the Northeaster departs from North Station, not South Station as many would expect. Also, trains are limited each day, and not all of them extend beyond Portland. Plan ahead!