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Roadtripping and RVing in New England and the Maritimes

How to explore 1,200 miles of stunning coastlines, picturesque campsites, and freshly caught lobster.

The Lobster Coast route heads north along the edge of Connecticut and Rhode Island, jogs over to Cape Cod, then back up the shore to Boston, Salem, and Gloucester, the 18-mile coastline of New Hampshire, and the 3,500-mile coastline of Maine. After that, it carries on through New Brunswick's Loyalist and Acadian country to Nova Scotia. Prince Edward Island, which also has very fine lobsters, was once accessible only by plane or ferry, inconvenient but not impossible for RVers, but now has the 7.9 mile Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick. The whole route one way is approximately 1,200 miles, more if you dip into all Maine's picturesque coves and make a loop around Nova Scotia, and explore inland.

Canada's Maritimes offer good driving in most areas for freewheelers, but maneuvering an RV through New England is not always easy. Roads are narrow and often crowded with traffic, especially in summer around Cape Cod or Kennebunkport, and there are not a lot of pullover spots spacious enough for a big rig. The best way to explore most of the towns and villages along the Lobster Coast is to park your RV and set out on foot.

Short or Long Trip?

If two weeks is the maximum time you have for a Lobster Land vacation, you'll be able to make the coastal drive to Nova Scotia and back from a New York or Connecticut starting point, as well as the journey around Cape Cod, but you might have to miss islands like Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, and Prince Edward Island. Allow a week for New England, the second week for Canada's Maritimes. June is less crowded than July and August and the autumn, but some of the campgrounds and attractions may not be open yet.

If you want to spend more than 2 or 3 weeks on the Lobster Coast, you'd better make your plans and arrangements well in advance for July and August. And don't expect to get reduced rates for a long stay in a private campground during the summer; one New Hampshire operator charged us double for the Fourth of July weekend, even though we were in residence for a month, because that's his peak season. As a Cape Cod friend reminded us, they have to make their profits for the whole year in only a few short months.

The only time more popular in New England than July and August are the autumn foliage months when the "leaf peepers" arrive by the car and busload. It's the prettiest time of year, so take refuge in some off-the-beaten-track towns and villages or head north to Canada to wait out the invasion. New Brunswick is filled with great discoveries and is uncrowded year-round; you could spend a month exploring there. While Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island tend to be busier in summer, you can still find some space.

Travel Essentials

When to Go: Summer and fall is prime lobster season, and also when the weather is best. That's also when everyone goes. If you go too early in June, you'll encounter the mosquitoes, black flies, and no-see-ums. Autumn is crowded with leaf peepers, who go for the fall foliage. They travel in groups, often by tour bus.

What to Take: Bring binoculars, camera, rain gear, hiking boots, sun hat, sunscreen, and insect repellent. To enter Canada, you should have proof of citizenship, such as a passport, birth certificate, or voter registration card because a driver's license is not acceptable. (Some Canadian border guards let people through with only a license, but it's not technically legal. Better safe than sorry.)

What to Wear: If you want to mingle at the posher purlieus of New England like Bar Harbor, Nantucket, and Martha's Vineyard, wear anything from the L. L. Bean, J. Crew, or Land's End catalogs, Topsiders without socks, plaid or khaki Bermuda shorts, Oxford cloth shirts, and pastel sweaters tied around your neck. Otherwise, don your usual RV garb, and you'll fit in almost everywhere.

Always have a sweater or jacket handy. The Maine coastal weather on a summer day is described by Frances FitzGerald as "Baked Alaska," -- a simultaneous sensation of hot sun and cool breeze. And Nova Scotia residents were nicknamed "Bluenoses" for bearing up under the cold winters.

Trimming Costs on the Road

First of all, never eat your lobster in a restaurant. You can pick it up at a lobster pound live or cooked. Take a live lobster back to the RV and cook it or refrigerate it until later (see "Looking for Lobster in All the Right Places," later in this chapter). A hot cooked lobster can be brought back to the RV or eaten on the spot at a picnic table thoughtfully provided by the pound or the town. At many pounds, you'll be able to pick up side dishes and beverages, even beer or wine, to go with your steaming crustacean.

Even though the Canadian dollar is lower in value than the U.S. dollar at this writing, don't let it go to your head. We give conversions for the Canadian dollar based on the rate of US$1=$1.06 Canadian.

Make the most of admission to living history parks by planning to spend the day, either taking a lunch or buying one (prices are reasonable) in the on-site restaurants. If you have children along, they'll experience new dishes and utensils so interesting they'll forget they never liked such-and-so.

Plan your beach visits for state parks or national parks like Cape Cod or Acadia; many of the beaches in the northeast are private.

Where to Get Travel Information

It's easy to find out what's going on in New England and the Maritimes. Stop at any tourist information spot, particularly those on main highways at the entrance to a state or province, and you can pick up campground information, times and prices for attractions, maps, and leaflets on everything from local farmer's markets to self-guided drives or walks -- all free. If you want to get information and maps ahead of time, contact the following tourism offices:

  • Connecticut Department of Economic Development, Tourism Division, 865 Brook St., Rocky Hill, CT 06067 (tel. 800/CT-BOUND;
  • Maine Office of Tourism, 189 State St., State House Station 59, Augusta, ME 04333 (tel. 888/624-6345;
  • Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism, 100 Cambridge St., 13th floor, Boston, MA 02202 (tel. 800/447-6277;
  • New Hampshire Office of Travel and Tourism, Box 1856, Concord, NH 03302 (tel. 800/FUN-IN-NH;
  • New Brunswick Tourism, Dept. 243, P.O. Box 12345, Woodstock, NB, Canada E7M 6C3 (tel. 800/561-0123 in the U.S. and Canada outside New Brunswick; publishes a New Brunswick Travel Guide).
  • Nova Scotia Tourism, P.O. Box 519, Halifax, NS, Canada B3J 2M7. They can also arrange reservations at hotels or campgrounds (tel. 800/565-0000; or
  • Rhode Island Tourism Division, 7 Jackson Walkway, Providence, RI 02903 (tel. 800/556-2484;
  • Tourism Prince Edward Island, Marketing Council Visitor Services, P.O. Box 940, Charlottetown, PEI, Canada C1A 7M5 (tel. 888/PEI-PLAY;

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