New Hampshire and Maine Coast: Tips for Visiting

A highlight of living in Boston, or visiting the area, are fantastic day trips to destinations along the New Hampshire and Maine coast. As we live near downtown Boston and parking spaces are limited in our area of Allston, we choose not to own a car. We rely on public transport and when we need it, we rent cars from Zipcar either by the hour or by the day. These are some of our favorite day trips from Boston!

Renting Zipcars in the Allston Area of Boston

Our neighborhood of Allston is sandwiched between Boston University and Boston College. So it’s home to many university students. There are many zipcar owned spaces in various parking lots. A wide variety of economy cars, sedans, SUV’s and mini-vans are available.

Zipcars are a great way to explore Boston’s historic towns. We’ve also rented a mini-van to do boring stuff, like move furniture. We’ve also used the service to meet up with a friend for dinner in Federal Hill in Providence, Rhode Island. Providence is just 40 miles from Boston. Along with Newport, Rhode Island, it’s great place to visit in summer.

Alex’s Dad recently visited from Florida. We conveniently rented a Zipcar one Saturday for a fun road trip along the wonderful beaches along the New Hampshire and Maine coast.

Our first stop was the lovely town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We then continued along the coast of Maine, to picturesque Nubble Lighthouse in Cape Neddick.

Nubble Lighthouse, Maine sunset

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, originally settled in 1623, is America’s 3rd oldest town and is located just 57 miles north of Boston. It’s hard to decide which was more enjoyable- driving along the coast with a long stretch of beaches or the quaint colonial town itself. My 87 year old father visiting from Florida really enjoyed Portsmouth as well.

Lobster shack in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

We enjoyed nice coffees at a quirky German themed coffee shop called Vonsolln. We recommend their coconut flavored coffee.

German coffee shop in Portsmouth- Vonsolln

Along the coast we also enjoyed great ice cream at The Beach Hut in Rye, New Hampshire. One of the most pleasant surprises about moving to New England is how seriously people take great ice cream. The flavors and quality are like a silky smooth dream. We highly recommend the maple walnut, and if you choose the lobster roll don’t worry, it’s not actual lobster in your ice cream!

Beach Hut Ice Cream- New Hampshire

Kittery, Maine

There’s so much great lobster in Maine. On a previous zip one evening to Kittery, Maine, we enjoyed a tasty lobster and excellent fried scallops at Lobster in the Rough, which also has a wonderful view of Portsmouth from their deck on Badger Island, which sits on the Piscataqua River. The food pairs nicely with the wonderful view!

Cape Neddick Lighthouse, aka Nubble Lighthouse

A fantastic place to watch sunset is at the famous Cape Neddick Lighthouse, near York. Often referred to as “Nubble” Lighthouse, this is one of the most famous lighthouses in the United States. So if you want to watch the sunset there, consider arriving a bit earlier on summer evenings. Otherwise you’ll be waiting in a long cue of cars and will struggle to find a parking spot. That’s what happened to us!

We were surprised to find nearly 20 cameras atop tripods, photographing this historic spot. Because of Maine’s rocky and hazardous coastline for ships, US President Rutherford B. Hayes appropriated $15,000 to build the lighthouse in 1874. It was completed in 1879 and is still functional today.

Nubble Lighthouse in York, New Hampshire

Cape Neddick Lobster Pound

To cap a wonderful day trip, we enjoyed a nice dinner at the Cape Neddick Lobster Pound. The mussels cooked in a white wine based broth were definitely the highlight of the meal, but their fried seafood was not as good as Lobster in the Rough in Kittery. Afterwards we zipped back to Boston in the car in around 90 minutes. It was an all around fantastic day, and brought back wonderful memories for Alex’s father, who drove his young children along this coast in the 1980’s, while also stopping at Nubble Lighthouse.

Sunset in Maine

Portland, Maine

Portland is the largest city in Maine. It’s set on a peninsula extending into Casco Bay. The Old Port waterfront features working fishing wharves and converted warehouses with fantastic restaurants, gastropubs, breweries and artisan shops. Portland is a foodies delight. And the town reminds us of Galway, Ireland.

Portland’s Western Promenade is a public park atop a bluff. Visit for scenic views overlooking the mountains and coast. Its surrounding district, the West End, is home to many Victorian-era homes. The Victoria Mansion Museum is a highlight.

There is so much we love about food in Maine, including fantastic creamy ice cream resulting from quality grass fed cows. Maine’s blueberries are also amazing, so don’t miss the opportunity to purchase them at farmers markets. It’s truly a highlight of the New Hampshire and Maine coast.

We also love the craft beer scene in Portland and beyond. The Maine Brew Bus offers excellent tours of Maine’s craft breweries. Enjoy a tour with them, so you don’t drink and drive!

Renting a Zipcar from Boston to Drive the Coast of New Hampshire and Maine

Renting a Zipcar for the day on the weekend is especially handy as many traditional rental locations in Boston close early on Saturday. Many locations are closed on Sunday too (asides from Boston Logan Airport). If you’re not a Zipcar member, consider signing. They’re located in most major US cities and internationally in the United Kingdom, Austria, Barcelona, Spain and elswhere.

Membership fees start at just $6 per month. Booking cars couldn’t be more convenient. You reserve the cars online and a sensor on the front windshield opens the door. You’ll find the keys waiting inside the vehicle. And for some other great trip ideas, check out their blog, ziptopia.

More New England Road Trip Options

There are many romantic winter road trips from Boston. There are also many great day trips within Massachusetts from Boston, including Martha’s Vineyard, Salem, Cape Cod and Hyannis Port. One of our favorite destinations, along the Massachusetts coast, is Rockport!

Beach- Rye, New Hampshire

Disclosure: We’ve recently been added to Zipcar’s blogger influencer program. We had previously purchased a membership and paid out of pocket for the service on several occasions beforehand. 

Zipcar with Alex & Bell


  • Alex&Bell

    Alex and Bell originally met while solo traveling after finishing university in 2002, in Brugge, Belgium. Alex grew up in the USA and Bell hails from Australia. During our nearly 20 year marriage we've lived around the world, including spending six years living in the Netherlands and Ireland. We have traveled to nearly 70 countries and enjoy giving readers authentic and quality travel tips. Alex is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner, who also freelances for other outlets. Bell is an award winning PhD scientist who currently works for a non-profit lung cancer advocacy research organization called Lungevity. Happy travels and if you have any questions leave a comment or drop an email!

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2 thoughts on “New Hampshire and Maine Coast: Tips for Visiting

  1. Wow a great idea re Zip cars – we have GoGet in Melbourne and as traffic increases and less people want to own a car it makes sense.
    Looking forward to seeing all Boston has to offer

  2. This type of community car ownership in cities is fantastic! It can save so much money and hassle…And zipcar is great for renting in other cities too. Before we were zipcar members we rented a car from Hertz for 11 days for a roadtrip to Buffalo to see family. Our reservation stated to return the car on Sunday to the Allston office which to our surprise wound up being closed that day!! We could then leave the car at our expense for a 12th day- really bad on Hertz…None of that nonsense with zipcar. No closed rental offices, just swipe your card and drive! 🙂

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