Historic towns, lobsters, bookstores and classic hotels
Story and Photos by Celina Colby
New England’s coastal beauty is best experienced in multiples. Multiple oysters, multiple scenic walks along rocky shores, multiple encounters with plaid-clad locals at the Main Street watering hole. Why stop at just one charming, historic town when you can soak up three over the course of the week? The New England Coastal Road Trip package put together by Colwen Hotels allows lobster lovers to experience three quintessential New England towns in one go.
First Stop: Portland
You can structure your trip however you’d like, but we recommend starting north and working your way down the coast. Check in at the Portland Harbor Hotel, a charming and luxurious property nestled in the heart of the city’s historic Old Port district. Decorated in the rich navy blue, red and cream colors of the region, the property is at once cozy and upscale. Highlights of the experience include the lavish breakfast menu served in the restaurant or via room service and the outdoor fire pit that warms travelers year-round.
From the Portland Harbor Hotel it’s an easy walk to the best Portland has to offer. The foodie city is bursting with vibrant culinary experiences. Obviously, you’re going to want to try some of that famous Maine lobster. Head to Eventide Oyster Co. for an upscale, avant-garde experience featuring a huge selection of oysters and a bao-style bun for your lobster roll. Or keep it classic by grabbing a mayo-soaked roll from the Portland Lobster Company and eating it overlooking the water. You can literally watch fishermen pull lobsters out of the water while you eat one. That’s the kind of voyeurism we can get into.
Don’t skimp on culture at this stop as the Portland Museum of Art offers a dynamic collection of local and national artists. Throw any preconceived notions you have of Maine art out the window. Boat paintings be gone. History buffs will also love a tour of Victoria Mansion, a uniquely preserved slice of architectural and regional history.
At each stop along the road trip, you’ll find a package of local snacks in your room to get you in the New England mood. While you stroll the streets of Portland you can nibble on sweet blueberry popcorn and sip a cold root beer.
Second Stop: Portsmouth
Drive (or take the regional bus) just an hour south from Portland to Portsmouth, NH, another quintessential coastal New England town with roots back to the early 1600s. You can’t get much more early-America than that.
Though the city retains its historic charm, we promise there have been significant comfort upgrades since the Pilgrims rolled up to the Portsmouth shore. For example, instead of roughing it like the Pilgrims did, you can now stay in the comfort of the AC Hotel Portsmouth. Don’t be fooled by the Marriott parentage of this hotel, it’s chic with a capital “C” sporting a clean-lined black lobby with multiple gas fireplaces and an upgraded fitness center where you can stream stationary bike classes in a private spin room. Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy dinner or a drink in the rooftop restaurant overlooking the Old Harbor.
You’ll want to engage in a New England pastime, strolling down Main Street, or in Portsmouth’s case, Market Street. It’s here that you’ll find a plethora of unique, local shops and restaurants. Those with a penchant for the literary should head to Book & Bar for a cocktail or a coffee and an afternoon of browsing through shelves of used books. Pickwick’s Mercantile is a vintage-y gift shop nodding to Portsmouth’s rich history and offering locally made cards, candles, and other goods.
Top off your evening with an innovative meal on a haute cuisine level but served up in a comfortable, casual environment at Raleigh Wine Bar. The enthusiastic team can recommend a different, unique wine to match each course. After all, you need to be fortified for the final leg of your trip.
Third Stop: Boston
Another hour in the car or on a bus and you’ll find yourself in Paul Revere’s very own hometown. Well, close by anyway. For the third stop on the New England Coastal Road Trip you’re based at The Row Hotel in Somerville, just outside Boston on the Cambridge side. The artistic and contemporary hotel is located in a newly built complex of shops, art installations, restaurants and entertainment called Assembly Row.
The complex is located right at an MBTA subway stop so you can easily pop into Boston proper for a Red Sox game or a stroll along the Freedom Trail. Satiate your cravings for local oysters and classic clam chowder at Salt and Stone just around the corner from The Row Hotel or just sip craft cocktails at the restaurant’s Instagram-worthy midcentury style bar overlooking their woodfired oven. Further down the street, pop into All She Wrote Books, a local bookshop highlighting historically underrepresented authors, like women, LGBTQIA+ and POC writers. Take your new reading material back to the hotel and enjoy it while lounging by the petite but beautifully decorated indoor pool.
The location of The Row Hotel offers visitors the opportunity to encounter as much or as little of the traditional Boston experience as they’d like. You can go into town every day for classic Boston moments like a walk through Harvard Yard or a Duck Boat tour around the city. Or you can lay low in Somerville’s Assembly Row neighborhood, prioritizing relaxation at the end of your road trip.
The New England Coastal Road Trip caters to the foodie, the shopper, the action-packed tourist and the poolside lounger alike. No matter what your interests, you’ll leave the region pronouncing car as “cah.”