Rocky coastlines adorned by picture-perfect lighthouses, idyllic towns steeped in history, and irresistibly fresh seafood. The East Coast’s northernmost state of Maine embodies all of these New England characteristics and more, making it an ideal destination if you’re hoping to escape the frenetic pace of NYC for a few days.
This road trip from New York to Maine begins and ends at the Escape Camper Vans location in Jersey City, situated just outside of NYC. The total driving time is approximately 12 hours, and covers about 684 miles.
To make the most of the coastal scenery and alluring charm of New England, we recommend allotting at least five days to complete this trip. If you have even more time, venture further into Maine for a few days of exploring the jaw-dropping beauty of Acadia National Park.
Best Time of Year for a New England Road Trip
A road trip to Maine is beautiful all year, with the ideal season depending on your interests. Fall is the best time to visit if you’re looking for a cozy, autumnal getaway, while the summer is perfect for kayaking along the coast. Below, we’ve broken down the pros and cons of each season:
Summer marks the high season in Maine, and provides the most optimal weather for soaking in the sunshine and getting out on the water. However, this also makes late June through August the most crowded time to explore the Pine Tree State. Campsites in particular will fill up quickly, so you’ll need to plan your trip well in advance.
Late spring is one of the best times to visit Maine, with the months of May and early June providing amazing weather but with far fewer tourists. Campgrounds will also have more availability compared to the prime summer months.
If witnessing vibrant autumn foliage is your priority, venture out on a New England fall road trip! For your best chance at catching the peak, aim to visit between the end of September into the first week or two of October.
The winter months bring a tranquil, snowy wonderland to the coastline. While the scenery may be idyllic, most campgrounds will be closed, and the temperatures can be pretty frigid, so this isn’t the best season to embark on a camper van adventure.
Preparation for a New York to Maine Road Trip
The key to an unforgettable Maine road trip is planning ahead- especially during the high season. Take your time to book your campsites in advance, and gather any gear that you’ll need before hopping behind the wheel of your camper van!
Camping in Maine is a summer tradition for many, so you’ll want to secure your sites well in advance during the peak season. Most of the campgrounds on this itinerary allow bookings up to 6 months before your trip, so the sooner you’re able to make your plans the better.
The drive up from Jersey City to Rockport, MA is nearly 5 hours, so it’s a good idea to stock up on food and some road trip snacks before heading out. You’ll also want to take advantage of our available add ons, including an extra bedding kit. Even in the summer, the evenings by the water can be chilly, so you’ll want to make sure you have enough blankets to stay warm at night. Throw in some camp chairs as well, so that you can fully relax when you’re hanging out at your campsite. If you’re traveling to Maine during the winter, snow chains will also be essential.
Your smartphone will work perfectly as a GPS on this trip, and you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding reception at any of the stops on this itinerary. Just remember to pack portable chargers so that you can make sure your phone has enough battery even when your camper van is turned off.
Which Camper Van Model is Best for a New York to Maine Road Trip?
From the Escape Camper Vans in Jersey City, you can choose between the Mavericks or Mesa camper vans. Both of these models would be perfect for driving up to New England, as each come equipped with a built-in kitchenette and queen sized bed. They also both sleep up to five people with a rooftop sleeper, though the Mesa is the slightly larger model between the two. Take some time to compare the features of each vehicle to determine which one is your ideal road trip companion!
New York to Maine Road Trip Itinerary
Day 1: Drive from New York to Rockport, Massachusetts
Your exciting road trip from New York to Maine begins just outside of NYC, at Escape Camper Vans’ Jersey City location. Aim to get an early start, as your trip begins with a lengthy drive up to the idyllic fishing village of Rockport, Massachusetts. This charming New England town sits along the stunning Cape Ann peninsula and should take about 4 hours and 45 minutes to reach.
After setting up at your campground, stretch your legs with a stroll along the seaside town’s charming Main Street, lined by artisanal shops and local eateries. The neighboring town of Gloucester is where you’ll find the closest campground, and is also well worth exploring.
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Things to do in Rockport, MA
Whale Watching– New England’s coastline is renowned for its whale- watching opportunities, and the coast of Cape Ann is one of the premier spots on the East Coast to marvel at these majestic creatures. Cape Ann Whale Watch is one of the top tour operators in the area, and even boasts an educational program to further whale conservation.
Eastern Point Lighthouse– Gloucester’s historic lighthouse was built in 1833 and is situated on America’s oldest seaport! Once you’ve taken your time to marvel at the famous lighthouse, enjoy a walk to some of the gorgeous beaches and captivating viewpoints along Cape Ann.
Halibut Point State Park– This former granite quarry is now one of the most unique state parks along New England’s coastline. Halibut Point is a granite edge that is wedged between the Atlantic Ocean and Rockport. The result is a striking landscape, perfect for a day of hiking along the granite or relaxing by the water.
Where to Eat in Rockport, MA
The Lobster Pool– 329 Granite St, Rockport, MA 01966: You can’t embark on a New England road trip without indulging in a fresh lobster! This laid-back, Rockport institution is a local favorite, serving decadent lobster rolls and fresh seafood on communal picnic tables. The outdoor venue overlooks the stunning Ipswich Bay, and if you look far off in the distance you can even spot Maine’s coastline!
Short & Main– 36 Main St, Gloucester, MA 01930: The culinary couple behind this popular eatery pride themselves in only using fresh, local ingredients from farmers and producers in the area. Their inventive, wood-fired pizzas and fresh oysters are the most celebrated items on the menu, though they also serve a decadent brunch!
Campgrounds near Rockport, MA
Cape Ann Camp Site– 80 Atlantic St, Gloucester, MA 01930: Situated right in Gloucester, this is definitely the closest campground to Rockport and the surrounding areas. The site features 200 camping spots, flush toilets, showers, and a small store for any extra provisions you may need. The campground operates from mid-May through mid-October and reservations can be made ahead of time on their website.
Winter Island Park Campground– 50 Winter Island Rd, Salem, MA 01970: If you’re looking for alternative options, this Salem campground is about 40 minutes south of Gloucester, and operates from May until November. The site includes a public beach, showers, water hook ups, and a small camp store. Reservations are required, and can be made up to 6 months in advance.
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Day 2: Ogunquit, Maine
After a leisurely breakfast at your campground, begin making your way to Ogunquit, a quaint beach town and your first stop in Maine. The drive from Rockport is only one and a half hours away, so you’ll be left with plenty of time to explore this lovely, seaside village.
In the summertime, you could easily spend your whole visit lazing the day away at Ogunquit Beach. Located between the Ogunquit River and the powerful waves of the Atlantic, this pristine peninsula is known for its long stretch of white sand. If you’re not interested in spending the day at the beach (or it’s simply too cold), not to worry- the small town of Ogunquit offers plenty of other activities!
Things to do in Ogunquit, ME
Marginal Way– This 1.25-mile long, coastal walkway along the Atlantic Ocean is the jewel of Ogunquit. The many benches that line this scenic pathway invite visitors to sit and really take in the spectacular viewpoints as they explore.
Perkin’s Cove– Found at the southern point of Marginal Way, this idyllic fishing village is known for its thriving artistic community. Peruse the many boutiques and galleries that are strewn throughout the small town, watch the fishing boats come in, and take a walk over the wooden drawbridge thatwhich hovers over the Ogunquit River.
The Front Porch– While Ogunquit isn’t exactly known for its nightlife, this lively piano bar guarantees an entertaining evening. For 40 years, this popular restaurant has been hosting live musical acts in their upstairs piano bar. Try to get there early on weekends, as the bar is known for filling up super quickly.
Where to Eat in Ogunquit, ME
CREW Ogunquit– 8 Shore Rd, Ogunquit, ME 03907: This popular restaurant boasts a casual, beach vibe and is all about bringing people together through good food and lively entertainment. Along with a delicious menu, they also host live music acts every weekend and always have fun events scheduled throughout the week.
Cornerstone Artisanal Pizza & Craft Beer– 228 Main St, Ogunquit, ME 03907: Along with a rotating selection of 16 craft beers, this popular eatery serves delicious pizza made from scratch and cooked to perfection in a stone oven. Their year- round patio is also perfect for enjoying your meal al fresco!
Where to Camp in Ogunquit, ME
Dixon’s Campground-1740 US-1, Cape Neddick, ME 03902: Nestled in the woods just outside of Ogunquit, this scenic campground offers shower facilities, electric hookups, a dump station, and a small grocery store. Their season operates from May until mid-September, and reservations must be made ahead of time.
Pinederosa Campground– 128 N Village Rd, Wells, ME 04090: Just 3 miles away from the beach, this convenient campground operates from mid-May through mid-October, and reservations can be made in advance via their website. Facilities include laundry, coin-operated showers, a camp store, and a heated pool.
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Days 3- 4: Portland, Maine
After a filling breakfast, it’s time to make your way to Portland– the capital of Maine and a quintessential stop when visiting the state. Only 45 minutes from Ogunquit, Maine’s urban center is still brimming with plenty of quaint, New England charm. Spend the next two days immersed in this delightful port city’s thriving food scene, stunning coastline, and historic downtown area.
*Note- On the way up to Portland, stop in the serene town of Kennebunkport for a few hours. Visit historic Dock Square, marvel at the rocky shoreline and lighthouse in the distance from Cape Porpoise Pier, or visit the quirky Seashore Trolley Museum.
Things to do in Portland, ME
Ferry to Peaks Island– A quick, 20- minute ferry ride from Portland will drop you off at the picturesque Peaks Island. Explore the perimeter of the island with a walk along the Peak Island Loop, view the historic bunker of Battery Steele, or take in the sights from the water by renting a kayak during the warmer months.
Portland Head Light– This historic lighthouse, located on Cape Elizabeth, has become the unofficial symbol of Portland. Dating back to 1791 and celebrated as being the oldest lighthouse in Maine, this legendary landmark is an obligatory stop during any visit to the city.
Thompson’s Point– Portland’s waterfront neighborhood has become the city’s hippest district, known for its many concerts and festivals, especially in the summer. Along with its multiple entertainment venues, the area also boasts tons of breweries, artisan markets, and access to the outdoors.
Old Port– Spend an afternoon roaming through the cobblestoned streets of Portland’s historic district, popping into artisan shops, and watching the boats pull into the harbor. In the evenings, this charming area is also a hot spot for delicious restaurants and lively breweries.
Where to Eat in Portland, ME
Chaval– 58 Pine St, Portland, ME 04102: Indulge in flavorful dishes inspired by both French and Spanish cuisine at this laid back brasserie. Their menu changes everyday and is dependent on what ingredients are in season.
Fore Street– 288 Fore St, Portland, ME 0410: Open only for dinner and with a menu that changes daily, almost all of their dishes are cooked on an open wood fired grill or oven. The rustic, dark wood interior creates the perfect, cozy ambiance for indulging in a decadent meal.
Duckfat– 43 Middle St, Portland, ME 04101: This quaint, Amsterdam-inspired sandwich shop is perfect for refueling after a long day of exploring. As a nod to their European influences, their belgian style fries (fried twice in duck fat) are an obligatory menu item!
Where to Camp near Portland, ME
Cascadia Park Campground– 911 Portland Rd, Saco, ME 04072: Typically operating from May until mid-October, and only 12 miles from downtown Portland, this popular campground features coin-operated showers and picnic tables. Reservations are not required, though they are highly recommended.
Wassamki Springs Campground– 56 Saco St, Scarborough, ME 04074: As the closest campground to Portland, this incredibly convenient site offers showers, laundry facilities, dump stations, electric and sewer hookups, and a campground store. The season operates from May 1st until October 15th, and advanced reservations must be made on their website.
Day 5: Drive from Portland to New York City
After a few days of enjoying the relaxing ambiance of New England, it’s time to head back to the fast-paced energy of NYC. The drive from Portland is just under 6 hours, so we recommend getting a pretty early start. Don’t forget, you’ll need to drop your vehicle off at Escape Camper Vans’ Jersey City location by your pre-scheduled drop off time.
Why Rent a Camper Van for a Maine Road Trip?
A camper van is the ideal road trip companion for a journey up to Maine, especially in comparison to a traditional RV. From added mobility to increased convenience, these are just a few of the reasons why renting a camper van from New York is the way to go:
More Compact: While a traditional RV would be far too imposing in a quaint New England town, a compact camper van is ideal for navigating both the outdoor escapades and charming seaside villages that this itinerary encompasses. Not to mention, finding parking spaces in the small towns of Maine would be much easier in a camper van, rather than a large RV!
No Need for Electric or Sewer Hookups: Traditional RV’s often require electric or sewer hookups, which can be hard to come by at many of the campgrounds along this route. Particularly during high season, when campsites are already limited, having a self-contained camper van (which does not require any hookups) will give you way more flexibility.
Easier to Drive: Our compact camper vans are similar in size to a large, family SUV. This makes maneuvering our vehicles much easier than trying to navigate a giant RV. The drive between New York City and Maine is a lengthy one, so your comfort and safety behind the wheel is absolutely paramount.
Convenient: Because our camper vans already come prepared with a comfortable bed and kitchenette, you really have everything you need at all times. This means that you can focus more on enjoying the great outdoors, rather than dealing with the added logistics of an RV or the hassle of setting up and breaking down a tent every day.
Reserve with Escape Camper Vans for your Maine Road Trip
Ready to embark on the ultimate, coastal getaway from New York to Maine? Picturesque beaches, majestic hikes, and some of the freshest lobster rolls in the country are just a quick drive away. All that’s left is to pack a few nautical-themed outfits, choose your campsites, and book our ideal Escape Camper Van for your unforgettable New England road trip!