Whether you have to make the trip all the time, or you never have at all – the question on everyone’s (some people’s) lips is “what’s the best way to travel from Toronto to New England”. With the wealth of cities and sights along the East Coast, it’s no wonder travellers are eager to get there. However, whoever said, “it’s the journey, not the destination” clearly wasn’t inspired by this trip.
While there are plenty of options, none of them are particularly enthralling. We’ll take a look at some choices (by plane, train, and automobile), so next time you know what the fastest, cheapest, or most scenic (relatively speaking) routes are. I have to make this trip quite often for various reasons, so I thought I’d share my personal thoughts on the travel options available. These are my opinions only (well the prices aren’t my opinions) so it’s up to you to figure out which mode of transportation is best for you
This is the most common way for Torontonians to get to New England and the Northeastern United States in general. The choice you have here is where you cross the border. Time wise, there is no secret here, all routes are going to eat up your entire day.
If you want to pass through a large city on your way then travel by way of Buffalo and Niagara. You’ll sort of be going the wrong direction for a little bit, but hey, buffalo wings. Crossing over at Niagara is definitely the most scenic (and generally speaking, the most direct if you’re going to Boston), and you do get a decent view of the falls from the bridge. Of course, you can stop and look around but keep in mind your trip is already quite long.
As you head east out of Toronto along the 401 towards Kingston and Montreal, there will be tons of bridges to cross over at, from Gananoque to Prescott. All of these will provide a trip through upstate New York. While many parts of the state are quite beautiful, sadly this doesn’t include your direct route. If you’re looking for casinos and farmland however, this is the road for you. That being said, there are some nice towns and places in New York you might pass through such as Saratoga Springs, though this is often a fairly unremarkable phase of the journey.
You can also go all the way to Montreal then drive straight down south through Vermont. Depending on traffic, you could spend a lot longer in the city than you bargained for, but it’s definitely the most interesting stop on any of these routes. Going east out of Toronto is the better route if you plan on stopping in Vermont, New Hampshire, or Maine, but crossing over west of the city into New York is likely the quicker option to get to Boston immediately. Check out Google Maps to see some available routes towards Boston.
If you want to let someone else do the driving, I hope you like sitting. The most direct bus route (to see northern New England) is likely going to be a Megabus from Toronto to Montreal (about 6 hours +/-) and then a Greyhound to Boston which is about another 6 hours but could be quite a bit longer depending on the border, amount of time spent on “15 minute stops”, and weather. You can also get off the Greyhound in Vermont if you want to explore New England.
One thing to remember is that the Megabus station and the main bus terminal are seemingly on opposite sides of Montreal. You’ll get off at Place Bonaventure and have to either cab or metro to Berri-Uqam. Between the time of both busses, trekking across Montreal, and waiting in the bus terminal – you can say goodbye to any plans you might have had for the evening, unless you leave at the crack of dawn (in which case you’re likely too tired anyways).
Still, Megabus tickets can be very cheap if you book ahead (ranges between $15-$60 depending on when you book), while Greyhound is a bit more (about $75 a week in advance). So while you might not be able to feel your limbs after the voyage, at least you’ll get there without a major dent in your wallet.
Other bus options generally overshoot Boston quite a bit by going down to Philadelphia or Connecticut. These are potentially slightly faster (to get to Boston) but skip all of northern New England.
If the cramped nature and unreliable Wi-Fi and outlets of the bus aren’t for you, there’s always the train. Taking the VIA train from Toronto to Montreal will save you about an hour or so compared to the bus. Expect to pay for this hour as train prices can be anywhere from two to three times as much (a ticket is generally around the $100 mark). You’ll get more room, snacks, drinks, you’ll always feel like you’re moving, and you’ll get a (slightly) more scenic ride than being stuck on the highway.
Once you get to Montreal, your best option to go south is, unfortunately once again, the bus. Prepare to do the same trek from Bonaventure to Berri-Uqam to catch a Greyhound bus. If you were hoping to catch a regular train down into New England from here, you’ll find that trains are no longer as popular in the US. You can get Amtrak trains down to New York and then go back up to Boston but this takes way more time than you’ll likely want to spend.
You gotta love air travel. What should be a whole day spent looking at trees and highways turns into a slightly over 2 hour trip in an metal box 35,000 feet above said trees and highways. If you book at least a week ahead of time, you can get flights with Porter from the city airport (the one with the world’s shortest ferry ride) for about $150. These are smaller propeller planes without any frills but are perfectly capable of getting you from point A to point B. We recommend not sitting next to the propeller unless you have the noise cancelling headphones to end all noise cancelling headphones however. The low-end price tags are usually slightly more than bussing, about on par with taking the train + bus, and you don’t have to pay for gas to drive. On short notice, tickets are often found for $300+ so you should definitely plan ahead.
So while there are a lot of different options to start your New England trip, none of them will make you exclaim, “Wow! Forget Boston, just look at that cornfield!” The variety of transportation options you do have though makes it so you can balance comfort, price, and speed to your choice. So do some research, check your wallet, and decide what the best way for you to travel from Toronto to New England is!