Travel

This Amtrak Train Ride from NYC to Montreal Is Ridiculously Scenic

Hop off the train for spa days, hikes, and beach time.

Amtrak
Amtrak
Amtrak

For anyone who lives in the Northeast, a getaway to Montreal is the kind of trip that always sits on the back burner whenever the urge to travel bubbles up. The Canadian metropolis is known as a unique enclave of world-class dining, unparalleled nightlife, and thriving devotion to the arts that remains firmly linked to its French cultural ancestry. But while all of this makes it a popular vacation destination, there’s a way to make the journey there just as memorable: Skip the car and travel by train.

In April, Amtrak relaunched its Adirondack train service between New York City and Montreal for the first time since the COVID pandemic derailed the route in 2020. The leisurely trip isn’t for those in a rush, billed as an 11.5-hour ride, which is considerably longer than the six-hour drive or one-hour flight that would also land you in the same place. But those who choose to take their time are rewarded with jaw-dropping views you can’t get on the highways as the train meanders through the northern reaches of New York, providing stunning vistas of the Hudson River before hugging the seemingly endless coastline of Lake Champlain flanked by Vermont’s towering Green Mountains.

Fortunately, the journey doesn’t just provide plenty of scenery. If you really want to make the most of the ride, you can break up the trip with a series of stops for excursions into nature, spa treatments, and even a day on the beach. So prepare to kick back, take in the sights, and get the most out of your time with a scenic train trip from New York City to Montreal-complete with stopovers.

Flickr/thewestend
Flickr/thewestend
Flickr/thewestend

How to get to Montreal by train

Service between New York and Montreal originates at Penn Station’s Moynihan Hall and Gare Central, respectively, which are both conveniently located right in each city’s center. But while seasoned Amtrak travelers may be accustomed to the sticker shock of riding to Boston or Washington DC along the Northeast Corridor, tickets on the Adirondack route run much cheaper at roughly $70 each way when booked at least two weeks out. This will score you a spacious coach seat with two bags and two personal items, access to free-if somewhat spotty-Wi-Fi, and use of the dining car for food and beverage purchases. And as with (almost) all other Amtrak travel, kids under 12 ride for 50% of the fare of their adult companions, while toddlers and babies under two ride for free on laps.

It should go without saying, but it’s essential to pack your passport before heading out for your ride-you’re traveling internationally, after all! Once onboard, you should also try to get strategic with where you sit: Trains heading north from New York will have incredible views of the Hudson River from the left side of the train before reaching Albany, but jaw-dropping scenery of Lake Champlain awaits passengers on the right-hand side once the train gets north of the state capital.

Getting off the train at a destination between the two cities isn’t just a great way to break up the long ride: it also offers easy access to parts of the Northeast that can otherwise feel relatively remote. But once you’re north of Albany, it’s important to remember that the train only runs once daily, meaning you’ll have to overnight before reboarding the next day. Fortunately, those who devote the time to exploring will be rewarded for their efforts with unique experiences along the way. Here’s where you might want to consider stepping off and spending some time.

The Gideon Putnam
The Gideon Putnam
The Gideon Putnam

Have a relaxing spa day in Saratoga Springs

Saratoga Springs has had a reputation as a wellness destination since visitors began flocking there in the 19th century to literally drink in the purported health benefits of the mineral-rich water sources that give the city its name. Travelers jumping off the Adirondack line are just a quick 10-minute car ride away from the Roosevelt Baths & Spa, where you can soak yourself before a day of pampering with massages, facials, and scrubs.

Once you’re relaxed, you can make your way to the quaint downtown to get checked in for the night. Chic options like the Adelphi Hotel put you within easy walking distance of the city’s top-tier dining options, boutique shops, and the bumping nightlife on Caroline Street. Visitors who pass through town during the summer can also make their way to Saratoga Springs Performing Arts Center (SPAC) for outdoor concerts by big-name artists.

Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock
Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock
Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock

Take in the history at Fort Ticonderoga

As the train begins to pass the narrow southern reaches of Lake Champlain, history buffs may want to consider hopping off at Ticonderoga. More than just the #2 pencils you’ve probably used since grade school, the stop is just a four-minute drive from the famous fort that was the site of the first offensive American victory of the Revolutionary War. Besides museum tours, historical reenactments, and sweeping views from atop Mount Defiance, you can also opt for a boat cruise to take in the sights from the water.

If you’re looking to check off another major Adirondack body of water during your trip, you can also drive 20 minutes from the station to Black Point Beach. The popular sandy alcove is near the very northern tip of Lake George, where you can lay out on your towel or float in the clear, calm water that feels worlds away from the heavier boat traffic you’ll find a few miles south.

Louisen/Shutterstock
Louisen/Shutterstock
Louisen/Shutterstock

Raft, tube, and hike through Ausable Chasm

Taking the train to Montreal during the summer not only provides lush green scenery but also makes it easier to get up close to a unique part of nature. Port Kent is a seasonal stop that only opens during the warmer months and is a six-minute drive to Ausable Chasm, known as “the Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks.” Here, you can hike through the scenic gorge, take in the scenery on a raft or tube ride on the Ausable River, run over rope bridges, and take in the quiet of the forest while you explore.

Port Kent also previously provided easy access to Vermont thanks to a short ferry ride to Burlington. But because of the ongoing effects of the pandemic, boat service has remained suspended due to a drop in visitors brought on by the Adirondack route’s previous suspension. If you’re hoping to get to the Green Mountain State, check ahead to see if the schedule has resumed, or consider catching a ride over to Grand Isle from Plattsburgh.

Joe Ferrer/Shutterstock
Joe Ferrer/Shutterstock
Joe Ferrer/Shutterstock

Enjoy a beach day on Lake Champlain

A day on the beach isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when people plan a visit to northern New York. But just before hitting the Canadian border, passengers on the Adirondack route can easily access Plattsburgh City Beach, touted as one of the longest freshwater beaches in the U.S., with over a mile of sand to stretch out on. It also gives you a chance to actually make your way into that body of water you’ve been staring out the train window for hours. It’s a refreshing way to take a break before continuing on with your journey to Montreal.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTikTokTwitterFacebookPinterest, and YouTube.

Zach Mack is a contributor for Thrillist.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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