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Biking the East Coast Greenway

What is the East Coast Greenway?

Over 2 months I biked the entire eastern seaboard on the East Coast Greenway (ECG) from the Canadian Border of Maine to Key West Florida. The route connects 15 states, ~450 cities, and ~3,000 miles! The terrain is paved bike paths, back roads, and some unpaved path sections. The ECG is a non-profit organization whose mission is safe and accessible multi-user greenway linking cities and towns from Maine to Florida. While the route is only ⅓ complete, the organization continues to develop infrastructure for protected paths.

To say this was an adventure would be an understatement. I met people from all sorts of walks of life, and got to know my own country better. Many summers I travel outside the USA to Europe and South America. After 2020, I felt that I needed to better understand my fellow Americans, there is far more that unites us than divides us. As a solo female traveler I found that people went out of their way to make sure I was doing okay and safe. On multiple occasions complete strangers would stop me and ask for my number to make sure I got to my destination okay…and they would follow up to confirm. Honestly, I started calling my trip the “Princess Parade” because people were so sweet.

Suggested Itinerary

For me, I considered my “job” this summer to be to bike from one town/city to the next. So I would bike from roughly 8:00AM to 5:00 or 6:00 PM. I would always stop for a long lunch 😉 A few days I had longer days but for the most part biked about 40-65 miles a day. This allows time to see all of the small towns and seaside villages that you want to check out along the way.

As an educator, I have the two summer months (July and August) to travel but if I could pick an ideal time of year to bike the ECG, I would leave at the end of September (when cranberries and blueberries are in harvest and the foliage begins to change in Maine.)

Day:Start:End:Distance (Miles)
Day 1Calais, MaineMachias, ME45
Day 2Machias, MEEllsworth, ME57
Day 3Ellsworth, MECamden, ME55
Day 4Camden, MENew Castle, ME58
Day 5New Castle, MEPortland, ME*52
Day 6Portland MEPortsmouth NH57
Day 7Portsmouth, NHMarblehead, MA74
Day 8Marblehead, MABoston, MA*20
Day 9Boston, MAProvincetown, MAFerry
Day 10Provincetown, MAChatham, MA38
Day 11Chatham, MABourne, MA40
Day 12Bourne, MAProvidence, RI*53
Day 13Providence, RIPutnam, CT33
Day 14Putnam, CTHartford, CT58
Day 15Hartford, CTNew Haven, CT42
Day 16New Haven, CTStamford, CT45
Day 17Stamford, CTNYC*42
Day 18New York, NYPrinceton57
Day 19PrincetonPhiladelphia44
Day 20PhiladelphiaNew Castle, DE36
Day 21New Castle, DEBaltimore, MD69
Day 22Baltimore, MDAnnapolis, MD30
Day 23Annapolis, MDAnacostia-DC*45
Day 24DCAlexandria, VA11
Day 25Alexandria, VAFredericksburg, VA66
Day 26Fredericksburg, VARichmond, VA60
Day 27Richmond, VAWilliamsburg, VA54
Day 28WilliamsburgChesapeake, VA59
Day 29Chesapeake, VAPoint Harbor, NC71
Day 30Point Harbor, NCRodanthe, NC*43
Day 31Rodanthe, NCOkracoke, NC58
Day 32Okracoke, NCBeaufort, NC58
Day 33Beaufort, NCSneads Ferry, NC55
Day 34Sneads Ferry, NCWilmington, NC*48
Day 35Wilmington, NCNorth Myrtle Beach, SC77
Day 36North Myrtle Beach, SCPawley Beach, SC40
Day 37Pawley Beach, SCMcClennanville, SC40
Day 38McClennanville, SCCharleston, SC*55
Day 39Charleston, SCBeautfort, SC72
Day 40Beaufort, SCSavannah, GA42
Day 41SavannahDarien, GA67
Day 42Darien, GABrunswick, GA20
Day 43Brunswick, GAFernanda Beach, FL66
Day 44Fernanda BeachSt. Augustine, FL*62
Day 45St Augustine, FLDaytona beach54
Day 46Daytona beachTitusville, FL52
Day 47Titusville, FLMelbourne, FL43
Day 48Melbourne, FLVero Beach, FL39
Day 49Vero Beach, FLJupiter, FL55
Day 50Jupiter, FLFort Lauderdale, FL65
Day 51Fort LauderdaleMiami Beach, FL*30
Day 52Miami, FLKey Largo, FL70
Day 53Key Largo, FLMarathon, FL48
Day 54Marathon, FLKey West, FL50
*Indicates suggested rest day
Use your own discretion on activity level, people you may want to see and cities you may want to explore to choose your rest day. I have seen most of the Northeast larger cities (Portland, New York City, Boston, etc), so when I chose a rest day it was more based on cities I had not explored yet (and unfortuantely…weather!)

I would try to rest every 5-7 days. I tried to center my rest days around a city I had friends in, or city I had never seen and wanted to spend more time exploring. Having been raised in the Boston area and spent my 20’s in NYC, there were not many towns or cities north of DC that I hadn’t been to. Towards the end of your trip, you could probably push it to a rest day every ten days 🙂 but up front you definitely need that down time.

Getting there:

I biked the route from North to South. There is no “easy” way to get to Calais, Maine (the third LEAST populated town in Maine.) Since it is so removed, I had to do my research backwards. There is one bus in and out of Calais everyday, West Bus. I am from the Boston area, so I spent a night with my family then took a greyhound bus north from Boston’s South Station to Bangor, ME. From Bangor, I transferred to the small regional bus which supports the “Downeast” section of Maine (which is actually north east…) I have a “nice bike” for a normal bike adventurer but not nice compared to the spandex clad bike enthusiast, so I was not as concerned as others may be with transporting their bike. I just threw the bike under the bus in the baggage compartment. This felt like the easiest way to get up there without inconveniencing my family (who had selflessly offered to drive the 5 hours.)

Getting home:

I also took my bike on a bus from Key West to Miami. Spent another day in Miami, and then took AMTRAK all the way back up. I took Amtrak as a way to decompress from the trip and see the sights I had just biked through. If that’s not your thing, you can get a bike box and ship it. I love taking trains, so this was like a second adventure for me. Those travelling from further distances would probably want to get a bike shipping company or look into a bike box to take on the plane with them.

How well marked is the route?

The route varied in how well marked it was. I ended up using a combination of downloading GPS, google maps, and just winging it. The Greenway is not complete, so I ended up biking on a few highways. I wore an orange vest for the entire trip (took it off to look cuter for photos, haha) but it really helped with visibility. FYI: Gravel is nice but difficult when you have panniers. The Downeast Sunrise trail was beautiful but had biting bugs during the summer, so I would recommend going on the street if you are biking in the summer months

There are a couple times that I am given two options on the route. How do I pick the best route?

This can be personal preference or based on where you have friends and things you want to see.

In Maine, you have the option to go Coastal or inland through Bangor/ Augusta. I picked coastal and was not disappointed!

In Boston you have the choise between Worcester or Cape Cod. As a Boston native, DEFINITELY go down to Cape Cod.

Another split is in North Carolina: the route either takes you inland through Durham/Raleigh, NC or coastal through Greenville, NC. I chose to bike through the Outer Banks instead of the Greenway, following another biker, Chris’s recommendation.

Accomodations

I did warmshowers, friends/family, and hotels. Sadly, I had (and still have) never pitched a tent, so I decided that it would be pushing myself too far out of my comfort zone to camp AND bike such a big distance. Last summer there were a lot of storms, so camping would have been a little difficult. I personally am an extrovert, so I loved staying with people from WarmShowers.

Warmshowers.org “provides the technology for reciprocal hospitality for cyclists and hosts.” Similar to Airbnb, most of the hosts provide a brief bio around why they host, who they are, and a bit about their accomodation. The accomodations range from land you can camp on to a bedroom with dinner and breakfast provided. I stayed with a lot of Warmshower hosts in the south, and it truly was the best part of my trip. I was able to meet locals and hear their stories. It also felt like a sense of security that I had a contact person in a lot of the cities.

Accomodation Etiquette:

I originally got books for those who hosted me, for the first month, but a couple of Warmshowers hosts went out of their way to say that it was not expected/don’t feel the need to get it. The NORMAL (from my understanding?) etiquette is a handwritten thank you note and a text and postcard when you finish. I sent a lot of texts along the way as things reminded me of various hosts. Honestly, the Warmshower hosts were probably the highlight of my trip!

I had reached out a couple months before because I was anxious and also because of COVID I wanted to know if people were still hosting. Then I followed up with a quick email when I started, a week before I was supposed to get to them and the day before. Normally they might not give you their address until about a day before. My understanding is that the typical bike tourism person is pretty free spirited and would email at the last minute. Travelling alone and having never pitched a tent, I emailed further in advance.

I got cute bicycle thank you notes from target. They were great to use. If you do end up using WarmShowers, some hosts you are going to keep in touch with and some you may not. 

Training

For training, (I am generally a little sporty) but I played soccer in NYC and would bike there (~5-7miles) starting roughly three months before I left.  A month out from my trip, I shifted to using biking as my main means of transportation (my work is only 3 miles away) and went on a couple longer bike rides on the weekends ~20 miles. I read somewhere that for biking, you can truly train while on the trip because it doesn’t have the same impact as other sports. But at the end of the first week I was exhausted and definitely needed that rest day. If I remember correctly, I may have taken two rest days because it was hurricane season. After that, my body got pretty used to biking everyday.

The biggest complaint I had in the beginning is how much my butt hurt. HAHA!

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