Brownstoner Upstate: Can You Live Car-Free in the Hudson Valley and Catskills?


    Mill Street, Woodstock. Photo via

    Oh, the conundrum of car ownership when you live around public transportation. Especially when you also live up north, where public transportation is less reliable. To car, or not to car? That is the question for the part-time upstater.

    We’ve grappled with this question on the pages of Brownstoner Upstate more than once, hoping that if we tease out the issues enough, we’ll stumble upon a way to painlessly make it happen. Here’s the bad news: There’s no painless way to live in upstate New York without a car. In fact, depending on where you live, it’s downright impossible unless you go completely off-grid and become self-sustainable…and you don’t fear total isolation, which isn’t great for the human psyche as we’ve all learned from Alone.

    HOWEVER. Public transportation exists. There are towns that occupy space around a train station, and if you’re lucky there are enough stores and amenities within walking distance to make foot and bike-travel more feasible. The Trailways bus stops in rural places around parts of the Catskills, but it’s a long ride from Port Authority, and not every town has a corner store or wine shop.

    Depending on the town, local buses can get you from A to B. UCAT in Ulster County and the LOOP in Dutchess County rush to mind. Living car-less up north might not be the most effortless thing to do, but perhaps using a car less often is possible. Here are three towns in the Hudson Valley and Catskills where you can give it a go.

    Woodstock, Ulster County: The Trailways bus stop is located on Mill Hill Road, which intersects with Tinker Street in the heart of the historic hamlet. What’s more, Tinker Street and Mill Hill Road offer shops, restaurants galore, a bank, a couple of pharmacies, an indie movie theater and the public library. Sunflower Market, the local health food store and market, is also on Tinker Street, as is a yoga studio at the corner of Mill Hill Road and Deming Street.

    Amenities are pretty abundant in Woodstock, but not having a way to get out of the town and explore the beauty of the Catskills so tantalizingly close yet so far away might be a bit of a drag.

    Hudson Valley Catskills Car Free

    11 Streamside Terrace, Woodstock: $299,000

    Getting from this mid-mod split-level ranch to the Trailways stop on Mill Hill Road takes about 10 minutes. That might be a bit too far to carry lots of stuff, but maybe you’re one of those people with a sweet road bike and plenty of cargo space for schlepping your belongings. If this sounds like you, keep reading.

    The interior of the c. 1964 brick ranch feels cheerful thanks to the pastel color scheme and light wood floor and cabinets, and the exterior includes a stone patio overlooking picturesque Tannery Brook. Beds: 3. Baths: 2. Square Feet: 1,500. Lot Size: .26 acres. Est. Taxes: $4,794. 11 Streamside Terrace, Woodstock (Coldwell Banker Village Green) GMAP.

    Hudson Valley Catskills Car Free

    Rhinecliff. Photo via

    Rhinecliff, Dutchess County: What’s great about Rhinecliff is the existence of the Amtrak station right in the hamlet. Beyond that, Rhinecliff is more of a residential neighborhood without a lot of amenities to keep you there.

    In addition to longtime faves like the Rhinecliff Hotel (one of the most romantic spots on the waterfront, in our opinion), China Rose and the Morton Memorial Library (also a performance venue), there’s a small shop on the corner of Shatzell Avenue and Kelly Street.

    Other than that, you’ll have to be content with gorgeous period architecture, Hudson River views and a tight-knit community. Rhinebeck village is, sadly, not within walking distance, nor is it served by a bus. You can cab it, though.

    Hudson Valley Catskills Car Free

    260 Rhinecliff Road, Rhinebeck: $419,000

    Yes, this Dutch Colonial is technically in the town of Rhinebeck, which includes the hamlet of Rhinecliff, but don’t let the address fool you. It’s closer to Rhinecliff. The listing proclaims “walking distance to Amtrak,” which is technically true. It will take you 20 minutes to do it, and in some parts, without much of a shoulder.

    Still, we can’t turn a blind eye to the dark wood-accented interior, even if the exterior is fairly nondescript. Beds: 3. Baths: 1.5. Square Feet: 1,618. Lot Size: .69 acres. Est. Taxes: $6,829. 260 Rhinecliff Road, Rhinebeck (HH Hill Realty) GMAP.

    Hudson Valley Catskills Car Free

    Route 23B, Cairo. Photo by Kandy Harris

    Cairo, Greene County: Weren’t expecting that curveball, were you? In fact, the little hamlet of Cairo in the town of Cairo has a Trailways bus stop on Main Street. As you might expect, Cairo is a very sleepy town. Some parts are a little run down with shuttered shops. Some parts are populated with beautiful old architecture.

    The whole place is nestled into the outer edge of Catskill Park. Maybe not the best place to be ensconced without a car, simply because just driving on Route 23 in Greene County is one of our favorite things to do.

    We don’t want to spoil it for you because we think it’s something you would enjoy. Here’s a hint: Route 23 consists of an eclectic array of quirky roadside inns, a town lovingly referred to as “Irish Village USA,” and old houses that will make your rubberneck the whole way…sights you’ll miss if you don’t drive your car. There’s only one thing to do: Start getting serious about riding your bike.

    Hudson Valley Catskills Car Free

    41 Bross Street, Cairo: $139,900

    Sunny yellow disposition with a Tuscan flare? Why not? Inside, it’s turn-key with wood floors, arched wall alcoves and a nifty blue-tiled kitchen, plus three bedrooms and a walk-up attic. We suspect the pictures don’t do it justice.

    If you’re settling in for the long haul, your kids can walk to school from here. Big yard, too. Beds: 3. Baths: 1.5. Square Feet: 1,528. Lot Size: .65 acres. Est. Taxes: $2,445. 41 Bross Street, Cairo (Win Morrison) GMAP.

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