In terms of New England coastal towns, Bar Harbor is more closely related to Key West than it is some of the more quaint towns found further south along Maine’s coast. The main drag is covered in t-shirt and gift shops, as well as restaurants of every variety. But just like Key West, it has charm to spare.
The town is rife with amazing views, a fantastic walking trail along the coast and a couple of absolutely pleasant green spaces. Did I mention the views? Good. Just making sure.
Once you get past the main drag, the classic New England fishing town positively bubbles with beautiful homes and seaside cottages. In a word: pretty.
Dinner our first night was at Stewman’s Lobster Pound, located dockside right in the midst of all the action. We knew we were paying for the location, but it was pricey nonetheless. I had a classic lobster roll (outstanding!) and Bonnie, not quite willing to take the lobster plunge, had a haddock sandwich. We also had a cup of chowder and lobster bisque, respectively. Eating outside, on the dock (they drug a case of fresh caught lobster right off the dock past our table) with the sun gloriously setting behind us was more than worth the price of admission… And the food was pretty darn good, too!
Visiting Acadia National Park
We spent two days exploring Acadia. We certainly could have spent more. There is a ton to do here. Starting out, we drove almost directly to Jordan Pond. I knew from a previous visit Jordan Pond is one of the most popular places in the park (for good reason) and the parking lot would fill up very quickly.
We quickly parked, grabbed our packs and hit the Jordan Pond Path, a 3.2-mile trail around the shoreline of the pond. The trail is nice and level, easy for anyone to do it and offers stunning views everywhere you look. We also saw a nesting loon at the north end of the pond… Very cool, indeed!
We headed back north to Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain on the island. The 360-degree panorama at the top of the mountain is breathtaking, as were the crowds. Like Key West, Bar Harbor is a cruise ship port and the cruise ship crowds were there as well. Don’t get me wrong… I don’t mind cruise ships. I have done my fair share of cruises and will cruise again. Traveling alongside large tours gets old fast.
Acadia Advice: Do your research, especially on the eastern half of the park, and get to your top sites early in the morning! Parking lots fill up fast.
We continued north on the Park Loop Road and then continued east, then south to Sieur de Monts, where the park has an interesting garden area to demonstrate the different ecosystems within the park and their flora, as well as a small nature center. After lunch at the nearby Bear Brook Picnic Area, we continued south on the loop and were met by crowds. Lots of folks cramming into every available spot to go to Sand Beach or to see Thunder Hole. Sand Beach is what it sounds like: a sandy beach, which is rare in this part of the world. Thunder Hole is a chute in the rocks along the coast where the water, at the right tide, comes thundering in.
Again, the crowds were overwhelming, so we headed south to Otter Point, where we found some nice tidal pools and a much less crowded coast.
Acadia Advice: Check the tides before you go out. Seeing Thunder Hole about two hours before high tide is supposed to be amazing… And would be worth the crowds. Also, the trail to Bar Island is only available at low tide.
Sunset in Acadia was something to behold. We drove up Cadillac Mountain to the Blue Hill Overlook, which has a transcendent westerly view at sunset. We shared a large open area with around 50 of our closest friends. A friendly tip: don’t walk in front of the folks who are already set up with tripods. It is just polite.
Bar Island was our first stop this morning… Well, our second stop. We had to run by FedEx to send off a package and the Fed Ex place on the island wasn’t open on the weekend. Several days ago, our electricity management system (basically, a surge protector for the camper) went on the fritz. We called Progressive Industries, spoke and e-mailed with Anthony DeMaria, who FedEx’ed us a new unit pretty much on the spot. Can’t beat service like that!
After dropping off the return, we headed over to Bar Island, which can only be reached during low tide. The island is small, but walking across the sand bar and checking out the tidal flats was very cool, especially for the kids. There were tons of families looking for shells and the beasties caught in the pools. The island has a great view of Bar Harbor and is worth the short hike.
We spent the next hour or so touring the west side of the island. While there are several hiking trails and great places to go canoeing, the little communities along the way almost steal the show with their pure quaintness.
At the far end of the west end of the island is the Bass Harbor Head Light, one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world. The light itself is still working and is operated by the U.S. Coast Guard, so no tours, but you can still clamber down to the rocks below for a picture of the light.
Because my lobster lust is not sated yet, we went to another lobster pound (the Maine equivalent of a crab shack), Beal’s Lobster Pier in Southwest Harbor, for a Sriracha lobster roll and some fish tacos on the dock, seated on picnic tables. You cannot beat eating fresh seafood dockside.
After a rousing lunch, it was time for a hike. Our neighbors at the campground suggested a walk along one of the carriage roads leading through the park. We chose a route from Brown Mountain Gatehouse leading into a box canyon called the Amphitheater. It was very relaxing, even for a five-mile hike. The carriage roads are wide gravel paths that pedestrians, bikes and horses can travel on. The hike we took was peaceful, with a few nice views along the way.
Acadia Advice: Don’t ignore the carriage roads for planning your hikes. They may not be proper trails, but they make for a peaceful place to go for a long walk. Or… Bring a bike!
We have throughly enjoyed our trip to Acadia National Park. I certainly think we under budgeted the number of days we should spend here by at least one, if not two. Mount Desert Island and its villages are seriously beautiful and offer a lot natural beauty, friendly people and great food.