We took a couple day trip to Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor in Maine and this post will share our tips and experiences with you!
When we arrived in Maine, we spent a day in Portland exploring what was there. After our Portland Foodie Tour, we immediately got in the car and drove north towards Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.
It’s a 3 hour drive if you take Interstate 95. We decided to instead take Highway 1 up the coast for a more scenic drive that added about one hour to our trip.
We weren’t really driving along the cliffs and coast as much as we thought that we would be, but we definitely got to drive through some cute northeastern towns. If you are going to make this drive and can manage it, allow six or eight hours and stop in several of the small towns to see the shops and piers. I really wish that we had allowed time to do this.
We did, however, have time for a lobster roll pit stop. Lobster rolls sure are delicious, but small and expensive. We didn’t end up eating as many as I anticipated on this trip!
We arrived at our BnB, about 6 miles outside of Bar Harbor, and headed downtown for dinner.
Bar Harbor is a sweet and touristy town (it reminded us crazily of Jackson Hole – just adjacent to the water instead of the Tetons). It was pretty crowded since it was Labor Day weekend – but we still enjoyed the charm.
We had dinner Friday night at Side Street Cafe and really enjoyed the lobster quesadilla and fresh fish tacos. The quesadilla was STUFFED with huge chunks of lump lobster meat.
As we figured out on our trip, the difference in lobster between the north and south isn’t really the price, it’s the portion size. Anything with lobster was plenty expensive in Maine, but it was huge amounts, where the same thing in the south would be just tiny flecks sprinkled throughout your food.
On Saturday morning, we woke up early and headed into Acadia National Park. We had heard that we needed to secure a parking spot by 9am and our BnB’s breakfast ran from 8 to 9, so there was a bit of a hustle, but we made it in securely.
One note – you have to purchase a $25 7-day park pass to have your vehicle in the park. There were lots of signs saying that you needed to display your pass, but no booth at the Bar Harbor entrance to buy it at!
This section of the park is arranged in a 27 mile one-way driving loop, and the booth to purchase the pass is just a ways into the loop. So, don’t spend time wandering around the visitor center – you will come across the booth and they give you a park map at that time.
We started our one-day tour of the park by parking at the lot at Sand Beach. Turns out that this is an actual beach were people were bringing their beach toys and chairs and use it as their actual beach in town.
I guess they buy the yearly pass to the park and use this regularly. There wasn’t a ton to see here, so we headed up the trail toward Otter Cliffs.
It was an easy, flat trail, mostly along the road. We kept branching off though to go play on the rocky cliffs that were just off the trail. This is what made Maine different from a normal ocean area. You aren’t used to seeing giant rock cliffs along the ocean and it’s awesome to see.
We walked down to Thunder Hole, which is where waves crash into a rock hole and make a loud noise, except the tide was too far out, so not much water was getting in to make any noise.
At one point we spotted a small buoy washed up on a rocky beach below. Ever since we arrived in Maine, we’d been seeing all these walls covered in buoys (like in the lobster roll picture above) and thought about how cool that would be to have on our future backyard fence here in Charleston.
Well, Sean decided he wanted to use this one to get us started. He scouted the area and spent about 10 minutes doing some Bear Grylls/American Ninja Warrior-esque moves to get down there and retrieve the buoy and bring it back up.
We kept walking to Otter Cliff where there were some legit rock climbers climbing up and down the rocks.
Then we walked to the trailhead for the Gorham Mountain Trail. It was a pretty difficult climb over lots of rocks and down the other side back to Sand Beach and our car. That whole loop took about three hours including all our stops.
We made our first mistake next. We drove over to Jordan Pond to each lunch at their restaurant. We had meant to bring sandwiches with us into the park, but because we were a little rushed in the morning we didn’t get a chance to get sandwiches.
It was really hard to get a parking spot at the Jordan Pond House and then lunch took awhile, but oh well. It was a good rest. After lunch, we took the bus to Bubble Pond because we didn’t want to lose our parking spot.
We planned to hike Cadillac Mountain from there and then take the bus back, but the schedule wasn’t going to work. We audibled and summited Pemetic Mountain instead.
The hike was very difficult up big rocks we had to climb over and had trouble following the trail markers since there wasn’t really a trail. But at the top, we had beautiful panoramic views of Maine and it was worth it.
The hike back down was even harder. We took a different trail down that was even more rocks that were steeper.
At the bottom was Jordan Pond and we hiked the flat trail around one side with an awesome sunset starting to shimmer on the lake.
Our car was waiting and we finished the rest of the 27-mile loop drive around the park. We went home and showered and drove back to Bar Harbor for dinner.
We had made reservations the night before for McKay’s. It was a little fancier and they sat us upstairs. The service was really slow, but we ordered a brie and pear crostini appetizer that came out sizzling and was real good. We got a seafood risotto with scallops, shrimp and peas, and the lobster mac-n-cheese with huge chunks of lobster claw meat. It was a long day, but great day in Acadia National Park.
On our final morning in Maine, we woke up at 4:30 a.m. (what?!?!) to drive back into the park and watch the sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain. One of our 101 in 1001 list is to watch the sunrise over the ocean, so we though this would be a great way to make it happen.
From October to March, the top of Cadillac Mountain is the first place to see the sunrise in the United States. It was September, so I guess we weren’t the first, but we were pretty early.
We arrived at 5:15 for the 6:02 sunrise. At about 5:30 the sky started to light up and was beautiful with so many colors. The islands and ocean were magnificently lit and the sunrise was so cool. We were so glad we did this.
After the sunrise, we headed back into downtown Bar Harbor to get some pictures in the daylight.
We then headed to the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, an iconic lighthouse that is technically part of Acadia, but is not in the park and is managed by the Coast Guard.
The rest of the day was filled with travel back to Portland and eventually on to Charleston. It was an excellent trip and of course was too short. But it’s definitely somewhere we would recommend!