Dropping temperatures force me to retreat deeper into my layers and dream about those times we could freely walk around in the sunshine. A very late update on my trip to Acadia National Park in Maine. I was oscillating between doing a quick road trip down South between my work ending and my senior year beginning, but ultimately decided I was too exhausted to sit in a car for hours and coaxed mom into taking a mini vacation closer to home.
I am not generally a nature sort of person. Longtime readers of the blog may scoff, since at least half my posts are landscapes, but I tend to shy away from true wilderness. After spending a summer in the sweltering heat of New York City, however, I was ready to just chill out by the sea and maybe do some hiking.
There are many places to pick as a home base for your stay in Acadia, but I think Bar Harbor is by far the most popular and enchanting. It is unabashedly geared towards tourists, with B&Bs on every corner, but it’s the sort of casual New England tourism that I didn’t find terribly annoying. There’s a lovely path to Bar Island that reveals itself only at low tide that my mom, my brother and I had a great time exploring along with other barefoot families and couples. The Otter Cliffs, another classic scenic view in Acadia, were just 10-15 minutes by car and easily accessible and we spent the afternoon climbing all over them.
I had asked my Mainer friends for some tips on what to do in Acadia and the number one recommendation was to watch the sunrise on Mount Cadillac. Mom and I groaned when we found out the sun rose at 5:56 am, and my brother abstained altogether in order to sleep in, but we were up and driving up the mountain the next morning. Unsurprisingly, we were not the only ones who had this idea and the top of the mountain had absolutely no parking so we had to descend until we came upon a suitable vista. I didn’t mind at all because even with the morning fog the photos turned out beautifully. Mom and I sat there, freezing and huddling close, waiting for the sun to periodically poke through the clouds. I can go on a whole rant about how beautiful and uplifting and arresting it was, and how I felt like a champ for getting up that early, but I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
That day was spent biking around the carriage roads in Acadia at the suggestion of my brother. We did a relatively easy loop of about 14 miles and ended up at Jordan’s Pond House, a century-old establishment overlooking the crystalline waters of Jordan’s Pond that serves famous popovers with homemade jam and other local goodies. Unfortunately no pictures on my camera as I did not want to risk crushing my precious baby when I inevitably fell off my bike. After that workout, I even managed to convince my mom to go to Seal Harbor with me at the other end of Mount Desert Island to watch the sunset.
Bar Harbor is itself a lovely town, with a beautiful boardwalk and so many fascinating souvenir shops and places to eat. We picked up a scrimshaw knife made out of deer antler for my dad, but my mom was eyeing some amazing handmade wooden bowls and I bee-lined for the original watercolors. Unfortunately our visit only lasted 3 days, but it was the best break I can remember having and a great opportunity to spend time with my family!
Each hotel and B&B has multiple maps expounding on all the activities one could possibly want. There are rental shops on nearly every block where you can get bikes or kayaks or canoes and other gear. There are several boat tours and carriage rides through the carriage roads inside the park.
I highly recommend watching the sunrise on Mount Cadillac, although you do need to come at least an hour before sunrise to get the best spots. Also bring hot beverages and very warm clothes.
Bar Island in Bar Harbor is a fun walk, especially if it’s not too cold, and Bar Harbor itself is a lovely town to explore. There’s also so many spas to enjoy – my mom and I almost booked a massage, but decided to spend all of our time exploring the place instead.
There are several upscale hotels near the shore, but I prefer the personal touch of the many B&Bs scattered all over not just Bar Harbor but the entire island as well. We stayed at the Quimby House Inn & Spa which was just a short walk from Bar Harbor proper.
I have been slowly buying up stripes and boat shoes and minimalist casual wear in classic colors, so I seized the opportunity to wear all of the above. Do keep in mind though that the mornings and evenings get fairly cold, especially starting in early September. A parka would not have been amiss on top of Mount Cadillac waiting for the sunrise. If you want to do more outdoor activities, pack accordingly.