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Welcome to the coast of Maine! If you are looking for beautiful coastal scenery, delicious fresh seafood, charming little towns, lighthouses, and unique shopping, Maine is a great choice. Famous citizens include Ralph Waldo Emerson, Milton Bradley, Jonathon Frakes, Dan Folgelberg, Liv Tyler, and Stephen King.
Starting in Portland, and driving up US #1 to Mt. Desert Island, you will find all of these. The city of Portland has an enchanting waterfront district with on the water restaurants, brewery, one of a kind shops, and people watching. DiMillo’s floating restaurant allows the opportunity to dine on a real ship while tied to the dock. The food is very good, especially the seafood. Three Dollar Dewey’s Restaurant and Ale House has quirky décor and a fun atmosphere. Chandler’s Warf has a variety of shopping. But don’t stay at the wharf district! Go back a block or two and check out other shopping and eating establishments, galleries, antique shops, bookstores, and more. Driving around the city, you will see old colonial style homes and old Victorian homes.
Stop in Rockland for lunch. It’s a quintessential Maine town, with lovely ocean views, good restaurants, and shopping. Again, get off the beaten path of the waterfront, as picturesque as it is, and make some discoveries of your own. It’s not crowded! There are art galleries, the Historical Society, Visitor Center, and bookstores.
Camden and Lincolnville, just north, are other quaint and pretty towns. With Rockport, they call themselves The Jewel of the Maine Coast. Swim, hike, fish, bike, camp, or play golf. A lobster pound stop is a good choice for lunch or supper.
Further on, in Thomaston on Rt. #1, stop at the store run by the Maine Corrections Department for superior, handmade wood furniture, toys and home accessories, all at reasonable prices. All items are made by the inmates. Notice the fabulous art in the window!
Bangor is the last big town before the island. It was first settled in the late 1700s, so has a rich history. Culture is important here. There is plenty of shopping and restaurants.
Finally, reach Mt. Desert (pronounced “dessert”) Island with its several towns and villages, waiting for you to explore. How does eating freshly caught lobster right at the beach sound? Or hiking to the top of the hills to see the Porcupine Islands? Shopping the plenty of unique shops? Swimming in the freshwater ponds? Adventurous folks might venture into the chilly Atlantic Ocean!
We stayed at Emery’s Cottages on the Shore in Bar Harbor. A cozy cottage with a full bath, kitchenette, and front porch with a view of the ocean is ideal for relaxing and soaking up the atmosphere. There is a beach, but the bottom is rocky. We wore our crocs in! The water is very, very clear, but cold! One night, we gathered fresh mussels and cooked our dinner of linguine and mussels! Absolutely wonderful! Coffee on the front porch, watching the sun come up, was priceless!
Summer prices are the most expensive. The least expensive is early Spring: mid to late May. Some cottages have full kitchens, some have none and some have more than one bedroom. Linens, dishes, etc are provided. There is heat and TV. We enjoyed it immensely!
Another place we recommend is Seaside Cottages. There are various types; it depends on what you want. Ours had two bedrooms, a fireplace, full kitchen, and TV. We were steps from the water, and once again, we gathered fresh mussels for supper. We were here in late winter, so there was snow on the ground, and the water was frigid! Our hands went numb.
Watching the fog roll in was great! The mussels were very tasty! Can’t get any fresher! In the summer, Maine has wild blueberries. Good for pancakes, over ice cream, or by the handful! Even in winter, we were able to hike and find shopping. It was very quiet and peaceful. Most tourists don’t come until summer, but even then it is relatively uncrowded.
Winter rates are the lowest. Snowmobiling, skiing, and ice fishing are winter activities. We used the fireplace every night! Very romantic!
Acadia National Park covers much of the island. Landmarks include Thunder Hole, a spectacular phenomena which can be heard a good distance; Sand Beach, and Otter Point. The Wild Gardens are beautiful! Cadillac Mountain is the place to gather to watch the sunset. Outdoor activities include hiking, biking, swimming, horseback riding, boating, fishing, and rock climbing. Scenic driving tours are popular, too. We had tea at Jordon Pond House. Such a traditional, sociable custom! Sitting outside in the garden was lovely. We admired the mountains, forests, and Jordan Pond. This is a popular place in the summer, so reservations are recommended. Then we hiked around Jordan Pond. It’s about a mile long.
One day we rented a canoe to explore one of the lakes, and took a swim in a small cove. Delightful! We saw many fish, birds, and wildflowers. There are rentals for kayaks, canoes, and bikes. Another day, we explored a trail in the woods, and found a water lily covered pond to swim in. The water lilies floated freely, the sky was blue, and it was paradise.
Bar Harbor Cellars is a winery with some good wines. Stop for a tasting! We think you’ll enjoy it as much as we did. Bring home a bottle as a memento.
Lobster pounds abound. They are the best place to enjoy a delicious lobster dinner! Choose your own at some. Dig in with your hands and don’t mind getting a little messy! The meat is worth it! There is meat in the legs and tips of the tail, too. The sweetest meat is in the 1 -1 ½ pound lobster. The bigger they are, the tougher they are. A local favorite is the lobster roll, huge pieces of lobster meat mixed with a little mayonnaise in a hoagie roll. Fantastic!
The town center of Bar Harbor has many specialty shops, restaurants, B & Bs, a supermarket, a gazebo park, and a museum. The Abbe Museum is a hidden treasure. It highlights the history of the Wabanaki, Maine’s native people. Allow at least 30 minutes. Try Geddy’s for a lobster martini! It’s a real treat! They have fantastic food, too. Shops offer many unique items, ranging from books to pet accessories, to children’s wear to wooden items to candies to sports equipment. Some are tacky, but even they can be fun. A few shops are open all year, and they are all open by the end of Spring break.
One activity to make a “must do” is a hike from town to Bar Island. Go at low tide, or be prepared to stay until the next tide! There are no public facilities on the island. It’s only about 1/4 mile across, and then wander around the island. We climbed to the top for some awesome views. Along the way, we picked wild blueberries and raspberries. Tidal pools at ground level offer a diversity of sea life. We saw dozens of baby lobsters no bigger than a thumbnail. In 7 years, we may be eating them!
Serendipitously, while there, a craft fair was held on the campus of College of the Atlantic. Browsing the booths was lots of fun! The college has a small museum, Dorr Museum of Natural History, which is worth looking at. In fact, there are several events held on the island in the summer, including a 4th of July Celebration and Parade, Farmer’s Market, and Concerts in the Park at the gazebo.
Other town and villages on the island include Southwest Harbor, Seal Harbor, Bass Harbor, with its lighthouse and Hull’s Cove. We took the road around the island to see them all. Each one has its own personality! The southwestern part of the island is called “the quiet side.” We found it less populated with fewer businesses, and still beautiful and quaint. There is a mystique about the island. It’s beautiful at any time of day and any season. The rocky coast line, lighthouses, white clapboard homes, fishing boats anchored in the harbor, and spectacular views make this a jewel!
The Tan Turtle, in Northeast Harbor, is a surprising find! We had a glass of its own microbrew, which was very satisfying. Their menu is extensive, including sandwiches, seafood, steaks, pasta, salads, soups, and children’s menu. We ate there twice and loved the food! The Shore Dinner is lobster, shrimp, mussels, clams, potato and cole slaw. Prices ranged from about $8 to $30.
Sommesville is home to Sommes Sound, the only true fjord in the US. Take note, geography fans!
To swim with the locals, ask for directions to The Ledges. It’s the river from one of the ponds. The water is cool, but not cold. Refreshing!
There are several cruises and tours a visitor can take. Bikes, canoes, and kayaks are available to rent.
Summer Theater and a movie theater are on the island.
We visited the Oceanarium in Bar Harbor, where there are touch tanks, lobster hatchery, and marsh walk. There are two facilities. The second is in Southwest Harbor. It contains an angler’s museum and marine aquarium. We were entertained while learning about the ocean and the lobster industry and were able to pick up and handle starfish and other marine animals! This is a fun place for kids!
The Atlantic Brewing Company is in Bar Harbor. Try a tasting, as we did. They have some great beer! We brought some back with us. We also liked the Blueberry Soda. Tours are offered, although we didn’t stay that long.
There are 120 miles of hiking trails in the park. Some of our hikes include Bar Harbor Shore Trail, Cadillac Summit, Acadia Mountain Trail, and Pemetic Mountain Trail. They range from easy to strenuous, so can take anywhere from a few minutes to hours. On one of our explorations, we discovered an old family cemetery hidden in the woods. On the same hike, we came upon a herd of deer! They looked at us for a moment, and then went back to eating, not fearing us at all! Off Mt. Desert Island, Acadia Park continues. Schoodic National Scenic Byway has spectacular views! There are beaches, picnic areas, hiking, and other outdoor activities. There are quaint fishing villages and other interesting sights.
The weather can be cool even in summer, especially at night, so bring a jacket, hat, and jeans. Mosquitoes can be a problem, so remember the insect repellant. And always bring the sunscreen. Carry water when hiking, even if just planning a short hike. Sometime one trail leads to another! Wildlife sightings could be falcons, herons, whales, garter snakes, turtles, beaver, and deer.
We love coastal Maine! A trip there can be as sedate or as adventurous as one chooses! One could be happy sightseeing, eating, and shopping. If hiking, kayaking, and rock climbing are more interesting, one can engage in those. There is always something to do! We are looking forward to another visit!
write by Christabel