Acadia National Park Part IV – All The Rest!
So I finally made it to the end of my Acadia National Park series!
When I first started writing about this area I thought I could wrap it up in around 2-3 posts, but I just had too much to say. Or, to put it another way our time in Acadia was SO GOOD that I was overrun with material to write about. Plus of course I really wanted to share the best of the pics I took, and there was so many of them (= so much natural beauty here) that a few posts just couldn’t do it justice.
It’s a good problem to have, right?
I mentioned this in an earlier post, but I think it’s worth repeating again. We kinda knew ahead of time that we’d like it here based on other RV friends who’d been before us, but we weren’t prepared for how much we’d like it. Maine has surprised us in ALL the right ways and I can truly say we’re converts of the place.
Throughout our month here we had excellent weather (it was pristine the entire time), no bugs (we didn’t experience any at all), an abundance of beautiful nature and tons of great hiking. A few less people would have been nice, but then everyone comes here for the same reasons and you can (mostly) avoid the crowds by simply doing your outings early. Our experience here has been way better than we ever imagined.
But getting back on track now…
I have to admit that we didn’t do much “town” stuff during our time here. We were focused on nature (well, and lighthouses) and since our RV site was so nice, we really preferred to spend our happy hours and dinners at home overlooking the water. But we did do a few extra outings that are worth mentioning.
Driving The Park Loop Scenic Drive
I mentioned this in my very first post on Acadia and it’s kind of a given, but anyone who comes to Acadia should definitely do the 27-mile scenic Park Loop Drive on the “popular” side of the Island.
It’s gorgeous with plenty of great overlooks, some wonderful hikes (our #1 and #2 hikes from my previous blog post are along this road) and some of the most famous stops in Acadia including Thunder Hole (a rocky crevice that literally thunders when the tides are right), Jordan Pond (a very pretty pond next to Jordan Pond House which is renowned for it’s tea and popovers) and of course Cadillac Mountain (the summit at 1,530-feet is the highest point in Acadia NP).
We did the loop drive multiple times both with family and by ourselves. Mostly we went in early and thus avoided all the crowds, although we did miss our timing once (we got there by 10 AM) and had to deal with backed-up parking lots. It was always a pretty outing through. My only regret? I never got my butt in gear to go in for sunrise (Boulder Beach is a popular spot) or sunset (Cadillac Mountain is a classic spot), both of which would have undoubtedly yielded some outstanding photo ops. Next time, right?
VISIT & PAW NOTES/ The 27-mile drive is one-way on the coastal side (it’s two-way on the “inland” side) and runs in a clockwise direction. Plenty of parking lots along the way to enjoy overlooks and hikes. Alternatively you can leave the car at home and take the free Island Explorer Shuttle Bus around the loop (route 4, dog-friendly). Apart from a select few extreme hikes, all overlooks & hikes around the Park Loop are dog-friendly. Doggie is also allowed on the trails around the various ponds & lakes, but is not allowed on swim beaches (e.g. Sand Beach) or into the water at lakes/ponds.
Visiting Downtown Bar Harbor
You can’t really talk about MDI without mentioning Bar Harbor (pronounced Ba Hah-ba if you want to say it like a local), the main city on the Island.
Now, I probably won’t make any friends here but I have to admit that Bar Harbor was probably our least favorite part of MDI. Yes, it’s got lots of cutesy shops and yes, there are plenty of places to eat & hang, but honestly it was just too touristy and over-crowded for our tastes, and the three times we went in we just didn’t dig the vibe.
The things we enjoyed most about Bar Harbor were actually the things just outside the city center.
We enjoyed visiting the churches (did you know the biggest collection of Tiffany stained glass windows in the country is at St. Saviour’s Church?), we liked the short 1.5 mile walk along Bar Harbor Shore Path (scenic and pleasant) and we enjoyed some of the eateries several blocks off the main drag (unfortunately the few meals we had in the downtown area weren’t all that great), but that was really the extent of it.
If you come here you’ll want to see it (perhaps it’ll grab you more than it did us?), but honestly if you only have a short time in Acadia I’d recommend focusing on the nature, the smaller towns and the multitude of other activities in the area instead.
VISIT & PAW NOTES/ Bar Harbor is BUSY and parking can be tough, so it’s best to go in early or leave the car at home and take the free Island Explorer Shuttle Bus instead (it’s dog-friendly & many campgrounds in MDI are on the route). Downtown is dog-friendly, including the Bar Harbor Shore Path and most eateries that have outdoor areas allow dogs. However you won’t be able to take doggie inside historical buildings, churches or into restaurants that don’t have patios.
Sailing The Bay Around Northeast Harbor
The sailing experience that the boyz had in Camden (the town we visited just before Acadia) was one of the highlights of their time there, so before Paul’s dad headed south they wanted to try to duplicate that adventure in Acadia.
For this outing they chose Sail Acadia who offered an intimate sail (6 people max) on a 42-foot cruising boat out of Northeast Harbor (the company also has an old Sloop from 1899 that sails from Southwest Harbor, but bookings were full when we tried). There were only 2 other guests on board and the boyz sailed for 3 hours in the bay just outside of MDI. Just like the last sail they were able to bring adult beverages along (it was early AM this time though, so they passed) and also similar to the last sail they had a fabulous captain & first mate who kept them entertained and informed the whole way.
And it was another absolutely AWESOME experience!
Calm seas, pleasant weather and a quiet trip on the water that’s everything you ever imagine sailing to be. They both raved about it and would have booked another if they’d had more time. If you like to sail, definitely add this to your “list” for the area!
VISIT & PAW TIPS/ Sail Acadia offers 3-hour shared sails for $85/person (they also do private charters if you wish). No dogs allowed however. There are several other companies that offer sails and cruises in the area too, so if you don’t see what you like at Sail Acadia check them out.
Eating & Drinking
We found ALL of our fav foodie stops outside of Bar Harbor. Nearby Ellsworth (just ~6 miles north of our RV park) had a really neat downtown area with good vibes and good food, plus it wasn’t over-run with people. It became our “local hangout” for everything we did (grocery shopping etc.) while we were staying at Narrows Too campground. Southwest Harbor (on the “quiet” side of MDI) had a cute little town with the best little coffee shop we found in the area. We stopped there several times after hikes on that side of MDI. Plus we discovered some decent brews.
- Best Beer – We tried two breweries in the area, one of which became a rather regular hangout for us. Atlantic Brewing Company is the main brewery on MDI and has several locations. By far our favorite was the Town Hill location on Knox Road just ~4 miles from the RV park. Super cute & relaxed spot with a GREAT BBQ on-site, plus their outdoor patio was dog-friendly. The beer was good (not great, but solidly good. Paul liked the 04609 Double IPA and I quite enjoyed the Honey Bragget), the food was superb and we must have stopped there 8 times during our month in the area (Our car just kept taking us there after we’d hiked. What could we do?). By the way, DO NOT miss the Real Ale Mustard at Atlantic Brewing (OMG, trust me on this!). The other brewery we tried in the area was Airline Brewing Company in Ellsworth, also a good set of beers and a cozy spot to hang, but nowhere to sit with dogs.
- Best Coffee – By far our fav joint was Milagro Coffee in Southwest Harbor. Great little shop with lots of interesting coffee drinks and tons of tasty baked goods (both regular and gluten-free). Outside area is dog-friendly (albeit a bit busy by the main street). It was the perfect stop for our “quiet” side hikes.
- Best Lobster – So honestly we barely ate any lobster while we were here (since I’m shellfish-allergic, Paul’s the only one that eats it anyway), but several of the regulars that we met in the area raved about the lobster spot just down the road from the RV park (Trenton Bridge Lobster Point). We also had a decent meal at Union River Lobster Pot in Ellsworth. Maybe some of my blog readers have better recommendations here?
Visting With Friends, RVers & Blog Readers
Apart from family, we also had the joy to see several other RVers & blog readers while we were in Acadia.
Health & Alyssa (The RV Entrepreneur) were staying the month in Narrows Too around the same time we were, as were Melinda & Eryk (The Adventures of Pookie & The Bear, they actually spent the whole summer in Acadia!). Plus we met-up with Britt & Stephen (The Art of RV Harmony), Lindsay & Dan (Follow Your Detour), Linda & Tim (CasaRoll), Nancy & John (hi guys!), and a few more that I’ve forgotten (I’m so sorry, I know we met you!). It’s always a pleasure to see other RV folks and meet readers who’ve followed our story so thank you to everyone who reached out to us while we were here.
Wrap Up & What’s Next
That finally wraps up our time in Acadia! I’ve got a full campground review coming (next), but that’s the extent of our adventures in the area.
There is lots that we missed of course -> eateries we didn’t try (so many), outings we didn’t do (e.g. kayaking is popular on the many lakes), tastings we didn’t make (there’s a well-rated winery on MDI, believe it or not), hikes we didn’t experience (e.g. the “ladder” hikes) and gems of smaller towns that we completely missed. Plus we didn’t really stay long enough to see the full extent of the fall colors (we would have needed to stay until mid-Oct) which is another huge draw in the area.
But what we did experience we LOVED!
We honestly had a total BLAST staying in Acadia and were so glad that we booked a full month so that we could take our time and explore as much as we did. We were both BLOWN away by the beauty here and enjoyed every minute at our site overlooking the water and the ever-changing tides of the bay. Polly loved it, the cats loved it and sharing this experience with family (my dad, Paul’s dad and stepmom) made it even more special. These are memories we will cherish forever.
With our family gone and our next steps uncertain we didn’t initially know what we were going to do. It was approaching the end of Sept and temps were still warm (unusually warm) so heading south didn’t make much sense (yet), plus there were a few more lighthouses we really, really wanted to see. We’d come this far, but we hadn’t seen it all and everyone kept telling us that “Down East” Maine (i.e. the coast North of Acadia) was not to be missed. It was late in the season and we would be chasing the closure dates of many of the campgrounds in the area, but why not?
So we raised our jacks and that’s exactly what we did. We pointed the wheels towards Canada and ended up spending another 2 glorious weeks in Maine. It was a blast and absolutely the best decision we made. We saw places we’d only ever dreamt about, took some pics that I never expected (my best pic of the year perhaps?) and enjoyed a whole different side of Maine that we completely fell in love with. Plus we even made it into Canada, albeit only for a day.
Those adventures coming up next….
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