The following is a continuation of Coast of Maine in September 2012 – Boston to Brunswick, Maine.
Driving north from our overnight at America’s Worst Value Inn was a great break from a bad experience. Just north of Bath, the traveler needs to make a choice between the freeway and the coastal road. Speed versus charm. It was an easy choice.
Traffic was light on a Sunday morning and we quickly made our way through the gorgeous communities like Rockland, Thomaston, Belfast, Searsport and Bucksport. Each town was a remarkably well preserved picture of coastal New England and if not for our goal of Acadia National Park, we could have spent a day in any one of those places.
By the time we finally made the turn toward Acadia in the town of Ellsworth, we were already planning our weeks-long trip up the coast for some future date.
We crossed the narrow waterway just a few miles from Ellsworth and were on Mount Desert Island. Just minutes more and we were parked and walking around Bar Harbor. It was hard not to notice that everyone seemed retirement age, white and dressed like they had just stepped out of the LL Bean store in Freeport.
The stores were a mix of seafaring motif and gelato shops. While kitsch isn’t our style, there’s a charm about Bar Harbor that makes it worth the stop. But don’t stay near the whale watching pier or the touristy places. The village has streets of great houses and a beautiful village green to explore
But at the same time, don’t spend your day there, either. There’s a gorgeous national park waiting nearby.
The park entrance was just two miles from Bar Harbor and we chose to travel the Park Loop Road as the best way to get started.
On a whim, we decided to hike the short-but-difficult Precipice Trail. The trail begins at a parking lot along the Park Loop Road and immediately earns its name by winding up the nearly vertical face of Champlain Mountain.
Part via ferrata, part Land of the Lost, this is a fantastic trail when you come prepared, which we didn’t. Our running shoes weren’t optimal, and Jeanne’s white pants were soon not so white.
Several other hikers told us that a young woman died on the trail only two months ago after a 20m (60 ft) fall. We didn’t find the trail exceptionally dangerous, but we could see how an inexperienced person could fall.
We finished tired and having checked the ‘exertion box’ for the day. It was time to relax and enjoy the only sandy beach on the island, known appropriately as Sand Beach. We love New England simplicity. It wasn’t a fascinating beach by comparison with the places we’ve been, but it was clearly a novelty for the locals, who were eagerly changing and heading into the 11°C (50°F) waves.
While we typically hike to the top of peaks we ‘claim’, this one was a very beautiful drive up from the glacial valley below.
Mount Cadillac at 466 m (1530 ft) is the highest point on the Eastern Seaboard. In theory, if you stand there at dawn, you’re the first to see the sunrise in the U.S.
Beal’s Lobster Pier
We followed a recommendation from earlier in the day to try the lobster roll in Southwest Harbor at Beal’s Lobster Pier. Not only did it fit perfectly with our ‘rules’ for Maine lobster eating (picnic tables, corn on the cob), but we had a chance to talk with Pete Madeira from the family that owns the business.
Pete is a retired Coast Guard Captain and very likable guy. He took the time to talk us through how the lobster industry works on Mount Desert Island and how he came to be an owner of a highly seasonal business. By the time we finished, we were ready to be adopted into the family.
While we only spent one day in Acadia, it was well worth the trip up the coast and back. We had more lobster over the weekend than we’ve had in years and the sights and people were excellent. If you find yourself in Boston with a weekend or more, this is a definite must-see.