Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T!
Since we were driving three hours from Portland, Maine to Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island we planned a light sightseeing schedule for our first afternoon in Acadia National Park. I had been here twice before, my daughter didn’t remember her earlier trip and my husband had never been.
We rolled into town around lunch time, so we stopped first at the Atlantic Brewing Company for some authentic smokehouse BBQ. The smoker was going and we had some quality pulled pork and ribs with our micro-brews. With lunch I ordered a summer ale… I don’t usually drink beer but this was light and refreshing. My husband got something a little darker which he also said was very good.
If you decide to dine at Mainely Meats BBQ, do douse yourself liberally with bug spray before going in. Seating is outside and the gigantic Maine mosquitoes love BBQ-fed human.
Once in town, we hopped on the 2.5 hour trolley tour (reserved a few weeks before online) of Acadia National Park with Oli’s Trolley. Our driver talked about the various historic mansions we passed on the way into the park (rich folk loved to summer here back in the day) and provided information on the history and geography of Mt. Desert Island as we drove the park loop road.
Unlike many other National Park loop roads, the traffic on this one isn’t too bad (the real stop and go problem is in Bar Harbor itself) but parking at key stops is difficult. The free Island Explorer bus does not go to the top of Cadillac Mountain, but Oli does. Oli’s trolley tour is a great, hassle free intro to the park.
We had three stops for photographs and exploration. The first was Cadillac Mountain, named for a French explorer. At just over 1500 feet elevation, Cadillac is the highest point on the American Atlantic coast and, at certain times of the year, is the first place to see the sunrise in North America. On a clear day, you can see as far as Mount Katahdin, Maine’s highest mountain. We were not there on a clear day. The harbor was completely fogged in. I got some cool shots of the fluffy white shroud blanketing the small islands I remembered being able to see in Frenchman’s Bay eight years earlier. When I pulled some of the older photos for this post, I realized it hadn’t been entirely clear in May of 2007 either, but I had gotten an image of a cruise ship coming into port, so visibility was definitely better.
Next stop was Sieur de Monts. There is a natural spring here. The Sieur de Monts Spring House was built by George B. Dorr, the first superintendent of Acadia in 1909.
There is also a nature center here where we were able to touch a moose antler and talk to a ranger. There is a garden trail that we did not explore this trip.
Our last stop was Thunder Hole. This is a blowhole formed by an underwater cavern in the rocky coastline. We stood at the guardrail with about 100 other eager tourists and watched the waves come in and spout out through the hole. Mesmerizing, but the waves weren’t really strong enough to create the thunderous crash the location is named for.
Back in town, we walked next door to Stewman’s Downtown Lobster Pound. Yes, this is a tourist trap, but it has a lot going for it: ample seating with views of the harbor, it is in walking distance from most downtown hotels (trust me, once you get your car in the hotel lot, you will not want to move it again until you are leaving Bar Harbor behind) and it’s a lobster pound, which means fresh lobster is brought in daily, right off the boat. Everything else on the menu is meh, so just stick to lobstah and you’ll be OK.
Location: Mount Desert Island
Designation: National Park
Date designated/established: July 8, 1916
Date of my visit: August 2015