I promised I would write about our gorgeous Bar Harbor, Maine vacation. (Otherwise known as Bah Habah up north…)
And I also have about a zillion posts running around in my head.
The one about 5th grade graduation.
The one about summer.
Another one about friends.
I think I used so many words during cancer I ran out for a while.
So this week I’m working on all those backlogged posts and today is VACATION!
This is mainly logistics because so many of you mentioned you’re interested in taking a vacation to Maine. I HIGHLY recommend it. Bray and I honeymooned in Bar Harbor but it had been 15 years since we’d been back. A lot has changed.
First up: When to go?
We honeymooned in May and that was way too early because everything was closed. This time we went the first full week in June. It’s still a wee bit early. If I had to redo it, I’d do late June. Before the insane 4th of July and after crowds (July and August are peak months), but it seems everything is open by Father’s Day.
Second up: How to go?
We wanted to show the kids Boston, so we flew roundtrip in and out of Boston. It’s a 4 ½ hour drive from Boston to Bar Harbor. It’s worth doing, but if you have the travel budget or air miles, I’d recommend flying in to Boston on the way up but flying back out of Bangor or Portland. We rented an SUV and you absolutely need a rental to get around Maine.
Third up: Where to stay?
There are plenty of inns, hotels, and B&Bs in the area but we are all about staying in a house. Especially when we are somewhere for a week. We found a gorgeous rental on the water, and the closer I am to the water the better off I feel. This is the rental where we stayed:
I have mixed feelings about it. Location was perfect. Nestled at the back of a dirt road right on the water with private steps to the beach (they’re rocky there) and a firepit where we could roast s’mores. There was also really good living space – open living room with a kitchen that looked out on the living space and water. But there were definitely drawbacks. There was no AC and it was VERY hot our first few days (recordbreaking, in the 90s). The laundry was in a dank basement, so I had to schlep all our clothes from the second story to the basement to wash. The “heated” pool was not very heated so even with high temps and sunny skies, thankfully, the water was quite cold. We had some problems with the hot water. All in all, I’m glad we had a nice big home on the water, but this particular spot was probably overpriced for what we got.
Fourth up: What do you do?
If you start in Boston, I highly recommend eating in the North End. We had an incredible dinner from Giacomo’s (it’s tiny, go early, bring cash). I thought the pastries from Mike’s were over-hyped, but maybe do it anyway. We did a Duck Tour – it was meh. I loved the one in DC. We had a blast at the Boston Tea Party museum and reenactment. Walk Freedom Trail.
Once in Bar Harbor, you can’t go without spending time at Acadia National Park. (Pro tip – kids are free in 4th grade and because of the pandemic they were free for 5th grade too so we got two years of free National Park admissions!) We loved it. There was so much good there. Among the things you must do at Acadia are:
- Make a reservation for Cadillac Mountain Road – they’re easy enough to get but you can’t go up and hike Cadillac Mountain without getting one. After hiking around Cadillac Mountain on Monday, we got another reservation for Friday so we could do it again.
- Go to Sand Beach – it is a sand beach. I know, I know, so what. But the beaches in Maine are rocky and this is really beautiful. Set into the clefts of the rocks. Water is freezing but kids got in anyway.
- Definitely walk Jordan Pond – I loved this area. So beautiful. And after you walk around the pond, which is not at all strenuous, then you go to Jordan Pond House. They’ve been around since the late 1800s and are known for their popovers and jam. Parking is insane near Jordan Pond so plan on going earlier in the day whenever you decide to visit so you can find parking. We had to try two days in a row.
- Drive Park Loop Road and pull off when you see something interesting. It’s long, almost 30 miles, but has all sorts of cool stops like Thunder Hole, Otter Cliffs and Cove, and carriage roads.
In addition to Acadia, we ended up with several great outings throughout the week. We had such fun on our two hour LuLu Lobster Boat Ride with a lobsterman who taught us a lot about lobster and lobster fishing.
We saw the FIRST whale of the summer season when we went out on our Bar Harbor Whale Watching tour. It is long – we were on the water over five hours one afternoon in search for a whale. And if you get seasick, you probably will. (We had several folks throwing up on the catamaran.) We loved it though. Well three of the five of us loved it. Two of us tolerated it.
Diver Ed wasn’t open yet when we were there but we’ve heard rave reviews.
And the kids absolutely loved their day kayaking on Long Pond. It was gorgeous, rentals were reasonable through National Park Kayak Rentals, and there was even a spot to jump in and swim near where you launched at the south end. It’s WAY bigger than a pond.
Fifth up: RELAX. It’s gorgeous.
We really did unwind. It took a few days. Bray got sick the day before we left, just feeling generally crummy and wasn’t back to himself until Monday or Tuesday. Then to add insult to injury, the baby got an ear infection on Saturday so we spent Sunday morning in an urgent care getting checked out.
I was super grateful I had planned very little – each day was a design your own adventure. I listed our options and had only made reservations for the Duck Boat Tour in Boston, the Lobster Boat trip in Bar Harbor, and the Whale Watching. That let each of us do our own thing. For me, it was walking Jordan Pondan and having popovers. While for Bray, it was lobster at lunch and dinner (we made that happen for all but Monday’s lunch). For the kids, it was returning to Cadillac Mountain and Sand Beach, which we did on Friday. We definitely didn’t do everything, but we did a lot.
Watch sunsets on the water every night.
Build a fire. (You can do that in Maine in the summer.)
Avoid the freaky and painful browntail moth caterpillar. (That drops from trees. And sits on Adirondack chairs.)
Try something new.
Eat lobster. And ice cream. And don’t miss the Allagash white beer, on draft.
Play music outside.