Sometimes trip ideas gestate for many years (i.e. Banff) while at other times we get randomly inspired and head in the direction we get pulled. Such was the case with our most recent trip. We had reserved a week of vacation time during L’s “fall break” from her grueling two-year-old preschool curriculum of circle time and craft tables. Hoping to take advantage of shoulder season I did some web browsing for ideal places to travel in October. One of the spots that seemed to come up frequently was Maine. The allure of Acadia was all we needed to commit. Add to that Maine’s proximity to our favorite neighbor to the North, Canada, and a vacation quickly took shape.
We decided to make this trip budget friendly. We booked standard economy flights (M cried silent tears as he did so), looked for opportunities to save cash on necessary expenses, and tried to maximize use of free amenities at our hotels. I think the end result was a super fun family trip with a very reasonable price tag.
We flew in and out of Portland, ME. We had a connection in Dulles that unfortunately got delayed overnight(!) thus necessitating a stopover in a nearby Marriott resort. We were back in business the next morning not too worse for wear. Luckily, the Hilton Garden Inn in Portland refunded our missed night so financially we came out even.
M wisely rented a car from the in town Enterprise instead of the one at the airport which cut our car cost in half. He had planned to run to get it in the AM (mostly inspired by PoF….) but because of the overnight delay we Ubered after our morning arrival. From Portland it took us just over three hours to reach Bar Harbor. We stopped for lunch in Ellsworth along the way for some tasty pub fare at Airline Brewing Company.
Having now been to Bar Harbor, I can confirm there are many great hotel options. There are nice B and Bs downtown. There are a couple of waterfront resorts that boasted incredible views. Most of these were booked by the time we settled on our destination, so we opted for the Hampton Inn Bar Harbor. At a whopping $350/night it was the most expensive Hampton Inn at which we’ve ever stayed. It’s located about 5 minutes from downtown on a hilltop just outside of Acadia. Amenities included a small kid’s activity center that L LOVED, fresh cookies and snacks in the evenings, standard Hampton breakfast, a clean pool/spa area, and a nice workout room. Better than your typical Hampton but with a price to match. If we planned ahead for a return, we would probably chose something waterfront.
Bar Harbor was a quintessential resort town. That said, the natural beauty that surrounds it made the crowds and souvenir shops tolerable.
We enjoyed our time in Acadia. Because we had the baby, our hikes were limited in length. We explored Cadillac mountain and spent time at Sand Beach. The rocky coastlines were pretty. Our preceding trip was to Scotland which was spectacular so Maine had a tough act to follow.
We timed the tide and did the walk from Bar Harbor to Bar Island across the sand bar one morning. This popular walk is only accessible for an hour or so before or after low tide. The island is part of the national park. We then did the short hike to the highest point on the island. L loved playing in the tide pools and chasing the sea gulls on the sand bar. At one point she was totally convinced a sea gull was actually an eagle and was going to “eat her” and ran away yelling dramatically. The kid is not lacking in the personality department!
Our plan was to take a lobster boat ride. Unfortunately, they all had a minimum age requirement of at least five years old. We opted for the nature cruise instead. Saying it was a bit boring feels like stating the obvious but, that said, I’d do it again. We enjoyed seeing Acadia and some of the surrounding islands from the boat. We saw a family of bald eagles and two harbor seals, so the animals of merit were dramatically fewer and farther between than the local zoo (or our backyard for that matter). This wasn’t lost on L (or M). We made several trips to the well-stocked snack bar for craft beer and munchies which killed some time and allowed M to not jump off the side and swim to shore out of boredom/hunger/boredom hunger.
We didn’t make it on the lobster boat but we did get to eat them at a waterside restaurant! M enjoyed a Down Easter special of clam chowder, a lobster, and blueberry pie. Delicious! Totally lives up to the hype.
Bar Harbor was a relaxing tourist town to spend a few nights. They have lovely scenery, solid outdoor activities, and a variety of satisfying food options. More than anything, it was a novel domestic destination for us to spend some time in nature (and at the hotel pool) with our chatty, sweet little two-year-old away from our home base. Travel is the best 🙂
- Hike in Acadia National Park
- Enjoy Maine lobster and blueberry pie
- Take a boat tour of the harbor (lobster catching or whale watching if possible)
- Walk during low tide from Bar Harbor to Bar Island