My first trip to Maine couldn't have been better.
First, we stayed with our road trip friends, Fran and Carey. You might recall us talking about them before, but we befriended them over PBRs during Christmas at Fort Davis State Park in Texas. For those of you who know Carey by his trail name, Beer Man, then you know this is an apt introduction. They offered to let us park Elsie on their beautiful piece of property in Mt. Desert Island. It was the perfect centralized location to explore Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor and Southwest Harbor.
Second, did I mention that Carey is the definitive hiking guru for all of Maine? I mean seriously, the dude has a regular hiking column in the Portland Press Herald and a best-selling year-round hiking book for Maine that I highly recommend you pick up at Sherman's Bookstore should you land in Bar Harbor anytime soon. Plus his wife, Fran, was near completion on her goal of hiking every single trail on the island. AND these two are tour guides on Mt. Desert. Fran does a period-appropriate historical walking tour of Southwest Harbor and Carey recently started narrating bus tours on Acadia.
Third, it was soft shell lobster season in Maine. Naturally we had a lot of lobster.
And last but not least, we somehow landed killer seats at The Upper Deck to watch 4th of July fireworks explode right in front of us from the docks.
You'll be hard pressed to convince me that you can do Maine any better than this. But we'll let you in on a few bits of local lore and love from our best-ever hosts, Fran and Carey.
1. Hike the Beehive + Precipice Trails
Both these hiking trails give you breathtaking views of Acadia and are super fun for those of you not too freaked out by ladders and hanging out on the edge of boulders. Truth be told, I'm moderately afraid of heights myself, but the Beehive didn't freak me out too much. I even became mildly addicted to the ladders!
We didn't get to hike the Precipice Trail while there because there were some peregrine falcons in the thrust of breeding season and the park had it blocked off to protect the birds and their young. But if you do get the chance to go, take it. We hear that it's slightly more challenging than the Beehive.
2. Hike The beech mountain trail + visit the fire tower
We hiked the Beech Mountain Trail, which had more ladders, great views of Echo Lake and an old fire tower. That's a win-win-win on a hike for me. Bonus: we are told Echo Lake has the best swimming on the Island because it's partially blocked from the wind and the water is wicked warm. Go there if you want a good swim on the island.
3. Eat at Beal's Lobster Pound
The best value on lobster is honestly buying it local and cooking it yourself. We heard from Fran and Carey that the best / most affordable lobster comes from a gift shop in Southwest Harbor that sells them on order. Crazy, eh? We didn't get the chance to partake, but were able to get a good soft shell lobster for $6.99/lb at the local IGA. Anywho, BEAL'S. That's the place to get lobster you don't want to cook yourself. A great spot with amazing seafood of all sorts and a pretty fun presentation.
4. Hike Bar Island
In Mt. Desert and all of Acadialand, you'll learn to follow the tides. Especially if you want to hike Bar Island. A natural land bridge appears at low tide so you can cross from Bar Harbor to the island. It's a short hike but so fun.
5. Have a Drink at the Thirsty Whale
Locals flock here because the bar, unlike most other businesses on the island, is open year-round. Have a drink at the bar. We had the Bar Harbor Summer Ale.
6. Work Early at the Trailhead Cafe
This little coffee shop in Bar Harbor was quiet, affordable and close. The trifecta for a coffee shop / cafe. Honestly, we were just excited to have a place to sit given we were there over the holiday weekend. Also, we had limited cell service on the island, but it was all bars here at Trailhead Cafe.
7. Have Pie at the Quietside Cafe
Full disclosure, we never got the chance to actually dine here. But given the steady flow of traffic, glowing recommendations from our hosts and a friendly encounter with the owner, we're convinced: eat here if you can. And one better, get the pie. We hear it's amazing.