This week I’m sharing the rest of our trip details from our recent road trip to Maine!
Plus, as a bonus, I tried to sum up our lessons learned on how to do this trip more efficiently if pressed for time. So skip to the end for a suggestion on how to see Bar Harbor and Northern Maine in 3 days, and for a summarized total itinerary of how to do the entire road trip in 7 days (including driving home)!
In the meantime, get ready for a juicy post of all the things we learned during the trip, how to avoid our mistakes, and lots of pretty pictures!
Check out part 1 for full details of the first 3 days, which included a Cranberry bog tour and lots of light houses and other road trip stops/highlights along the route to Bar Harbor, ME.
For most of our trip, our home base was the cutest little A-frame cabin in the woods on Mount Desert Island (right outside of Acadia, and about 20 minutes from Bar Harbor). This is where we drove for the night at the end of Day 3. I never grew tired of the view looking outside. ☺️
Day 4: Bar Harbor & Acadia
We had breakfast at Everyday Joe’s (limited seating but great food), and spent the entire morning exploring downtown Bar Harbor. Lots of window shopping and running circles around the water fountain, and of course treats and coffee from Mount Dessert Bakery. 😁
We also went to the Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company to book a tour for 2 days later. Since tours are based on sea/weather conditions, the company will email you a few hours before the scheduled tour start time to notify you if it’s happening or not, and you’re not charged unless the tour happens. Also, if you have a tour and don’t see any whales, I was told the tickets would be good for 3 years (and can be used on any of their tours – they have light house tours, other wildlife tours, etc.)! So while the conditions were always too windy for tours the week we were there, I was impressed with their policies to make things as convenient as possible since they rely entirely on Mother Nature. I really hope we can come back another year in the summer for a puffin/whale tour (and maybe light house tour?)!! (Side note: Did you know you can see puffins in Bar Harbor?! I’m told June is when they’re around, but depending on weather they may arrive a week or two late, so aim for third week in June if you want to see puffins in the wild – like I desperately want to do! 😂😉)
The weather was cooperating with us, so we decided to drive the Schoodic Peninsula in the afternoon. It took us about an hour to drive there, and we spent 2 hours driving the loop and stopping at the points of interest below (the majority of time was at Schoodic Point):
- Frazer Point
- Blueberry Hill
- Schoodic Point: a seagull landed near us here, and some of us were happier about it than others, lol!
We ate dinner at our cabin and went to bed early, because our next day required an early start!
Day 4: Northern Maine for Moose and More!
(Get ready for a lot of moose tips 😁): We left our cabin around 3am for a Moose Safari with Northeast Whitewater near Moosehead Lake. We had to be at the meeting location by 5:45am (we choose the sunrise tour, which started at 6am – they also have a sunset tour option), and it was a 2.5 hour drive from the cabin. So we laid all of our clothesout the nightbefore, including lots of layerswithhats and gloves. The kids slept most of the drive, and pureexcitement kept me awake! Haha. Leaving around 3am gave us enough time to stop at a Dunkin’ Donuts drive thru on our way, too.
I emailed the company before booking the tour to ask about going with young kids￼. They did recommend booking a private tour, and I was SO HAPPY we did! This way there was no pressure on ruining someone else’s tour if my sometimes noisy children scared some moose away, haha! Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable and we learned a lot about wildlife in the area and northern Maine, in general. Plus, we were fortunate enough to see not just 1 moose, but 6 moose!!! It was incredible! Don’t be like me and forget to bring your good camera (I don’t have a DSLR, but an affordable Powershot that served us well in Ireland).
Anyway, thankfully the guide had incredible binoculars and suggested I try taking a picture through the scope. It was difficult to align the lenses, but shockingly, it worked pretty well! Nothing like actually looking through the binoculars (which were crystal clear), but enough for some photographic evidence, haha. We first saw 2 moose (a bull and cow), then a lone cow, then 3 more moose (a bull and 2 cows). The third moose we spotted (lone cow), actually crossed the road right behind our van! It happened fast, but she was SO CLOSE!!! It was an awe inspiring experience!!! (She’s pictured one all 3 pics on the right above).
The colors and views experienced on this tour alone were worth it. It was definitely “peak” colors for this area when we were there. And apparently moose rut with the color change, so that’s probably why we saw so many! Also noteworthy, is apparently moose spend a lot of time alone (except for cows with their calves, often spotted in the summer), except for in the fall when they rut! And it’s easier to spot them with the colorful background of the trees (otherwise they can blend with tree trunks more easily). Lastly, it was a cool morning and had rained hard the day before our tour – apparently cooler weather is better to spot them because they like being out and about in it more. So don’t be upset if you have rainy weather for your tour – it might be a good thing! 😉
And for what it’s worth, if you want to do your own moose safari without paying a guide, I would recommend Baxter State Park. I did a LOT of research on the best places to see moose while in Maine. Based on what I found, your best chances are either with a guided tour (and I HIGHLY recommend the one we used – Northeast Whitewater), or Sandy Stream Pond (alternately Daicey Pond) in Baxter State Park. Had we gone this route, we still would have left our cabin at the same time since it’s about the same distance (just further east); and dawn and dusk are allegedly the best time of day to spot moose. Plus, as mentioned here, there are a limited amount of “Moose Passes” for Sandy Stream Pond – good for 3 hours on a first come, first served basis.
If we didn’t spot moose on our morning safari, my back-up plan was to try again at dusk in Baxter State Park. It’s about a 3.5 hour drive from our Greenville to Baxter (then remember, still a 2.5 hour drive back to Bar Harbor area from Baxter), so we didn’t do Baxter State Park. The only other thing I would’ve like to have seen there is Mt. Katahdin, which is the start (or end, depending on how you look at it) of the Appalachian Trail. Plus, judging by how gorgeous it was near Greenville and the Moosehead Lake area, I knew the fall colors would be breathtaking in Baxter State Park, too.
Anywho, we ended our morning by eating breakfast at Auntie M’s in town. This place had some of the best food we ate the entire trip! Even my kids liked my spinach omelet (which is saying something)!
After breakfast we went to the B52 Memorial site, which has a sad story (only 2 of 9 crewmen survived the 1964 plane crash), but a nice memorial. It’s only 15 minutes or so from Greenville, so it’s worth it if you’re nearby and not on a tight schedule. The kids loved the hike through the woods, and it was crazy to see the plane parts strewn about as we walked along. Plus, I couldn’t get over the drive there; the colorful trees were gorgeous (it reminded me a lot of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but with more hills)!
Next, on our drive back to the cabin, we stumbled upon the Lowe’s covered bridge – which was a happy accident! It’s possible we passed by it in the morning but it was too dark to notice, haha.
We continued onto Bangor, where we saw Stephen King’s house!
We also stopped at the Paul Bunyan statue in Bangor, because – why not?! Haha.
As we continued south, we stopped across the river from Fort Knox. It was an impromptu stop, but I’m so glad we stopped! There’s a neat river walk across from the fort, with informational signs and beautiful views. These pictures really don’t do the views justice…
Our last stop on our way back was in Ellsworth. We ate dinner at the Airline Brewing Company. It was a small pub and we were really impressed with the beer and food! Definitely another place I’d eat again; it seemed like a place the locals enjoyed, too!
Day 5: Acadia National Park
Technically, we had already seen some of Acadia when we explored the Schoodic Peninsula (the park is spread apart – it’s not all connected like most National Parks), but this was our day to do the big bucket items for the park I had read about, along the main Park Loop Road. We spent 6 hours doing all of the Acadia park sites this day, but we spent 3 hours at the Jordan Pond and Guesthouse (over an hour of which was waiting to be seated for lunch). So this could be done a lot faster if you don’t care about having popovers at the Guesthouse – and probably if you start the day much earlier. ☺️
Sand Beach Overlook (we cheated and didn’t follow the insane crowd to beach parking – instead we parked shortly afterwards and took turns walking the short path off of the road to see the overlook of the beach):
Jordan Pond and Guesthouse: This place was great for stone skipping into the pond, with great views of the Bubble Mountains.
And yes, because we had so much time, I think the popovers were worth the wait. It’s definitely not your typical roll (they’re mostly filled with air), so it was fun to try and they were tasty (as was the clam chowder)!
Cadillac Mountain: This was beautiful the entire drive up! I was surprised by how many different views there were to check out at the very top, too – the summit was larger than I expected!
Next we checked out part of the Carriage road right outside of the Acadia entrance closest to Cadillac Mountain. It was part of the Eagle Lake Carriage Road, and we saw 3 beaver dams along the route before we turned back! But it was a long road without a bike. (We learned the next day that instead of parking in the main parking lot for this carriage road, it’s better to turn earlier down “Duck Brook Road,” and you can park near the pump station).
Day 6: Southeast Harbor and more Acadia National Park
We started by trying to catch sunrise at Cadillac Mountain (the time of year we went, it’s allegedly the first place in the continental U.S. to see the sunrise). Well, FYI – that means count on the sunrise estimated from Google to be late by about 20 minutes… lol! The sun was starting to rise as we were getting to the mountain, so we watched a lot as we were driving up the mountain. Although the views were still beautiful when we got to the top!
Afterwards, we went to A Slice of Eden for breakfast- the quiche was GOOD and the pecan sticky buns were AMAZING!!! Afterwards is when we discovered that driving down “Duck Brook Rd” is a better place to start the Eagle Lake carriage road if you’re trying to see a Rockefeller bridge (which we were). Not only is there a beaver dam behind the pump house (my husband spotted a beaver swimming nearby, too!), but it’s right by one of the famous Rockefeller bridges! And it was SO worth it to see! There was a gorgeous waterfall nearby; the colors in this area were so pretty!! I also think by this time in the week, a LOT more of the trees were turning colors – a few days made a big difference!
We spent the rest of the morning relaxing in the cabin. 😊
We explored the Southeast Harbor part of amount Desert Island, specifically:
- Bass Head Lighthouse: this one was fun with the giant rocks to carefully climb!
- Seal Cove: this was an excellent place to look for shells!!
- Pretty Marsh Beach: the kids had fallen asleep, so I walked down to the beach myself. I could see spending an hour or more here with the kids, but it was a bit of a hike to get to the beach (unlike Seal Cove, which was right off of the road).
- Beech Mountain: By this time our 5 year old was awake, so my husband did this trail with him while I waited in the car with the napping kids. The views were so incredible he said we would have to go back when everyone was awake!
We ended the day with window shopping downtown and another delicious dinner at La Bella Vita (worth noting – the wine and cocktails here were GOOD!).
Day 7: Northeast Harbor and more Acadia National Park
This morning we were properly prepared to watch sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain! We dressed the kids in layers, hat hats, gloves, and lots of warm, fleece blankets, AND we left a lot earlier (aim to arrive at the top of the mountain a half hour before sunrise, and give yourself a half hour to drive up the mountain)!!
We had breakfast at Jeannie’s Great Maine Breakfast in downtown Bar Harbor, which we thought was good (not life-changing). Then we walked around downtown and got coffee at Coffee Hound Coffee Bar while we waited for some stores to open to finally get our souvenirs (we were ready to go so early because of the sunrise, haha).
We also discovered the Chocolate Moose Confectionary this morning! We missed it on previous days because it’s on a side street, not one of the main drags throughout downtown. Definitely worth a stop to feed the moose if nothing else! 😉
We also decided this morning that our favorite coffee shop was Choco-Latte Cafe (and we tried a LOT of coffee while downtown)! Plus, they sell Acadia Coffee Company beans, which we were having a hard time finding until then (still haven’t tried any – but our old laundry room where it’s sitting smells incredible in the meantime 😂). And yes, the kids are toasting chocolate lobsters in this picture…
Lastly, we returned to the Beech Mountain trail to hike it as a family. It did NOT disappoint! This was EASILY my favorite Acadia trail!!!
We decided to tackle the Canadian Cliffs trail after Beech Mountain instead of going back to the car. While it was a fun hike through the woods, it was pushing the limits of endurance for our 5 year old by the end! But I did these trails wearing my Ugg sweater boots, which admittedly weren’t the best choice – but still – they were very doable trails. 😊
Next we checked out the Wonderland Trail thanks to a recommendation from a local on a great trail for kids! It was very easy (basically a dirt path to the beach), and our kids LOVED the beach full of rocks to throw and shells to uncover!
Afterwards we drove through downtown Northeast Harbor, where we agreed the best blueberry pie of the entire trip was found, at The Colonel’s Restaurant and Bakery. I also got blueberry turnovers and WOW – so yummy!
Day 8: COA Natural History Museum and Bar Harbor
We spent the entire morning (and early afternoon) relaxing in the cabin. It also rained this morning, so it ended up being the perfect time to do so!
We finally visited the College of the Atlantic, George B. Dorr Museum of Natural History, which is well worth a visit! You can walk through it quickly, but the touch tank was really neat for the kids (and adults)! They also had a cool exhibit to hear sounds from different birds and amphibians (finally, the kids got to hear what a loon calling sounds like – as a child, I thought they were ghosts when hearing them on trips in Michigan’s U.P., haha!). The whale bones were a big hit, too! It’s also a small museum – we were very slow paced and did it in a hour!
Day 9: Drive home
It only took us about 12 hours to drive home from our cabin to Baltimore. So definitely doable if you’re in the area! It was a Sunday, for what that’s worth.
How to do the entire trip in 7 Days:
I personally liked having 9 days for this trip because the first half of the trip was busy, and the second half was a VERY relaxed pace. So it was both an adventurous and relaxing vacation! Plus, it allowed for flex time if the wrath had been nice enough to do the Whale Watching tour. But some easy ways to cut out at least 2 days would be:
- Do sunrise at Cadillac Mountain the same day you do the rest of the main Park Loop road. This means combining Day 5 with the morning of Day 6.
- Do the Duck Brook Road part of the Eagle Lake Carriage Road (don’t start from Eagle Lake Parking lot). You could still do this on Day 5 (instead of the Eagle Lake Carriage Road).
- Explore Northeast and Southeast Harbors on the same day, and skip Pretty Marsh Beach. This means combining Day 6 afternoon & Day 7 afternoon together into one day (remember, the other parts of those days are overlap since we did Beech Mountain and sunrise at Cadillac Mountain twice).
- Start your main Bar Harbor exploration day with the Schoodic Peninsula (early), and spend the rest of the day in Bar Harbor (including the Natural Has Museum). The downtown area of Bar Harbor could easily be seen in a day, and the Schoodic Peninsula can be thoroughly enjoyed in a morning (it’s an hour drive one-way from downtown, and we spent 2 hours there).
So your updated itinerary (including days 1-3) would look like:
Day 1: Drive from Baltimore, MD to Portsmouth, NH. Stop at Providence, RI and if in October, stop at a Cranberry farm (complete with bog tour) in MA along the way! Also drive through Cambridge for a quick tour of Harvard.
Day 2: Drive from Portsmouth, NH to Portland, ME. Explore New Castle Island, Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion, and downtown Portsmouth, NH. Nubble light house, drive through Kennebunkport, ME, and take a ferry to Peak’s Island from Portland for dinner and the sunset.
Day 3: Explore Portland, ME and drive to Bar Harbor, ME. Stop at Five Island Lobster Co for a lobster roll and some light houses along the way (Permaquid Point and Rockland Breakwater are my top recommendations), as well as exploring downtown Rockland (time permitting) and stopping for dinner in Camden Harbor.
Day 4: Schoodic Peninsula (in the morning) and downtown Bar Harbor the rest of the day (including the COA Museum of Natural History if you have an hour to spare).
Day 5: Northern Maine (moose!) or Whale Watching from Bar Harbor.
Day 6: Northeast and Southeast Harbors, including Beech Mountain, Canadian Cliffs, Wonderland Trail, Bass Head Lighthouse, and Seal Cove. Save Pretty Marsh Beach for last in case you need to skip it.
Day 7: Drive home after coffee shop and bakery stops in Bar Harbor!
Has anyone else been to Bar Harbor? What am I missing?! Let me know so I can do it next time we go, haha! 😉