Acadia National Park: Oceanfront Beauty and Lobster

New England Coastline Beauty and Charm

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View from our room at the Bayview

Morning light shines through the window at the Bayview Hotel as we wake up to the beautiful view of the calm sea.  If this is the harbinger of views to come in Acadia National Park, we are in for a treat.  The feel is quintessential New England.  The architecture, the sea shore, the trees all speak Bostonian (Bar Harbor is pronounced Baa Haba).

The Peak of the Atlantic Coast

The ranger at the visitor center advised us to get to Cadillac Mountain as early as possible, even though we are past the peak season.  As we climb the switchbacks towards Cadillac Mountain, the scenery gets more dramatic as we look down on Mount Desert Island and the Atlantic ocean.  Cadillac Mountain is the highest (natural) peak along the Atlantic coast at 1530 feet.  It is tall in relation to the surrounding area and proximity to the ocean, but it’s actually shorter than the Freedom Tower in New York City (1776 feet).

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View of Bar Harbor and Frenchman’s Bay from Cadillac Mountain

As we emerge from the tree lined drive, we see….  a parking lot.  The lot is mostly full when we get there around 10 am on this mid-September weekday.  I can only imagine the crowd during the summer peak season.  We head towards the “trails” with full anticipation to see the view that makes this location famous.  We are really just walking along some rocks as the trail leads us to the ocean.  Then the ocean and Frenchman’s Bay comes into view.  Spectacular!

I sit on the rock and absorb the beautiful blue ocean and the Egg Rock Island lighthouse that form the perfect New England image.  I can stay there for a long time just to enjoy the view.  We continue on the short Cadillac Summit Loop, a fairly flat walk on the summit rocks with delicious eye candy every step of the way.

The Road by the Sea

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View of Sandy Beach from Ocean Path rail

Onto the other parts of the park.  We decide to take the Park Loop Road, a mostly one way road forming a loop around the eastern half of the park.  Park Loop Road parallels the east coast of the island, but the best way to see it is on foot, so it’s time for a hike.  We pick Ocean Path trail because it offers the best scenic value for the effort exerted.  The ocean view seems to get better with each turn.  There are cliffs, rocks, sandy beach, and even a blow hole for diversity of scenery as we hike the 4.4 mile path that hugs the coast.  Fishing and tour boats dot the bay with the lighthouse in the distance.  The hike takes us to Otter Point, atop the cliff facing south.  It is a very satisfying hike although crowded.

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Jesup trail

The shore reminds me of the California coast by Big Sur.  While the Maine coast is not as dramatic as the California coast, it has a lot more charm.  I think it’s more “human scaled” and green, which makes it more inviting.

A Little History

Let’s throw in a little history while here.  We stop at Sieur de Monts with a nice garden, history about Acadia, and trails in the woods.  We explore Jesup Trail, which leads to a big meadow, and connects to the town of Bar Harbor.  It is a very pleasant walk in the woods.

Tranquil Mountain Lake

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Jordan Pond with Bubbles in the Distance

Hunger is top of mind now, as we finish Ocean Path trail.  The search for food leads us to Jordan Pond.  We managed to get a sandwich for a very late lunch, and enjoy it by the shore.  The scenery is classic mountain lake.  The Bubbles mountain form the northern boundary and the shallow shores holding the southern boundary where the concessions stand.  The water is crystal clear, asking me to dip my feet into her cold, clear water.  The water is indeed cold as I step into the water with my bare feet.  The 3.2 mile hiking loop around the lake looks enticing, but it’s too late in the day to complete the full hike.  Instead, we walk up the eastern shore for half a mile, taking in the beautiful, tranquil lake view.

Picturesque Bar Harbor

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Bar Harbor

As the sun sets, we make the short drive to Bar Harbor.  This is a delightful town that just screams New England.  The water front is gorgeous, especially at dusk.  The sailboats dot the harbor, tethered to their mooring, ready for her next adventure.  The town has many art stores and unique shops from woodworking to metal art.  I see street musicians play by the park and a very lively restaurant and bar scene.   We unwind with some ice cream as we stroll through the streets.

Calling All Lobster Lovers

img_3580 Acadia National Park: Oceanfront Beauty and LobsterI’ve always wondered what the big deal is with Maine lobster.  I am not impressed with the many lobsters I’ve had outside Maine.  After tasting lobster in Maine,  I completely changed my mind about lobsters.

When I visit a place, the local food is just as important an experience as the the scenery or the people.  When in Maine, I have to try lobster.  Our two succulent lobster meals at Bar Harbor are both excellent, but different.

The Side Street Cafe in downtown Bar Harbor is a casual restaurant.  The lobster with clams, corn, and blueberry pie is very good.  The lobster is sweet, tender, juicy, and full of flavor.

Then it gets better with C-Ray lobster the next night.  C-Ray only has outdoor picnic tables and an outhouse for a bathroom but the food….  The preparation is dead simple but the result is one of the most delightful meals ever.  img_3619 Acadia National Park: Oceanfront Beauty and LobsterAfter you pick the size of your lobster, they take it right out of the tank, bring it outdoors to the large pot with boiling sea water, leaves it in there for exactly 8 minutes, and out comes bright red lobsters that is flavored and cooked just right, with a hint of sweetness and the exact right texture.

Compliment it with steamed mussels and corn, you have a meal that is out of this world.  Their secret is getting fresh sea water from the ocean each day.  Lobster for two is just a bit more than $30, less than half of Side Street Cafe.  We give up indoor seating, table service, and blueberry pie, but what a deal!  Guy Fieri should do a Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives show here.  They tell me don’t go after dark (there are no lights) and don’t go in the off season (they close by October), but for excellent lobster, this is the place.

Other Ways to Enjoy the Park

Besides hiking and auto (or shuttle) touring, there is biking, especially along the carriage road which has no cars.  Horseback riding is available, as well as kayaking and general boating around the shores of the park.  Rock climbing is available at Otter Cliff.  There are two beaches in the park, though the water temperature may dissuade one from getting in the water too long.  The fall colors are spectacular.  Winter activities include snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and ice fishing.

Thought for Acadia National Park

Strive to have the whole be greater than the sum of the parts.  Achieve that by a balanced life.

Impressions of Acadia National Park

Acadia doesn’t have any particular feature that is awe inspiring, yet it feels just right.  The coast is very pretty, Jordan Pond is a beautiful lake, and Cadillac Mountain has grand shore views all around.  Each, by itself, is a nice place but not that unique.  Together, along with the New England charm of Bar Harbor, creates an excellent, well balanced park that is a joy to visit.

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Practical Info for Visiting Acadia National Park

  • Check for road closures and other current info on the NPS website.  Park Loop Road is mostly closed in the winter months.
  • July and August are the peak months.  If you go at that time, take advantage of the shuttle system.  Shuttle stops in downtown Bar Harbor.
  • If you have one day, do the Park Loop Drive with a hike.  The Ocean Path trail has excellent scenery.  If you use the shuttle, you can do one way hikes.
  • Some trails start at the town of Bar Harbor.  You can hike your way into the park easily.
  • There are various guided bus, carriage, and boat tours available May to October.
  • The town of Bar Harbor is quint with plenty of restaurants and hotels.  We stayed at the Bayview and I highly recommend it.
  • I highly recommend C-Ray Lobster, just outside of town, for great food and even better value for lobsters.

Acadia National Park Facts:

  • Size: 47,389 acres, ranked 46th
  • Visitors: 2,811,184 in 2015, ranked 9th.  Record attendance was 1989 with 5,440,952 visitors.
  • Peak Month in 2016: August with 735,945 visitors.
  • Low Month in 2016: February with 16,530 visitors.
  • Entrance fee: $25 per vehicle or $12 per person with no car.

Date Visited: September 15, 2016

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