Having decided to make our way to Mt. Desert Island a day early, we enjoyed a leisurely morning before heading out.
After a delicious breakfast, we packed up and were on our way. A short, 30-minute drive brought us to our 20th National Park: Acadia! The drive here was kind of strange for us as this park is wedged in between many towns, and so the roads are congested and there is just so much more civilization than what we’re accustomed to. (Though it was “only” 30 minutes, it seemed to have taken so much longer because of all the traffic and lights that we normally don’t see around national parks.)
The situation at the Visitor’s Center was no different – a packed house! Given that neither of us are too fond of crowds, especially while exploring, we opted to make a quick drive around the park’s “Loop Road” to get our bearings and then check out the nearby town of Bar Harbor. This turned out to be a great decision.
Despite crazy traffic in town, too, we were able to snag a prime parking spot and began our adventure. First up was the highly recommended “Thirsty Whale” for lunch and a drink. An hour-long wait was not too appealing, though, so we changed course and headed down the street to “Finback Alehouse.” The lobster rolls and midday cocktails hit the spot!
Then, following the suggestion of our super helpful waitress, we made our way to the waterfront. We enjoyed a stroll through the town’s park, then a path along the water’s edge (similar to one in Newport, RI), and then we were back in town.
With all that “physical activity,” we were ready for some snacks. We first stopped for ice cream and enjoyed it on a bench while people-watching. (All the vacationers milling about provided plenty of fodder.) With the treats gone, we hopped over to Beer Works for some hydration and then made our way back to the park.
We drove to our campground, got checked in and set up, then decided to explore the nearby sights. First up was a quick roadside turn-out, providing rocky beaches and gorgeous bay views. (The tide was out so a lot of rocks were a bit slick with their seaweed hats not hidden by the water!)
Next, we went about a mile down the road and found a bit more formal of a hiking area. This was projected to be an hour excursion out and back, and would give us time to head to the nearby lighthouse for sunset. So, off we went!
After some along-the-water trails and some through-the-woods trails, we found ourselves exploring a mud flat. Here, Ally was quick to find all the nearby critters and even snagged a crab before he could burrow back into the dirt.
Eventually, we were back at the water. The rocky coastline makes for perfect tide pool exploration, and explore we did.
While the most numerous creatures we found were the usual barnacles, snails, chitons and limpets, we could hear other guests exclaim of sightings of eels, urchins and sea stars. (Surprisingly, no harbor seals!) A family exploring nearby found DOZENS of baby starfish under a cluster of rocks! We could have spent a full day exploring the pools, had the tide allowed it. Sunset (as well high tide) was approaching, however, so we headed back on the trail toward the truck to continue the drive through the park.
Once back to Bullseye, and with the sun close to the horizon, we skedaddled over to the nearby Coast Guard station to watch the sunset behind the lighthouse.
We had to park along the road because the small parking lot (maybe 10 spots?) was already quite full. A narrow path brought us down through the woods and around the lighthouse, dumping everyone along the shore.
Once down on the rocks, we were able to enjoy beautiful views of the sun as it set beyond the lighthouse. Every minute that passed called for a new picture, as the sky’s palette continued to change – from orange and red, to purple and pink.
One enterprising group made a pizza party out of the event and carried down 4 large pizzas for their tribe. (We certainly hope they packed out all their trash!) Another goofy note about this night—in addition to the crazy amount of people bounding about the rocks, all jockeying for the best positions—was the weird détente everyone had seemed to agree to as far as how close to the lighthouse to get. A few folks had set up their fancy tripods and everyone just seemed to say, “Okay, we won’t go any closer either.” It was strange.
After the sunset, we made our way back to camp, ate some pasta, and enjoyed a small fire. Tomorrow looks to be an early morning (3 AM alarm for sunrise?!?), so it was early to bed. Just a quick shout-out to our friend, Joanna, who provided tons of suggestions—and even some literature—on places to go and things to do in Vacationland. So far, so good!
Mt. Desert, ME to Southwest Harbor, ME (via Bar Harbor, ME) – 50 miles (2.5 hours)
-Ally and Patrick