Updated: Dec 16, 2020
Ahhh, Maine. A state I have dreamed of visiting since I had my first bite of buttery lobster years ago. The coastal seascape of Bar Harbor and Portland, Maine, was the last stop on Mark and I's New England road trip this past October. My original bucket list had extended plans to see Maine during the lobster festival in August, but there was something magical about visiting during the peak fall timeframe.
Keep reading to learn more about spending a long weekend in these seaside towns of Bar Harbor and Portland and how I could consume six lobster rolls in 4 days....is there a coney island version of athletic eating in Maine? Asking for a friend...
I chose Bar Harbor for several reasons: the town is literally what you would picture a tiny east coast fishing town to resemble & it is adjacent to Acadia National Park. A roughly 6 1/2 hour drive from Vermont (I reccomend an overnight stay in Mexico, yes..Mexico, Maine to break up your drive as we did!) Bar Harbor is a great place to start your drive along the coast of Maine.
After my Montana & Wyoming National Park road trip this summer, I was inspired to visit another national park not as close to home. We did not get nearly enough time at Acadia (weather was not our friend) and absolutely plan to head back someday!
Where We Stayed
As I spoke about in my Vermont post, hotels and AirBnbs are relatively the same prices in the New England area, but we opted for a cheaper option as we were only staying one night in Bar Harbor. We opted for the charming Black Friar Inn & Pub, centrally located within walking distance to downtown Bar Harbor, the sea & about an 8-minute drive to Acadia National Park. The entire time we could not stop gabbing about how great the location of our stay was to the area. The room had a cottage feel with a cozy fireplace to enjoy on cooler evenings.
The hotel also offered complimentary breakfast in the morning, a complete feast that includes all the classic American breakfast favorites in the pub downstairs. They also provide a tempting happy hour menu to encourage mingling with local travelers. We highly recommend this spot and check out some hotels closer to downtown, such as the Ivy Manor Inn (they had live music and a fire pit out front! Pictured above) or the Elmhurst Inn.
Where We Ate & Drank
Do you only care about lobster rolls? Same. Read my guide of where to eat Maine's best lobster rolls. Yes, it is necessary for the integrity of this website.
If you come to Maine, seafood is going to be the only food group that matters. Luckily, I went ahead and tried ALL the lobster for you, sharing some must-do restaurants. Side Street Cafe was our first stop for lobster rolls. This spot was highly rated on yelp and had a phenomenal first lobster roll in Maine. The outdoor seating atmosphere was lovely to me, but eating out with coronavirus means you get what you get as far as seating! If, for some reason, you do not like lobster (my boyfriend is one of them...scary), the Northern Cuban sandwich came highly rated as well. Also, snag a blueberry ale while visiting this spot (Maine is known for their blueberries). Although sweet, it comes with blueberries in the beer and is a delicious sweet treat, you know..to wash down all the lobster and butter.
There were tons of choices with hefty lines (if you do travel during the travel restriction times of corona, you feel my pain!). We chose the West Street Cafe (similar names, I got them confused) for our dinner that evening and only added to Maine's unforgettable experience. The indoor dining is beautiful and reminds me of a more spacious restaurant you would see in San Francisco. The best part? Their lobster meal. If you are a big fan like me, the Downeast special comes with a whole lobster, clam chowder, coleslaw, fries, & a slice of blueberry pie for $37. HOW THOUGH!?! The service was fantastic, great value; it is a must-do!
Acadia National Park
Located off the Atlantic coast, Acadia National Park is an absolute spectacle and a jumping off point from Bar Harbor. Visiting in mid-October, the fall colors were at their absolute peak of yellows and oranges. Unlike most national parks, Acadia can be done in a singular loop, making it easy to accomplish most of the significant landmarks in a day and a half.
When visiting in COVID times, you need to reserve a vehicle registration in advance to see either the Cadillac Summit Road entrance or the Sand Beach Entrance. Beginning at the Sand Beach Entrance, your first stop will be Sand Beach. Huddled between mountains and rock chiseled shores, it is a perfect first stop along Park Loop Road.
The next stop along the loop is the Thunder Hole. This spot gets its name from the thundering waves along the coastline, reminiscent of California shores. This stop also has a beautiful overlook of the coast and adjacent mountainside. The time of year also permitted some beautiful tree-lined road snapshots!
Around a sharp corner is another great vantage spot aptly named Otter Point. With amazing views of the coastline with minimal crowds, climb out onto the rocks for some gorgeous ocean views.
Jordan Pond was high atop my list to stop. This was one of my absolute favorite views in the park, and naturally, it came with snacks! The House is famous for its popovers, which are basically an aerated sweet treat. Order it with their blueberry tea and sit at one of the tables overlooking the scenery. After your bite, pop down the trail and walk along the path to see beautiful fall foliage. Photographers were camped out over the water for sunset!
Image by AcadiaMagic.com
Cadillac Mountain was the view I wanted to see most. Unfortunately, mother nature had other plans. I have no photos to show for this spot because we could only go on a day of a torrential downpour. Sadly, the weather created a thick cloud cover that made any views nearly impossible and rain that went sideways (Forest Gump, anyone?). However, when we did descend the mountain, it did clear up a little to a pristine view of peak fall foliage. We ended up causing a traffic jam because everyone followed suit with us to stop!
So, I included some photos of our "prime" weather day of the trees and an online image. Also - I am not a morning person, but I heard you cannot miss the sunrise at Cadillac Mountain. Oops, I guess we're going back!
After our time in Bar Harbor came to an end, we road tripped down the coast to our final destination of Portland, Maine. Now - if you are making the scenic drive down the coast, a local friend of mine (Hi Grace!) suggested Red's Eats as the #1 destination for lobster rolls. Taking one look at it, this 'middle of nowhere' dive spot in Wiscasset looks INCREDIBLE. Fairly sure they steam lobsters in front of you, and that is all I can want. Unfortunately, we could not stop, but as I have said throughout this post, I am leaving breadcrumbs to follow upon our return to Maine.
Portland is a coastal metropolitan city and bustling with young individuals and fantastic food. Think San Francisco & Seattle are having a baby, but not nearly as expensive. We were excited to explore when we arrived and started with well...lobster rolls. THERE'S A THEME HERE. But first, where did we stay?
Where We Stayed
Image by AirBnb
Our stay was at an incredibly generic hotel next to the airport (no photos to speak of) because I am not a morning person and our flight was at 7 am. However, I had my eye on a couple of fun places to stay closer to downtown and aesthetically beautiful. The Blind Tiger resembles something you would see in historic downtown Chicago and has elegant amenities. Breakfast is also included! The Westin Portland is centrally located downtown in the heart of the arts district. Finally, because you know I love me some AirBnb, the Skolfield Inn looks bright and spacious as well.
Where We Ate & Drank
#Lobsterrollgate2020 only continued when our first stop in Portland was the High Roller Lobster Company. High Roller was the most hyped of all the spots I researched before our trip and came highly recommended by a local friend. When we arrived, the waitlist stemmed over an hour, so we threw our names on the list and headed to walk around the downtown area. A mid-afternoon libation was just the ticket, and Blyth and Burrows supplied everything we needed. B&B's signature cocktails were delicious (order the social picnicking, refreshing and not overpowering!). The gas-powered lamps and moody setting makes you feel like you are back in time.
After clocking back our cocktails with the unexpected "your table is ready" text, we headed to High Roller. Now, if you are traveling with someone that does not like lobster, take them here. Mark does not enjoy seafood and truly loved the lobster roll he ordered here (to my delight). The fun part of this spot is you can customize what is on your lobster rolls, such as specific types of butter and several types of ketchup (the curry ketchup is impressive). We promptly finished and headed to get donuts because...we're on vacation? Want a heart attack?
Other lunch and dinner options suggested by locals: Duck Fat (duck fat fries), Eventide Oyster Company (the line can be INSANE but has some of the best oysters in town, head there early!), & Street & Co.
Holy Donut is a Portland treasure, and to be honest, I was skeptical at first. These donuts are famous in Maine and made with well...potatoes. It does not sound like it would be in any way acceptable, right? WRONG. They were ridiculous and tasted so delicious. The consistency of them is thick, almost making them a donut cake. Because we arrived late in the afternoon, some popular flavors were sold out. However, our favorite was the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt.
Naturally, it was time to wash it all down with some local beer from Rising Tide Brewery. Portland certainly has a craft brewing culture and the outdoor (but cozy with heaters) setting was perfect for enjoying the end of a day of eating. We met up with a good friend of mine from college (whom I have referred to as my "local" in this guide!) and enjoyed catching up on current life. I ended up ordering some oysters because it was my moral imperative to at least have a dozen before we left Maine. A little taboo to order at a brewery, but the salty sea taste was exactly what I was hoping to accomplish.
The final pit stop was to a food truck adjacent to Portland Head lighthouse as the weather started to turn (clearly from the photo above). Bite Into Maine was hands down my favorite lobster roll (see best lobster roll post), and although freezing, we doubled up on lobster meat and enjoyed an unforgettable seafood extravaganza.
Portland Head Lighthouse
To a Californian like me, a coastal lighthouse is idealistically Maine. The Portland Head Lighthouse is along the Cape Elizabeth shores and is a beautiful place to watch the waves roll in. The lighthouse has been around for hundreds of years and stands as a landmark in the community. We walked around the grounds taking in the seascape, but not for as long as we hoped! Staying dry was not in our favor.
Maine was an absolute spectacle that I am elated to have had the opportunity to visit. Through the holidays and the new lockdowns in motion, I take a sappy moment to realize that these experiences are something not to take for granted. Our country is beautiful, and I cannot wait to explore more when the world gets a little safer.