When you browse for things to do in Maine, USA you will see that most of them relate to Acadia National Park. Honestly, I didn’t feel the need to prove the contrary, because our summer road trip schedule was so tight, we didn’t have time to explore the whole state. Acadia National Park lies on the North Atlantic coast, half way between Portland (the capital of Maine) and border with Canada, on Mt Desert Island which you can easily reach by car, taking Bar Harbor Road from Trenton. While I can confirm that Acadia is really beautiful, I also have to warn you that accommodation during July and August (which is considered as high season due to very nice temperatures) is very expensive, so unless you don’t care about your budget, try to plan your vacation a couple of months ahead. We couldn’t do that as we were on a road trip, “going with the flow”, but we were quite lucky to catch the last available room in Sea Breeze motel, which we found on Hotels.com app.
Ok, enough introduction, let’s jump to five things to do in Maine, before this post turns into a novel 🙂
1. Acadia National park
I already mentioned Acadia is a must so I will add my 5 top spots here in case you are in a rush and don’t have more than one day to explore the Mt Desert Island.
I will tell you a very short anecdote here. I don’t know when and how I got the impression that the peak of Cadillac Mountain (with an elevation of 470 meters) was only reachable on foot, by a quite challenging trail. So I convinced my boyfriend to prepare for this hike by taking a long rest after lunch, pack 2 liters of water, wear trekking shoes and loads of sunscreen and drive towards the starting point. To our big surprise, after following the signs for about 20 minutes, we reached the peak by car. Literally. 🙂 Our disappointment was soon compensated with marvelous views of the ocean and serenity which embraces you when you make just a few steps away from the parking spot. Just sit there and enjoy. And repeat.
Park on a designated area and reach the Sand Beach within 2 or 3 minutes by foot. Yep, Acadia is very accessible, you can be as lazy as you want and still see most of its top spots. The beach is very beautiful, at least for my standards, however don’t expect to take a long swim in the Atlantic Ocean. Or any swim at all, unless you are one of the bravest. The water is cold as ice, even in summer. The beach is quite wide, so if you are not in a hurry, do take a towel, umbrella (sun can be very hot) and a good book.
Ocean Path Trail
If you are up for some hiking and making selfies on the rocks, you should take this trail, which offers amazing views of already mentioned Sand Beach. The trail is not very demanding, however do wear some sneakers because it can get quite slippery. Again, if you are in a hurry, you can see similar views by just taking a few steps off the road (you can literally leave the car almost anywhere by the road, just make sure you don’t block the traffic).
Bar Harbor is a very charming and picturesque harbor town with lots of things to do for everyone: from shopping souvenirs and local stuff, eating delicious snacks or real food, taking daily trips by boat or just lying in one of the parks, reading a book or watching people. Possibly from a cannon, like me 🙂
Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse
Although most of the “happening” and scenic stuff lies in the East part of Mt Desert Island, the West part is also worth passing through. At least drive to its southernmost point, Bass Harbor Head, where you can take a stroll down the rocks to catch a postcard view of the lighthouse. There are 2 paths leading towards the lighthouse – make sure you take the left one down the stairs.
Moving on to other things to do in Maine, we still have 4 to go…
This might come as a total surprise to those who have visited Maine as I am pretty sure Bangor is not on any “must see” list. However Bangor somehow has a soul and is definitely worth a stop for lunch or dinner if you are passing by. We stayed there one night before entering Acadia and we had one of our best dinners ever. The restaurant is called High Tide and it actually lies on the Brewer part of Penobscot riverbank (Bangor is on the other part of the river) and serves the best jambalaya in the world. The entrance to Bangor is also impressive with nice churches welcoming you while crossing the bridge.
3. Fort Knox
After leaving Acadia and heading towards the south, you will soon spot a very glorious bridge which takes you to Fort Knox fort. Penobscot Narrows Bridge is very impressive and it also offers the Penobscot Narrows Observatory – the first bridge observation tower in the USA and the tallest public bridge observatory in the world. Fort Knox, which lies just a few minutes away, was built in the middle of 19th Century, however it never saw a battle as it was built too late. Nevertheless it is worth a visit, if you read about its history and imagine the battles which were fought during that time between British and USA soldiers.
Lighthouses are my weak spot and Maine coast is full of them. I already mentioned the one in Acadia which was my favorite but it certainly doesn’t end there. If you continue south from Fort Knox through Camden hills (which also has a pretty nice state park from where you can see Penobscot bay) you will reach Owls Head lighthouse within one hour and a half. We had some problems finding it, as GPS got a bit crazy but if you follow the maps, it is actually not so hard to reach. The lighthouse is 2 minutes’ walk from the parking spot and you can actually climb the stairs to reach it from the inside. It offers a nice view of the Penobscot bay as well. There is supposed to be a very popular lighthouse in the capital of Maine, Portland, but we didn’t visit it as our schedule was too tight. I am sure Portland would be on my “5 things to do in Maine” list as well, if we had taken the time.
5. Lobster Roll
Don’t bother searching Google maps – lobster rolls are for your mouth only. I believe I already mentioned once or twice that I am not very picky when it comes to food. I don’t pay much attention to local “must eats” and I don’t mind traveling to a country without tasting its local cuisine. I read a lot about lobster rolls and I thought “oh well, just another American snack drowning in mayonnaise, let them have it”. Until my boyfriend had one. And the rest is history. We were both hooked in a second, ending up eating at least one lobster roll per day, until the very last day of our trip. Luckily McDonalds was advertising the campaign “our Lobster roll is back” on every corner, with a promise: “Made from real Atlantic lobster”. We said we’d give it a go and we weren’t disappointed. It actually tasted as good as others, for only 8.99$ a piece. And with only 290 calories may I add. What a winner, yummy!
So this were my top choices for what to do in Maine. You are welcome to check other photos in my Facebook album. Keep in mind that we were on a road trip, and we only had 2 days to make the most out of it – 1 day for Acadia and the other one for passing by Atlantic coast towards New Hampshire. But honestly, as much as I loved Acadia and lighthouse spots, I believe 2 days were more than enough 😉