Mount Desert Island Adventures

We’ve arrived at the final recap of our two-week road trip: five nights at the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel in Bar Harbor, plus hiking in Acadia National Park and other adventures. In case you missed the first two parts of our vacation recap, you can check them out here and here. This post is longer and contains even more photos than the first two…so many that I’ve included some slideshows!

Atlantic Oceanside view
Sunrise on our final morning in Bar Harbor

After visiting Stephen King’s house in Bangor, we drove back to Bar Harbor and checked in to the Atlantic Oceanside. I really enjoyed glamping at Terramor, but after two nights I was totally ready for a hotel room. Our room had a balcony with a beautiful view of the water and the boat landing where one of the local boat tour companies sets sail from (pictured above).

Small Shift in Plans

We had booked a sunset sail for that evening after arriving at AO, but on our drive back to Bar Harbor we got a call from the sailing company. They said there was a storm forecast during our sail time and that the captain had decided it wouldn’t be safe to sail. We had kept an eye on the weather all day, so we were prepared for this news. Their sunset sails were booked for the rest of our time in town, so instead we booked an afternoon sail for the following day. The predicted storm never materialized, but the evening was overcast and the water was choppy, so it wouldn’t have made for a good sunset sail anyway.

For dinner, we went to the hotel’s Bistro and were seated on a deck overlooking the property:

Outside at the Bistro, Atlantic Oceanside hotel
Rum punch on the deck

Of course, I had to get the Shore Path flatbread, which had pesto, roasted tomatoes, spinach, and mozzarella. Basically, if I see some type of pizza on a menu, I’m gonna order it. And it was delicious:

Flatbread pizza at the Atlantic Oceanside bistro
Mmm, flatbread
Cadillac Mountain Views

The next morning, we got grab and go breakfast from our hotel and ate it in our room. Then we set off for the activity we had booked in advance: Cadillac Mountain Summit, which is a sightseeing must of Acadia National Park.

Standing 1,530 feet tall, the summit is the highest point on the East Coast! Apparently, from October to March it’s also the first place in the U.S. to see the sun rise. You can drive to the summit, but as of this writing you must purchase a Cadillac Summit Road pass in advance. The pass for a private vehicle costs $6 and is required in addition to the Acadia National Park entrance pass. The sunrise time slot was sold out for the day we wanted, so we chose a 7:30am entry time instead.

The drive up Cadillac Mountain Road is pretty short—about three or four miles—and took about 10 or 15 minutes without traffic. There are a few scenic overlooks along the way, but obviously the real treat is the summit. At the end of the road are a couple parking lots, which fortunately weren’t too busy when we arrived. We got out and wandered the short (0.5 mile) Cadillac Mountain Loop Trail, marveling at the stunning views…click through the slide show here:

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We knew to dress warmly because the temperature was in the low 50’s that morning. The wind was whipping hard at the summit, and it felt at least ten degrees cooler up there. I had to hang on tight to my phone while taking pics so the wind wouldn’t snatch it out of my hands!

The summit visit is absolutely worth the $6 fee. It wasn’t very busy when we went, but I can see it being a total shit show at sunrise, or in summertime when there are more tourists in town. After returning to our hotel, I rested while John went out to hike some trails.

Afternoon Sail

In the afternoon, we drove down to Dysart’s Marina in Southwest Harbor for our sail. The weather was about 70 degrees, sunny, dry, with a light breeze: perfect for a little boat time. The captain took us out on a lobster boat with a tour guide, who was full of all kinds of interesting tidbits about the area. She pointed out St. Sauveur Mountain, which we had hiked a couple days prior, as well as Cadillac Mountain and the Bubbles, which John had hiked on his own. She also pointed out Martha Stewart’s “cottage” (which is enormous) and a giant home owned by the Rockefellers. Our captain spotted a bald eagle, and we also saw some seals and porpoises frolicking in the water (I didn’t get photos of any of the wildlife).

Here’s a slide show of our hour-and-a-half sail:

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The sail was such a treat! Afterward, we stopped for dinner on the patio at Cafe 2 in Southwest Harbor, where I had yummy wild mushroom ravioli.

Post-dinner, we chilled in the room until it got dark out. Then we drove down to Sand Beach, which our boat tour guide had said was a fantastic spot for stargazing. The drive there was SO dark and creepy, but once we arrived at the beach we found that the moon was actually too bright for good stargazing. There was some sort of group stargazing activity going on with a guide speaking on a microphone, so it wasn’t the best time for some dark, quiet stargazing. We had to kind of guess how to drive home, because we lost cell service at the beach. Fortunately the island is pretty small and has good signage, and we were able to figure it out!

Bar Island

The next morning we got grab and go breakfast burritos from the hotel and ate back in our room again. I chilled out in the room while John went for another solo hike. (Can you tell I need a lot of recharging time…)

In the afternoon, we parked in downtown Bar Harbor and set off for the Bar Island Trail. This is a really unique feature of Acadia National Park, and it’s another very popular activity. Bar Island is a small island just off the coast of downtown Bar Harbor. Low tide reveals a sandbar that functions as a path to the island:

Bar Island seen from the gravel path
Bar Island as seen from the gravel path at low tide

For one and a half hours before and after low tide, the gravel path is accessible by foot. So that allows three hours to walk to the island and explore before the tide comes back in. If you wait on the island too long, you have to wait nine hours for the next low tide. Or, you can call one of the phone numbers posted on the island to get a water taxi to come rescue you (for a fee—I believe $150—and a possible one-hour wait). The low tide time changes daily, but you can check the times here.

Bar Island sandbar
View of the sandbar path from Bar Island

The island has an easy trail to its summit at 160 feet. Honestly, the island itself wasn’t super exciting. But it was still a cool activity that would be good for families since it’s not a tricky hike. The beach is very rocky, though, so you really have to watch your step on the beach leading to the island’s trail.

me on Bar Island beach
On the beach at Bar Island
The Veranda

On our first night at Atlantic Oceanside we decided to make dinner reservations for a fancy dinner. It’s been a really, really long time since we had an upscale date night! We picked The Veranda at the Balance Rock Inn downtown. We weren’t 100% sure we could get a table outdoors, so we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. Our reservation was on the early side, so when we arrived they had plenty of outside tables available. The setting was SO picturesque:

Dinner at Veranda

See that island in the distance? Fog was starting to roll in over its peak, and by the end of dinner the island was completely obscured. You’ll see another pic in a moment.

Scroll through the slide show to see what we ate:

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I forgot to take a photo of the amuse bouche (which I didn’t eat, because it involved fish and caviar) and John’s soup starter. But everything was beautifully presented and delicious. The rolls with dulse butter (pic two in the slide show) that they brought out to start were actually the highlight! The rolls were warm and SO soft. I’m still thinking about them.

The restaurant’s service was top notch, and I appreciated that they left a blanket at every seat. I definitely needed my blanket as the fog rolled in and it got chillier. Here’s what our view looked like later on in our meal:

Veranda fog view
Island obscured by fog
Souvenirs and Surreal Landscapes

Saturday morning we did grab and go breakfast from the hotel again. The weather was overcast and foggy, but John still went for a ride with a bike he had rented the day before. I had been wanting to check out downtown Bar Harbor, so I double masked and did a little souvenir shopping. Downtown is so cute!

Downtown Bar Harbor

Some of the shops had mask requirements, but most didn’t. I braved a few stores anyway, feeling safer in my two masks. I basically did a few brief Supermarket Sweep shopping trips and came away with some fun goodies. And then I grabbed an espresso from Black Fly Coffee.

John finished his bike ride just as I returned to the car, so I picked him up and we went back to the hotel. We rested in the room and waited for the weather to brighten up. Then in the afternoon we headed down to Southwest Harbor for some sightseeing.

First, we went to see the Bass Harbor Head Light. It’s cool, but not nearly as dramatic of a setting as the Portland Head Light. Also, we had to wait about 15 minutes to park in the small lot, and I’m not sure it’s worth waiting any longer than that unless you’re a major lighthouse enthusiast.

Bass Harbor lighthouse

From there, we headed to the Ship Harbor Trail near Bass Harbor. This might have been my favorite hike of our trip? I’m not 100% sure I can say that, because the few hikes I did go on were all so beautiful. But this one was particularly memorable because of the mist that kept rolling in and out as we hiked. Ship Harbor is a 1.3 mile figure-eight trail that goes through the forest, leads to a small cove, and winds along the rocky coast. Parts of the hike felt totally surreal, like we were on another planet. I absolutely LOVED it (and the gorgeous weather didn’t hurt).

Check out my slideshow:

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After that fantastic hike, we returned to the hotel to witness a small wedding ceremony on the lawn outside our room. Did I eavesdrop on the ceremony while I sat near the open balcony door, doing my makeup before dinner? You bet your ass I did, and it was very sweet.  😛

For dinner, we returned downtown and dined on the patio at Bar Harbor Lobster Company. John wanted to get lobster…when in Maine, ya know? He enjoyed his lobster, while I had the rum burger with a tasty housemade veggie patty and potato chips:

dinner at Bar Harbor Lobster Company
Veggie burger & wine time

We got a slice of blueberry pie with vanilla ice cream for dessert, and it was so good! Maine is known for its blueberries in addition to lobster, so of course we had to sample the local foods. (Again, I wish I liked seafood but I just do not. Never have.)

Great Head Trail

Sunday was our final full day in Bar Harbor. Sad, but I was also ready to head home after being away for so long. We did hotel grab and go breakfast again—it was very nice to have complimentary breakfast throughout most of our trip—and drove down to Sand Beach to hike the Great Head Trail. I actually found this trail for us while researching the Acadia National Park website. This trail has a longer loop of 1.9 miles and a shorter loop of 1.3 miles.

This hike was another incredible one! It begins at one end of Sand Beach and involves some rock scrambling to ascend up to a rocky ledge for amazing views. The trail continues along the coast, offering sweeping cliff and ocean views. We did end up doing the shorter loop, which I wanna say took us close to two hours. This trail was moderate for me: a little tricky with the rock scrambling, but not as hard as the St. Sauveur Mountain trail. We had perfect hiking weather again, and I loved every second of it.

See my Great Head Trail slide show here:

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As you saw in the slide show, the Great Head trail summit (at 145 feet elevation) has the remains of a 1915 tea house. Can you imagine how folks managed to get up there 100+ years ago? Impressive.

Winding Down

After the hike we headed into Bar Harbor so I could do a bit more souvenir shopping. I really just wanted to run into the Rock & Art Shop to pick up a couple things that I had seen there the day prior. So we did that and then I grabbed a latte with pumpkin spice syrup from Black Fly Coffee to treat myself after hiking!

We returned to the hotel, where I rested while John went out to grab a lobster roll. For our final dinner in Bar Harbor we went to La Bella Vita at the Harborside Hotel (which looks like a beautiful place to stay). I got the Quattro Formaggio pizza…yummmm:

Quattro Formaggio pizza, La Bella Vita
I’ll never say no to pizza

We had a lovely sunset view from our patio table on our last night in Bar Harbor:

Sunset in Bar Harbor

The Drive Home

Bar Harbor is an 11-plus hour drive from our home, so we split the return trip into two chunks. On Monday morning I had leftover pizza for breakfast, which I have no problem with doing. 😛 John got grab and go breakfast and we hit the road for a six-and-a-half hour drive to Farmington, CT. We had booked a room at the Courtyard Marriott there, and we had a chill night watching Dazed and Confused in the room. (We both remembered the movie being a lot more entertaining than it was upon this watch.)

The following morning we hit the road early, but not early enough, as we soon discovered. The route took us into NYC right around morning rush hour. Planning fail! We should have left an hour earlier than we did. Without traffic or stops, the drive would have taken five and a half hours. But it took us about seven and a half hours (including several stops). We were SO excited to return home to our wonderful orange kitties, Cheddar and Linus!! (We had a pet sitter come by daily to feed and play with the boys while we were away.)

All in all, we had a fantastic vacation. Two weeks is a very long time to be away from home, especially after staying home so much during the pandemic. Though I had been anxious about the trip, I feel like I conquered at least some of my anxiety about going out into the world. And now I have these blog posts and all of my photos to look back upon and and fondly relive the memories.

Congratulations to you if you’ve managed to read all three of my road trip recap posts! And thank you so much for sticking with me. Stay safe out there, folks!