We couldn’t spend every day wandering the Acadia National Park (ANP), because the traffic and crowds would have driven us insane! 🤪 Staying farther away from ANP turned out to be a nice move and we took advantage of it by seeing more of the surrounding areas.
Acadia Seashore Camping and Cabins
When looking for a place to camp, there were some obvious choices closer to Bar Harbor, but the prices were really high, the pickings were slim, and we knew it would be crazy crowded. As such, we found this hidden gem called Acadia Seashore Camping and Cabins in Sullivan, ME. Pete and Sue run this place and are some of the sweetest people. 😍 They love giving you suggestions for things to see and do, restaurant recommendations, and make you feel really welcome. Pete even mentioned that at low tide you can go down to the shoreline and harvest mussels for free! We took advantage of this and had a delicious meal. 😋
Most of the sites are wide open and spacious, located down below the office along the shoreline of the Mt Desert Narrows where there are incredible views of Cadillac Mountain and the fishing boats on the bay. They have Adirondack chairs set up to watch the wildlife and this bay is fairly active. While we were there, we saw seals and bald eagles getting their fill on a school of fish. 🐟
There is a central bathhouse with bathrooms, showers with natural lights streaming in, and a sink outside for cleaning dishes. Closer to the office is a laundry “hut” with two washers and two dryers. They are household units, so you pay for them at the office, $6 per wash and dry cycle. It’s on the expensive side, but if you need more drying time, you don’t have to pay extra, which is nice. Pete and Sue keep the grounds and facilities in tip top shape, and it was peaceful down by the shoreline. This is one of our favorite parks from our trip, so consider them if you are coming to visit Acadia National Park. 👍
Bar Harbor, just north of the main section of Acadia National Park, called Mount Desert Island, it a cute little town of around 5500 residents, albeit very crowded during the height of tourism season. Parking can be tricky, but we managed to find something every time we visited, even with our big galoot of a truck.
For incredible views of the bay, definitely walk over to Agamont Park and take a seat on the grassy hillside. Since the weather was pretty warm while we were there, we couldn’t resist swinging by one of their many ice cream shops in town. Jordan Pond Ice Cream & Fudge is located catty corner from Agamont Park and has many flavors to consider.
If you would prefer to get out on the bay instead of just admiring it from the shore, there are several boat cruises that leave Bar Harbor as well. We chose Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company’s Sunset Cruise, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Because it was unseasonably warm in Bar Harbor, getting out on the bay helped us cool off. Had the temperatures been closer to average, it would have been a lot more freezing cold out there! 🥶
Acadia National Park was the first American national park formed east of the Mississippi River by acquiring private lands donated to the public with the efforts of local conservationists attempting to protect this area from development and preserve the wildlife and scenery for everyone to enjoy. That being said, the boat cruise narrator shared details on the history of the area, especially concerning a lot of the vacation “cottages” that dot the shoreline of the bay that remain private, including their rental prices and famous owners. 😂
After skirting the shoreline south of Bar Harbor, we headed farther out into Frenchman Bay to see Egg Rock Lighthouse up close and personal. This lighthouse is still in operation, but now its only permanent residents are the birds and seals. We went to see the Winter Harbor Light as well, which is now privately owned. Apparently, this lighthouse was originally sold to a private owner for about $550, but the last owner paid $1.25 million! 😲 That’s quite a rate of inflation…. The sunset was indeed gorgeous to witness out on the bay, and just as we started to get a little chilly we were back at the docks. It was a lovely experience, and I would recommend this particular tour company.
We went out to eat once in Bar Harbor at Havana, which has Latin-inspired food. This place is very popular, so be sure to make a reservation. Since it was a hot day, we started with some cool, refreshing items: oysters and gazpacho. For the main course, I had their paella and Matt selected the halibut. My paella was so delicious, but I managed to stop myself from eating the whole thing and saved half for later. Matt’s halibut was cooked perfectly, some of the best fish he has had in a long time. It’s a little on the spendy side, but worth it if you want an A+ dining experience. 👍
Catherine Hill Winery
Catherine Hill Winery is 30 minutes northeast of our campsite at Acadia Seashore, and it was a nice adventure away from the national park to explore the surrounding area. The current owners, Walt and Deb, move to Maine from Pennsylvania and bought this winery. Most of their grapes are shipped from California and fermented using natural processes in Maine, so the wines are organic and vegan (see the about page).
The tasting was fun, in part due to Deb’s engaging personality and ability to put you at ease and enjoy the tasting as a casual and relaxing experience. Then, Matt and I selected single glasses of wine to sip outside in their comfy rocking chairs in this quiet, serene space. We bought a few bottles for later. I think you too would have fun visiting their tasting room, and find something you’d like as they have a wide variety of offerings.
Fort Knox and Penobscot Narrows Observatory
South of Bangor, Maine is an area called Prospect, that has two points of interest that were recommended to us: Fort Knox and Penobscot Narrows Observatory. For nonresident adults, the cost to visit both places is $9 per person, and you can access both upon entering the parking area.
We went over to the Penobscot Narrows Observatory first, which is both a cable bridge AND an observatory in one. There are only four bridge observatories in the world, the others being in China, Slovakia and Thailand. This observatory is the tallest in the world open to the public and provides 360 degree views from 42 stories above ground. We went on a windy but clear and sunny day, so had unrestricted views of the higher mountains and hillsides around Maine.
Afterward, we walked the grounds of Fort Knox, not to be confused with the fort by the same name in Kentucky. This Fort Knox is on the Penobscot River, was built entirely of granite, and was built in response to defeats at the hands of the British in both the American Revolution and the War of 1812. It also motivated residents to obtain their own statehood since Massachusetts had failed to protect the region. In addition to an extensive network of tunnels, quarters, and underground storage, there are two batteries along the shoreline and a shot furnace to heat cannonballs and shoot at ships to immediately set them on fire.
Despite all of the efforts to build this fort, it never saw battle and was never fully armed. Finally, in the early 1900’s the federal government sold the fort and the 125 acres it occupied to Maine for just $2,121! What a deal! Soon afterward, it was converted to a state historic site and is still open to the public today, having been adopted by a nonprofit group called the Friends of Fort Knox. Since it was hot that day, we reveled walking the dark corridors to cool off, but I imagine it would be a very cold and miserable place during winter. 🥶
To cap off our visit to the Penobscot River region, we went south to Stockton Springs to eat dinner at The Hichborn. Beth and Roy, our friends from Portland, Maine, had recommended this place based on an article they read. Located in a historic house, the capacity is only 30 people, and reservations are required since they serve a predetermined seven-course meal that changes every few weeks. However, it is worth it!
The food was all so delicious, and I even ate things I normally wouldn’t like, including mushrooms, beets, and blue cheese. 😲 That night the courses included:
- an amuse bouche (single bite) of whipped mushroom on a handmade herb cracker
- oysters on the half shell with a mignonette
- radishes and snap peas on beet whipped feta
- Maine scallops
- halibut rigatoni with asparagus and smoked ricotta
- a palette cleansing rhubarb sorbet
- NY strip with root vegetables
- a cheese plate with handmade crackers
- chocolate crémaux (crème anglaise), strawberries and white chocolate ice cream
That sounds like a lot, but it was perfectly proportioned, so I felt satisfied and not too full. The mushroom bite must have been mixed with a soft cheese, because it wasn’t that intensely flavored. The earthiness of the beets was also tempered by the feta. Halibut rigatoni was definitely unique, but also worked surprisingly well. Rhubarb is one of my favorites, so I of course loved that bite. The blue cheese was still a little too funky for me, but I liked the rest of it. And the dessert was such a perfect close to the dinner with a burst of strawberry to temper the richness from the chocolate elements.
We learned that chef Kirk Linder moved from Portland, Oregon to Maine after going on his own traveling adventures in a Westfalia van, so we had a few things to talk about when we met him that evening. It’s fantastic that he and his partner, chef Charlie Zorich, cater to a small group of guests, providing seasonal farm to table creations that support local farmers and artisans, but also reduce waste and promote a more sustainable food supply. It was one of our more expensive meals so far, but the experience was priceless.
If you haven’t seen Maine, put it on your bucket list. It is where those from northeastern states travel to for leisure, and there is a reason why. It’s not heavily populated, has incredible views, access to nature, and provides the benefits of what both land and sea have to offer. Come see why Maine is called vacationland.