fall maine trip
July 29, 2010 8:56 AM   Subscribe

fall in bar harbor/acadia: good idea? what to do?

hi folks! lots of suggestions here for maine in the summer - but what about the fall? thinking about taking a fall getaway trip the week of october 16th and was considering bar harbor (or other places that you suggest). looking for hiking, a nice b&b, rest and relaxation. perhaps a place to get a massage, find old books to read, and drink good coffee. good food is definitely a plus. any ideas? is flying into portland the best idea, followed by a drive up 1? all your ideas are super welcomed!
posted by anya32 to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There is air service to Bar Harbor's airport. The drive up Route 1 is long and traffic onto MDI really sucked last time I went up that way.
posted by mkb at 9:01 AM on July 29, 2010

It's unclear whether they're still in business, but if so, don't miss Rue Cottage Books in Southwest Harbor.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:06 AM on July 29, 2010

Fall in Acadia is a GREAT idea! Just be prepared for cool temps. The hiking will be fantastic that time of year (though you'll probably miss the best foliage), some seasonal stores/restaurants may be closed but Bar Harbor doesn't close down on Labor Day like some spots, and it won't be nearly as crowded as it can get in the summer.

Portland to Bar Harbor is probably 3-4 hours depending on your route. Traffic shouldn't be horrible that time of year, but avoid taking Route 1 all the way up the coast unless you're a fan of going the long way 'round.

You might save a little on accommodations by looking at Northeast Harbor (a short drive from Bar Harbor). I don't have many good suggestions for specific things to do because I haven't spent any real time up there for several years, but definitely take the short hike out to Great Head, and I'd recommend walking up Cadillac Mountain rather than driving up. Otherwise, just explore!
posted by that's candlepin at 9:12 AM on July 29, 2010

October is a nice time to visit Acadia--the worst of the tourist season is over but winter hasn't hit yet. You should get some fine hiking.

Don't take Rte. 1 the whole way unless sitting in traffic is your idea of a vacation. Take I-95 to Bangor and then cut down to the coast. Portland, ME to Bar Harbor, ME plugged into the Google Maps directions fields will get you the route.

Sherman's is (understandably) a bit tourist-trappy but worth a look.
posted by Orinda at 9:29 AM on July 29, 2010

There is no bad time to visit Acadia. Fall is one of the best times.

Look into Southwest Harbor, the "quiet side" of the Island. I stayed at the Yellow Astorin SW Harbor but I think it's since closed.
posted by bondcliff at 9:48 AM on July 29, 2010

Best answer: Oh... don't even get me started on visiting MDI/Acadia/Bar Harbor. I've spent close to 30 summers there in my 38 years. It's my favorite place in the world! This summer was one of the only summers I didn't get to go. :-(

I recently put this list together for a co-worker who visited this summer.


We tend to eat at casual and less expensive places, so none of our recommendations are fine dining establishments.

1) Thurston's Lobster Pound (Bernard) for an authentic lobster experience. http://www.thurstonslobster.com/
2) Geddy's (good menu variety, not all seafood, favorite of the locals) http://geddys.com/
3) Michelle's Brown Bag (best packed lunches and deli sandwiches on the island)
4) Rosalie's (for good pizza) http://www.rosaliespizza.com/
5) Fish House Grill (great waterfront location, excellent lobster and scallops, delicious cornbread - skip the chowder, though) http://fishhouse-grill.com/
6) Jeannie's Breakfast (best pancakes and breakfast - especially the blueberry pancakes) http://www.jeanniesbreakfast.com/
7) It's fun to sit outside on the Rupununi patio. We've not had great luck with their dinner service, but they have tasty chowder and a great lunch menu. It's a super place to people watch. http://www.rupununi.com/


None of the hikes on MDI are long - the park is too small. Some of the trails (i.e. Dorr Mountain) are tougher climbs, but well worth it. I wouldn't classify anything I've hiked on the island as being more difficult than moderate. The ones below are all easy hikes.

1) Gorham Mountain Hike (short and easy with beautiful views) http://www.flickr.com/photos/labimposter/1266185923/
2) Great Head (nice views of Sand Beach, right along the ocean) http://www.flickr.com/photos/labimposter/1356358194
3) Wonderland Trail (completely flat, fun to crawl on rocks and explore tidal pools) http://www.flickr.com/photos/labimposter/4033554604/

We also love hiking up Cadillac Mountain - there are several approach trails.

Other Top Things to Do

1) Ride bikes on the carriage roads - we love the Eagle Lake - Jordan Pond - Witch Hole circuit. There are lots of bike rental places in town.
2) Eat popovers in the afternoon at the Jordan Pond House http://www.thejordanpondhouse.com/
3) Take a boat ride out to Little Cranberry Island (Islesford) The Sea Princess is nice http://www.barharborcruises.com/
4) Go Whale Watching (although October might be on the late side to see lots of whales) http://www.barharborwhales.com/default.php
5) See a movie at the Criterion Theater. You can get a semi-private balcony seat and enjoy wine during the movie http://www.criteriontheater.com/
6) Get ice cream from Mt. Desert Ice Cream. They have the best, most creative flavors: http://www.mdiic.com/
7) Take a ride out to the Schoodic Peninsula and watch the waves slamming onto the giant rocks http://www.flickr.com/photos/labimposter/214059962/
8) Hike, Hike, Hike - almost every trail on the island offers great views
9) Get up really early to see sunrise from Cadillac Mountain - it's worth it! You can drive to the top. http://www.flickr.com/photos/labimposter/1321604846/
10) Rent a canoe on Great Long Pond http://www.nationalparkcanoerental.com/

We always have flown into Bangor. MDI is an easy hour-long drive from there. We usually rent houses up there, but have enjoyed three stays at a bed and breakfast called The Castlemaine Inn.
posted by MorningPerson at 10:21 AM on July 29, 2010 [8 favorites]

Best answer: FYI - the MDI marathon is that weekend, so there will be some road closures.
posted by suki at 10:22 AM on July 29, 2010

LOVE it there -- we usually go in September but October would be nice, too.

We love this B&B's brunch SO MUCH (and not just because we miss our kitties and theirs usually come to visit as we're eating...)

posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:34 AM on July 29, 2010

Best answer: If you've never been to Maine before, it might be fun to fly into Portland and stay the night, to explore the Old Port. There's a great coffee house called Bard Coffee on Middle Street (across from Starbucks).

I happen to like taking Route 1, but agreed, it's the longer route. However, if you want to see Maine, Route 1 is the way to go. It's crowded in the summer, but not very much in the fall. Then if you want, you can stop and have lunch in one of the towns along the way. Brunswick is a pretty town with a lot of restaurants. And there's nothing like driving over the bridge in Bath and looking down to the right and seeing the Bath Ironworks, where they build ships. I find the highway boring, trees, trees, and more trees. Lots of views of nice older homes, picturesque towns and places to explore along the way.

Once you get to Bar Harbor, you can settle in and walk around the town. Day trips: Jordan Pond and the Bubble Mountains, planning on some of the famous popovers at Jordan Pond. Another would be Cadillac Mountain and Sand Beach. It will be too cold to swim, of course, but you get some good waves. Make sure you inquire about a weekly pass, as once you get onto the one-way of the park loop road, you have to pay a fee (whereas going into Jordan Pond and out again, you don't).

Make sure you take a day trip out to Schoodic Point, not on Mt. Desert Isle, but part of Acadia National Park. If you're lucky, the waves will be crashing. The drive into Schoodic is scenic and once you're there, there are fantastic views of Mt. Desert Isle.

Another day trip could be going off the island to explore Deer Isle, just south of Mt. Desert Isle. You have to go back up to Ellsworth and down Rte. 1. You could eat lunch in Stonington on Deer Isle and have a lovely dinner at Cleonice in Ellsworth.

I'd also recommend taking your vacation a week earlier, as many of the seasonal places in and around Bar Harbor use Columbus Day, which falls on October 11th this year, as their marker for closing for the season. I called my fav breakfast place in Bar Harbor, Cafe This Way, and she said they close the Saturday after Columbus Day (which is too bad, because they do all kinds of awesome things with corned beef hash, among other things). The upside is, there won't be as many tourists after Columbus Day.

Bring sweaters and a waterproof jacket, because it frequently gets foggy in the mornings. If you go to Schoodic Point or stop at Thunder Hole, you'll want protection against the sea spray. I usually bring clothing for all weather scenarios when I go up that way, as I've seen it in the 80's in October and then again, the 50's. Of course, check the forecast before you pack, but realize that Mt. Desert Isle area has a very different weather pattern than Portland and points south.

You can MeMail me if you want more info. I usually stay at a relative's camp up that way, but I have friends who live on Mt. Desert Isle so I can get more detailed info on hotels & good eats for ya.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 10:51 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Bar Harbor will be fabulous in the fall. I absolutely second MorningPerson's suggestion of Cadillac Mountain - I did it for sunset and it was spectacular and had the added benefit of allowing us to hike up without waking up at 4am.

For food i'd recommend Galyn's. We had a great dinner there (if you're into seafood, the Frenchman Bay Stew was great). Also, ice cream from Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream is a great dessert treat.
posted by moshimosh at 12:07 PM on July 29, 2010

We went to Portland and then Bar Harbor last year for our honeymoon, right around that time. It was fabulous - beautiful and a little chilly. It was perfect weather for hiking in Acadia and the trees were beautiful. But since the season is ending, be prepared for some things in Bar Harbor to be closed completely, or have adjusted hours.
posted by thejanna at 1:32 PM on July 29, 2010

Best answer: We just left Bar Harbor this morning as part of our own vacation, and have already decided we need to do a fall trip there, so I'm glad to see your question. :)

If you're going to start from Portland, I recommend allowing some time to explore there. You'll find more non-touristy shopping than in Bar Harbor and plenty of good food as well. Bintliff's (for breakfast), Duckfat and Fore Street are all personal faves. Get reservations for Fore Street well in advance if you go.

In Bar Harbor, we stayed at the Quimby House Inn, which was not much at all to look at, and was a B&C (bed and coffee) as opposed to a B&B. However, it was a 10-15 minute walk to stuff on Main Street, was clean and comfy, and was under $200 a night, in town, in high season. For breakfast, we went to the aforementioned 2 Cats, which was down the street from Quimby House, and was quite tasty. Unless you're really all about the beautifully decorated room (at $50-$75 more a night), I recommend looking at Quimby. They also had a sign at their front desk offering in-room massages, but we didn't have one, so
I can't comment on how they were.

Our first night we ate at Cafe Bluefish, which I don't recommend. The food was decent, but the service was slo-o-o-w. Their signature dish is a lobster strudel, which was tasty, but not worth $30, considering it comes with two small sides, and EVERYONE in Bar Harbor has lobster dishes. Cafe This Way was our second night's dinner, and was much better. Interesting choices, funky decor, comfy seating, and comparably priced to Bluefish but better food and service. They also apparently do a good breakfast.

We took about 8 hours in one day to do just the 27 miles of Acadia's Park Loop, and we didn't do official hiking trails, though I explored a bunch at the pullovers in pursuit of photo ops. If you're going to do lengthy and/or multiple hikes, you'll probably want a minimum of 2 days planned just for Acadia, and maybe more. Plan to dress more warmly than you think you might need - the winds on Cadillac Mountain last night were crazy, and I was glad to have a jacket and long pants. One thing that looked really fun and reasonably priced were the carriage rides. As hikers, you'll get to see parts of the park that us drivers don't see, but a carriage ride looks like an interesting and romantic way to see the carriage roads system without having to hike it all.

There didn't appear to be much in the way of used/antiquarian book shops in Bar Harbor, but there is the Big Chicken Barn in nearby Ellsworth which is a huge barn chock full of books and antiques. You'll have to hunt a bit, and I'm not sure they've bought a non-fiction book for their stock in the past 20 years, but it's worth a stop.

Downtown Bar Harbor is pretty tourist-trappy, but there are some nice shops sprinkled in the morass of cheesy classless t-shirts. Stroll around and see what's open; the shopping district is centered on Main Street from the waterfront up to the mid 100's or so, with a little bit on side streets.

All in all, we enjoyed our trip to Bar Harbor, and considered our day in Acadia to be a highlight of a trip that involved a lot of natural beauty.
posted by booksherpa at 6:49 PM on July 29, 2010

Best answer:

This might ordinarily be good advice but currently is terrible. The Bangor/Ellsworth road is ripped up for many miles (7+, to be exact) and under construction for many more months.

Ordinarily I do not get into a car during the summer months, and just ride a scooter around Bar Harbor (which I can conveniently leave parked in nooks and crannies or on sidewalks downtown), but twice this month I've had to go up to Bangor (taking/getting my wife at the airport) and that road is a nightmare. Especially late at night, when they have giant spotlights going so the crews can keep working, and thus you are driving blind, with the lights shining in your eyes, on rutted dirt stretches, in and around construction equipment.

(A short section of the road between Ellsworth and BH also is torn up, but a) there's no way around it, and b) that construction probably will be finished by the time you get here.)

Many of the cars will be gone from the area by the time you arrive as well — fall is tour bus, cruise ship time — but people are correct, Route 1 can be a long slog. My favorite way to get back here is via Route 3 across from Augusta (I-95, Exit 113) to Belfast, and then Route 1 for the last 60 miles. Route 3 usually is a fast (although 2-lane) road through nice countryside and few towns, and the last stretch from Belfast—BH gives you a flavor of the coast while allowing you to skip the long traffic snarls in Bath, Waldoboro, Rockland, Camden, etc.

Usually the I-295 loop through Portland is cheaper, and shorter, than staying on I-95 the whole way north, but apparently part of that is under construction right now as well.

You might save a little on accommodations by looking at Northeast Harbor (a short drive from Bar Harbor).

I have no real evidence but I would very much doubt this. NEH is the second most exclusive area of the island to live in (after Seal Harbor), and most likely will be way more expensive. Other nearby areas a few miles outside BH like Hulls Cove or Salsbury Cove (or across the island in Southwest Harbor) will, however, be cheaper.

* * *

Rue Cottage Books is no longer in the phone book, and I have heard that the owner now lives in West Virginia. Sadly, the very fine Port in a Storm Bookstore, one of the nicest in the state for many years, also has closed in Somesville. Sherman's, at the main intersection in the center of BH, is still going strong, though, and has a good selection of books about the area and/or by Maine authors.

* * *

A real BH secret, which I was just talking about on my boat tour yesterday, is that although October is one of the best times to visit, the Monday—Thursday before Labor Day can be even better. Most of the families with children have fled home to prepare for starting school, and the older crowd, or people with no kids, apparently decide, "Let's wait till after Labor Day, when things will ease up." That weekend usually is crowded, but in the days leading up to it — oddly enough — the area often has a ghost town feeling even though it's August. Especially after the true craziness around here during the rest of the month.

(Some people in town today were yelling and acting like idiots, trying to drive through the traffic tie-ups on Main Street when I was headed to work, and my co-worker Neal said, "Wow. Some of the 'August people' are here in July this summer.")
posted by LeLiLo at 9:15 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

The start of my post, which seems to have disappeared, was referring to the comment "Don't take Rte. 1 the whole way unless sitting in traffic is your idea of a vacation. Take I-95 to Bangor and then cut down to the coast."

p.s. Although I am not a morning person at all (and thus have no info on Jeannie's Breakfast), the rest of MorningPerson's recommendations — except, currently, the part about the easy drive from Bangor — seem right on target to me.

I try to sleep through breakfast, but most of the people who visit us rave about the breakfasts at Cafe This Way and/or Two Cats.
posted by LeLiLo at 9:22 PM on July 29, 2010

Response by poster: folks, these ideas are AWESOME! and i love the tips about roads and the marathon. really useful things for me to keep in mind.
posted by anya32 at 8:10 AM on July 30, 2010

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