Looking to rent a cottage near Acadia National Park for Thanksgiving, but drawing a blank. Please help.
September 13, 2012 7:55 AM   Subscribe

I am planning to make a trip with my family to Acadia national park during the Thanksgiving weekend in November. It will be a surprise gift for my family and having just graduated, my budget isn't too high, but I want to do the best I can for them. I am guessing that many of you have been to Acadia and could share some of your experience. We will be 3 adult couples (me/wife, my parents and my brother/wife) and are therefore looking for at least a 3-bedroom cottage. Since it is off-season there due to the winter, I had budgeted $500 for renting the cottage for 3 nights in Bar Harbor or surrounding areas. However, most cottages on homeaway, vrbo etc are at least $1000 for the week and most don't rent for less than a week - many don't rent at all after October.

Can someone please suggest some cottage or similar accommodation based on the following requirements:

1. Should be somewhere around Acadia National park but not necessarily very close. We do like some touristy hustle-bustle, so being in/near a town is a plus, but it's not necessary.

2. At least 3 bedroom cottage/cabin/home.

3. Should rent out for only 3 nights and be operational during November. Our budget is $500 total for the 3 nights.

I will be really grateful for any suggestions of specific cottages or any tips on how to find one. Thank you.
posted by libbrichus to Travel & Transportation around Maine (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If it were me, that time of year, I'd look into a hotel in Ellsworth. That way you can do day trips to Acadia, then go up Route 1 to see Schoodic Point another day. Along the way, in Hancock, there is a turnoff to Tidal Falls, where you can see the reversing falls of the Taunton River. Both the tidal falls and Schoodic are free. It's a bit of a drive to Schoodic, with very few restaurants or shops (or bathrooms) along the way, so pack a lunch and bring water.

Also, if there is any weather (ice storm that shuts power down to Bar Harbor area), you will be close to shops and amenities. Downtown Ellsworth has a great restaurant, Cleonice, as well as other more affordable choices. If you are counting on cell phone coverage, you may not get any outside of Ellsworth, depending on your carrier.

A lot of restaurants and cottages in Bar Harbor do shut down after the Fall season, yes.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:14 AM on September 13, 2012

I came in to suggest Southwest Harbor, the quiet side of Acadia. Many things will be closed that time of year, so wherever you end up, I'd recommend asking lots of questions when you book your accommodations in that regard.

I haven't stayed at this place, but a quick Googling of cottages in Southwest Harbor brought up this. Looks like it would be in budget since they do partial week rentals after October.
posted by pecanpies at 8:21 AM on September 13, 2012

The reason a lot of places are shut down by Thanksgiving is that in that part of Maine, Thanksgiving is already the beginning of winter. I'm from the area and I usually go home for Thanksgiving, and I'd say we get snow at some point over the Thanksgiving weekend maybe one year in three. Sometimes it's significant amounts of snow that disrupt travel. (Last year I got a call from my parents on the morning of the Tuesday before T-day, because there was a major winter storm coming in Wednesday. I wouldn't have made it home if I hadn't been able to get Tuesday off to drive-up. They had to get a plow guy so our relatives could make it in the driveway.)

Which is to say: I agree with Marie Mon Dieu about staying in Ellsworth. It has much more of a year-round population, so shops will be open (including some good Christmas shopping!). Cleonice is terrific, too.

Also, make sure everyone brings lots of warm clothing, boots, etc., especially if you're planning on hiking at all. If you haven't already read it, the National Park Service has resources on winter activities in the park, which includes info on winter closures and hiking in the snow.
posted by pie ninja at 8:49 AM on September 13, 2012

No specific recommendations, but I would second SW Harbor. It's a small, quiet town that still has a few shops and restaurants, though they might be closed that time of year. It's about a 20-30 minute drive to Bar Harbor from there.

Also, you might want to email some of those cottage owners that only rent for a minimum of one week. That time of year they might be happy to rent for a few days and make some money rather than have an empty place.
posted by bondcliff at 8:50 AM on September 13, 2012

FWIW, I have a friend who used to live in Bar Harbor, and one of his main complaints was that it really shuts down after summer is over - as in, nearly all of the restaurants close.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:12 AM on September 13, 2012

Do you care if the place is mostly shut down, and lots of restaurants are closed? It's probably not going to be "nice brisk autumn weather" but more like "rainy possibly sleeting possibly snowing." Not really all that great (IMHO) for tourists who want to tramp about in the woods.

What about a place near the water, in or just outside of Portland, ME? At least the restaurants will be open.
posted by barnone at 9:27 AM on September 13, 2012

Response by poster: I do want to go to Acadia at least for a drive as I've heard its very beautiful. Since we will be driving from New York, I wouldn't be opposed to staying at a place about 2-3 hours away which is on the way and is populated during winter.

A quick search on Google Maps shows Bath, Rockland, Augusta etc. would qualify. Any suggestions on which would be the best among these for a vacation home.

Also, I do want to stay with the family together in a cabin/cottage and not a hotel.

Thank you for all your suggestions. They've been really helpful. Please keep them coming.
posted by libbrichus at 9:38 AM on September 13, 2012

I would suggest avoiding Augusta. I had an apartment there one summer, so I feel like I know what I'm talking about here.

Of your other options, Rockland is nice and pretty busy in the winter. Camden and Belfast are also nice, and are closer to Acadia. All three are on the ocean, have interesting downtown areas, and will have restaurants and shops open that time of year. Anywhere along Route 1 from Thomaston to Searsport would be fine to visit this area and still be within a couple hours of Acadia (especially since you won't have to worry about traffic).

I'm not super-familiar with Bath, as it's quite a bit further away.

Ellsworth isn't on the ocean, but it also has a nice downtown with shops open that time of year.

Bangor is another option; it's not on the water, but it has a much bigger downtown with some interesting-enough shops and a river running through the downtown. It's one of the major population centers, so there's very little that will be shut down.
posted by pie ninja at 10:10 AM on September 13, 2012

Rockland is a really cute town with a decent amount of year-round residents. Camden is closer to Acadia but has always struck me as more summery. SummerMaine (full disclosure: the owner and I go way back) does a lot of rental business around Rockland (sometimes Camden too); most of her stuff is higher-end and a lot of it will be shut down already by the time you visit, but you could drop her an email and see if she has anything that will work for you - she usually has stuff that's not listed.
posted by mskyle at 11:03 AM on September 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nobody has touched on it yet, but that's deer season on Acadia National Park. That's the reason the rooms are expensive.
posted by JohnE at 11:23 AM on September 13, 2012

I live outside of Augusta now, and I lived in Ellsworth last year. My husband's family is from Hancock and Ellsworth. It's a pretty long drive from Portland, and maybe 2 hours from Augusta, to get to Ellsworth. That's taking I-95, not Route 1. I would not recommend staying anywhere south of Bangor if you want to tour Acadia. The drive from Bangor to Ellsworth is about 45 minutes and over lots of hills, with nice scenic views, especially Lucerne, there's a really nice inn there (more of a place where they hold weddings and such, so not suggesting it for your crew), but it's nice to stop and look around, big white hotel on the right, you can't miss it.

You might want to check out Trenton, which is just before Mt. Desert Island. This site has lots of lodging info. Check the "lodging" link at the top for other options.

I have nothing against Southwest Harbor, but there is not much there. Anywhere between Bangor and Bar Harbor would be a better bet. It takes a while to tour Acadia, we've always done it in chunks, Sand Beach and Thunder Hole one day, Mt. Cadillac another, the Bubbles and Jordan Pond another. You can certainly cram a tour into one or two days, but Schoodic is pretty wild, big cliffy rocks with water crashing against them.

Just stay away from the edge, especially if they have any warning signs. Rogue waves mean rogue waves!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 11:55 AM on September 13, 2012

I was in Acadia over the summer two years ago with an ex-girlfriend. We wound up there because it was cheaper than Bar Harbor. We liked it a lot, and were glad we stayed there because it was friendlier, less commercial. We stayed at Acadia Cottages. I'd recommend the place, but they close Oct. 15.
posted by Borborygmus at 1:30 PM on September 13, 2012

Rockland is really nice. The Farnsworth Museum there is really great.
posted by Miko at 6:31 PM on September 13, 2012

Check out Airbnb too. Looks lke there are quite a few houses for rent in that whole area. Don't spend time picking your favorite one - email a few at once with your dates, to see if they work. People don't always update their availability calendars especially in the off-season.

Have you actually emailed the Homeaway / VBRO folks? In my experience, some WILL rent out for less than a week in off-season. It's worth sending a message to 10 or 15 options to see what they say.
posted by barnone at 9:45 AM on September 14, 2012

Also - email a few brokers in the area, like Acadia Cottage Rentals and Acadia Magic. They have access to a range of properties, and will know which ones are available for your time period. Email them with your request, dates, budget, and see what happens.
posted by barnone at 9:48 AM on September 14, 2012

There is some misinformation in the comments above:
Nobody has touched on it yet, but that's deer season on Acadia National Park. That's the reason the rooms are expensive.

Deer hunting hasn’t been allowed around here for many decades. This month people started talking again about maybe changing that.

I was in Acadia over the summer two years ago with an ex-girlfriend. We wound up there because it was cheaper than Bar Harbor… We stayed at Acadia Cottages.

Acadia is the name of the national park, not any local community. Acadia Cottages is in the Town of Southwest Harbor.

... email a few brokers in the area, like Acadia Cottage Rentals and Acadia Magic.

The Acadia Magic website does contain links for Lodging, but the guy who runs the site is primarily a nature photographer, not a broker. I wouldn’t ask him any specific questions about accommodations.

* * *
As for the original question, you might want to reconsider coming this far north in late November. It’s not a matter of ‘off season,’ it’s more like after October (on whatever day the last cruise ship docks in Bar Harbor), the area immediately shuts down, and only a few places remain open. All except a few miles of Acadia’s road always are closed December 1st — April 15th, and maybe even earlier than that if bad weather hits. (Last year we had a very mild winter, but still — as pie ninja says —there was a big storm that snarled traffic across the state on the day before Thanksgiving.)

pie ninja’s ‘winter in Acadia’ link also is a good one, but I would disagree with her and Marie’s idea about staying in Ellsworth (i.e., in a strip mall town that’s a 50-mile round-trip daily drive from both the coast and the national park). Off Mount Desert Island does make sense, though, especially if you’ve only got $500 to spend, maybe either in Trenton (just off the island) or near the Schoodic Peninsula, which Marie mentions, a wilderness section of Acadia on the mainland. (Do stop in Ellsworth going either way, to stock up on supplies.)

This rental (at $185/night) comes close to meeting your budget, and looks pretty good. Like most places, though, it closes after October, although this listing includes a line that says “Please contact owner for availability after October 2012.”

In the end, visiting Acadia/Bar Harbor/Mount Desert Island off-season might make more sense for an Easter or Mother’s Day getaway, instead of Thanksgiving.
posted by LeLiLo at 3:35 PM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

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