Where you stop overnight on road trip from NJ to Bar Harbor, ME?
July 21, 2016 2:14 PM   Subscribe

Driving from Northern NJ to Bar Harbor ME in late august (peak tourism!), and trying to find a good place to spend the night on the way up.

Travelling with my family (me+wife+2 kids 7 and 10). My research so far has told me I'm best off getting well past Boston on the first day. People have suggested Ogunquit, ME or Freeport, ME (the latter being 6 hours which is about as far as I'd want to go in one day). But I'm looking for more ideas.

Budget isn't a huge concern since it's only one night, but wouldn't want to go over $250 for the room, and would obviously be nice to spend less. We don't need a quaint Maine beach town to stay in, could be something more rustic or historic or whatever. Criteria are a place that has some fun places to eat dinner and breakfast, and maybe some small tourist destination it would be cool to check out for a couple hours before we complete our drive.

Thanks in advance for any advice!
posted by malphigian to Travel & Transportation around Maine, ME (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Portsmouth, NH is a lovely stop.
posted by Elsie at 2:21 PM on July 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Anywhere between Portsmouth NH and Kennebunk(port) ME are nice touristy areas with stuff to do -- Ogunquit specifically can be nice because of the beach or walking the Marginal Way (great with kids that age) but will be very expensive, and in the middle of tourist season a lot (most) places will have a 2+ night stay, especially on a weekend. Are you planning to stay Friday/Saturday night, or some other night?

Otherwise maybe stopping in Portland would work.
posted by jeather at 2:36 PM on July 21, 2016

Response by poster: Friday night only, I did find some places in Ogunquit that were fine with that, but they definitely were not cheap!
posted by malphigian at 3:19 PM on July 21, 2016

I stopped in Newport, RI on my way up from Philly to bar harbor, but I stayed 2 nights to see old friends. It's 6.5 hours from Newport to Acadia. Newport is a nice scenic town if you haven't been.
posted by TheAdamist at 3:21 PM on July 21, 2016

Best answer: Metrowest Masshole here, former MDI native. Growing up we used to do that trip in reverse every summer. We would do it as an early slog in one day - it's a totally doable trip.

And, at one point I cooked on MDI and dated a girl in Boston and it is absolutely a 4 hour drive from Boston to the bottom of MDI. Lincroft to Boston is like a 5-6 hour ride.

What I mean is this: if you are really looking for a stoop, find a nice hotel to along your route in Massachusetts, probably north of 290 through along 495.

Last travel advisory. If you plan on doing it, check the status of the Tappan zee Bridge, earlier this week a crane fell on it and I know it shut down the bridge for a chunk of Tuesday and slowly reopened at least part of the way on Wednesday. A bunch of folks I work with have just stuck 87 to 90, paid the extra toll money and had a half an hour travel time for a no traffic route.

Anyways, I'd suggest plowing through, but if I insisted on stopping, I'd stop in Haverhill MA. It's a little more than halfway there.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:37 PM on July 21, 2016

New Bedford!
posted by vrakatar at 5:00 PM on July 21, 2016

Sturbridge is right on the highway, bunch of hotels in the same exit.
posted by Dashy at 5:23 PM on July 21, 2016

Newburyport is adorable but we have approximately zero hotels in town that will fit your budget, especially in August (there are charming inns, and elegant inns, and bed and breakfasts, but nothing easy).

I'd throw another vote for Portsmouth - gobs of hotels, including some cheaper ones right off the highway, great town to walk around, lots of good restaurants, and on a Friday night in late August there will no doubt be something happening (either music or a kid's play) at the Prescott Park Arts festival that is awesome.
posted by amelioration at 6:51 PM on July 21, 2016

Best answer: What time of the day are you driving? Also what day? Lowell, Ma to Wells, Maine can be a nightmare.
I think Ogunquit to Freeport are perfect options. It's really good to be pass the mess of Southern Maine.
I always want to stay in an adorable place in a great convenient spot near restaurants, etc. Well, that's at least 300 a night. :(
I'm not sure if you can find a place near Bath (try here) but Popham beach is a favorite beach of mine. [I've made a study in the last 30 years of best beaches of New England. I've gone to about 50 now] Percy's for breakfast. Right near Percy's is Fort Popham- it's open and free. Have time? Bath has a really great maritime museum. After - about 3 more hours to Bar Harbor.
posted by ReluctantViking at 6:52 PM on July 21, 2016

The Google maps route is Rtv95 to Bangor. That mean leaving the coastal route at Brunswick. You want something south of there. Not sure where in NJ you are starting from, but the halfway point may be as far south as the Mass/NJ border. Portsmouth and Portland would have the most accommodation that's not saturated by tourists.
posted by SemiSalt at 7:43 PM on July 21, 2016

Look for places to stay in Yarmouth. It's just shy of Freeport, and is within easy striking distance of Portland, ME, where you'll find a fantastic food scene and plenty to do on a weekend.
posted by yellowcandy at 8:27 PM on July 21, 2016

I had a nice stay at the Billowhouse in Old Orchard Beach, ME, a few years ago. It was off season, buy its a nice town and has an old timey boardwalk.
posted by apricot at 8:43 PM on July 21, 2016

Why not stay in Portland? Plenty of hotels within your budget, tons of restaurants, extremely walkable and fun downtown.
posted by pintapicasso at 9:18 PM on July 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

The kids would love Old Orchard Beach (about as touristy as it gets, complete with seaside amusement park) although I'm not sure about peak season rates these days. Scarborough is just to the north and a little quieter, and there are hotels in Scarborough that aren't right on the beach and probably don't cost quite as much. Lots of mini golf/water park type attractions along route 1 in Saco/Old Orchard/Scarborough.
posted by usonian at 2:53 AM on July 22, 2016

Just re: nanukthedog's warning about the Tappan Zee Bridge, in case that's relevant to your route ...

My dad just came up from NJ to Providence yesterday on that route, and reported only one right-hand lane was closed due to the crane collapse aftermath, and it didn't affect traffic too badly in mid-morning. FWIW.
posted by BlackPebble at 4:52 AM on July 22, 2016

Given you're going on a Friday night, I suggest you do not go to Ogunquit, as Friday traffic will add a lot of time to your route (it's a long one lane road there and it gets really, really backed up -- if you're unlucky, it can add an hour). I'd either find a place to stop in Portsmouth (the musical at Prescott Park is The Little Mermaid) or get yourself up near Portland.
posted by jeather at 5:04 AM on July 22, 2016

Best answer: As a former resident of the Southern Maine coast, I recall getting stuck on 95 after the York tollbooth, when the highway narrows down. It is especially fraught to traffic jams on Fridays of summer weekends.

I recommend keeping your maps program with traffic updates handy, and making the decision once you reach the top end of 495 or the Hampton tolls: if traffic between York and Wells is moving smoothly, then forge ahead, get to Scarborough, Portland, Freeport and go from there. If there is a HINT of traffic jam, stop in Portsmouth, before the traffic at the end of a long day of driving puts you over the edge.

The difference between Freeport and Portsmouth is about an hour, so either way you should be within striking distance of Bar Harbor.

Enjoy your trip!
posted by China Grover at 8:06 AM on July 22, 2016

We just drove from MD to Winter Harbor ME (hour north of Bar Harbor) a few weeks ago. We too wanted to get above Boston before resting our heads. We stopped in Portsmouth NH and stayed in a Motel 6 and ate microwave food from Trader Joe's in our room with our stressed out dogs. Wish we'd taken the time to check out the beautiful town center. From Portsmouth it's only 3 hours to Bar Harbor in good traffic.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 2:44 AM on July 23, 2016

What I mean is this: if you are really looking for a stop, find a nice hotel to along your route in Massachusetts, probably north of 290 through along 495.

That's what my father used to do, coming to Bar Harbor from Central Pennsylvania, always stay at the same place in Amesbury, right before the NH border. By then you're past the NY traffic, the horrible road construction around Waterbury, more traffic in Hartford, more traffic (plus construction, usually) in Lowell and Lawrence, and have had enough for the day. Best of all, you're beyond Boston. From there, it's only about 25 miles to Maine, and less than 250 miles to Bar Harbor.

Freeport is for shopping, not for staying in. As Seymour Zamboni mentioned, Newport is way too far out of the way (and you don't want to be coming up I-95 into the mess around Boston anyway).

From Portsmouth it's only 3 hours to Bar Harbor in good traffic.

There is no way this is going to happen in August. Again, it depends on day of the week and time of day, but you'd have to average 75 mph the whole way, with no stops, and the last 50 miles is two-lane, no matter which direction you come from, and completely clogged already in July. (Even if you did 80 mph continually, from Portsmouth to Bangor on the Interstate, the last part to Bar Harbor is going to take awhile.)

For what to do on day two, on your way to Mount Desert Island, check out other AskMe questions like this one from last year.
posted by LeLiLo at 9:26 PM on July 24, 2016

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