Acadia National Park, Maine

My love of travel is well known at this point. I live in a permanent state of wanderlust and am always looking forward to my next trip, wherever it may be. Sometime within the last few years I had the urge to travel to Maine and it landed on our short list of vacation destinations.

To be perfectly honest, the original primary motivation for me to visit Maine was the abundance of fresh lobster. Now that we have been there and back, I can say have officially fallen in love with the area and I am certain we will be back many more times.

We were instantly charmed from the moment we pulled up to our rental home. It was the perfect little cozy getaway in the woods. I mean, just look at it! How could we not be smitten?

For those who might be interested in this particular rental property, you can find the listing and more details on Homeaway. (Bonus – the price is significantly reduced from when we initially booked. Even more motivation to return soon!) For us, this was the perfect place to serve as our home base during our busy week of fun. Since we typically cook more meals than we eat in restaurants on family vacations, the kitchen was one of my favorite parts of this home. Our whole family loved the house and we will definitely stay there again when we return.

My original plan for this trip was that we would spend a fair amount of time exploring the town of Bar Harbor as well as visiting Acadia National Park. We did visit Bar Harbor a few times and while it was fine, nothing there was exceptional enough to make it worth the degree of crowdedness we experienced there. It was very touristy and kitschy and just not really my scene. We had a few meals in town (none remarkable enough to mention here) but otherwise ended up spending pretty much all of our time in Acadia or at our rental and it was perfect. I truly fell in love with Acadia over the course of the week. It is unbelievably beautiful and has so much to offer, I feel like we could go back several more times and still not fully appreciate all of its wonders.

The weather during our first couple of days was unseasonably cool and fairly cloudy with a little bit of rain. We didn’t mind too much though – it helped with crowd control in some of the areas that are typically busiest in the park. Every single person I talked to before the trip emphasized that we could not miss visiting the Jordan Pond House in Acadia. They are known for their popovers with jam and their lobster stew, and at peak times are known to have very long waits. We decided to check it out on our first day hoping that the chilly cloudy weather would keep people away. We were right! We got right in, had a table with a beautiful view, and enjoyed a really fantastic meal!

Andrew and I set a goal of eating lobster every single day of our trip, and I believe we were successful. There was one day we might have missed, but we made up for it by doubling up the following day. We tried lobster rolls in many places but the one at Jordan Pond House was definitely our favorite. The lobster stew is also excellent and was Caroline’s favorite meal of the whole trip. Really everything that we had for lunch there was wonderful. I agree that this place is not to be missed! (However, it definitely is to be missed at dinner time. We went back for dinner on our final evening. The menu is much more formal but the food was very mediocre and highly overpriced considering the quality. Don’t bother with dinner there – definitely not worth it.)

How cute are my brother and his wonderful girlfriend Brittany? The absolute cutest, that’s how cute!

After we finished lunch we decided to do the Jordan Pond hike, approximately a three mile loop around the pond. As much as we love hiking, many of the trails in Acadia are moderate or advanced difficulty levels meaning that they aren’t quite appropriate for little kids. This one was perfect and the kids had a blast!

Clearly.

The following day started out cloudy and rainy but cleared up enough in the afternoon that we decided to go check out Sand Beach, one of the most popular destinations in Acadia. It is unbelievably beautiful there! I have a major obsession with mist and fog so the weather was actually perfect for me and made me totally giddy.

We were not prepared with bathing suits or other appropriate attire the first time we visited, but that didn’t stop us from jumping right in anyway.

Literally! The ocean was sososo cold but the kids still swam in it for a few hours each day. I put my toes in maybe once the entire time. I honestly don’t know how they did it.

We scaled up some rocks on one side of the beach which is not particularly safe or supposed to be allowed, but it made for some really incredible views. Worth it.

There is no shortage of lobster pounds sprinkled around the area of Bar Harbor, but the gravel road to our rental was marked by a sign that advertised “Rats'” lobster, clams, mussels, etc. We were intrigued so we decided to check it out. Down at the end of our road was the home of an old man who apparently had been a lobster fisherman for around 40 years and had lived in those woods since before there was even a road. Though he no longer does the fishing himself, his son and grandson have taken over. Apparently the lobsters we bought were his grandson’s first real catch (at 10 years old!)  Such fun. Andrew was very excited to help cook the lobsters.

We made a classic seafood boil the first night. The evening was made extra special with a visit from a blog reader turned friend, Lydia, and her sweet kiddos. It was a lovely evening with great food and even better company. (Side note – Lydia now has a blog as well. Check it out!)

Fact: It is impossible to get a photo with four kids looking at you simultaneously. Or even one, apparently.

The next morning we dragged ourselves out of bed obscenely early so that we could watch the sunrise from the summit of Cadillac Mountain. This is the first spot where the sun rises in the U.S. each day and it is truly amazing to witness. I can’t find any words that even begin to describe the beauty of this experience other than to say that I think everyone should see this in their lifetime. Also, I loved it so much I did it again a few days later.

After the sun was fully over the horizon, most people took off immediately. However, my personal favorite views were during this time. The fog and mist over the outlying rocky islands were irresistible to me.

I had no idea what the kids would think about this, especially after being pulled out of bed at 4:30 am for it, but they seemed to really enjoy it.

After a little rest to make up for the extremely early wake up call, we headed back to Sand Beach for a long day playing in the waves (or in my case, lying in the sun.)

This time we were fully prepared with bathing suits and buckets for building sand castles galore!

There were tons of huge waves that day, which meant extra fun for the kids and extra fun pictures for me to take.

This girl was all about playing in the sand. (We won’t talk about the two handfuls she ate in the car later. Just…I don’t even know.)

After a full day of beach fun we gathered ourselves up and drove over to Stonington on a neighboring island where Lydia and her family live.

Her husband Chuck is a lobster fisherman and was so incredibly kind to take us out on the lobster boat for a little tour. (This after working a full day during peak time – unbelievably nice of him!)

It was so much fun and a positively gorgeous evening. We had so much fun!

In addition to learning about lobstering and enjoying the beautiful views, we were able to see some seals sunning themselves on the rocks. How cool is that?!

By the way, to make the whole thing even more wonderful – my fabulous friend Tara and her wonderful husband Kyle were there too! Such a treat to get to see them a few times during our week there. Getting to spend time with these girls was just so fantastic. I love you both!

As it turns out, a lobster boat is a perfect place to enjoy a Maine sunset. We really can’t thank Lydia and Chuck enough for their generosity and hospitality. This was the highlight of the entire trip for us!

You may know that other than lobster, another food Maine is known for is their wild blueberries. They grow positively everywhere and have so much flavor as compared to other blueberries pretty much everywhere else. The yard of the rental home was full of wild blueberry bushes and Caroline was begging all week to bake something with them. We put the kids to work picking enough berries to bake with.

One morning I finally made good on her request and we baked some blueberry muffins together (we used this recipe.) Love her excitement!

They were wonderful!

We decided to change up our beach scene a little bit and check out Echo Lake, a lake with a sandy beach and swimming area which is also part of Acadia. Though not quite a picturesque as Sand Beach, it was very beautiful there as well and the lake was much warmer for swimming.

Still, all she really wanted to do was dig in the sand. Fine by me!

We made it several days into vacation and realized we hadn’t had a single ice cream cone. Obviously we needed to remedy that! These were from Quietside Cafe in Southwest Harbor (not far from Echo Lake). On a related note, many people strongly recommended Mount Desert Ice Cream in Bar Harbor. We checked it out but were really underwhelmed. It was fine but nothing special and didn’t seem deserving of the hype. I think great homemade ice cream and the ice cream genius of Jeni’s has generally set the bar too high, though I don’t really think I’m much of an ice cream snob. Either way, I preferred the ice cream from Quietside.

Another thing people recommended we do in Acadia was to bike on the carriage roads. Unfortunately our rental car (car is the wrong term… more like gigantic monstrosity if you are me, or party bus if you are the rest of my family) was unable to hold a bike rack. We were bummed we didn’t get to bike at all but settled for a walk on one of the carriage roads near Eagle Lake one cloudy evening. Despite the slight drizzle and the fact that it was just before dusk, it was beautiful!

On our last full day in Maine, I decided I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see the sun rise from Cadillac Mountain one more time. This time we let the kids sleep in and stay with the rest of the family while we made the early morning trek. This was the view of the moon as we drove up to the summit and I couldn’t resist stopping for a quick photo.

It was amazing how different the view was the second time – so much more fog over the water. Equally breathtaking and incredible.

Again, the views after the sun was fully risen were my favorite. I could never tire of this view.

We decided to take advantage of the super early morning and basically empty park to walk along the Ocean Path in Acadia immediately following the sunrise. The Ocean Path is an easy hike that goes along the coastline but is quite busy during the daytime. I do my best to avoid crowds, especially when I want to enjoy scenery, so this really was the perfect time of day to enjoy this particular hike. We only saw a couple of other people during the few hours that we walked. It was wonderful and the views were amazing.

I knew Maine would be wonderful but I didn’t expect to fall so completely in love with the area, Acadia in particular. The kids have also been talking about it nonstop and based on their feedback, I wonder if Maine will become the place that they think of as “our” place for family vacations. This trip was really special to me and I cannot wait to return, hopefully soon!

(Note: I wish I had more, or any, great restaurant recommendations from this trip but I really don’t. The restaurant visits we did make were based on lots of TripAdvisor research but all of them were mediocre at best. The meals we made at home were much better than anything else we ate during the trip. My best advice is to find some good lobster recipes and have fun cooking at home!)