Just minutes from bustling Bar Harbor lies Mount Desert’s crown jewel: Acadia National Park. My mother and I decided to evade the hustle and bustle of the city and reconnect with nature’s many pleasures and coveted secrets—its towering sea cliffs, pink granite mountains, and pristine glacial waters.
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After a 9-hour drive and a stop by the North Eastern coastal town of Kennebunkport, we finally arrived: Bar Harbor, Maine. It was 2PM and we were starving. All we had on our minds was lobster rolls, clam chowder, and fried clams, so we stopped by the first cute restaurant we saw on Mount Desert Island to satisfy our cravings before heading out to Acadia National Park. Located just 2 miles from the town of Bar Harbor, The Chart Room reeled us in (no pun intended!) with its outdoor patio and dock overlooking Hulls Cove Beach.
My mother is not a big fan of the strong taste of clams, I on the other hand am obsessed. Billowy golden mouthfuls of fried clams were the perfect appetizer for this brisk Saturday in September. The fried clams had a strong savory taste, just the way I like them, and were tender and crisp with chewy clams and tender juicy bellies snug inside.
For our main dish, my mother and I both ordered The Mini—a mini lobster roll with New England Clam Chowder. My mom had never had a lobster roll and I had just been introduced it to a couple of months prior by Patrick, but I still hadn’t had “the real deal.” The lobster was brimming with fresh meat and my mom absolutely loved it! For those of you who are wondering why lobster is so renowned in Maine, it is because 80% of the U.S.’s lobster is actually sourced from Maine. The warmer ocean temperatures and rapid decline of Cod fish (which have thwarted the survival and growth of lobsters) have allowed for a lobster boom which is why Maine gets to indulge on this luxury on daily basis.
The clam chowder, which is my personal favorite of the two, was aromatic and full of flavor, thick and creamy with loads of clams and tender little potatoes just the way I like it. Was it the best lobster roll and clam chowder in Bar Harbor? I honestly couldn’t tell you since I didn’t eat anywhere else other than at The Chart Room, but something needs to be said for the fact that I went back there TWICE in TWO DAYS. The price is right, the view is incredible and peaceful, and away from tourists. Definitely a go-to if your looking for your first taste of Maine.
After our super satisfying lunch, we headed over to our headquarters for the night, Atlantic Oceanside Hotel & Event Center. Just 1.5 miles from the North Eastern coastal village of Bar Harbor lies this simple yet perfectly positioned property that offers a complementary breakfast and a stunning view from your oceanside room to accompany it. If you don’t believe me, take a look at my morning view for yourself!
It was now 3PM and we wanted to get a move on exploring Bar Harbor’s crown jewel: Acadia National Park. Backed by many renowned figures from Rockefeller, to Charles W. Eliot (one of the presidents of Harvard) and Woodrow Wilson, Acadia National Park’s rugged beauty and pine covered forests that transition into dramatic cliffs and emerald green islands is on everyone’s bucket list. The best way to explore this hidden gem in an afternoon is to stick to the Acadia National Park Loop and it will only cost you $25 to get you and your car an all-access pass for an entire week.
First stop on the loop is Sand Beach. The beach is much farther then one would expect…it’s about a 5 – 10 minute drive down so we stopped at a couple of spots on the way and took in the scenery.
Although Sand Beach’s strip of land enveloped in coves and cliffs is a sight for sore eyes, the true beauty of the beach lies in discovering Ocean Path’s many trails. It was a chilly end of September day in Bar Harbor, temperatures were in the low 60s and mid-70s. It was perfect if you were safe from the wind, but as soon as you stepped out onto the beaches and cliffs, the wind would pick up and the temperature would drop significantly to low 50s! That did not make it an ideal temperature for swimming, but we were surprised to still see people jumping into the water…! I guess the people of Maine have a higher temperature tolerance then us New Yorkers.
Following Sand Beach, we drove the car 10 feet before stopping to explore the many coves, cliffs and belvedere’s nestled on Ocean Trail. We parked our car on the side of the road and carefully made or way out onto the granite cliffs. Now, I would advise that anyone who suffers from heights avoid going out onto these cliffs since it does involve a couple of dangerous points, but my mother (who is deathly afraid of heights) made it just fine! So I encourage everyone to make it out onto these beautiful rock formations—assuming you are wearing the proper equipment i.e. sneakers and a warm sweater.
We took our car and continued down the Acadia National Park Loop. Next stop was Jordan Pond and the Bubble Rocks. It is the only nature attraction in Acadia that also has a tea house/restaurant. If you choose not to hike around the pond’s trail, you can choose to camp out at Jordan Pond’s restaurant that dates back to the late 1870s and enjoy a nice book, afternoon tea, and a popover on the front lawn (the traditional go-to snack). For those of you like me, who do not know what a popover is, it is similar to a scone. It is a hollow roll made from an egg batter similar to that of Yorkshire pudding and served with strawberry jam during afternoon tea. The foodie in me really wanted to sit down and enjoy this delicious traditional treat, but unfortunately, due to our late lunch we were not able to indulge in the famous Jordan Pond popovers. However, I highly recommend everyone else try one! After a warm and hearty snack, head out to the Bubble Rocks for a brisk walk along the pond trail.
Our last stop on the Acadia National Park Loop was the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard within 25 miles of the shoreline.The mountain was named after the French explorer and adventurer from New France, Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac. And yes, he is also the founder of the city of Detroit (today the world center of automobile production) which is why the car brand Cadillac is named after him as well as the town of Cadillac, Michigan. The reason why people flock to Cadillac Mountain, particularly during sunrise and sunset, is to catch a view of the Porcupine Islands facing Bar Harbor.Interesting fact: It is also the first place to view the sunrise from the US from October 7th to March 6th, making it a hot commodity among people during the early hours of the morning. The park rangers told me that in order to see the sunrise or sunset, I had to get there about an hour or 2 in advance! Kayaking tours of the Porcupine Islands are available in Bar Harbor for people to immerse themselves in the impressive geological formations that speak to glacial activities of centuries ago.
It was an afternoon packed with adventure. As we drove back to Bar Harbor for an evening at the quintessential North Eastern fishing village, we reflected on our afternoon getaway. The reason why people like George Door and John D. Rockefeller Jr. decided to invest money into Acadia National Park in the first place was to give people the opportunity to flee the neighboring East Coast cities and reconnect with nature. We took advantage of just that. It feels restorative in a way for both the soul and mind. Acadia National Park reminds us that going back to our roots, to simpler times, to nature can relieve one of all the stress surrounding us with social media, the competitive job market, and other consumerist matters that in the face of nature seem irrelevant and unimportant. A trip to Acadia National Park is a must on everyone’s bucket list.
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