I’ve always wanted to visit the US New England area, but never got the chance. However, I planned the trip once I was able to score a cheap one-way ticket to Boston on JetBlue’s new Mint class. One thing led to another, and before I knew it I was on my way!
I’ve always heard good things about Acadia National Park, so I planned my trip around that. I was glad I did the road trip from Boston to Acadia and stopped at some coastal towns along the way, since I've heard lots of good things about them as well.
To give a quick overview, I split the trip into 3 days with one of those being a travel day:
You can definitely drive from Boston to Acadia in 1 day but I would highly recommend making stops along the way! You can mix or match the stops but I wouldn’t recommend doing *too* many things in one day, since then you feel like you’re rushing (that’s the mistake I made for Day 1). When I went, it was cloudy for the whole time. However, I still had a great time and took fantastic pictures! If it were sunny, my photos would have looked much better.
Like with any road trip, make sure that you’re including any gas stops, breaks (food or otherwise), and buffers while you plan your itinerary. Part of the main highway (I-95) going from Massachusetts to Maine is a toll road, so make sure that you bring cash to cover the toll! The alternative is paying through your rental car company or getting a transponder (neither option is ideal unless you have your own car). On the way back to Boston, I paid around $7-$10 in tolls. So, I would bring around $25 in cash just to be safe!
With that, I’ll begin to talk more about my trip and hope that you enjoy reading about my experience (since this trip was the first one I took since March 2020)!
I flew into Boston Logan International Airport at around 7am since I had previously flown in on a red eye. After I landed, I went straight to the Rental Car Center to get my car and was in and out in <10 minutes (shoutout Avis Preferred for a relatively painless pick-up)! After getting a quick brunch with a friend, I was on my way.
My first stop was Portsmouth, New Hampshire which was a cute little town! I didn’t spend too much time here, but I briefly walked around the downtown area and Prescott Park. The park was right on the water, so I sat there for a bit.
My next stop was Ogunquit, so this is where I went off the main highway since Google Maps started taking me closer and closer to the coast. Driving this way was an amazing experience. I realized a lot of people had these huge beautiful houses in the middle of nowhere, and seeing the coast at times was an added bonus. I wouldn’t necessarily call this a “coastal” drive, but you are seeing a good mix of things like nature, little pockets of civilization, and the coast.
I drove through Ogunquit for a bit before stopping at Marginal Way. You should get here fine if you punch the destination into your GPS. However, it may be tricky to find parking because the pathway starts at small roads near people’s houses that explicitly say “no parking”. I got lucky and found a spot right away!
My starting point happened to be at a little lighthouse, and then the path split to the right and left. Walking to the left gives you an amazing view of Ogunquit Beach. While you’re walking this way, there’s also small beaches that you can climb down to see. If you walk to the right, you’ll get amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean and some rock formations. Overall, it’s really too hard to describe its beauty but I would definitely recommend stopping by!
After seeing Ogunquit, I started to drive towards Kennebunkport. I had to park somewhat far from the Historic District because of parking restrictions. Then, I decided to walk through the Historic District and Dock Square while seeing some of the shops! There’s definitely some interesting stores. I went to The Clam Shack to eat a quick snack of a ½ pint of fried clam strips, which was very tasty. After finishing that up and taking a few more pictures, I was on the road again.
The day's final destination was to hit Portland, ME so I decided to stop by the Portland Head Light and get dinner in Portland before finishing up the day. This part of the drive was particularly beautiful since I was trying to take in the scenery and drive safely at the same time! Once I arrived at the lighthouse, it was getting close to sunset so the entire backdrop was just very pretty. I also noticed that the lighthouse was in Fort Williams Park, which I didn’t realize was a destination in itself. If I were to do this trip again, I would have carved some more time out to see Cape Elizabeth and Fort Williams Park.
After taking some great pictures at the lighthouse, I drove to Portland to eat dinner at The Highroller Lobster Co. where I got a lobster roll. You had the option to add various sauces and such, but I only wish they gave me more for what I paid for. I would come to learn that lobster rolls don’t come cheap but overall it was still pretty tasty. After I finished that, I drove to my hotel to finally get some well-deserved rest!
After realizing that I packed a lot into Day 1 and subsequently got exhausted quickly (maybe it was because I had been up for a while because of the red-eye). So, I decided to take Day 2 more slowly and that started off with me sleeping in. After getting some much-needed sleep and taking some muffins from the hotel breakfast, I was off.
I decided that the first stop of my day would be the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse. I wished I came here in the evening for a sunset view. However, coming in the morning was still a great experience. The lighthouse is bordered by the ocean on all sides, so you have to walk quite a bit on this small rocky walk to get to the lighthouse. The walk is actually kind of long (15min-30min) and it looked much closer while I was standing on land. I just wished that I had prepared myself more for the walk. But overall, it was pretty cool! You should be careful while walking, since you don’t want to accidentally walk into the ocean or trip over a rock. However, if you are pressed for time, I would say you can skip this.
After all the walking, I was getting hungry so I decided to stop at Young’s Lobster Pound in Belfast. I didn’t see the town itself since I just went straight to the lobster place. Now, I would say coming here was pretty cool since it’s literally set in a warehouse-like setting where you can see all the lobster just wandering around in their tanks/pools until they’re taken out for us to eat.
When I got here, it was kind of chaotic. You have to find the line in which they’re taking the orders. Then, they’ll give you a ticket number and you have to go outside and wait for them to call you in. You pay when you get the order! I got a lobster roll and a slice of their blueberry pie, which was fantastic! Their lobster roll had lots of lobster in it, but the blueberry pie was alright.
After lunch, I decided to start driving towards my Airbnb in Ellsworth to drop off my bags before doing some more exploring. At this point, my next stop was to go towards the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. My research showed that there would always be a long wait, so I made sure to make my way there a little before sunset. I’m very glad I did, since there was a decently long line of cars waiting to park!
After seeing the lighthouse, it was around dinner time so I decided to explore Bar Harbor. The downtown area is incredibly crowded and parking is hard to find, so you’ll have to look for a meter and be careful of all the people. Overall, the town is absolutely adorable with a lot of interesting shops. You can probably walk around the downtown area and see everything important in ~1 hour.
After walking around and taking some pictures, I went to West Street Cafe to eat dinner and it was such a great choice! I got the salmon and the Cadillac Sunrise mocktail, and both dishes were incredibly yummy. The salmon just kind of melted in your mouth and the mocktail was very flavorful! After eating, I started to drive back to my Airbnb to get some sleep since I was going to be doing a lot of walking the next day!
For my last full day, I dedicated it to exploring Acadia National Park. To be honest, you can spend a full week exploring the park and barely scratch the surface. There’s simply just a lot to see! My one-day plan actually worked out pretty well, but it was pretty tiring.
While you're hiking, make sure you’re keeping an eye out for the blue markers and the trail markers. The blue markers are there to help you orient yourself on the trail. There were a few times where I had walked off the trail and the markers saved me - so be careful!
Here’s my one-day itinerary below:
3:30am - Wake up and drive to Cadillac Mountain to see the summit via. Cadillac Summit Road. You’ll need your park ticket and a vehicle reservation to make it up the mountain during certain times (sunrise is one of them)! It will be cold on top of the mountain! I made the mistake of bringing nothing and wearing shorts.
The sunrise at Cadillac Mountain is a must-do, so that’s why I made the reservation how it was. However, all I could see was fog even after the time the sun was supposed to come up. Lots of people started to leave, which I did too after waiting a while. However, on the drive back down, the fog started to clear up and I was able to get AMAZING views of the park! Overall, I’m so glad it turned out this way because it would have sucked to get up that early and see nothing.
Even with this mishap, I would still recommend...
6:00am - Eat breakfast at Jeannie’s Great Maine Breakfast. I got the Camp Skillet which was so, so tasty and heavenly after getting up so early. I also got some tea along with my skillet, and everything else here looked really good too.
7:30am to 10am - Explore the following:
If you aren’t as crazy as me (aka getting up at 3:30am to see the sunrise), you most definitely should get up early to start your day. I would say around 9am-10am, you’ll start to see a lot more people on the trails, parking lots, etc. and it will get pretty hard to find any parking and such. When you walk the trails, there’s going to be random side trails that give you a great overlook view of Sand Beach and the other cliffs.
10am to 1pm - Continue walking along Ocean Path to Otter Cliff, and then walk back to the trailhead and start walking on the Beehive Trail to loop around The Bowl back to the trailhead.
To get the most out of Otter Cliff, you’ll want some rock climbing/belaying gear to scale the cliffs. Since I didn’t have any, this is when I turned back. Although you can park at Thunder Hole and Otter Cliff, I would still recommend keeping your car parked at Sand Beach. While I was walking back, there were a LOT more people walking about with cars parked on the side of the road. The Sand Beach parking lot was also full with park rangers managing the parking flows.
1pm to 5:30pm - Park at the Bubbles Divide Trailhead and explore the following:
At this time of day, there will be a lot of cars and people so parking will be pretty difficult. To explore this section of the park, I focused on looking for parking near Jordan Pond and the Bubbles Divide Trailhead since those two places are linked if you walk. I got really lucky and found parking at the latter.
When I got to the Jordan Pond House, it was pretty busy. My legs and feet were DYING since at this point I think I had walked around 7 miles. So I just really wanted to sit before walking back to my car. I saw people getting turned away since they didn’t have reservations (if you really want to eat here, I would make a reservation ahead of time).
I decided to just get in line and ask about the wait time for 1 person anyways. The receptionist was telling people that the walk-in wait was around 2 hours, but when I asked she said that someone had just given up their table and that I could get seated right away (lucky me)!
I got 2 popovers, a blueberry lemonade, and a cup of the Bar Harbor Farmers Market Stew. I will tell you that the food is generally average and somewhat overpriced, but what you’re really paying for is the atmosphere and the view. I was seated in the lower lawn, where you’re just sitting at a table on the grass which overlooks Jordan Pond and it's a really pretty sight. The popovers and the lemonade were actually quite tasty, but the stew was only average at best. But, I wanted something warm so that’s why I got the stew.
Bubble Rock Overlook provides an amazing view of Jordan Pond, so I would 100% recommend making the trip here if you have time. By the time I got to my car, my legs were absolutely sore so I decided to call it a day by driving back to my Airbnb and that was the end of my trip!