Christina M. Hinke


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ACADIA NATIONAL PARK: New Yorkers find stress relief in Maine's picturesque Park

Associated Press Writer
February 10, 2003

BAR HARBOR, Maine (AP) -- After a long hot summer in the city of New York, my boyfriend Rob and I decided to make a getaway and drive to Maine for the fresh, cool air. With no plans or reservations we set out for an eight-hour drive from New Jersey to our first Maine destination, the Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor.

As we were driving north on I-95, we noticed a road sign for the coastal route (Route 1). Since we were just north of Portland, not too far from Acadia, we decided to take what we thought was the scenic drive along the coast of Maine. Well the “coastal” route was not along the coast. We drove through small town after small town and traffic light after traffic light with no view except about 20 Dexter stores along the way. Who knew Dexter shoes were so popular.

Since the alternate route extended our drive time by at least 2 hours, we were famished. Turning into the small, charming town of Camden, we found a nice lunch spot on the marina. They served up the Maine lunch specialty - lobster rolls. Rob ordered the lobster roll and devoured every last morsel with a sinful look on his face. Not much of a lobster fan, I opted for the fried halibut sandwich, which was fresh and delicious.

Now that our energy was back, we resumed our drive to Bar Harbor. Since we didn't have a room reservation we drove straight to the town's tourism office. When we arrived a friendly woman greeted us and helped us reserve a hotel room for four nights. The office keeps a list of room availability, room rates and AAA discounts available. Be conscious of room rates since the tourism office only helps in finding a room and is not too concerned with finding a reasonably priced hotel room.

Tired from the long drive, we anticipated plopping down on a nice soft bed to get some shuteye. After shelling out $120 a night, the room was not up to par for comfy beds or cleanliness. The hotel was on the harbor and in walking distance to the center of town, which kept us from checking out and finding another place to stay. After a night there, we found the view from the deck was beautiful. What fantastic colors the sun set off on the water, with the sailboats on its canvas.

There is a wide range of hotels and bed-and-breakfasts in Bar Harbor. Just be careful and choose a place in town. Some places are up the hill and since the easiest way to get around in Bar Harbor is on foot (everything is within a 10-minute walk), the best bet is a room in town.

While walking down Main Street we noticed a fancy French country inn we dreamed of staying at for the remainder of our stay. It is the Ivy Manor Inn. With several fireplaces and balconies surrounded by enchanting foliage, it seemed like the ideal romantic inn. Its dinner menu at Michelle's Fine Dining Bistro sounded tantalizing, full of rich French foods with plate prices to match.

Since our pockets do not run that deep, we opted for the more moderate menus Bar Harbor has to offer and found some quaint places to dine. Our favorite was a bar and cafe with an eclectic menu called the Lompoc Cafe. The atmosphere was cozy and quiet with wood interior. Entrees ranged from $16-18. The bar has live music on weekends.

Other restaurants we enjoyed were Rupununi, an American Bar & Grill, Mama Dimatteos, an Italian eatery, and the coffee house we found ourselves at just about every day. The friendly and chatty owner of Parker's Coffee and Tea Shop kept us coming back more so than the coffee.

A must to try is the blueberry coffee. Maine is not only known for its lobster, blueberries find their way into anything.

The grandest place of all was the Acadia National Park. The park offers something for every outdoor enthusiast - easy hikes along the ocean, bike paths through lush pine forests, and strenuous hikes along the rocky terrain of the infamous bald peaks.

On our first day at the park, we covered most of the island in over 3 hours by bike. Riding on carriage paths through the pines and around several of the lakes and ponds in the park left us invigorated. The empty carriage paths were a refreshing change of pace from the busy streets of New York City.

The next day we went for one of the tougher hikes the park has to offer. The Precipice trail actually notes itself as a climbing trail and not a hiking trail. We were up for a challenge.

With our gear on and backpacks full of water and trail mix, we set out. This trail is not for the novice. We came across many people taking a breather and wondering if they could go on. Passing the hiking newbies, we climbed rock after rock, through a small tunnel, and occasionally up metal ladders built into the rock to move vertically at times.

The muscle-wrenching hike is well worth the uncluttered view at the summit. If we thought the hike took our breath, the view was more breathtaking.

I suggest anyone who is fit to hike up a trail and reach a summit to try it and take in the wonderful views of Bar Harbor. Most of the tourists drive along the 27-mile Park Loop road and make pit stops to take pictures, to ultimately arrive at Cadillac Mountain where it is mobbed with bus tours and tourists alike. It is the highest peak at the park, but the view is incomparable to taking a quiet hike and seeing it all on your own. There are 26 mountains in Acadia National Park and Cadillac Mountain is the tallest at 1,530 feet.

Before beginning a hike, stop at the park headquarters to pick up a trail map. The cheapest map is the best one to buy. It's easy to read and has all that is needed to plan a hike. The center is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

After four days in Bar Harbor, we were mentally ready for more exploration of the park, but physically the hikes had taken their toll on our muscles. So we packed up and headed back down the coast. With two days left in our vacation, we decided to spend one night in Portland, and one night in Kennebunkport.

If I were to do it again, I would have skipped Portland. The only highlight of that day was the luxurious hotel room at the Portland Harbor Hotel. It's amazing what a hot tub and a pillow top mattress can do for the body.

There are plenty of pubs and restaurants in the city. The Great Lost Bear is a must for lunch or to just try out some interesting beers on draught. We loved the jerk sauce so much we had the waitress package some in a container for $5 and we have been making wings ever since.

The next morning we headed off to Kennebunkport with a pit stop at the outlet center in Freeport where LL Bean's flagship store is located. The outlets were a disappointment, but it was worth it just to explore LL Bean. It brings a piece of the outdoors into the store. Take a peak at some trout at the indoor trout pond; try on a pair of hiking boots and test them out on the in-store trail rock; or learn to fish at the outdoor pond with casting dock.

We arrived in Kennebunkport, not knowing anything about the town, except that the Bush's have a home on the waterfront. Not having a reservation, we drove around and followed town signs until we came across the Tides Inn Bed and Breakfast across the street from the beach.

Unbeknownst to us, this was a high profile inn. Celebrities and politicians are known to stay at this cozy B&B. We paid for a room for the night and strolled out to the beach to see the sunset. Deciding to retire to our room for a while, we realized it was a little chilly inside. Since the B&B closes for the winter, it had no heat, except for a fireplace in the dining room. Next time we will ask if the rooms are heated.

Kennebunkport is a quaint town. I got the impression that summer is the optimal time to visit. Many of the summer homes on the beach were deserted, as were many restaurants. The Tides Inn restaurant even closed early since the Inn only had a few guests. Although the restaurant had already stopped serving, the courteous hostess asked us if we would like some soup and bread. The bar was still open at the restaurant so we ate by the fire and drank a couple glasses of wine to keep us warm.

Anyone visiting Maine should keep in mind that the winters are chilly. The high season of Bar Harbor is summer and fall. Many visitors come to Maine in the fall to see the turning of the leaves. Some of the shopkeepers I talked with said they close in winter since tourism is slow.

The Acadia National Park is open all year. If you venture to the park in the winter, be sure to bring Gore Tex clothing. The park rangers have been known to stop hikers who are not attired in proper gear. So gear up and explore the picturesque coast of Maine.
On the Net:
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