“Bar Harbor, it is going to be”
I had finally zeroed in on my Labor Day weekend’s destination after much deliberation. A real vacation in-quite some time. The one that won’t be clouded with the terrors of the pandemic. Fully vaccinated for a while, I hadn’t travelled out of the tri-state area and was really looking forward to it.
I anticipated crowds as it was the end of summer. Also with the Atlantic Ocean shoreline, mountains and a national park that boasts of the first sunrise in the USA, Maine is an easy favorite. I had also collected a group of eight humans (four couples) and an adorable canine for company, since I first casually mentioned the holiday to friends and family. I have a hands-free approach with holidays. Why bother when there are better minds at work? Better-half looked for accommodations and sis-in-law, bro-in-law and other friends took charge of ‘what-to -see’ and ‘where- to-eat’ stuff. I was to sit back and enjoy it.
Rise and shine in Bar Harbor
My expectations from destination accommodations are basic, busy weekends withstanding. They start and pretty much end at a clean bed to crash on at the end of the day and a clean functional toilet. So, imagine my surprise to wake up to a view of Frenchman Bay marked by brilliant shades of red as I watched the sunrise from my room’s balcony. The sun was in no hurry, and we saw it parade a palette on the sky that glittered back on the bay before settling into the day. ” Oh, what a start to the holiday”, I muttered under my breath, too scared to say it aloud and jinx it for the rest of the trip.
Wonder View Inn had surpassed my expectations. It’s breakfast restaurant, Looking Glass, held an even higher 180-degree view of the bay. The restaurant can be availed even if you are not staying at the property. Sit with your breakfast coffee and indulge at the sight of multiple fishing boats and small ships bobbing in the quiet water on a good clear day. We were fortunate to get that.
Travel started with the little known Schoodic Peninsula. It is part of the Acadia National Park but a little less explored i.e., less crowded. I really advise getting the online National Park passes for cars, which typically lasts for three days. Schoodic, is six-mile-long, one way road along the western shore of the peninsula coast and has great spots for picnics. It also is a great area to bike. The Peninsula however has no restaurants, so it is advised that you carry your picnic baskets. The winning lobster roll from Winter Harbor’s Lobster Fest 2021 came to my rescue on this trip as we settled at a quiet spot upon the crags that overlooked the Atlantic from a quick lunch. Winter Harbor is a small town just outside the Peninsula and I found the prize-winning lobster roll shack there, along with a delicious homemade blueberry pie. The gorgeous pebble beach was another must see pit-stop at Schoodic after the lazy lunch.
Acadia National Park is famous for many things but the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain makes it a top reason for visitors to visit. The status of it being the first sunrise in the USA might be disputed but you can’t dispute its beauty and the panoramic view from its rocky turf. Presently one would need a special online pass to visit the mountain at any hour and it’s best to get one at least a day earlier. They open mostly two days in advance. The fog laden pre-dawn skies paved the way for a bright orange sunrise as I witnessed its magnificence, braving early morning grogginess and a general lack of caffeine. Not to forget, it is a known photographer’s delight. Go early to book a good spot. The extended coved shoreline of Acadia has other wonderous spots that can be done through the day. The sand beach, Thunder Hole, Jordan Pond and Eagle Pond being some of them. Thunder Hole was a disappointment for me as the low tide whimpered against the rocks. Jordan Pond had a 3-mile moderate hike around it and held a popular restaurant, where the wait was too long despite the attractive setting, so I guess next time! On busy weekends parking tends to play spoilsport so it’s best to prioritize instead of trying to tick boxes of all scenic sights. The Park also has many more hiking trails and a carriage pathway too.
Dine to Dusk at Bar Harbor
For food options the area is a lobster-roll paradise. The best bets are small local shacks away from downtown Bar Harbor. Dorr Lobster and Seafood market at Ellsworth was perhaps my favorite from this trip. Downtown is for variety. Most places don’t take dinner bookings and expect a 45 mins wait on busy weekends. The food however is uniformly tasty, and pets are welcomed at most places with outdoor seating options. Of course, it’s a seafood heaven but even my vegetarian friends found very palatable options on the menu. My personal favorites were the lobster cakes and meat platter at Havana Grill and seafood pasta at La Bella Vita. The Terrace Grill has the best view of the marina, and I witnessed the most awesome sky colors while waiting for dinner. A torrential shower was in the making but luckily the wind carried the clouds away, but not before showing the evening some majestic skies with rumbling clouds against the setting sun. You must top your dinner experience with some ice-cream. It’s a must. Downtown has plenty of options but the homemade ice cream at Jordan Pond Ice-cream and fudge was my favorite and I am heavily biased towards their peach flavor. There is often a wait, but the lines move fast.
I suggest you take your favorite cone and enjoy it on the grass hill of Agamont Park overlooking the marina and Frenchman’s Bay. Get lost in the view of sailboats, ships, and fishing boats against an ever-changing sky, till the sun goes down.
In that view I was reminded of the open scene of Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, Salerio describes Antonio’s state of mind as
“Your mind is tossing on the ocean;
There, where your argosies with portly sail,
Like signiors and rich burghers on the flood
Or, as it were, the pageants of the sea,
Do over peer the petty traffickers,
That curt’sy to them, do them reverence,
As they fly by them with their woven wings.”
Visit Bar Harbor and tell me if it doesn’t sound like what you witness from the vantage point of the grass hill?!
I am no Antonio with business interests but was as invested in the view of the ocean and the horizon beyond. From the first sunrise of the trip to the last sunset at Agamont Park, Maine’s horizons just kept reminding me of the beauty that lies at the start and at the end of its gorgeous days.
Written by: Supriya Pant
Supriya is a writer and novelist, currently living in Jersey City and likes to travel devoid of any heavy luggage or lengthy itineraries. She has earlier published travel pieces in Outpost (Canada) outpostmagazine.com/london-characters-come-alive and GoNomad gonomad.com/157309-manhattan-without-uber-or-subway
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