You want to get away to Bar Harbor. The lobster is sweeter. It’s 10 degrees cooler. And it’s so much more “pristine” than the Cape and the Islands.
That doesn’t mean that Bar Harbor will be “crowded.” It’s all relative. What’s important to remember is that Bar Harbor is only one town among several on Mount Desert Island, which is one of the largest islands on the eastern seaboard. If you plan ahead and are just a bit strategic, you will hardly notice it is a major holiday weekend in Acadia National Park. Here are 7 tips to promote your serenity:
1. Hike the Western Mountains – Some of my favorite trails are in the Bar Harbor and Ocean Drive regions – but you won’t catch me there on a big holiday weekend. Instead I head to the western mountains (Beech and Western) or those on the western shore of Somes Sound (St. Sauveur, Acadia and Flying Mountain).
2. Try Echo Lake instead of Sand Beach – Sand Beach is guaranteed to be packed and the parking lot full. Instead you might try the sand beach at the southern end of Echo Lake on the “quiet side” of Mount Desert Island. Even if it’s more crowded than usual, you can get some solitude by swimming out into this beautiful glacial lake.
3. Kayak in Western Bay vs. Frenchman’s Bay – Great paddling companies operate in both areas. However, if you’re looking for a more peaceful alternative to all of the tour boats and general activity that emanate from Bar Harbor, I can tell you that I have had sublime experiences with Maine State Kayak.
4. Try restaurants in Southwest Harbor or Town Hill – One of my favorite restaurants on the planet is Havana in Bar Harbor. However, if you’re worried about parking in Bar Harbor, you might opt for the outstanding dining at either Red Sky or Town Hill Bistro for a special night out at the end of August.
5. Picnic in Pretty Marsh – In fact, you might pick up something from the new Town Hill Wine and Cheese Shop and go out to Pretty Marsh. If you’d like a more substantial dinner, there are cooking grills at the picnic area there. Enjoy the sunset from the rocky coastline on Pretty Marsh Bay.
6. Cycle around Witch Hole and Aunt Betty’s Pond – One of the most popular places to bike, and rightfully so, is Eagle Lake. However, on Labor Day Weekend, you’re likely to find the parking lot full and cars lining the roadway in both directions. Instead, consider starting your ride from Hulls Cove Visitor Center, which has a very large parking lot. Get a good topographical map from Map Adventures so you can gauge the terrain and plan any of a variety of routes. Remember, there are 57 miles of carriage roads in Acadia, so let’s spread out.
7. Make reservations now – If you’re thinking of exploring the park by horse-drawn carriage, call Wildwood Stables a week in advance to see if spots are still open. Interested in a massage to celebrate relaxation on Labor Day? Consider Bar Harbor Inn and call in advance for your spa service. Restaurants? Do a little research in advance and, as they say, call now!
It was Samuel de Champlain who named Mount Desert in 1604, saying in his journal, “The mountain summits are all bare and rocky.” On this Labor Day I hope you find that some, if not bare and devoid of visitors, are at least plentifully peaceful.