Autumn in Maine: A Visitor’s Guide to Planning a Fall Foliage Trip to Acadia National Park

If April is the cruelest month, October may well be the kindest.

Certainly that’s true in Maine where colorful scenery, cool breezes, and harvest cuisine make autumn one of the most appealing times to visit.

It’s the perfect season to see Acadia National Park.  With kids back in school, the park has relaxed into a more contemplative vibe.  Couples stroll hand-in-hand, exploring the carriage roads and retreating to quiet restaurants that celebrate the season’s bounty.  With most tourism-related businesses still open, visitors can partake in everything from private sailing excursions to couples’ massages.

However, smart travelers will plan ahead to make sure they don’t encounter disappointment.  For example, some of the island’s best restaurants close early in October.  Here are some tips:

  1. Follow the weekly fall foliage reports.  You can monitor the progression of color as it advances to Downeast Maine (Zone 2).  By looking at the week you’re planning to visit, consulting last year’s report for that time period, and comparing that week’s foliage conditions for 2010 and 2009, you should be able to gauge how developed the color will be.  But don’t despair if peak foliage doesn’t coincide perfectly with your trip.  Rainfall, temperatures, wind, and sun conditions all impact the leaves, so it’s difficult to project and, in the end, the season is about a lot more than the foliage.
  2. Pack for all contingencies.  It’s the season to be cozy in fleece vests and wool scarves, but throw a few T-shirts and a pair of khaki shorts into your suitcase, should you be so lucky as to encounter Indian Summer. I’ve experienced temperatures in the 70s in October on Mount Desert Island, as evidenced here in the golden light of late afternoon at Bartlett’s Landing.
  3. Organize your personal Oktoberfest.  Visit Maine’s acclaimed micro-breweries, Atlantic Brewing Company and Bar Harbor Brewing Company, and enjoy the tours and tastings.  Or join the fun at Oktoberfest at Smugglers Den Campground in Southwest Harbor the weekend of October 9th and 10th, where there’ll be kayak races and BBQ awards, in addition to plenty of beer from Atlantic Brewing, recently voted #1 brewery in New England by Yankee Magazine.
  4. Make sure you’re photo-ready.  The tip offered almost universally to improve your fall foliage photos is to buy a polarizing filter.  It’s designed to take the glare off subjects, allowing the true color to come through. Check out some other wonderful photo tips offered by the Appalachian Mountain Club.  And be sure to photograph the bridge in Somesville, one of the most-snapped spots on the island at any time of year.
  5. Maximize the season.  Get a fireplace.  If you’re looking for something quiet and romantic, consider Ann’s Point Inn in Bass Harbor.  Every room has a gas fireplace.
  6. Take advantage of diminished crowds.  In summertime, I prefer to hike the island’s western mountains, but fall is the perfect time to hike trails overlooking Frenchman Bay.  In October you’ll meet Maine locals instead of families on vacation.  It’s a more relaxed pace, that may well prolong your hiking time as you factor in the conversation to compare favorite trails and restaurants.  But at least you won’t be delayed by “lines” climbing the Precipice (shown here).
  7. Don’t make assumptions about restaurants, make reservations.  Favorites such as Abel’s Lobster Pound and The Burning Tree are already closed; others operate on limited schedules.  Look for restaurants with menus that change seasonally.  For example, Town Hill’s fall menu showcases Irish potato leek soup with bacon and braised pork shank with cider and rosemary.  If you go to Red Sky, consider the apple-smoked duck breast with baby greens for an appetizer or the roast chicken with basmatic rice with bacon and pumpkin seeds for an entrée.  Mache Bistro has an irresistible autumn line-up.  Two highlights: smoked chile- glazed sweet potato salad with mixed greens tossed in a apple cider vinaigrette with goat cheese, cranberries and candied pecans and, for a main course, pumpkin-dusted scallops served over creamy polenta with roasted tomato and fennel confit.
  8. Celebrate the harvest.  Farmers’ markets are bountiful in October and Eden Farmers’ Market in Bar Harbor will be open until Halloween.  Apples, pumpkins, squash, and preserves will be perfect mementoes of an October visit to Maine.

For more information on what to do on Mount Desert Island and tips for enjoying Acadia National Park, visit OUR ACADIA.

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One Comment to “Autumn in Maine: A Visitor’s Guide to Planning a Fall Foliage Trip to Acadia National Park”

  1. Very Cool! I am looking forward to traveling to Maine! And testing some gear!

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