Archive for June, 2012

June 27, 2012

Satisfy A Dream: Learn to Draw in Maine

What’s on your bucket list?  To swim with dolphins?  See the Northern Lights?  Master the tango?

Now that you’ve moved into fantasizing mode, how about learning to draw?  If that’s always been a dream, then a true fantasy vacation would be a sketch trip to an idyllic New England island with a well-known artist who teaches around the world.

Sketching along the shoreline of Little Cranberry Island
Sketching along the shoreline of Little Cranberry Island

On July 12 at least this dream can come true!  Maine artist Judy Taylor welcomes you to join her for an all-day workshop, “Drawing the Figure on Islesford.”

Yoga instructor Mary Kate Murray will serve as the model for the sketch trip which will feature figure poses throughout Islesford on Little Cranberry Island.  Says Judy Taylor, “We’ll draw on the dock, down by the beach, on the deserted road with pines, ocean, fishing gear and rocks as our background.  I’m so excited about the compositional opportunities!”

Isleford Nude - Judy Taylor
Islesford Nude – Judy Taylor

Ms. Taylor is particularly well known for her work with figures.  The Maine Department of Labor awarded her a commission to create an eleven-panel mural depicting scenes of Maine workers, which Governor LePage ordered removed last year, stirring considerable controversy.

This year Ms. Taylor has taught workshops in New York, Venice, and Florence, as well as Maine.  Her studio, which includes exhibit space of her work, is on the “Quiet Side” of Mount Desert Island.

The fee for the July 12th workshop is $150, which includes the ferry, lunch at the popular Islesford Dock Restaurant, and model fee.  Enrollment is limited to ten.  Reserve by July 7 by calling 207-244-5545.

Then, plan the rest of the activities for a week in Maine by researching the best places to explore, eat, and stay on Mount Desert Island.

Boathouses on Islesford - Judy Taylor
Boathouses on Islesford – Judy Taylor


Top Ten Things to Do on a Visit to Acadia National Park in Maine

Bike Tour of Acadia’s Historic Bridges

June 26, 2012

14 Ways for Families to Save on a Vacation to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park


Acadia National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the U.S.  Attracted by the vistas of where the mountains meet the sea, over 2,300,000 people visited Acadia in 2011, making it the ninth most-visited national park.

Acadia is also a great vacation option for families on a budget.  With just a little planning, you can enjoy great scenery, restaurants, and outdoor activities – without a credit card bill the next month that takes all the fun away.

Here’s how.

1.  Rent a cottage so that you don’t have to eat every meal out.  There’s a wide array of rental options available through Mount Desert Island real estate agents or online.

2.  Better still, camp!  Sites at Blackwoods and Seawall, the two National Park sites on Mount Desert Island, are within a 10-minute walk from the ocean and only cost $20 a night.

3.  Take advantage of free ranger-led programs.   You  don’t have to be a camper to join the evening festivities at the campgrounds,  which are very entertaining, especially for kids.  Other programs take place throughout the park.

Ranger talk at Seawall Campground

4.  If  you’re 62 or older, get a $10 lifetime entrance pass.  The regular pass to enter Acadia  National Park is only $20, but seniors can buy discounted passes at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center that they can use at more than 2,000 federal recreation sites.

Hulls Cove entrance fees

5.  Bring  your own bikes.  It may be inconvenient to schlepp them,  but Acadia’s carriage roads offer 45 miles of car-free biking great for  the whole family around lakes, beside babbling brooks, and up  mountains.  If you want to bike more than once – and you will – renting for a family can get pricey, with rates running around $22 a day for adults and $15-18 for kids.

boy biking in Acadia National Park

6.  Stock  up at supermarkets to avoid paying higher prices in  small specialty markets.  There are large Shaw’s and Hannaford’s in Ellsworth, where we often stop.  Hannaford’s also has a large store on Cottage Street in Bar Harbor.

7.  But bring staples from home.  Pack just a few of the items you buy in bulk at home (tea bags, lemonade packets, and sweetener) so that you won’t have to stock up and then waste what you don’t use.

8.  Gas up off island.  If you forget, don’t worry.  The Somesville  One-Stop/Mobil, conveniently located right in the center of Mount Desert  Island, has great prices.  However,  prices fluctuate significantly around the island.  For example,we’ve seen prices 11 cents higher in downtown Bar Harbor.

9.  If  you’re renting a house or cottage, look for one that offers a kayak you can  use.  Tandem kayaks run $35 for three hours.  Depending on your  family size and how long you want to explore, this could add up.  Remember, places like Great Long Pond and Jordan Pond (below) offer hours of exploration and relaxation.

Kayaking Bubbles

10.  Take the Island Explorer bus around the island and save on gas.  The island is big.  You can put 130 miles on in 4 days.  And, remember, taking the bus is a great, safe way for teenagers to show a little independence and get around the island themselves.

11.  Explore options for educational activities.  Kids love touch tanks as a way to learn more about lobsters and sea life.  As wonderful as they are,  boat cruises can run as high as $43 per person.  A less expensive option is an oceanarium.

Touch tanks with lobsters

12.  Substitute activities like tide pooling as a no-cost alternative to movies or shopping.  Kids love climbing the rocks around Bass Harbor lighthouse.   Blueberry picking is permitted throughout the park.  Another great activity is to walk across the sand bar Bar Harbor to Bar Island while it’s low tide.  Last time I did this I saw a baby seal.

Child tide pooling Acadia National Park

13.  Cook  out ocean-side at one of Acadia’s great picnic areas, such as Seawall (below) or Pretty Marsh,  with grills provided by the park service.

Seawall Mount Desert Island Maine

14.  When you finally splurge on lobster (as you should!), choose  a lobster pound that offers options for your kids if they prefer grilled chicken or even PB&J.

Maine lobster dinner


Best Easy Hikes for Kids

22 Things to Do with Kids in Acadia National Park

Best Bar Harbor Restaurants for Kids


June 1, 2012

Martha’s Vineyards Devotees: Ready to Explore Another New England Island?

You’ve been to Martha’s Vineyard so many summers you can’t count them.  You’ve biked from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown, laid back on South Beach, kayaked on Sengekontacket Pond, and watched the sunset from Menemsha.  You have several Black Dog t-shirts.

If you love a summer vacation that combines outdoor activities, great seafood, and New England scenery, but you’re looking for something new, this year you might want to discover Mount Desert Island in Maine.

Bridge in Somesville, Mount Desert Island

Mount Desert Island and Martha’s Vineyard actually have a lot in common.

  • They vie for second and third place as the largest islands on the eastern seaboard.
  • They are made up of a variety of towns with distinct and different characters. While Bar Harbor and Oak Bluffs resemble each other in their Victoriana and commercialism, Bass Harbor and Menemsha attract visitors to their fishing villages for harborside photographs and lobster dinners. White clapboard houses and iconic steepled churches adorn the streets of both Somesville and Edgartown. And among these towns buses bustle too many summer visitors from here to there (though L.L. Bean makes it free on MDI).
  • While a fiord divides Mount Desert Island, Martha’s Vineyard has a state forest in the middle of hers. Mount Desert has two distinct sides, the eastern portion best known for its largest town Bar Harbor and the less populated eastern side known as “The Quiet Side.” Similarly, the Martha’s Vineyard towns divide east and west, with the western villages on their “quiet side” known as “up island” not because they are north, but higher in longitude. This is a carryover characterization from the Vineyard’s nautical past, just as “downeast” is for Maine.

Both islands offer great dining as part of the summer recreation. If you like the traditional lobster dinners at Home Port, you should visit Thurston’s in Bass Harbor.

Bass Harbor, Mount Desert Island, Maine at Dusk

Bass Harbor, Mount Desert Island, Maine at Dusk

For us it’s a rite of summer to stand in line overlooking the postcard-perfect harbor with a beer (try the local micro-brew Harbor Lighthouse Ale) and begin the debate: Should we have hard shell or soft shell? How many pounds? Steamers or chowder? Standing in line heightens the anticipation of the sweetest lobsters we know anywhere. It may be in part because they’re cooked in seawater piped in from the harbor. You can opt to have your lobster alone or with a “basic dinner” of corn, coleslaw, roll, and Thurston’s blueberry spice cake (so good you’ll want to buy extra for tomorrow’s breakfast).

And Thurston’s even has its own t-shirt.

Maine is the state of not only fisherman, but also farmers. So, in recent years when restaurateurs have become increasingly committed to seasonal menus and local production, Mount Desert Island has emerged as a magnet for foodies.   And at the top restaurants in Bar Harbor and Southwest Harbor you are not going to see scallop appetizers at $20 and grilled salmon at $40, prices common at Vineyard eateries like the Beach Plum Inn.

Maine Trenton Downeast Lobster Roll

Lobster Roll from Downeast Lobster Pound, Trenton

The greatest difference between MDI and the Vineyard is that the Maine island is home to the first national park east of the Mississippi, Acadia National Park.

With 30,300 acres on the island, Acadia occupies half of Mount Desert Island.  Not only does it have the tallest mountain along the eastern coast, Cadillac Mountain, a popular spot to watch the sun rise, but there are 23 other mountain peaks that can be accessed by 125 miles of pristine hiking trails.  Routes range from challenging for the fittest among us to trails that are easy for seniors and kids.

Hiking Trail, Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park

Hiking Trail, Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park

Sand Beach, rimmed by stunning pink granite cliffs, is a popular spot.  Glacial lakes also attract swimmers and youthful sandcastle builders, as well as sailors and paddlers.  Walkers and cyclists enjoy 45 miles of car-free carriage roads that weave around the mountains and valleys of the park.

Sand Beach, Acadia National Park

Sand Beach, Acadia National Park

Today, next to his Black Dog and Menemsha Blues t-shirts, my husband has several from Acadia, including my favorite which features a long list of hiking trails.  Better still, we’ve done them all.

Hiking in Acadia T-shirt

If you love Martha’s Vineyard, you may want to learn more about Mount Desert Island. OUR ACADIA offers tips for exploring, eating, and relaxing.