Posts tagged ‘lobster’

November 28, 2010

Bass Harbor, Maine, Ready for Winter

I love trees with bare branches.  Beaches in winter.  Fishing villages off season. 

Bass Harbor is one such village.  Located on the southwestern portion of Mount Desert Island, it’s one of the most lucrative lobster-producing ports in Maine.  I was there in late October and the streets were empty.  

 

That’s not the case in the summertime when cars loaded with kayaks and trucks ready to load lobsters line up for the ferry to Swan’s Island.  Boat builders head to work at Morris Yachts.  Vacationers swing into the driveways of harborside condos, including the local success story for Maine Preservation, Underwood Wharf (below left), once the largest sardine cannery in Maine.  

But in October it’s even still across the harbor in Bernard, home of my favorite lobster pound, Thurston’s

 

Although seafood purveyor C. H. Rich is open year-round, the wharf is quiet. 

 

The buoys are off duty. 

Skiffs and traps are taking a break.

 

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July 6, 2010

What New Yorkers Don’t Want to Know about the Maine Lobster Glut

I’m a lobster fanatic.  I do side-by-side taste tests in search of the perfect lobster roll.  I comb scientific research to find a hypothesis for why soft shell lobsters are sweeter than hard shell.  And every New Year’s Eve I pay four times the market price in New York City to get lobsters shipped overnight from Maine.

That’s why I was so interested in New York Magazine’s recent feature “On a Roll” about how a lobster glut in Maine has spawned a new class of New York entrepreneurs selling lobster rolls out of their apartments and at flea markets, pop-up stands, and storefronts.  As a business venture, it’s seems particularly to have caught the attention of frustrated young lawyers and i-bankers who see a new “buy low-sell high” opportunity here.

Their business case centers on how two “E’s” – environment and economy – dramatically impacted the supply of and demand for Maine lobster.  As New York Magazine writer Benjamin Wallace aptly explains, an over-fishing of cod diminished one of young lobsters’ key predators and strict fishing limits on the size of each lobster taken defeated another. 

As the supply of lobster reached historic levels, demand for it was dealt a double blow.  The first hit is easy to guess – diminished orders from recession-hit restaurants.  But what Wallace also tells us is that more than half of Maine’s catch had been sold to Canadian processors who lost their credit lines in 2008 when the Icelandic banking system crashed.  According to New York Magazine, “The price of Maine lobster at the dock dropped from $5 to $2.50 a pound.”

In stepped the NYC lobster roll entrepreneurs.  They saw the opportunity to buy lobster meat at affordable prices and then sell it in sumptuous rolls that appeal “to the foodie trend of wanting to get back to artisanal food and its source.”

Now here’s the sad truth. 

New York foodies love the lobster roll debate: what type of roll, should it be toasted, the merits of celery, how much mayonnaise, the sinful deception of using lettuce as a filler.

But it’s all about the flavor of the lobster meat.  And lobster never tastes as good in New York as it does in Maine.

Talk to Dane Somers, Executive Director of the Lobster Council of Maine about why even live lobster from, say, Fairway doesn’t taste as good as what you get in Maine. “Everyone thinks that if it’s alive, you can’t get any fresher than that.  But there is a subtle difference.  It’s like fresh-cut flowers.  One-day-old flowers are not as fresh as those cut this morning.”

I don’t want to sound like rotten tomatoes, but that’s the analogy that comes to my mind: the flavor of tomatoes shipped from another continent versus picked from your garden. 

Before you agree with the “artisanal food” label, you have to ask how the lobster roll entrepreneurs get their lobster from Maine to New York.  One cooks the lobster in Maine and ships it down in pre-portioned 4-ounce Saran-wrapped packets.  Another bought a van for better conduct of live lobsters that had been dying on the BQE during the weekly trips in the back of his Chevy Avalanche.

Even lobsters transported live for high-volume seafood enterprises deteriorate in flavor. In transit and then in tanks for two or three days, they are not fed and obviously under stress.  Believe me, it affects the flavor.

Now we shouldn’t deny ourselves a good lobster roll here in NYC.  I’ll have mine at Pearl’s or the Mermaid Inn with a gin and tonic and praise the fries.  But I’ll recognize that, unfortunately, a lobster roll in New York is more about summoning summertime’s consummate symbol.  Not flavor.

If you are truly interested in food and want to taste the real thing, you have to haul yourself up to Maine.

It’s a long haul.  That’s why everyone defaults to the Hamptons or Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.  But those in search of the perfect lobster roll will go to Maine.

Right now you can get a round-trip ticket from JFK to Portland for about $300.  From Portland drive 3-hours-plus to Mount Desert Island, which has been ranked by both Travel and Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler as one of the most beautiful islands in the world.  About the same size as Martha’s Vineyard, but with 24 mountain peaks, it has the mesmerizing scenery of where the mountains meet the sea.  In addition to scouting your personal favorite among the lobster pounds, you can visit Acadia National Park.

  • Watch the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain, the first place from which to witness dawn in the United States.
  • Drive the Park Loop Road, the 27-mile masterful collaboration between John D. Rockefeller Jr. and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.
  • Bike some of the 57 miles of car-free carriage roads…or explore them as originally intended, on a horse-drawn carriage.
  • Stroll, hike, or climb among the park’s 130 miles of hiking trails that present unsurpassed views of a fiord, glacial lakes, and mountain peaks that repeat to the horizon.
  • Visit Sand Beach, a sandy crescent with cliffs rising on each side.  The views won’t disappoint, even if the chilly water does. 

You may go to Maine with the intention of eating lobster rolls every day, but be prepared to be tempted otherwise.  A group of creative restaurateurs take true pride in their craft and will offer you the best in seafood, locally grown produce, and local cheeses.  You’ll also find French bistro, authentic Mexican, tapas and Cuban cuisine – all influenced by local ingredients.  Three award-winning micro-breweries, a shop featuring tastings of artisanal vinegars and olive oil, and an organic farm run by the local college round out the itinerary for foodies.

For the best places to eat on a visit to Mount Desert Island, the Web site OUR ACADIA offers detailed reviews.  You’ll also find tips on the best times to visit, the best kayaking guides, and eco-friendly inns.

But if you go, remember this warning: lobster in New York will never be the same.

September 21, 2009

Top Ten Things to Do When You Visit Acadia National Park in Maine

Cadillac SunriseKen Burns’ series “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” may have piqued your interest about Acadia, the easternmost park in the system.  It’s where the mountains meet the sea, and a desire to “do everything” co-exists happily with a sense of calm contemplation.  

Acadia National Park is about three hours north of Portland, in relatively easy proximity to the metropolitan areas along the eastern seaboard.  It occupies about two-thirds of Mount Desert Island, the most well-known town of which is Bar Harbor.  The village where I live was founded in 1761.  Acadia’s boundaries are intermingled with the communities of this New England island. This adds considerably to the charm that captivates park visitors. 

Here are some favorite things to do both in and around the park. 

  1. Watch the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain.   At some 1500 feet, it is the first place from which to witness dawn in the United States, and it is breathtaking.  Make sure you wear a warm fleece even if it’s August.
  2. Drive the Park Loop Road.  You can get your best overview of Acadia by driving these 27 miles of unsurpassed beauty, created in part through the masterful collaboration of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.  There are many lookouts so have your camera ready for this drive.
  3. Eat lobster.  Whether you want a lobster roll, lobster stew, or a two-pounder steamed, you can find a wide range of topnotch restaurants, harbor-side lobster pounds, and quaint cafes to serve you.  Our favorite is Thurston’s in Bass Harbor.
  4. Go biking.  Thanks to John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Acadia offers 57 miles of car-free carriage roads for cycling.  There is plenty of parking at Hull’s Cove Visitor Center.  Or, if you prefer, you can take a horse-drawn carriage drive from Wildwood Stables and see the park the way Mr. Rockefeller intended.
  5. Stroll, hike, or climb.  The park boasts 130 miles of well-maintained hiking trails that appeal to all levels of fitness.  The most exciting trails, such as the Precipice and Jordan Cliffs, feature rungs and ladders.  A beautiful moderately challenging hike is Acadia Mountain, overlooking Somes Sound, the only fiord in North America.  If you’re looking for easier strolls, consider Asticou Trail and Wonderland – they’re lovely.
  6. Have lemonade at Jordan Pond House.  Select a biking or hiking route that stems from behind Jordan Pond House so that you can conclude your afternoon with lemonade and popovers on the lawn looking towards the Bubbles, a sight that has mesmerized visitors at teatime since 1896.  It’s a favorite destination for everyone, but worth the wait.
  7. Visit Sand BeachThis sandy crescent has cliffs at each side and the Beehive Trail behind it.  The views won’t disappoint, even if the chilly water does.  Another option for a swim is the beach at Echo Lake on the island’s “Quietside.”
  8. Touch nature – literally.  There are several enterprises, including Mount Desert Biological Laboratories, The Dive-In Theatre, and the Mount Desert Oceanarium, that feature touch tanks full of lobsters, crabs, and sea cucumbers. I always end up liking this stuff just as much as the kids do.
  9. Learn from a park ranger.  The National Park Service offers very entertaining talks and walks on subjects ranging tidal pools to birds of prey to the stars over Sand Beach.  Scan The Beaver Log to figure out how you can fit in more than one.
  10. Get out on the water.  This great national park is on an island so you must see it from the vantage point of the sea.  Whether you’re powering yourself in a sea kayak or the wind is propelling you forward on a Downeast Friendship Sloop or the Margaret Todd, being on the water is a special part of a trip to Acadia National Park. 

Evenings will keep you on the run as well as you explore Mount Desert Island’s restaurant scene.  Many specialize in seafood and locally grown produce, but you’ll also find French bistro, authentic Mexican, tapas, and Cuban cuisine.  And what if it rains?  There are local breweries, bookstores, antique shops, movies, repertory companies, museums, and fashion purveyors that are sure to keep you entertained.  In fact, after a few days of hiking, biking, and kayaking, you might hope for a slight drizzle and an afternoon in the rocking chair of a local Maine library. 

For specific recommendations and contact information for guides, tours, restaurants, and inns, visit OUR ACADIA.  You can find special tips for when to visit, what to do on a rainy day, and how to pack.  It also features tips for fall trips and sample itineraries.

May 3, 2009

Soft vs. Hard Shell Lobster? The Final Word.

View from my favorite lobster pound

View from my favorite lobster pound

Every time I go to Acadia National Park to hike, bike, and kayak, my vacation itinerary includes a trip to a lobster pound.  OK, often two.  So here, after much research, is the point-of-view of this New Yorker on the soft vs. hard shell lobster debate.

Here are the two sides.  Fans of soft shell lobsters claim they are sweeter and easier to eat because they can be cracked by hand.  Lovers of hard shells point to more meat and a firmer consistency.

Let’s draw on a little science about Homarus americanus.  Lobsters shed their shells (or molt) throughout their lives.  After they grow a new shell inside the old one, they drink a lot of water which expands their body size and infuses the new shell, causing it to expand and break the old one.  The new shell is softer.  While it hardens, there’s a layer of seawater that helps insulate the lobster’s body.

And, to me, that’s the insight.  The seawater acts as kind of a secret marinating agent to make the meat of the soft shell lobster undeniably sweeter.  It’s more tender and delectable.

So, if taste is your priority, order a soft shell.  But keep in mind two other considerations.  First, eating a soft shell lobster is a messier process.  When you crack it open, be prepared for the torrent of “marinating liquid” to spew forth! The other negative is a soft shell will have relatively less meat for the same poundage. Lower prices will compensate for this, but you must remember to order a larger size.  Thurston’s Lobster Pound on Mount Desert Island recommends at least a quarter of a pound more.

You are not likely to get a soft shell lobster in a New York restaurant or delivered by mail because hard shells are more durable for shipping.  So, if you are on Mount Desert Island at the end of the summer, which is the molting season for that part of New England, the choice should be clear. A soft shell lobster is a special seasonal treat if you’re lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.

lobsterMount Desert Island in Maine is home not only to Acadia National Park, but to harborside  villages, charming inns, wonderful antiquing, and topnotch spas.  Activities, especially hiking, biking, kayaking, and sailing, abound.  And, since Maine is the state of both farmers and fishermen, the restaurants are great. To read about my favorites, including several lobster pounds, visit OUR ACADIA.

 

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January 2, 2009

A New Year’s Eve Taste Test of Maine Lobsters

Clubs, cruises, restaurants, and, of course, Times Square are all options for welcoming the New Year in New York City. This year we decided to stay home and celebrate with one of our favorite feasts – Maine lobster. But a dilemma immediately presented itself: should we buy them from a nearby Manhattan market, especially with prices on the decline, or have them shipped from Mount Desert Island, our second home, and support the local lobstermen? We chose to do both and to conduct a side-by-side taste test in the process.

fredlobster1My tasting partner offered excellent credentials for this experiment. He is pragmatic, but also passionate about lobster, having commenced craving these crustaceans almost fifty years ago at camp clambakes and Lundy’s, the venerable seafood institution in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. I, on the other hand, a born-and-bred New Englander, have only been eating lobster with great regularity since I started spending so much time on MDI several years ago, but it’s been enough to cause me to eschew lobster at fancy New York restaurants even when somebody else is paying for it! It just has no taste. (I make an exception for Pearl’s lobster rolls.)

We started speculating about our taste test. If both of our lobsters are originally from Maine’s cold waters and we cook them at home with the same technique, shouldn’t the quality be close to equivalent? If there’s a difference, which will be more detrimental to the flavor, time spent in a shipping carton or in a tank of pseudo saltwater?

We began our research into retailers. Although my dad recently paid $4.95/lb. at his local New Hampshire supermarket, it was clear that we wouldn’t get anything near that price in New York City, despite the so-called lobster glut. Citarella on the Upper West Side was charging $12.99/lb. for larger lobsters and $9.99/lb. for smaller ones. Fairway, which seemed to be doing an incredible volume with everything over the holidays, charged $9.99/lb. for Maine lobster regardless of size. We went with Fairway.

For our MDI source, we chose H.R. Beal and Son in Southwest Harbor, a family business going back two generations that ships nationwide year-round. In fact, they’re open seven days a week and only close for Christmas. When I told Helen there what we were doing, she seemed to think we were nuts. The price for two lobsters from Beal’s was $81 because of packing materials and overnight freight. Thinking about the expense of those prix fixe dinners at New York restaurants, I forged ahead and ordered two to amortize the cost of shipping over more lobster meat, some of which we’d hold in reserve for lobster salad on New Year’s Day.

lobster-blog-0071Our Beal’s lobsters arrived the next day, still active in their carton of wet newspapers after their Fed Ex journey, and our Fairway catch scratched away in his plastic bag. We carefully considered the pro’s and con’s of boiling vs. steaming, opting for the latter to preserve a little more flavor. The Maine Lobster Council also says that it’s harder to overcook a lobster with steaming. After careful timing and pouring more champagne, we were ready to taste. There was no doubt. The lobster express-shipped from Maine was distinctly sweeter.

If you plan two days in advance, Beal’s has another option for you. Until January 15th, Helen said, they’re offering a special of four 1-1/2 pounders, cooked and delivered, for $82. Since these lobsters are cooked in sea water, they are supposed to have even better flavor. You could invite some friends and do a taste test. Happy 2009.

For more information about Maine’s lobster pounds and planning a trip to Acadia National Park, visit OUR ACADIA, all about exploring, eating, and relaxing on Mount Desert Island. 

August 5, 2008

In Search of the Perfect Maine Lobster Roll: The Trenton Tasting Tour

My parents lived on Nantucket for fifteen years, and the trip from the mainland to the island was a significant three hours. It takes less than a minute to cross the bridge from Trenton onto Mount Desert Island. Still, for me it is significant. It’s the dividing line between “need to” and “want to.”

 

Therefore, I celebrate the crossing over. And I start with a lobster roll in Trenton.  Why not? Regardless of the time of day, I stop at one of the local lobster pounds and order some clam chowder and this most celebrated of sandwiches to mark the beginning of a vacation in Maine.

 

Up until this point where I stop has been more or less random. However, there are three lobster pounds that we have frequented over the years, all situated on Bar Harbor Road right before the bridge: Gateway Lunts, Down East Lobster Pound, and Trenton Lobster Pound. These rustic shacks have drawn us by the fragrance of the outdoor wood fires simmering barrels of water for the lobster boil and the pleasant picnic tables in view of the water or in a pine grove.

 

Now that I’m writing this blog, however, I thought I should get a little more scientific about my recommendations. Therefore, we removed the bias of the setting from the objects under examination and set up a taste test on my porch. All three samples of chowder and lobster rolls were similarly influenced by a nicely chilled sauvignon blanc. It was very surprising how much difference side-by-side comparison revealed.

 

The chowder at all three Trenton lobster pounds is full of tender clams and diced potatoes, served in a flavorful milky broth. None succumbed to an overly thick cream base. I’d bet anything that Down East’s broth began by sautéing onions in butter. It was easily deemed our favorite.

 

Both Lunts and Down East serve their lobster salad on a nicely toasted frankfurter roll. For Lunts that’s what you get for $12.99. At Down East you also get a bag of chips and fresh, tangy coleslaw for $13.99. For $13.99 Trenton Lobster Pound serves a lobster salad sandwich on delicious white bread topped with a grape tomato and pepper garnish, as well as a side of chips. Compared with the other two pounds, Lunts offers slightly less lobster in lieu of a layer of lettuce at the base of the roll.

 

Flavor? On the evening of our tasting, Trenton Lobster Pound offered the sweetest lobster meat. The tasty salad was created with the slightest amount of celery and a minimum of mayonnaise. By a significant margin, it was the best. However, the sandwich presentation doesn’t live up to everyone’s expectation of a classic lobster roll. If that’s the case for you, you’ll want to try Down East’s, not only for the value, but for the pure taste of the lobster salad itself.

Whichever lobster pound you choose, you’ll be thrilled that you’re now enjoying the best Maine has to offer and in less than a minute you’ll be on one of the world’s most beautiful islands. Foodies adore Mount Desert Island, with its great harborside spots for more lobster, wine and tapas bars, and comfortably refined restaurants that specialize in organic produce and other local ingredients. For more information visit OUR ACADIA … and have a great vacation!

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July 20, 2008

22 Great Things To Do with Your Kids in Maine’s Acadia National Park

Last year friends of mine from New York took their two boys, 8 and 11, out of school for a year to travel the world. Since their dad was formerly the publisher of National Geographic Kids, they had a pretty wonderful itinerary. Acadia National Park was their second stop, and after two days younger son Stefan asked if they could just stay there for the rest of the year.

 

Stefan may have a future himself in travel publishing. Even at his age, he concurs with the editors of Travel and Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler who consistently rank Mount Desert Island as one of the most beautiful islands in the world. Its rocky coastline, boreal forests, spectacular fiord, and multitude of mountains apparently hold appeal for every age.

 

My daughter started visiting Acadia National Park regularly at the age of 14. She liked kayaking and the hikes with rock scrambling a lot. But what she loved was the rock climbing. Having grown up on New York City’s rock climbing walls, she felt comfortable with a 60-foot cliff and loved the fact that at its base was the pounding surf. Booking in advance for a climb or two with Acadia Mountain Guides became a standard part of our vacation planning.

 

Here are 22 great things to do with your kids if you visit Acadia National Park this summer:

 

1. Attend a ranger-led program – Offered free by the National Park Service, these are fun, interactive programs on subjects ranging from the constellations to birds of prey. (Did you know that owls and peregrines eat their prey whole and then regurgitate what’s not digestible in pellets?) Ranger-led programs include hikes, cruises, and simple drop-ins at interesting places. Find out more www.nps.gov/acad.

2. Go hiking – Acadia National Park is unique in how its mountains rise out of the sea, so hiking should be high on your “must see” list. Considering that there are over 130 miles of trail, select a hike that’s right for your family by check out a guidebook, Web site (www.trails.com), or the Park Service’s hiking difficulty sheet. You might consider Wonderland and Ship Harbor because of their flatter terrain. The Bubbles (South Trail) and Bubble Rock are also very popular with kids.

3. Learn about lobsters – On the Lulu Lobster Boat tour, kids can learn about lobstering from Captain John and look for harbor seals in Frenchman Bay off of Bar Harbor. Or, for a rainy day activity, visit the lobster hatchery and museum at the Mount Desert Oceanarium.

4. Sail on a Friendship Sloop – These graceful sloops were actually the hard-working lobstering boats of the late 1800s. Today there is no lovelier way to experience Mount Desert Island and the many islands surrounding it than from the water on one of the charters offered by Downeast Friendship Sloop.

5. Go sea kayaking – For the more athletic, get out on the water in a kayak. Maine State Kayak offers breathtakingly beautiful tours, which are also educational, on “the quiet side” of Acadia National Park. There’s only one wrinkle: each child is required to paddle in tandem with an adult and must be at least 8-years-old (and 4 feet, 8 inches).

6. Take a horse-drawn carriage drive – Another unique feature of Acadia National Park is the carriage road system, conceived of and built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. These picturesque car-free roads wind up mountains, along brooks, and through spruce forests. One great way to explore them is to take a horse-drawn carriage trip from Wildwood Stables in the park.  Try to book early enough to get spots on the sunset drive to Day Mountain, which is a favorite. Call 877-276-3622 for more information. 

7. Bike on a carriage road – Get some exercise and do some peddling! Eagle Lake is very popular and thus more crowded. I actually prefer exploring around Witch Hole Pond and Aunt Betty’s Pond, and the hills aren’t bad.

8. Go to a lumber jack show – This sounds tacky, but it gets great recommendations. The show is a demonstration of what a logging camp competition would have been in the Maine woods over 100 years ago…except the host of the show is Timber Tina (www.mainelumberjack.com).

9. Go miniature golfing – No family vacation would be complete without a couple of hours of mini-golfing. Bar Harbor’s “award-winning” adventure golf has a pirates theme (www.piratescove.net).

10. Pick blueberries – Next to lobster, this is Maine’s best edible. They grow everywhere. Pick some, have them over ice cream, and read Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, well-known for Make Way for Ducklings, who chose the Maine coast as the settings for many of his children’s books.

11. Go rock climbing – The competent team at Acadia Mountain Guides  can customize a special, affordable climb for your family. After meeting you and learning about everyone’s goals, your guide will select an area – from a lower angled climb to a cliff rising out of Frenchman’s Bay. For me this was an exhilarating experience, and my daughter loved it.

12. Visit a lighthouse – If you don’t want to do a technical climb, the kids will love rock scrambling on the huge granite boulders on the harbor side of the Bass Harbor Head Light. Constructed in 1876, the tower itself is off-limits, but the views here are wonderful – a perfect setting for the photo of this year’s holiday card.

13. Touch a starfish…and more. The Dive-In Theatre gets rave reviews (“educational,” “fantastic,” “extremely fun”). After a cruise in Frenchmen’s Bay, Diver Ed takes the plunge, explores the bay while on view on a topside LCD screen, and surfaces to provide a hands-on experience of what he has found. If the price is too steep for a larger family, Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory provides free touch tank demonstrations.  

14. Explore the tidepools – Sea stars, barnacles, mussels, anemones, crabs, and young lobsters live in the intertidal zone and are exposed twice each day by the withdrawing tide. Focused, quiet observation will open up a whole new world for your kids and provide a special kind of experience that’s an interesting alternative to some of the more commercialized options. Acadia National Park provides more information at www.nps.gov/acad/planyourvisit/tidepooling.htm.

15. Have lemonade at Jordan Pond House – Ask for a table on the lawn and order popovers and strawberry ice cream, too. If there’s a wait (which is likely in July and August), go to the gift shop and buy blueberry jam to take home. Better still, skip rocks in Jordan Pond and explore the trail around its shoreline. (There’s more about Jordan Pond House at www.ouracadia.com.)

16. Swim in Echo Lake – After a hike on Beech Mountain or Acadia Mountain, take a refreshing plunge. You can relax in the sun on a beach at the lake’s southern end or on wide granite cliffs on the eastern shoreline.

17. Build sand castles at Sand Beach – You may find it a little too chilly to swim, but the kids probably won’t. The setting itself is stunning with cliffs arching around the beach and Beehive Mountain as a backdrop. Hey, after all of that hiking and biking, pull out a paperback and take a quick doze if someone else is supervising the castle construction.

18. Let teenagers explore the island alone – If your teenagers are itching for some independence, suggest they take the Island Explorer Bus and meet the rest of the family at a given destination. Eight routes link hotels, inns, and campgrounds with destinations in Acadia National Park and neighboring village centers (for details see www.exploreacadia.com). Since the buses are propane-powered, this is nice not only for parents’ nerves, but also for the environment.

19. Take in a show Acadia Repertory Theatre in picturesque Somesville offers a children’s program in the summertime. Every Wednesday and Saturday at 10:30am they are performing “Snow White and Rose Red,” a new adaptation of the children’s classic. Another option: see a movie at Reel Pizza in Bar Harbor where, in addition to theatre seats, there are couches and recliners and, in addition to popcorn and soda, there is delicious fresh-dough gourmet pizza.

20. Go to Seawall for an evening cookout – Seawall in Acadia National Park is a natural granite and rock seawall on the southwestern side of Mount Desert Island. Nearby on the ocean is a beautiful, spruce-studded picnic area where you can make a fire and grill. Check out the National Park program at the nearby campground that evening. Or just watch the night sky overtake the sea.

21. Enjoy Bar Harbor at night – It’s a great seaside resort town that attracts crowds for ice cream, fudge, T-shirts, and maybe even a quick reading by the local psychic. There are also excellent shops for guidebooks and outfitters if you forgot your fleece or want new hiking boots.

22. Reward the parents with a lobster dinner – Having arranged and managed such a wonderful family vacation, you deserve a special night out. How about lobster? For reviews of two of my favorite lobster pounds, Thurston’s and Abel’s, see www.ouracadia.com. (By the way, Thurston’s even has PB&J for fussier eaters.)

 

Writing this reminds me why I love Mount Desert Island so much. You don’t need kids to enjoy these New England summertime delights. Acadia National Park is also summer camp for adults.  When’s the best time to visit Acadia?  Should you rent a cottage or stay at a B&B?  What should you do if it rains?  Get answers to these questions and more at OUR ACADIA.

 

Copyright 2007-2010 www.ouracadia.com. All rights reserved.

 

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June 15, 2008

What is a “lobster pound”? Why have I only heard this term around Acadia National Park?

read more »

June 3, 2008

When’s a good time to visit Acadia National Park?

 

Springtime Rhodora on Bernard MountainAs many people visit Acadia National Park in September and October as in May and June, according to National Park data.  I’ve biked and kayaked in the park in the fall.  I hosted a memorable Thanksgiving in Mount Desert in 2006.  I’ve even dipped into Somes Sound for seawater for boiling lobsters during a visit in January. 

 

Want the pro’s and con’s month by month?  Click here.

 

But now let me tell you the wondrous reason to visit Acadia National Park in May: it lets you turn back the clock.

 

Being here in Maine always lets you turn back the clock.  The pace is more “normal.”  People seem less willing to sell their souls for the almighty buck, as my dad would say.  They even close the stores at 5pm on Sundays during a holiday weekend.

 

But the real reason for anyone from New York or Boston or Philadelphia to visit Acadia National Park in May is that you get to experience the early spring we luxuriated in four or five weeks ago…again.  The lilac.  The apple blossoms.  Maybe even a glimpse of forsythia.  Leaves are still in that about-to-spring moment.  The mountains are deep spruce mixed with that giddy lime-yellow green that only means spring.  And there are flowers, like the rhodora, we never saw during New York City’s spring.  Come to Acadia National Park in May and enjoy spring twice in the same year.

 

You’ll find many areas of the park blissfully quiet if you stay the week after Memorial Day.  Organize your hikes to avoid the crowds.  We made the mistake of doing Gorham Mountain on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend and were punished with having to listen to the conversations of other hikers.  So, on Monday we took off to the “quiet side” of the island and hiked the Western Ledge Trail up Bernard Mountain and found a heavenly waterfall and pool when we came down Sluiceway. (We heard something louder and steadier than the wind in the trees off to the east.  We went off trail and made this delightful discovery.)  When visitors returned to work on Tuesday, we hiked the Gorge Trail up to Dorr, crossed east to Cadillac, and came down the Cadillac North Ridge Trail to where we had left our bikes, which we then rode back to the car parked at the Gorge trailhead.  We saw a porcupine at the top of Cadillac, which never would have been “out” in July or August.  We’d never climb Cadillac then either.

 

I remember businesses in the Hamptons being pretty ramped up for Memorial Day.  Not so in Acadia National Park.  “Pre-season” here means that most of the antique shops in Bernard were closed the short week after Labor Day.  Only two restaurants in Southwest Harbor were open on Monday night. Twice during the week restaurants we were eager to go to were closed for private parties.  So, if you want to come in May or June to take advantage of Acadia’s quiet time, I recommend renting a house so that you can cook at home a couple of nights and then plan your nights-out closer to the weekend, when they are more likely to be open.  And the best news is:  Thurston’s Lobster Pound is open!

 

Want to avoid the crowds on a big holiday weekend in Acadia National Park?  Here are 7 tips to help ensure your serenity.

 

Thinking about a particular month for a visit to Acadia?  Click here for an assessment, including temperature ranges and tips from locals.

 

 

May 18, 2008

Acadia on My Mind

It’s lonely. People are talking about Kim Kardashian, The Hills, and whether Santana is really worth what the Mets are paying. I’m thinking about the peregrines in Acadia National Park. I’ve noticed that when I’m around, people avoid any topics remotely related to New England, lobster, beautiful islands, kayaking, hiking, or biking — because the mere suggestion of any of these is enough to set me off and trap them for at least a half hour. Having my Maine Web site www.ouracadia.com isn’t enough. So, I’ve decided to do what every other obsessed American is doing. I’ll blog. And I’ll talk to myself about Maine, Mount Desert Island, and Acadia National Park.