Anthony and I were still in Ogunquit when we decided to book another trip to Maine just eleven days later — one last hurrah before summer ended. Of course, this was an excuse to return to Ogunquit and stay in the same B&B, but we also decided to finally visit the stunning Acadia National Park and foodie city Portland. While these two destinations are roughly three hours apart, visiting both on the same trip felt like a perfect balance. Here are my recommendations:
Because our trip was so last-minute, we only had a few options when it came to places to stay. Since we had just two days for Acadia National Park, we decided to stay in Bar Harbor, where the park’s main entrance is. If you have more time, I’d suggest staying in one of the charming villages in the southern part of Mount Desert Island. I would not recommend our B&B in Bar Harbor; nothing was terrible about it, but the dainty, dated inn did not meet my usual standard. However, I would highly recommend the chic Airbnb I found for our one night in Portland. This historic three-story home was built by a famous architect, and, more importantly, it’s just a few blocks from Tandem Coffee Roasters. Our room was spacious and stylish, and check-in was completely contact-free, which I haven’t encountered since our Airbnb in Berlin four years ago. Our Airbnb was in the West End, but if we return to Portland I might want to stay in Old Port, since most of the best restaurants seem to be there.
Acadia National Park was obviously the highlight of the trip. The park covers almost the entire Mount Desert Island, the largest island off the coast of Maine. It’s been a while since I’d been to a national park, and I had forgotten how magnificent they are. We only had two days, and while you could easily spend a week or more there, you can also get quite a bit done in just two days. A friend generously let us borrow her park pass, so we didn’t have to pay for the $30 entrance fee. The first thing we did was drive up to Cadillac Mountain. I’m still amused that you can just drive to the top. What a view! Even though there were a lot of people, there’s so much space to freely wander and enjoy unobstructed views of the island. We even saw one guy sitting by himself, reading a book, and ignoring all the tourists gawking around him — goals!
After taking in enough views, we continued our drive. We learned quickly that any time you see a parking spot, take it. There are enough sites everywhere that any place you park will have something interesting to see. Keep stopping as often as you can because there are so many hidden treasures. Meanwhile, parking during peak tourist season is scarce, so take what you can get. We found a spot near Jordan Pond, a hypnotically clear lake with steep inclines on both sides. We didn’t have time to do any of the nearby hikes but did take a lifetime’s supply of photos.
Our only hike in Acadia was Beehive Trail, a short but infamously steep hike. I’ve hiked Breakneck Ridge a few times without any struggle, so I was feeling pretty cocky — until about halfway up Beehive. While most of the steep parts had ladder rungs that made climbing up pretty simple (especially since I’m flexible and, despite my short height, can crawl up like a gecko), one section had no rungs, so I was literally gripping nooks and crannies in the rocks to keep from falling from the completely vertical cliff. Something I always forget until it’s too late is that I have slight acrophobia. It’s the reason I can’t rock climb, even just two feet off the ground, and the reason I will never be able to do a handstand despite being able to do nearly everything else in yoga. For almost a full minute, I was frozen in my tracks, scared stiff. Fortunately, Anthony came up and climbed right behind me, making sure I wouldn’t fall backward as I continued up. When we got to a flatter section, fellow hikers who had been watching congratulated and informed us that we had taken the harder route. Apparently we could have avoided that terrifying part if we had just taken a more roundabout path. Darnit! That’s what I get for being cocky and rushing up without scanning all options first. Regardless, it was a (mostly) fun climb and the view was as gorgeous as expected.
In Portland, we didn’t do much besides eat, but one activity that we really loved was watching the sunrise from Portland Head Light. About a 20-minute drive from our Airbnb, this iconic lighthouse has lots of parking and a perfect view of the sunrise. We were amused by the row of professional photographers who got there before us.
Honestly, we had a pretty mediocre food experience in Bar Harbor, mainly because we had so little time. I was given many recommendations from friends but couldn’t try any of them because some restaurants were closed the day we were there, or I hadn’t booked necessary reservations. However, this was all off-set by the incredible food we ate nonstop in Portland. I would return to Portland just to eat. In fact, I would return to Portland just to eat at one specific restaurant: Eventide Oyster Company. This was the one place that everyone kept recommending, and I see why! On our first night in Portland, we went to Eventide around 5pm to put our name on the waitlist. What a joke. We were quoted a 7-hour wait time. Seven hours?! I’m from NYC and have never been quoted that long. So, the next morning, we went an hour and a half before they even opened at noon. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it was worth it! We made friends in line (with some folks from New York and New Jersey, unsurprisingly) and played card games on a nearby bench. We were seated as soon as they opened! This is how to do it. Forget dinnertime (unless you put your name down around 4pm and don’t mind waiting for their call much later that night). We had some of the best oysters I’ve ever had. Until now, I’ve only respected oysters from Galway. But this meal changed my life. In fact, as soon as we finished our first dozen oysters, I immediately ordered another half-dozen of my favorite, Johns River. Everything we ate at Eventide was phenomenal, from the fried oyster roll to the bloody mary cava cocktail to the oatmeal cookie pie. I still dream about this meal every few days, and if we ever return to Portland, I will be eating here every single lunch.
The second best place we tried, and another spot I would be eating at nonstop if we return to Portland, is Tandem Coffee Roasters. This former gas station and laundromat makes some of the best pastries I’ve had in a while, from a breakfast sandwich with chorizo and smoked paprika mayo on a homemade buttermilk biscuit, to a brown butter cinnamon bun with orange glaze. We ate our pastries on the bench outside for breakfast one morning, watching the line for Tandem grow and grow down the block.
Per everyone’s recommendation, we went to Holy Donut for potato donuts. This place, as all good spots in Portland, also had a long line going down the block, but we were able to avoid it by pre-ordering our donuts online. They have some interesting flavors, such as toasted coconut and sweet potato ginger.