Maine is a state I never really considered visiting but after spending Labor Day weekend there, I want to recommend it to everyone, especially for those who love the outdoors. There are plenty of water activities you can do, from kayaking to paddle boarding and there are also plenty of trails you can hike in Acadia National Park. We stayed at an Airbnb near Acadia National Park and also had a chance to explore Bar Harbor, a quaint New England village about 15 minutes away from the park. As most of our time was spent around the park, my suggestions will be for those who are planning on visiting Acadia National Park in Maine and are also looking for other activities to do nearby. Here are my top 5 recommendations for things to do during your travel in Maine:
5. Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor is a quaint New England town that has a homey feel. There are mom and pop shops, complete with old school registers that “ding” as they hand you your change. Maine is not only popular for its lobster, but it’s also well known for its blueberries as well. Blueberry pie, blueberry soda, blueberry ice cream, and blueberry muffins were everywhere no matter which store or restaurant we went to, like hipsters at a coffee shop in San Francisco. They even have blueberry tea and blueberry syrup!
Blueberry pie from a local cafe in Bar Harbor
While walking along Bar Harbor, you can also find local eateries, coffee shops, and ice cream shops. There are also souvenir stores where you can buy some lobster socks, magnets, postcards, and maps of Maine. It is a very family friendly area with both children and the elderly milling around, often with a blueberry ice cream cone in hand.
4. Paddle Boarding (Long Pond, Maine)
My friend paddle boarding at Long Pond. We were able to get this cool shot through her Go Pro!
I’ve always wanted to try paddle boarding. This lake was perfect because there were no waves and so it was a great place to learn for the first time. I was lucky to have friends who patiently waited while I was slow AF in trying to catch up to them. In the beginning, catching my balance was tricky but after a couple of hours it felt more natural.
With paddle boards, you can sit, stand, sit on your knees, or even pop up a back support component of the board so you can lean back on it like a chair. Once you get to the lake, you can rent paddle boards for a half day for $35 from the National Park Canoe and Kayak Rental. In addition to renting paddle boards, you can also rent tandem or single kayaks and canoes. They also have dry bags available for $3, which will be handy to keep your wallet, keys, and shoes dry.
3. Thurston’s Lobster Pound (Bernard, Maine)
I almost don’t want to tell you about this place because it has the best lobster I’ve ever had. Boats come here to dock with the day’s catch and as you line up near the register, there are three crates of lobster from which you can choose which one you’d like as your dinner. It’s also where I saw the hugest lobster of my life, a beast that must have weighed at least 5 lbs. My friend Christine and I ordered a “halve” (1.40-1.79 lb) of the soft-shell lobster, corn, and a lobster roll to share.
Just seeing this picture of the lobster roll is making my mouth water all over again. The lobster roll was scrumptious and the lack of mayo really allowed the tenderness and the sweetness of the lobster meat to shine. Also, cracking the lobster was fun and it was cool to see all the different components of the lobster.
Tip: Come early to beat the wait! We came in for an early dinner around 5 pm and there was already a line forming. Also, if you’re debating on whether or not to get the blueberry pie, just do it! Paired with the blueberry ice cream, it was a solid finish to the meal.
Thurston’s Lobster Pound
9 Thurston Road
Bernard, Maine 04612
2. Stargazing and Sunrise at Cadillac Mountain (Acadia National Park, Maine)
Stargazing at Cadillac Mountain was one of my favorite activities. Since the town lights are so far away, there is little light pollution and the dark sky is so clear. Coming from the Bay Area, it’s tough to see this many stars. The Big Dipper also seemed to be bigger than normal and closer to the ground. The North Star even sparkled a little brighter. Also, we were able to see the Galactic Center which was amazing. The milkiness of it spiraled left as stars continued to shine through it. Seeing so many stars and so many constellations, all while lying under blankets with a group of friends and music softly playing in the background made this an incredible experience. It was one of those moments where I was perfectly happy exactly where I was.
Watching the sunrise at Cadillac Point was remarkable. Depending on the time of the year, it is the first place in the U.S. to catch the sunrise. We got there at 5:30 am and even though in the moment, I hated my friends for waking me up so early in the morning, it was definitely worth it.
1. Acadia National Park
We hiked the Precipice Trail at Acadia National Park because it offered a challenge. It was a gorgeous trail, full of rocks to climb and ladders, which almost made it like an all natural jungle gym. It is considered one of the more “strenuous” trails in the park by the U.S. National Park Service. There are also easier trails if you’re looking for something more low key. I would highly recommend this hike as the view from the summit is amazing.
There are also free shuttles that will take you from the mountain top to the parking lot near Echo Lake, which was very convenient because the trail we took back ended up dropping us off halfway down the mountain. We were even thinking of hitchhiking to our cars since it was so hot, but we got lucky and a shuttle saw us, took pity on us, and picked us up. They were the best.
1. Otter Cove
One of my favorite moments of the trip involved challenging myself. We were climbing rocks at Otter Cove and we reached a point where in order to get to the other side, we either had to climb down the rocks or leap across. I started second guessing whether or not I would clear it and as I looked down 50 feet, I could see the water crashing against the sharp rocks. It became a mental game at that point, wondering whether or not I could do the jump. I think what helped was that one of our friends came down onto the ledge on the other side, which showed me that there was plenty of room to land and also that on the off chance that I slipped, he would be able to pull me back in. I also knew that if I didn’t jump, I would regret it later. Before I could psych myself out further, I took a deep breath, backed up a little bit so I could give myself a head start, and ran.
Of course, there were a couple of 10 year-old boys who also made the jump without a second thought, but I was proud that I decided to do it. I felt like if it was a couple of years ago, I might have just turned away and headed down the normal way. I was proving something to myself, like that I could do it and will myself to accomplish what I thought was impossible at first. Even though it was a small achievement, I feel like it’s actions like these that become habits and shape you into a stronger, more resilient person.
2. Timber Tina’s Great Maine Lumberjack Show
If you’re there during June through August, check out Timber Tina’s Great Maine Lumberjack Show. During the show, lumberjacks show you how they used to cut wood, roll on logs, and throw axes. Unfortunately we were too late in the season to enjoy the show, but it comes highly recommended from locals.
Have you been to Maine? What are some things you liked doing?
*Photos used with permission from Zinnia Xu, Daniel Chiang, Eric Wu, and Kenny Chou.