A few summers ago Chris and I decided to spend the 4th of July in Maine. The heat was beyond brutal in the nation’s capital and crowds were pouring in for the holiday celebrations so it was the perfect time to make our escape . We headed far north to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. Our week was full of camping, eating lobster, searching for the best ice cream shops, hiking, fly fishing and sipping on wine around the campfire. (image source)
Heading to Maine in the summer is the quintessential New England getaway made popular by the business tycoons of the early 1900s who built their summer estates along the shorelines to escape the sweltering cities. Many of the homes still stand as private property while others have been transformed into beautiful boutique hotels. Chris and I had opted to camp just outside of Acadia National Park for four nights at the Bar Harbour Oceanside Campsite, giving us access to the park as well as the downtown village area. There are numerous campsites up and down the coast of Maine. If you want a waterfront lot you might want to try to book in advance, especially for a holiday weekend like the 4th of July. Summer is the busiest camping season in general so better to be safe than sorry and book your site early. Everything you need to know in order to plan your Maine camping trip can be found on the Maine Camping Guide’s website.
Maine is is a stunning state, but driving to Acadia and Bar Harbor in the northeast can be a bit monotonous and takes quite some time depending on where you’re coming from. We started our drive in Newport, Rhode Island after flying to Providence from D.C. For us, splitting the 7 hour drive in half and spending the night in a hotel was a good decision, allowing us the opportunity to explore another area and get some rest. If you’re like us, spending the night to get some shuteye and an early start the next day can make for a more enjoyable experience instead of being tired and cranky from a too-long drive. We stopped on our way up the coast and on our way back down. There are wonderful options in Kennebunkport to choose from which is about 3 1/2 hours south of Bar Harbor. (photo source)
The Tides Beach Club was completely renovated from top to bottom in 2011. With tasteful attention to the furnishings and decor throughout, rooms and common spaces are enhanced with designer items by Jonathan Adler. Guest rooms are complete with petite marble bathrooms and plush robes. Beach tenders see to your every need when relaxing on the sand- from chairs and towels to serving lunch seaside. A wonderful bonus is that as a guest you can indulge in amenities offered by The Tides’ sister hotel, Hidden Pond, described below.
Hidden Pond seems to be more of a 60 acre sanctuary than an inn and that isn’t a bad thing. Roam the organic garden and pick your own vegetables and berries to enjoy. Feel free to grab clippers and a vase from the garden shed to cut your own bouquet for your cottage or suite. Nightly bonfires, yoga classes onsite, a James Beard Award winning chef at the hotel’s restaurant, 2 pools, a spa and shuttles between in-town Kennebunkport as well as to and from sister hotel The Tides Beach Club to enjoy the beach are some of the offerings.
White Barn Inn offers complimentary bikes and canoes to guests who would like to explore the area by road, trail or water. Breakfast and dinner room service are available daily as is same day laundry and complimentary Wi-Fi across the property. An onsite spa is available to add a little indulgence to your stay along with other romantic getaway specials offered by the inn. Each guest will find in their room the added details of fresh flowers, fresh fruit, Molton Brown toiletries and plush robe.
If camping isn’t your style but you’re still wanting to appreciate all that Acadia has to offer, the creature comforts are not too far. There are larger resort options, but I more prefer a local and personalized boutique option. Two comfortable and welcoming inns in Bar Harbor, each a 5 minute drive from Acadia National Park, are the Balance Rock Inn and Bass Cottage.
Balance Rock, like many of the large estates in the Bar Harbor area, was built in 1903 as a summer “cottage” for a railroad tycoon. The home is built on a piece of land that juts slightly into Frenchman’s Bay. A seaside pool, ocean view rooms, private patios, whirlpool tubs and fireplaces are some of the comforts that await guests. An onsite restaurant offers daily dinner specials as well as cocktails and small plates.
One of the perks of staying at Bass Cottage Inn is its location. Just a short stroll from downtown Bar Harbor shops, restaurants and the waterfront, you’re also only a 5 minute drive from Acadia National Park. Each guest room is designed in an individualized motif which offers guests the option to select their room with their own tastes in mind. Completely renovated in 2003, the owners added all of the modern conveniences guests are hoping for and made sure to steer clear of the victorian cliches that many B&Bs fall victim to.
Maine offers up a laid-back environment. Even the nicest restaurants offer a casual ambience which is welcome when you’re on vacation just to relax and reset. Take in all that your surroundings have to offer. Whether you’re hiking the countless trails, taking in the view from a mountain top or relaxing by the harbor or a campfire, my recommendation is to try to let go of the daily stresses and constant digital distractions. Take a breather, sit back and enjoy the peace and quiet while you can. You’ll be back to the hustle and bustle soon enough so don’t spoil it for yourself. That laid-back ambience is Maine’s best quality after all.