My Favorite Maine “Staycation!”

I tell my kids all the time how lucky we are. We’re lucky that we get to travel to far off places several times a year. We’re lucky that we have such an awesome group of family and friends. And we’re lucky to live on the southern coast of Maine. It’s hard for the kids to appreciate this as they have known no different, but with each summer that passes, they are recognizing more and more the influx of tourists and how our town goes from quaint and neighborly to nearly double the population over the summer months.

At the peak of this summer rush, for the past 20 years (give or take) my sisters, father, and uncle (and all of our broods) have made the trek to Acadia National Park to become tourists of our own in this amazing spot on earth. Every now and again we have others join us or somebody that can’t make it. But we schedule this excursion six months in advance to insure that we secure a spot at Blackwoods Campground where we can pass along our summer traditions to our kids. And last year was no different in terms of the trek north, but it was significantly different in what we were able to do!

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You see, traveling to an outdoor mecca is awesome for adults. It’s awesome for kids. It’s not so awesome for toddlers and infants. Well, I guess it’s awesome for them too, but their parents, not so much. Last year was our first year of having two kids (4 and 6) who were able to join in on all the activities with their own able bodies. That meant that we all were able to climb Gorham Mountain. We all were able to sleep through the night in the tent on our own air mattresses. And we were all were able to ride the carriage trails. On bikes.

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Now, to be fair, neither of them rode their own bikes last year. But they were old enough for tagalongs which worked for us! Riding the carriage trails was always a highlight for me pre-kids. Now they can join in on the fun! Perhaps that isn’t as exciting to you all, but it certainly was exciting for us! And this year, we’ll have a solo seven year old rider!

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So, for those of you who have not yet traveled to my favorite place on earth, here are a few things that you must do!

Go kayaking. You can either rent a kayak and paddle yourself around Echo Lake or you can take your skills to the ocean with a tour group. Both are awesome in their own right, but only really appropriate for older kids.

Hike. And then hike some more. There are amazing trails in Acadia National Park. The park guide that you get for paying the entrance fee has many of the highlights listed, but if you’d like to do some extensive hiking, buy one of the many hiking guide books of Mount Desert Island. Our favorite for kids is Gorham Mountain Trail. And just this year they added a trail off of it to Blackwoods Campground. Score!

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Peruse the shops of downtown Bar Harbor. I don’t think there is a more quaint and visually splendid town on the Maine coast. The shops are great, there are some great places for ice cream (Ben and Bill’s) and quick eats, and some fancy sit down dinner options (the Obamas ate at “Havana” while in town in 2010). And it’s a short walk to the harbor to check out all the yachts or cruise ships that are in town. Mark Cuban’s monstrosity was there the weekend we were. No glimpse of the Maverick Shark, however.

Bike the carriage trails. So, this is my favorite, maybe because of all the memories it conjures up from being a teen and following my father obediently up and up and up. My legs were burning and my bum was numb by the end of the day, but I always loved pushing myself and doing it with my family.

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Beer and/or wine tastings. There are a few breweries in and around Bar Harbor and one winery that I’m aware of. We did a wine tour when we were sans kids many years ago, but haven’t done so recently.

Watch the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain. Cadillac Mountain is the first spot the sun is visible each morning in the United States. In order to make the drive and to arrive before it’s up, you must get up really early. It’s a commitment. It’s not easy for those of us who are not morning people. But it is an experience you won’t forget.

Swim in the frigid north Atlantic waters at Sand Beach. This was always our treat after beating ourselves up on the carriage trails. But it’s cold. Really cold. The kids love to swim and the adults love to admire it’s beauty (it was a location used in the movie The Cider House Rules).

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And this year will be our first visit to Schoodic Penisula. If I have any complaints about my favorite annual getaway, it’s the crowds and I understand that they will be especially pronounced this year given that Acadia National Park is celebrating their Centennial. But Schoodic Penisula has the reputation of being the quieter side of Acadia given it’s distance from Bar Harbor. And for this reason, I imagine it will be a highlight for me.

So that scratches the surface. Bottom line, if you haven’t been to Bar Harbor or Acadia National Park, you must add it to your list. It’s such an amazing place to make memories and above all, that’s probably why it is and always will be my favorite “Staycation.”

In 2014, apparently much of America agreed!

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