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Maine Trip Report: Portland, Acadia, Camden & Surrounding Areas with a Quick Trip to Boston and Newport

Maine Trip Report: Portland, Acadia, Camden & Surrounding Areas with a Quick Trip to Boston and Newport

Old Jul 12th, 2005, 01:27 PM
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Maine Trip Report: Portland, Acadia, Camden & Surrounding Areas with a Quick Trip to Boston and Newport

Hi all-

My husband and I just returned from a week long trip to Maine over July 4th week and I thought I would share some info about the trip. We had a wonderful time and just loved it. I had never been to Maine before so it was a real treat to see an area of the country that I had never visited.

Before I start, I should say that we went through a company called Backroads (www.backroads.com) for our trip. It was Premiere Inns Multi Sport package. Our group totaled 17, including our 2 guides. We went to celebrate my in-laws 40th wedding anniversary. They treated their kids and spouses to a wonderful week away. They (and my husband) have gone with Backroads for many trips. I was at first a little apprehensive about going on a “package” trip. I love planning trips and felt like I was giving up some of my control. But Backroads was great – they chose fabulous restaurants, set up wonderful picnic lunches, and we didn’t have to worry about a thing. They took care of transportation once the trip started—nothing for us to worry about. And they were so flexible- if we didn’t want to do something, they would accommodate for our preferences. I would definitely do it again.

Day One: Portland
Arrived in Portland on Saturday afternoon and stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Waterfront. The hotel was nice with a great location near Old Port. Pretty standard Hilton Garden Inn. We shopped around Old Port, and met up with my in laws and sister in law who flew in separately. We had a very lovely dinner at Cinque Terrre in Old Port. Great, fresh ingredients in a very simple, elegant setting with a selection of pastas, meats, and fish. I would definitely recommend them if you’re looking for something more than the many pubs around Old Port.

Day Two: Acadia
Sunday, we met up with the Backroads crew to begin our trip. We met the rest of the group—mostly couples from all over the country. We also met up with my brother in law and his wife who had flown late the night before. We met our guides, loaded up in the vans, and headed about 4 hours north to Acadia National Park.

We stayed at the Asticou Inn near Northeast Harbor. (www.asticou.com). The inn was very charming but our room was a bit small as was our bathroom- read: no more than 1 person could fit in at a time and that was pushing it! However, we did have a fabulous view of the water which we loved. I noticed that others had bigger rooms but we had a balcony in ours so maybe that’s why ours was so small? We didn’t spend any time on the balcony though—mostly we hung out on the deck so I would request an ocean view room without the balcony. You get much more space! We only had the breakfasts there and it was not as good as I would have hoped – a pretty spare continental offering and a small “hot’ menu. But, we did love the grounds, the view, and the deck.

Our first Backroads activity was a hike. After a filling picnic lunch, we hiked a trail up the Cedar Swamp Mountain and loved the 360 views of Acadia. We hiked back down a different trail and ended up in Thula Gardens—a very peaceful way to end the hike.

Dinner that night was in Northeast Harbor at a restaurant called La Matta Cena. This was the only mis-step of the entire trip. While the restaurant looked very promising- very charming and romantic, it left a lot to be desired in execution! We dined outside under a tent with candles. So pretty. But our meals took forever and when we ordered, they were out of about 15% of the menu. It was a small menu so this made a huge difference—especially for some of our tripmates who had dietary restrictions. They had run out of Pinot Grigio, their chicken offering, their halibut, their steak, and a couple of appetizers. In addition, by the time we got our meals, the entrees were of varying degrees of warmth. My cassoulet was dry and hot, my sautéed spinach was at least heated through, but my mashed potatoes were as cold as ice cream! Not just luke warm- but freezing cold! Others had the same problem. The restaurant has a tiny kitchen so I just don’t think they were able to accommodate a group of our size plus their regular dining load. We left before dessert.

I will post the rest in segments.
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Old Jul 12th, 2005, 01:30 PM
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Day Three: Acadia
It was a lovely July 4th and we were really lucky with the weather- clear and warm. Today was our first biking day and Acadia is a great place to do it with their carriage trails. We could choose between 2 options- short (20 miles) or long (38 miles). I opted for neither and just did 10 miles. A van would follow you around so you could basically quit whenever. Our trip took us along the coast towards Northeast Harbor where we passed some spectacular scenery and homes. We biked past Eagle Lake (I think that is the name) on the carriage trails. For lunch, we biked to the Jordan Pond House for a picnic and then, for dessert, we had the wonderful popovers and ice cream! Yum. Don’t miss it. The hard core bikers did the rest of the trail—which takes you along the Otter Cliffs and they raved about that ride. I headed back to the Inn for some R&R.

That night, we had our favorite meal of the week at Abel’s Lobster Pound. It is right by the water and we ate outside on picnic benches facing the water. Service was so friendly and we feasted on steamers and lobsters. Also, Abel’s may very well have the best blueberry pie I have ever tasted!

Day Four: Castine and Camden
We left Acadia for Castine, about 2 hours south of Acadia. It was a small, charming town and I enjoyed walking around but probably wouldn’t devote more than a couple of hours to it. It had some beautiful houses and a very nice lighthouse. From Castine, we took a tugboat to Camden. The water was pretty choppy so my poor sister in law did get seasick. The rest of us were fine albeit cold! We got to see some beautiful scenery and seals! We got into Camden about 2 hours later and settled in at the Hawthorn Inn. (www.camdenhawthorn.com)

We loved the Hawthorn. There are two parts to it—the main house and then, a carriage house. The suites in the carriage house are more modern and very spacious. The main house more of the traditional B&B feel. We first were in the Turret Room – very cute but a bathroom even smaller than our last! We switched to the Jillian Room which we loved but alas no TV (my husband was feeling very deprived!) The Hawthorn had a set breakfast menu each day – two courses with juice, coffee, tea, etc. They were very accommodating if you didn’t care for the breakfast that day and would make toast, granola, etc if you wished. The breakfasts were delicious.

That night, we had a dinner on our own, without the Backroads group. To celebrate my in-laws’ anniversary, we had called ahead to our B&B and gotten a recommendation for Natalie’s in Camden. (www.villagesoup.com/natalies) We loved it- it’s new to Camden and was “upscale casual.” The food was wonderful, the service friendly and attentive—a great place to celebrate a special occasion.
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Old Jul 12th, 2005, 01:30 PM
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Day Five: Camden
We spent this morning sea kayaking around Camden. The waters were a little choppy but we loved it- it was about 2 hours and we went along the coast to look at the houses, kayaked out the island with the lighthouse, and then, across the bay, and back into Camden. It was a great way to see Camden. After a picnic lunch, I spent the afternoon shopping around Camden. Camden was very charming- a little touristy but I didn’t mind it. It was still very quaint to me and I enjoyed it. There are some great galleries in addition to the usual t-shirt shops.

We had dinner at Atlantica Restaurant (www.atlanticarestaurant.com) It was a very nice restaurant right by the water but the owner was a little rude. We were late for our reservation but had called ahead to let her know. She still chose to confront our group leader about it and was very rude about the whole thing. The food was good—I was getting a little sick of seafood by this point though! The desserts were not that great though.

Day Six: Camden and Rockland
We had breakfast at the Hawthorn and biked to Rockland. We passed through some beautiful houses in Camden along the water, saw the famed “Oreo” cows, and stopped in Rockport at the small park with the statue of Andre the Seal. We got to Rockland and had lunch at a local café where my husband finally got his lobster roll!

We toured the Farnsworth Museum but the art really wasn’t our style although some of our tripmates enjoyed it a lot. Rockland is a very cute town with lots of galleries. It didn’t seem as touristy as Camden and had a greater focus on local artists, galleries, etc. But I still thought Camden was cuter mostly b/c of its proximity to the water and the hills surrounding the town.

Dinner was at the Prism Glass Gallery in Rockport (www.prismglassgallery.com)
– we saw a glass blower demonstrate how pieces are made and had dinner at the small restaurant attached to the gallery. The restaurant was good but some dishes were a little too creative. I love food but I felt like they were trying to be too innovative to the detriment of the food. One chocolate cake came with avocado—not a good combination. It looked like a glob of guac on top of the cake. But overall, it was a good restaurant with a nice atmosphere and friendly service. I think their menu changes frequently as the one on the website is nothing like what we were offered.

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Old Jul 12th, 2005, 01:32 PM
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Day Seven: Camden and Boston
This was the last day of our Backroads trip. We did a hike up to Mt Battie which we loved. It was a great hike- lots of rocks- and short- about ˝ a mile. We were rewarded with great views of Camden and the outlying islands. After we reached the top, we had a picnic lunch, packed up the vans, and headed back to Portland.

The Backroads van dropped us off at the Portland airport where we had a car reserved. My brother in law, his wife, my hubby, and I were off to Boston- about a 2 hr car ride. We had two rooms reserved at the Newbury Guest House. (www.newburyguesthouse.com) It had a great location but I think I was B&B’d out by this point. I needed a modern hotel with all of the amenities- in room movies, carpeting, big bathroom, room service, etc. Of course, it was only for one night so that’s why we went with the NGH- great location and cheap (we had 2 rooms- one for $150 and another for $190). It was pretty spartan but it met our needs. It was nice to have cheap parking too.

Unfortunately, that night, it was pouring rain so we just went across the street for dinner. We ate at Tapeo (www.tapeo.com), a Spanish tapas place. We enjoyed our meal and it was a great antidote to all the Maine seafood we had on our Backroads trip.

Day Eight: Newport
We had breakfast at the NGH- a nice continental breakfast with some hot items. We drove into Newport (about 1 ˝ hours) and drove along the coast looking at all the swanky houses. We also did one mansion tour- the Breakers. I enjoyed it but it did feel a little long. We luckily got there before the crowds (around 10am) so that was good.

After the tour, we had lunch at Christie’s back in town. The restaurant is on one of the docks and we had a pretty ocean view. Offerings were pretty standard—sandwiches, soups, etc. A little overpriced but we enjoyed our meal.

After lunch, we headed back to Boston to catch our flights home. It was a great trip and I loved Maine. Hope this is helpful!
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Old Jul 13th, 2005, 03:12 AM
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Thanks for the trip report. It's interesting to see what other people like and dislike about the same area.
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Old Jul 13th, 2005, 06:29 PM
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Hi Jane,

Thanks for the great description of your trip and the restaurant tips!!

Can you please describe your trip to Portland, Camden, and Bar Harbor?? Did you take the scenic route on RT-1?? Is it worth the extra time versus taking I-95?? We are driving up from New York.

Thanks
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Old Jul 14th, 2005, 02:21 PM
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Hi Greg:

I'm not sure of our exact route as others were navigating. But I think going up but we did take 95, cut across a state hwy (3 maybe?)to Moose Point State Park and then onto Hwy 1 to Acadia. On the way down, I believe we took Hwy 1 pretty much till it intersected with 95?

Here's my 2 cents. While I though Hwy 1 was pretty, and took you through some cute towns, I didn't think it was a spectacular drive. You don't see the water very often, mostly, it's just woods. On some parts of the road, there are lots of curves so some of us got car sick. It could have been b/c we were in vans but who knows? And, we did run into some traffic- not too bad but just wanted to bring it up. The name of the Hwy automatically makes me want to compare it to Hwy 1 in California-- now there's a spectacular drive!

I preferred the drive up (95 & then to 3 and then to 1). It was faster, and you still got to see some pretty parts once you got onto Hwy 1 without spending the entire time on it.

Hope this helps!
Jane
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Old Jul 14th, 2005, 04:48 PM
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Hello Jane!!

It seems like your vacation is very simular to what I want. Thanks so much for the ideas.

Also, someone else just wrote me about RT-1 and suggested that I drive up it since it would be Sunday and most traffic will going south.
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Old Jul 15th, 2005, 01:25 PM
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Greg-
Have a great time on your trip. Good idea about RT 1 on a Sunday-- that should eliminate some of the traffic issues!

Jane
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