After three days in different states, we headed further north to stay for a while and add another checkmark to the boys’ list of visited states. The day began in New Hampshire at a warm 64 degrees and would remain in the 60s as we drove into Maine, still above average for this time of year, and raining off and on throughout the day. Cloudy and rainy weather can certainly dampen spirits while on vacation, but I felt it this weather was the perfect backdrop to the day’s activities: exploring the rugged Atlantic coast and Maine’s lighthouses.
We traded lightly-traveled country roads for the interstate again, taking I-95 to Maine, the boys’ 29th state. After several days of bright fall foliage and small towns in New England, it was clear right away that we were in a different place. The Maine welcome center is nestled in an evergreen forest and we were welcomed with the most delightful pine aroma, surrounded by a sea of evergreen, not the yellow and orange to which we’d become accustomed.
Just a few miles up the interstate, we exited towards the coast where we reached the Atlantic Ocean for the first time on the trip and entered Cape Neddick, a classic seaside New England town where the beach and rows of humble beach houses flank the main street. The peak summer season had clearly passed as most establishments were closed for the year with only a few locals out and about enjoying the wide, flat beach, but we loved this town and could easily picture ourselves returning someday for a New England seaside summer trip!
“ME” for Maine!
Our destination in Cape Neddick was the Cape Neddick Light Station, more commonly known as the Nubble Lighthouse for its location on a knob just offshore. Finished in 1879, Nubble is not the most historic lighthouse in Maine but it’s certainly one of the most photographed. Its grounds are not open to the public, but the rocky coastline provides a wonderful setting to admire its beauty from the mainland as the Atlantic waves crash on shore.
While we were comfortable in t-shirts on the road, our raincoats barely kept us warm enough against the strong ocean winds and continuous misting rain, but we still stayed a while, climbing the rocks and wondering what items travel on the small, unmanned trolley that connects the knob to the mainland.
Back on the road for another hour, we stopped off in Portland to visit the oldest lighthouse in the state. Finished in 1791, the Portland Head Light’s construction was ordered by George Washington. Unlike the Nubble, Portland Head is built on the mainland and its rocky shoreline is off-limits to visitors so we stuck to paved paths.
By now, it was lunchtime and the park grounds on which the Portland Head Light stands conveniently include Bite Into Maine, a food truck that consistently makes top ten lists for the country’s best lobster rolls and best food truck. We ordered a Maine style lobster roll with mayo and chives to share. The Connecticut style with hot butter sounded more appealing, but when in Maine, we get Maine style! I was pleasantly surprised by the lightness, having been originally skeptical about heavy mayonnaise, but this roll was very light on the mayo and it was a delicious introduction to lobster rolls! We ate our lobster lunch at one of the park’s nearby picnic tables while the boys ate their usual car trip packed lunch.
Less than an hour up the road was our next destination. The LL Bean company was founded in Freeport over 100 years ago and its flagship shore is now over 200,000 square feet of retail space spread over a campus of several buildings. I’ve had my eye on the original item that started the company – the Bean Boot – for a while and held off ordering them as soon as trip planning began so I could get them straight from the source! I tried on my first pair and was instantly hooked. They certainly came in handy as the rain continued as our trip progressed by keeping my feet comfortable and dry!
After quickly making the boot purchase, we shopped and browsed for another hour and a half, never even stepping foot inside the boating, home, or hunting stores. A visit to the LL Bean campus could easily be an all-day activity!
A longer shopping day would have to wait for another time because we were still three hours away from our hotel for the night and our arrival estimate was already pushing post-sunset. We bypassed the coastal route through seaside towns in favor of the interstate, still arriving after dark.
After we struck out with our first dinner choice – a Friendly’s in Ellsworth that has since closed – and arrived at our hotel in Bar Harbor only to find the restaurant closed for a special event, we opted for with Plan C and ordered a pizza from the only place in town that delivers, according to the hotel’s front desk.
Our Little Anthony’s pizza and pasta dinner in our room was our first ever hotel room food delivery and the perfect way to end a long day when we just wanted to crash at “home.” Our ocean view would have to wait until daybreak, but the boys were already enjoying the oversized room which included two beds and a sofa/living room space (not too shabby for one of the most budget-friendly hotels in Bar Harbor!). For the next three nights, they would love having separate sleeping quarters and we would all appreciate the easy Acadia access the hotel would provide for the rest of the week.