OUR FAVORITE THINGS:
Here are a few of our favorite things to do. If you have ideas of things to add, please let me know.
WALKS and HIKES:
Sand Beach - Bar Harbor, along the ocean and over Great Head. We like the view, the chance to walk along the beach, and the slight climb up and over Great Head. One time we were there, we saw a "circum-horizontal arc" that was truly spectacular - sort of a Northern Lights show during the day, but formed by light hitting clouds in a certain way.
Beech Mountain: a short
drive from HPF, and an easy
hike. This is a wonderful
place to watch migrating
hawks in the fall. The first
cold day in mid-September
when a wind was blowing from the north used to be prime-time. On one such day a group of birders and I saw 853 hawks. Last year Bob and I were still seeing hawks flying south in October.
Cadillac Moutnain: South Trail. This is longer, and more gentle than the North Trail and leaves from near the Blackwoods Campground, but offers compelling views and diversity of habitat.
Best if you take two cars and leave one in the parking lot on the
top of Cadillac. Don't be put off by sharing the top with tour
busses and Ollie's Trolley - just enjoy the fact that there are real
bathrooms and over-priced souvenirs to remind you of your time
on the mountain. Besides, you can escape the crowds by getting
off the beaten and cemented paths, though this was easier a few
years ago before they were installed.
SCHOODIC FERRY: this small ferry leaves from the dock at College of the Atlantic, and takes you to Winter Harbor in about 55 minutes. Along the way, you'll see outer islands, and wildlife possibly including oppress, eagles, harbor porpoise and seals. You can catch the free Downeast Explorer bus at the Winter Harbor dock to visit Schoodic, or the towns on the peninsula. Its a lot of fun, and one of the least expensive ways we've found to enjoy being on the water.
Bartlett's Landing: a very short drive from HPF. This is great spot for a cup of tea or coffee in the early morning or late afternoon when fishermen are setting out or exchanging their comments at the end of the day. Also a good place to launch a ocean kayak (the ones at HPF aren't suitable for ocean kayaking, so bring your own).
Hunter's Beach: Seal Harbor. It's a bit of a climb down to the pebble beach, but usually peaceful and private once you're there.
SHIP's HARBOR and WONDERLAND: these are both short walks that take you to beautiful rocky shores on a path that young children can negotiate. Turn left out of the driveway from HPF and drive to Bass Harbor - you might enjoy seeing the small museum in Bass habor, and the light house en route. When you get into the Park, look for signs on the right (shore) side.
KAYAKING: Go across and slightly up Hodgdon Pond to the outlet of a stream. You can tie the kayak or canoe to a tree, and follow a faint path up the hill along the stream to a waterfall. This was the site of a mill that was once part of the Hodgdon Farm, sold to the Park for $3.00 an acre. Our friends Stan and Barbara took these photographs of the waterfall after a lot of rain in June, 2009, so don;t expect quite such a strong flow of water. The top of the hill overlooks a heath, so look for carnivorous Sundew and Pitcher Plants.
McKinley's - Bass Harbor. Yes, it's a gas station and convenience store, but a relative of one of the owner's is a fisherman, and sometimes you can get really fresh haddock and other fish there.
Mother's Kitchen on the Bar Harbor Road in Town Hill, next to Salsbury's. 288-4403. Great fresh made sandwiches and baked goods. Call to be sure they're open.
Bar Harbor Auto Repair and Towing: 38 Holland Avenue, Bar Harbor, (near Machias bank). 288-4731 They have always treated us well and fairly.
REEL Pizza in Bar Harbor - enjoy great pizza and great movies at the the same time.
The Criterion: an authentic 1930's theater in Bar Harbor.
POTTERY - and a trip to Sullivan and Schoodic
If you go to Schoodic Peninsula, stop on the way at Grindstone Smokehouse as well as the one in Sullivan Harbor.
Our favorite pottery comes from Gull Rock in Hancock, Maine. Call ahead - 207-422-3990 to be sure they're open. They make pottery in several patterns, but our absolute favorite depicts the mountains of Mount Desert, which is the view from their property and worth the trip in iteslf. The last time we were there we saw a Bald Eagle on the shore ripping apart the carcass of a large mammal - perhaps an otter, about 30 feet from our car. The eagle was oblivious, so we watched it for at least ten minutes. Take Route 1 north and follow it 9 miles from Route 3 to the Eastside Road on the right (just after Armando's Restaurant). Gull Rock Pottery is down a winding driveway 1 1/2 miles past the turn-off from Rt. 1.
LOCAL DISTRACTIONS: THE MAINE STATE BIRD - the Black Fly
The season is unpredictable, but usually starts around Memorial Day and goes into June. Black Flies are small, but their bite can be irritating, so remember a few key rules:
1) They like dark colors so wear white or yellow shirts. No, I'm not kidding.
2) They breed near running fresh water, and don't like a breeze, so take walks along the ocean, for instance at Sand Beach - Great Head, Ship's Harbor, Wonderland and other shorefront areas rather than hikes in places without a breeze.
3) They seem to be most active in the early morning and at dusk, or when the skies are overcast.
4) They hover around your head because they like breathing in what you breath out - so keep moving, hold your breath, or cover your head with a scarf or cap that is impregnated with pest repellent.
5) There are a lot of good sprays, but I prefer Avon Skin So Soft, which local people discovered years ago works very well.
6) The bats and birds think they are delicious. If you're feeling brave and curious, go to the Little Ponds at dusk and enjoy the Bat Show.