You need to go to Maine in summer. ESPECIALLY if you live somewhere where summer is hot and humid. I've never been north of New York on the East Coast before so this first taste of New England has me hooked. The gorgeous humidity free weather in the 70's alone is worth the trip!
So why Maine? I spent last week in Bar Harbor with Wild Blueberries to experience "Blog the Barrens" during harvest. To geek out for a second, wild blueberries are really interesting and unlike anything I've seen before. They grow in the craziest location (acidic, gravely terrible soil) and are completely naturally deposited. You don't plant them. They are what they are. And because they are such survivors, it gives the cool nutrition powers. Details later in the post.
But, if you're here for the details on Bar Harbor....
Here are 10 things you need to do in Bar Harbor, Maine:
1. Bar Harbor Inn
This inn is probably as good as it gets location wise. You're right on the water (the middle picture is the view from my room. The water is RIGHT THERE!) and about a five second walk from downtown. The view from the upper deck (right picture) for sunset is magnificent. Now granted, this is not a city hotel so don't come in expecting that! Think New England charm.
2. Coffee Hound Coffee Bar
Coffee Hound was my daily stop. It's super close to the waterfront and the inn but more importantly it has lobster rolls and coffee. The coffee is great and you can get nearly every beverage either iced, blended or hot. I tried a maple latte too. When in Maine, right? Now as for if this is the 'best' lobster roll in the harbor, I have no idea. I don't think I'm an experienced enough lobster roll consumer to make that call. But as a food lover in general, yes. Eat it. Take it to the green overlooking the harbor and enjoy.
3. The Rock and Art Shop
Coolest. Shop. In. Maine. So this is obviously a generality considering this has been my only Maine experience, but I'm pretty convinced this statement is true. If you love anything nature/botanical/rocks/crystals/natural history you are going to need to bring a second suitcase. You're going to buy everything. The products are so well curated and the copy on the signage is perfection. There's definitely some weird stuff but that adds to the charm. While the Bar Harbor shop is seasonal (like basically all of Bar Harbor), there's also a shop in Bangor. It's great spot for gifts and things no one else will be able to find for your house.
4. Wild Blueberry Anything
If I can experience something food origin related, I'm extremely happy. Seeing the home of a food or recipe helps me understand it on a deeper level. And I definitely appreciate it more. With the amazing powers of the internet, you can basically order any boutique food item from across the world. I love it. But it also can make traveling for a specific food slightly less cool. Slightly. But that's not the case with wild blueberries. As soon as you pull away from the airport (over an hour away mind you) you start to see how important wild blueberries are to Maine. As the state berry of Maine, covering 44,000 acres, wild blueberries grow in the most inhospitable conditions: the barrens. The soil is acidic, rocky and horrifically cold in the winter. But that just makes it perfect for wild blueberries. As one of only four fruits native to north america, wild blueberry growing areas naturally have a lot of a diversity with multiple varieties coexisting (see the dark and lighter berries in the picture?). That means the wild blueberries you get in your freezer (99% are frozen and I actually got to see the freezing process- you can only get the 1% fresh in New York and north for a very short period of time in the summer which is exactly what made this trip so amazing).
I also got to attempt hand raking the wild blueberries which essentially looks like you're using a giant metal dustpan with teeth to pull the berries up and the leaves off. While that sounds harsh, the bushes actually get mowed low after harvest (they used to be burnt) and have a two year growth cycle. So no daintiness needed! Their rhizome root system (think ginger or some irises) means that 70% of the plant basically lives underground. And as a low input crop (they use less water and significantly less chemicals than average crops) since they are resistant to native pests with a harsh growing environment, it's interesting to see a well loved and healthy food item thriving in an unexpected location.
Bottom line: go eat as much as you can fresh but also order wild blueberry everything. And they do have everything.
5. Mount Desert Island Ice Cream
There are several ice cream shops in Bar Harbor. In fact, this is going to be the least tempting shop for you. It's on a side street. There is not a giant carved lobster holding ice cream in front. Mt Desert is more subdued but if you do your research and check the ratings (and the fact that Obama stopped here), you're going to want to hit this shop. Now as an ice cream aficionado, I have my personal favorite flavors (cookies and cream, extra cookies on the chewier vs crumbly side), if I'm traveling I try really hard to get something I can't get anywhere else. I asked the employee behind the counter what his favorite was and without hesitation he recommended Brigadeiro and let me know half the staff felt the same way. It's a Brazilian truffle ice cream made with dulce de leche and dark chocolate cocoa powder. It's not overly chocolate or sweet. It's perfect.
6. stewman's lobster pound
Let's be real here. There's probably a rule that if you go to Maine, you have to consume lobster, right? Like you can't get back on the plane unless you've consumed your tourist share of lobster. So do lobster for one meal. Stewman's Lobster Pound is right on the water and a great place to get your whole lobster to crack while everyone else orders something boring (I'm kidding, but they do have more crowd pleasing things too. And cocktails. And beer.)
If you're looking for a higher end meal you need to go to Havana. This Cuban restaurant is well known (the wild blueberry tour group who went last year saw Martha Stewart) and a nice walk from the waterfront. Actually, if you're coming from the waterfront, take the harbor side trail and see some of the gorgeous houses on the water. Because we ate a set menu that featured blueberries, I can't speak for their normal standing menu but WOW did they mix some good cocktails.
8. Acadia National Park:
I'm a big park person. I like to hike. And by hike I mean East coast hiking...so not super high. I don't know what West coast hiking is. I like greenery. I love good views. Acadia national park is a must do. We hiked to Bubble Rock which is a relatively quick hike but I highly recommend taking the descending trail down the steep side of the mountain on the way down (if you have good joints). It puts you right at the lake for more good views and the other end of the lake has food if you didn't pack something.
Maybe more importantly, what Acadia is most known for is Cadillac Mountain. It's the highest mountain on the Eastern seaboard and the summit is the first place the US gets sunrise in the morning. Bring a lunch and eat at the rocks on the top.
9. cafe this way:
While most of the meals on this trip were pre-planned by the PR team, my friend Alex from Delish Knowledge (SIDE NOTE: buy her new cook book!) and I made an effort to stop for breakfast on our last day at Cafe This Way. A few of you recommended this stop and for good reason! It has a good vegan breakfast and awesome blueberry pancakes. If you're craving traditional American breakfast food that's filling, here's your stop. Get there early because it fills up fast!
10. watch the sun rise at 5 AM
I have never, every experienced such a bright sunrise and never so early. Like I mentioned if you're a true sunrise lover, you have to watch from Mt Cadillac. But this image is from my hotel room. At about 5 AM. It is bright, intense sunrise light and if you don't have blackout curtains you are going to be fully awake at 5 AM. Take a walk around the harbor as the sun starts to rise for awesome pictures.
100%, I'm making Chris do a Maine trip soon. I've been told Portland Maine is also amazing, but Bar Harbor was a knock out.
Disclosure: Wild Blueberries invited me to Bar Harbor and covered my travel for the experience but did not compensate me for talking and writing about/Instagramming/etc this trip. I'll probably be messing around with wild blueberries soon to see how they shape up into recipes and will share more nutrition information then!
Dietitian Nutritionist. My husband Chris and I create food and beverage photos, videos, stopmotions and recipes. And they're really cool.