Acadia National Park

On my last day in Maine, I drove to Acadia National Park. For the drive up, I took Route 1 along the coast and was awed by the beautiful scenery. I honestly feel like my entire trip to the Northeast was just me stuffing my face with lobster and staring in disbelief at the gorgeous views. Translation: It was awesome.

I detoured through Camden to see Mt. Battie and Rockland to see the Rockland Breakwater Light, but I had my sights set on Bar Harbor, so the stops were quick. After three hours of singing along to the radio and taking hundreds of photos of the orange foliage, I arrived.

Acadia National Park encompasses 47,000 acres on Maine's Mount Desert Island. Its dreamy landscape is marked by rocky beaches, pine trees, granite peaks, and an array of fascinating wildlife. It's one of the most visited national parks in the United States, and for good reason. Around every corner is a breathtaking lake, forest, or view.

I started off by driving around the park and getting a feel for the landscape. One thing that really threw me off was how vacant the roads were. During my time in Acadia National Park, I only saw one other car. I even stopped at a ranger station, in search of a map, and there was nobody in sight. It was very eerie, especially since I didn’t have cell phone service. But it was also peaceful and refreshing.

Without any means to guide me, I followed the wooden signs and ended up at Jordan Pond. After parking in a small dirt lot, I walked down a long path that ended next to a rocky shore. There were looming mountains in the distance, and the air was cold and clean. The pond was crystal clear, and I could see large rocks strewn across the bottom. I stood there for what felt like hours, absorbing the view and reflecting on how amazing our planet is. With scenery like that, how could you not be amazed?

Afterwards, instead of retreating to my car, I decided to take a leisurely hike through the woods. I’m so glad I visited in the fall, because the foliage was incredible. I was shrouded in orange, red, and crispy brown leaves, and every footstep resulted in a satisfying crunch. I walked deeper and deeper into the forest, and the sunlight gradually faded. I wanted to catch the sunset on Cadillac Mountain, so I turned around and retraced my steps to get back to my car. (It’s actually a small miracle I didn’t get lost.)

Cadillac Mountain was an absolute dream. The winding roads were small and narrow, but after several minutes of waiting impatiently for a view, searing sunshine filled the sky. The sun was setting the sky on fire, melting into oranges and reds and yellows. It looked like a perfect, fiery painting. I kept driving, up and up and up, and finally reached the top. Despite the bitter cold and bone-chilling wind, I got out of the car to experience the view firsthand. I took a few photos, and I’m pretty sure my hands went completely numb. Still, it was worth it. If I could go back to any moment in the past six months, I’d choose that sunset. It was gorgeous. On my drive down, the blazing colors morphed into pastel purples and pinks, which was equally as stunning. Cotton candy sunsets are one of my favorite things.

After the sky faded to black, I left Acadia and drove into Bar Harbor. Finback Ale House was the perfect place to grab some cider and a lobster roll before hitting the road back to Portland. Instead of taking Route 1, I opted to go the shorter route, past Bangor, Waterville, and Augusta. An old friend called me out of the blue, so I had fun catching up with him during my return trip. It was almost midnight when I finally pulled into my hotel, and I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, with all my clothes on — even my coat. 

I really can’t gush enough about Acadia National Park. Sometimes I get so preoccupied with traveling abroad that I forget how many beautiful, scenic parks are in the United States. I only saw a small portion of Mount Desert Island, but I fully intend on returning soon to further explore the rocky coastlines, majestic mountains, and crystal clear lakes. 

Portland, Maine [Travel Guide]

I've been wanting to visit Maine for years. The Northeast has always seemed magical to me. Something about the fall foliage, winter snow, lobster shacks, and endless lighthouses seemed so dreamy. When I realized I had too many vacation days saved up and needed to use some before the end of the year, I immediately booked a trip to Portland.

During my five days in the Northeast, I did a lot of road tripping, lobster-eating, picture-taking, and exploring. In the process, Maine stole a little piece of my heart. I can't wait to return, hopefully when it's warm.

Are you planning a trip to Portland, Maine in the near or distant future? If so, here are some noteworthy things you don't want to miss. 

FOOD

Duckfat: I love french fries. They make my little ol' heart skip a beat. The french fries at Duckfat are fried in duckfat (who knew?!), classic Belgian style, and are mouthwateringly delicious. They also come with a variety of dipping sauces. I tried the truffle ketchup and the thai chili mayo, and both were good on their own, but mixed together? AMAZING. Duckfat also has some really neat drinks. I tried the Berry Mint Soda and Maine Tonic (made with maple syrup, honey, and apple cider vinegar), and both were awesome.

Gilbert's Chowder House: I think I went to this restaurant three times during my time in Portland. The first time, I tried a lobster roll -- My first lobster roll evah. Literally a toasted bread roll stuffed with giant chunks of tender lobster meat and a small dollop of mayo, it was just as exquisite as I'd imagined it to be. I also tried some of their award-winning chowder. The fish chowder was my favorite.

Becky's Diner: I was craving another lobster roll, but I wanted to mix it up, so I stopped into Becky's Diner when I returned from my day trip to Boston. I ordered the plain lobster roll with a side of melted butter, and it hit the spot. 

The Holy Donut: The only thing I might love more than french fries is donuts. Unfortunately, since cutting gluten out of my diet last year, I've had trouble finding gluten-free donuts. Lucky for me, The Holy Donut offered a large variety of gluten-free flavors. My favorites were apple cider, chocolate sea salt, and cinnamon sugar. The secret ingredient that makes their donuts so damn good? Mashed potatoes.

Two Fat Cats: I stopped here on my last day in Portland, on my way to the airport, just to get a slice of their blueberry pie. It was AMAZING.

DRINKS

Urban Farm Fermentory: This is one of the coolest places I've ever been. Similar to a brewery, Urban Farm had a huge selection of cider, kombucha, and mead on tap. I tried a flight of blueberry kombucha, ginger kombucha, chai cider, blackberry cider, and mint mead. The mead was incredible, and now I'm addicted. It's difficult to find in Virginia, but I discovered two local bars/cafes that serve it! Also, if you go to Urban Farm, you have to try the Fire in the Hole shot. It's a combination of raw apple cider vinegar, locally-grown garlic, horseradish, ghost chili and habanero peppers, local wildflower honey, ginger, and turmeric. It's a shock to the system, that's for sure.

CAFES

The Crooked Mile: Located in Old Port, The Crooked Mile is a cute little cafe/sandwich shop that serves a bunch of speciality lattes. The barista created an apple pie latte just for me, since they were all out of apple cider. It was tasty!

Coffee By Design: I needed a jolt of caffeine before driving to Bar Harbor, so I stopped at Coffee By Design on my way out of Portland. This was, hands down, the best coffee I've ever had. I ordered a hazelnut cappuccino, and it was on point.

LIGHTHOUSES

Portland Head Light: This is one of the most famous/photographed lighthouses in the country. It's absolutely stunning. Words, and even pictures, don't do it justice.

Spring Point Ledge Light: I loved this lighthouse because there's a long, rocky jetty that leads out to the lighthouse. The view is so serene and beautiful. I honestly could have spent hours sitting on the rocks and taking pictures/reading/pondering life/all that good stuff.

Bug Light: This is another one of my favorites. I went in the morning and there was a pleasant foggy glow over the water, but I bet sunset would be beautiful there.

Rockland Breakwater Light: A friend suggested I stop here on the way to Bar Harbor, and I'm so glad I did. The jetty that leads to the lighthouse is half a mile long, and the water was surrounded by trees with gorgeous fall foliage. I only walked halfway to the lighthouse, but the view was breathtaking.

DAY TRIPS

Boston, Massachusetts: Boston is less than two hours from Portland, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity for a day trip. While there, I explored Beacon Hill and Acorn Street, ate a delicious lunch at Clover Food Lab, photographed massive, friendly squirrels at Boston Common, visited the Granary Burying Ground, ate pastries and drank coffee at Tatte Bakery, and walked around the Harvard University campus.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire: I stopped here on my drive to Boston, and it was such a quaint, charming little town. I only walked around the harbor and browsed some shops, but I would've liked more time to explore.

Kennebunkport/Ogunquit, Maine: These small towns are only 45 minutes from Portland. I drove through both on the way to Boston, and just like Portsmouth, I wish I had more time there. 

Bar Harbor, Maine: This was my favorite day trip. My main purpose in driving to Bar Harbor was to visit Acadia National Park, and it was one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited. Staring out over Jordan Pond was out-of-this-world surreal. And the sunset over Cadillac Mountain? A memory I'll never forget. {If you plan on driving from Portland to Bar Harbor, take Route 1. The views are incredible.)

Camden, Maine: This town is a must if you're planning on driving to Bar Harbor. It's often referred to as "The Jewel of the Maine Coast", and for good reason. If you drive up to Mt. Battie when fall foliage is thriving, you'll be met with an incredible, rich, orange-and-yellow view.

SHOPPING

L. L. Bean: If you visit Portland and you don't go to L.L. Bean, did you reallyyyyyyy visit? ;) But really, L.L. Bean is awesome. It's located in Freeport, about 20 minutes from Portland, and it's open 24/7. They have different stores for different things, like home goods, clothes, and hunting/fishing. The home store was my favorite. I wanted to buy everything.

Sherman's Book and Stationery: The front desk clerk at my hotel enthusiastically suggested I go here after I told her I love to read, and it was a fantastic tip. They had so many different books, cards, gifts, knick-knacks, and stationery. The book nerd in me was delighted.

Whole Foods: Okay, I know Whole Foods is not exclusive to Portland, but go here and pick up a bottle (or two) of Ram Island Chai Mead. Trust me. You won't regret it! I ended up buying bubble wrap and stuffing a few bottles in my suitcase for the flight home because I knew I wouldn't be able to find it in Virginia Beach.

There were a bunch of restaurants/breweries I wanted to visit while I was in Portland, but I just didn't have enough time. Guess that means I need to plan a trip this summer! And you should, too. Maine is freaking amazing.

Have you ever been to Portland? Do you have any additional suggestions?