Planning a trip to beautiful coastlines, fresh seafood and the gorgeous Acadia National Park? Enjoy a week along Maine’s coastline, while tasting the local bites and exploring the Pine Tree State in this itinerary for Acadia and the surrounding coast.
Kennebunkport - summer homes for the elite, including Walker's Point
Wiscasset & Boothbay - Red's Eats and giant trolls at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
Camden - lighthouse and lobstering cruises in chic seaside town
Bar Harbor (Acadia National Park) - whale watching, Cadillac Mountain and beautiful sights
Portland - Old Port's vibrant dining and shops, along with Peak's Island
Due to the distance traveled in this week-long vacation, a rental car is a necessity! We flew into Portland, Maine and picked up our rental car at the airport. Make a reservation ahead to save you time and money (and ensure a car is available at the time of arrival).
After grabbing your car, drive south along I-95 to Kennebunkport. The historic fishing village has morphed into a summer haven for America’s elite, including the Bush family who make a summer home on Walker’s Point. The town center is near Dock Square, with local boutiques and rocky coastline.
We stayed at Seaside Inn, a beautiful bed & breakfast right on Gooch’s Beach. Claiming the oldest inn in America, this scenic spot has oceanfront rooms and quick access to the water. Gooch’s Beach welcomes leashed dogs and has lifeguards on duty throughout the summer. Mother’s Beach (aka Kennebunk Beach), Middle Beach and Colony Beach are all unique locales with tidal pools and breakwater rocks.
Drive along the coast to Walker’s Point, where you can see the Bush compound jutting out.
There are several great eats in town, including:
Stripers Restaurant – upscale dining on the water, reservations strongly encouraged.
The Clam Shack – no frills fresh, fried seafood and locally-caught lobster; closes at 8 pm
Batson River Brewing – we LOVED the duck fat cornbread and drinks
Mabel’s – not much atmosphere, but the food was solid. They have a “Bush table” where the family has dined if you are looking for some famous spots in the area
Wiscasset & Boothbay
As you head back north to Camden, make sure you plan enough time to stop at Red’s Eats in Wiscasset. About two hours up the coast from Kennebunkport, this hole-in-the-wall is cash only, and arguably the best lobster roll we had in the state! We waited in line (in the rain) for almost two hours, but it was certainly worth it! Bring a book or a game to play while wait. There are limited picnic tables on site so be prepared to eat in your car or while you walk down the street. Each lobster roll is huge, with fresh pulled meat from almost a whole lobster. This small shack offers many other options if you don’t eat seafood (burgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets) but the true highlight is the fresh, locally caught lobster. If you can, save room for their homemade whoopie pie - a Maine treat!
Take a 15-minute detour off Hwy 1 to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. They are open daily May 1 to October 23, 9 am to 5 pm. While wandering through beautiful gardens, be on the lookout for the Guardians of the Seeds, large-scale wooden trolls. Adults and children alike will love the five trolls stationed around the grounds. Be prepared to walk, as the locations cover a large distance. Danish artist Thomas Dambo and his recycling volunteers created these and other trolls found around the world, including Australia, China, South Korea and Belgium. If you haven’t seen his other exhibits, this is not one to miss!
Upon arrival in Camden (aka the Jewel of the Maine Coast), head to the Hartstone Inn & Hideaway. This coastal hideaway has spacious suites and cozy rooms, with a wonderful breakfast. A highlight is the top-rated, award-winning restaurant on site, open Wednesday through Sunday. Chef Brian Granims also offers cooking classes!
The inn is steps away from the harbor. Spend the evening after dinner strolling around the waterfront or shopping at nearby boutiques. The next morning, head out on a Lighthouse & Lobstering Cruise with Camden Harbor Cruises. Learn how to prep traps, look for pregnant lobsters for notching and explore the surrounding lighthouses.
After soaking up the local vibes in Camden, hit the road for Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park! About two hours north, you can stop in Bucksport to eat at Carrier’s Mainely Lobster. A local’s fried seafood shack, it opens at 3 pm and offers tasty ice cream (including blueberry)!
Bar Harbor (Acadia National Park)
Bar Harbor is home to Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island. Explore this spectacular seaside town in Frenchman Bay by land AND sea! We stayed at Primrose Inn in the heart of downtown. The city is filled with boutique shops, numerous eateries, and amazing scenery.
While using Bar Harbor as your base camp, you will need at least a few days to explore the national park. If you don’t want to drive your car along the loop, you can take a tram from downtown. Due to high traffic, reservations are now required for Cadillac Mountain. We booked a sunrise reservation (4 am – 6 am) for $6 up the Cadillac Summit Road. Even in the mist, it was a gorgeous view and probably our favorite activity while in Acadia.
While on the loop road, make sure to stop at Sands Beach and Thunder Hole. If you arrive 1-2 hours before high tide, you can hear the thunder claps the water makes against the rocks.
Work up an appetite with the 3-mile loop around Jordan’s pond before stopping for popovers and lemonade at Jordan’s Pond House. We actually joined the waitlist for the restaurant and then hiked the loop, since the wait can be 1-2 hours during busy season. They are only open 11 am to 5 pm during peak season. The hike circumnavigates the water, with some small rocks to scale, but mostly a flat, easily walkable trail.
Spend a morning whale watching with Bar Harbor Whale Watching. While on the boat, you get an up-close view of Mount Desert Island, as well as the hundreds of seals that call it home. Research interns with Allied Whale join each tour and provide wonderful insight into the marine species.
Best places to eat around Bar Harbor:
Havana – be sure to sit inside with the full dining menu, not the outdoor parrilla menu. The lobster moqueca and seafood paella were the BEST! Reservations recommended.
Bar Harbor Inn – great views on the outside deck by the water
Geddy’s - lobster roll with bacon & jalapeno - good lunch spot after whale watching
Ivy Manor Inn - get drinks on the patio and relax by the fire pits near the outside bar
Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium - great ice cream! worth the line
Archie’s Lobster Shack – head to the “quiet side of the island” for a delicious food truck on the water; corn hole, picnic tables, cutesy décor.
The Upper Deck – another spot on the “quiet side of the island” with great blueberry pie and water views
The Chart Room – a local favorite with Sunday brunch and outdoor/indoor patios; perfect to enjoy the sunset!
After spending several days enjoying all Bar Harbor and Acadia have to offer, we started the trek back to Portland to finish our trip. There is the LL Bean flagship store in Freeport that is a nice midway stop to stretch your legs. You could also drive through Bath for a beer at the local brewery or a walk at Reid State Park.
Portland is a classic New England city full of history, lighthouses, and a revitalized warehouse district – the Old Port. We stayed downtown at a chain hotel to be within walking distance of dining, shops and entertainment.
Start your day at Holy Donut, featuring unique potato flour donuts made from scratch daily. Then hop on a morning cruise to Peak’s Island. Tickets are $7 per person and the ferry trip lasts about 20 minutes. After landing, we wandered over to the beach at Brackett Point and sat on the beach/rocks for a while to watch the boat activity. Eat lunch at Island Lobster Company – the blueberry lemonade is great!
From the ferry back in Portland, it’s a quick walk to the waterfront sights. We just HAD to eat at my father’s namesake – Luke’s Lobster – which features a full view of the lobster industry. Walk-ins only!
The next day, drive out to Fort Williams Park and Two Lights Lighthouse. Portland Head Lighthouse hosts a museum. Commissioned by George Washington in the late 1700s, it’s Maine’s oldest lighthouse. While in Cape Elizabeth, eat at the Lobster Shack at Two Lights. Be sure to get there early during the summertime to enjoy dining on the waterfront picnic tables.
Maine’s rocky coastline is beautiful no matter what time of year, but the high season runs May through October. The quaint seaside towns and tiny islands provide plenty of adventure for a week’s vacation off the grid.
Comment below for your favorite spots along Maine's coastline!