A Week In Maine In A Stinking RV!

In case you haven’t been keeping up on our extended summer vacation, here’s a list of previous articles I’ve written over the past couple weeks as we’ve meandered around the Northeast in our RV:

After the RV day from hell, things settled down a bit.  We were leaving the RV in one place and, other than the heat, we were enjoying our time in Maine.  It was uncharacteristically warm for late June/early July in Maine, with the daily high temp over 90 and the heat index stretching over 100.  We had packed our fair share of sweaters that wouldn’t be needed.  The heat also kept us from some of our planned activities.  None of us really wanted to hike when it felt like 100 degrees out.  So, we improvised.

We had a brief stop in Rome, Maine to visit a friend and one of my mentors.  A quick afternoon on the lake and then we did what pretty much every tourist who comes to Maine does, we ate lobster.  And steamers.  Brief side note, while I do love lobster, I love steamers a whole lot more.

I didn’t realize that steamers were a Northeast thing until I moved out of NY.  Steamers (soft shell clams) were something I grew up eating on the Jersey Shore.  Once I moved out of the area I could never find them on restaurant menus, with the exception of Legal Seafood.  A few years ago, Wegmans grocery stores (NY-based) started carrying them once in a while in Virginia.  Back in the Northeast we found them on plenty of menus.

Camping On The Ocean

For the most part, our first year of camping didn’t really bring us to any campsites that featured a view.  Plenty of the places we camped were near popular attractions.  However, the view from our camper was generally the backside of another camper.  The beauty of camping in Maine was that we found quite a few campsites situated on the ocean for some enjoyable views.  As I learned quickly when I started my research, campsites in Maine book up quite early.  Many campsites don’t have online booking tools, requiring a phone call.  I had a fair number of campsites tell me they were completely booked for the entire summer and had been since January.

The only way to work out an ocean-side campsite was to split up our stay and move the camper part of the way through our time in Maine.  The extra time to set the trailer up twice in Maine was well worth it.  Each morning when we opened the door to our camper we could see the ocean, albeit beyond the RV next to ours.  It only took a minute to walk down to the beach.  High tide made the small beach all but disappear.  However, low tide left plenty of room to explore.  My wife and daughter did a hike along the water’s edge one evening while I was lazy with our son back at camp.  With the brutal temperatures, the ability to walk down to the water and stick our feet in was a refreshing feature.

Camden

As the weather continued to put a crimp in our plans we decided to explore the local area.  We ended up in Camden only after a first aborted attempt to visit the island of Islesboro.  Camden is a small coastal town with a walkable downtown area.  You might find the occasional tall ship hanging out along the water’s edge and you’ll find a handful of decent restaurants.  We found an antique store in town to pick up a Maine license plate to add to our collection and enjoyed a scoop of ice cream from a local chain located next to a bridge over the small river which runs through the town to the ocean lining the inlet.

After ice cream we drove just South to the edge of Camden where there are some wooded areas along the water that yield some spectacular views.  They seem popular with locals as a place to catch some sun on the large rocks.  Sailboats dotted the horizon as we made our way around the harbor.  Camden can be a good half-day stop if you’re making your way up the coast of Maine.  Definitely a slower pace than places like Freeport with plenty of Maine charm.

Islesboro

Islesboro was another destination that only ended up on our radar due to the extreme heat.  Otherwise, we would have dedicated that day to exploring Acadia National Park.  As I mentioned earlier, we had a bit of a false start getting to Islesboro. Due to the heat, the day we tried to visit Islesboro was another audible for us.

With nothing planned ahead of time, taking a ferry boat over to a small island off the coast of Maine to explore sounded like fun. We pulled up to the ferry terminal and got in line for a spot. I went inside the ticket office to purchase a ticket and was completely exposed as a tourist. Apparently, in the summertime if you don’t want to get stuck on Islesboro you book your reservation at least a day ahead of time. No matter, we did just that before heading off to Camden for the afternoon.

A guaranteed reservation to take our vehicle over to the island and back with four people was roughly $100. Not exactly what I’d refer to as “cheap” but I think we got our money’s worth. For starters, the kids enjoyed the ride over and back, climbing up to the observation deck on the small ferry. The view coming into the ferry landing at Islesboro was quintessential Maine, complete with a retired lighthouse.

Quickly off the ferry, we parked to take pictures of the lighthouse. While we had packed our lunch, we found a small food cart alongside the ferry ticket office. We ordered a few small items and enjoyed a hodge podge lunch along the water. It was a perfect start to our short visit, a simple meal with an incredible view.

The island apparently has some affluent residents, with reports that John Travolta and other celebrities have summer houses on the island. I’m guessing they probably don’t take the public ferry over when they come to stay. The island also has a few overnight options, including some inns and Airbnb options. I couldn’t find much availability in the summer but I did find some quaint looking Airbnb options for $275 a night plus all the other Airbnb fees in late September. Suffice it to say that staying on Islesboro isn’t cheap.

As we made our way around the island we found a small farmers market and a community center. In Dark Harbor, on the South side of the island, we found a few small shops with pricey but memorable keepsakes. And, at the southern tip of the island we found a “public beach” which was more rocks than beach but wonderful to explore.

In “town” we found a small market with some unbelievably tasty fresh strawberries and incredible fresh baked cookies.  We grabbed a quick snack on our way to the “airport”.  To date, I’m pretty sure this is the only airport that I’ve seen with a boat marking the entrance.

The ferry schedule makes this a minimum half day schedule.  Other than Camden and Belfast nearby it would be hard to schedule much else to accomplish.  If we had to do it over again, we’d take the first ferry over and the last ferry back for a more leisurely exploration of the island.  Other than planning ahead for the ferry and packing a cooler, there’s nothing else to do but explore at your own pace.

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is a requirement for any trip to Maine.  Even if you don’t enjoy hiking (like me) a hike in Acadia needs to be on your list.  The cost to access Acadia National Park is $30 per vehicle, which covers a vehicle with up to 15 occupants.  You should also consider an annual pass that gains access to all National Parks for a year, which is $80.

Even though things had cooled off a bit, we still expected temperatures in the 80s.  That tempered our aspirations for a more difficult hike.  We chose to hike Ocean Path, which is one of the more popular hikes at Acadia.  It’s not a very strenuous hike at all, essentially a path alongside the road.

Once we entered Acadia, we found a few parking lots which were all packed.  Parking is allowed on the side of the ring road, so we found a spot closer to Thunder Hole, one of the popular attractions on Ocean Path. Despite the heat the park was still beyond packed.

The entire length of Ocean Path is approximately 2 miles (4 miles if you did a full round-trip hike from one end).  The hike itself is very low-impact and you won’t get a great view from the path. The real magic of the hike is all the side paths you’ll encounter along the way. Some are simple overlooks of the water. Others will allow you to hike alongside the trail, scrambling across rocks until you find the Ocean Path again.

Thunder Hole is fun if you hit it at the right time.  Be sure to find a tide chart before you go.  This is also a good rest spot, as there’s a bathroom and small gift shop that sells bottled water and pretty darn good local root beer.

Thunder Hole (Low Tide), Acadia National Park

Thunder Hole (Low Tide), Acadia National Park

After completing the hike we continued down the loop road where the views of the ocean improved.  The loop road is one way only and takes about 15-20 minutes to drive the entire road.  There is one exit about 10 minutes in that will lead you back to Bar Harbor.  Other than that, you’ll need to drive the whole loop to re-enter the park and cover something you missed.

Lobster

Unless you’re allergic to shellfish, lobster really should be a part of any Maine experience.  We had lobster early and often while we were in Maine.  During our brief stop in Freeport we hit Harraseeket Lobster Company and Young’s Lobster Pound in Belfast.

Harraseeket takes a little bit of multi-tasking depending on what you want to order.  The first counter you come to is where you order fried seafood, sandwiches, drinks and dessert.  If you want the really good stuff, you’ll need to go to the end of the pier and hang a right.  Out of sight a few steps down you’ll find a second window where you can order the really good stuff.

Steamed lobster is the headliner, but they also have mussels, steamers, corn and potatoes.  They advertise crabs but were sold out the day we were there.  The sleeper was absolutely the lobster bisque.  I didn’t plan on ordering it, but the couple in front of me in line raved about it.  This was the undisputed headliner at Harraseeket.

Young’s Lobster Pound is a bit of a different setup.  The menu is almost entirely steamed seafood with a heavy focus on lobster.  Figuring out the line can be a bit of a challenge.  The crowd waiting to order was organized in random fashion the three times we dined there.

They have a combination platter that represents a great value if you have a handful of seafood lovers. For roughly $70 you get two lobsters, shrimp, mussels, steamers, oysters and corn.  The added benefit of this menu item is after they finish assembling it they absolutely douse it in boiling hot water from the kettle.  That kept our plate hot the entire time we were eating.

The Final Two Pennies

We’ve been back from Maine for a few weeks now.  I’ve been drinking from the fire hydrant of life since then, leaving for a work trip 72 hours after we got home.  With multiple work trips since then, my writing has obviously suffered.  But, I enjoyed writing this series about a very different kind of summer vacation.  Where you might have seen us talking about Australia or Paris in the past, this trip was a lot closer to home.  That’s an obvious byproduct of the pandemic and our decision to buy an RV.

My biggest takeaway from the trip is that camping for two weeks is hard, even when you’ve got a pretty pricey RV.  Moving around to multiple campsites added a lot of stress and lost time over the course of the trip.  Some of that couldn’t easily be avoided in order to hit the highlights our kids were looking forward to most.  Still, if I had to do it over again, I’d reduce the number of campsites.  And, I’d ask global warming to take a week or two off.

If you’ve been following along, it will come as no shock to you that there was a lot of stress and tired days for me on this trip.  But, the kids had such a phenomenal time.  Cat was in heaven during our Gilmore Girls tour and Charlie always loves time with Yogi Bear.  And, our kids have a way of turning whatever the current situation is into one that’s pretty darn awesome.  To them, moving the RV is a small deal whereas seeing a new place is a big deal.

At the end of the day, if they end up with awesome camping memories they can carry with them, then all the blood, sweat and tears of camping will have been worth it.

I’m looking forward to being able to write on a more regular basis.  I’ll stop short of promising that given my abysmal efforts as of late.  But, stay tuned…..

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