Road Trip Through Maine: Hiking, Beer, and Miles

I was getting antsy. It had been almost two years of working from home with little time outside the city. A vacation — something more than a weekend — was necessary.

I put off taking my paid-time off from work because I wanted to ensure post-vaccination safety (and I wanted to avoid summer crowds). That meant delaying my road trip through Maine until late September.

acadia national park
It’s easy to avoid people in Acadia National Park

I chose to drive around Maine because the state has a high vaccination rate and plenty of open space to socially distance. Plus, I had never visited Maine despite pleading with my parents for years to take our summer vacation there. I was excited to finally make the trip to Acadia National Park.

acadia national park maine
Had to hike a little to get this view the first day in Acadia

That is, until I estimated the cost of eight days away. Hotels are expensive around Portland and Bar Harbor in autumn, even though it was too early to see the foliage. I checked other destinations and made rough budgets to realize that it’d be less expensive to spend a week in Portugal. I scuttled that idea as Covid cases began to rise again and I considered the possibility of getting stuck abroad if I tested positive before the flight home. That was enough to justify the cost of a Maine road trip.

I cut the trip short a day but planned on stopping about halfway home to relieve the pain of driving all day — and that stop in Massachusetts was the right decision as fatigue set in after days of driving.

Androscoggin river
Androscoggin River on the border of Brunswick

As I entered Maine, I was overcome by beauty — even along the highway it’s beautiful open space. Few cars on the road certainly helps, but the forests on the sides made it better (no pictures because I can’t use a camera while driving).

Relaxing Stop in Brunswick

For the first night in Maine, I decided to bypass Portland and the expensive hotels and stay in Brunswick to save a little money and get closer to Bar Harbor for the following day. It turned out to be a great decision — Brunswick is a quaint town and home to Bowdoin College, but its main attraction is the nearby fjords that provided the best introductory views of the state.

harpswell maine
McIntosh Lot Preserve on the way to Giant’s Stairs

After a long day of driving and a couple short hikes outside of Brunswick, I settled in to watch the Penn State game in my hotel room — the rain prevented me from going out again to watch a game in a bar with other people during a pandemic.

bowdoin art museum
The closed Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick

I would have spent a little more time in Brunswick, but the art museum and Harriett Beecher Stowe house were closed. I wandered around town after breakfast and coffee at Dog Bar Jim, which seemed popular with locals and was delicious.

Because of traffic along Route 1, it’s better that I didn’t stay longer in Brunswick. I stopped in Rockland for lunch and to visit the Maine Lighthouse Museum only to find that restaurants were not open on Sunday, but the Maine Lighthouse Museum and Rock Harbor Brewery (that didn’t serve food) were.

Maine Lighthouse Museum
An interesting museum full of lighthouse history

Breath of Fresh Air in Bar Harbor and Acadia

By the time I arrived at my hotel in Bar Harbor, I was desperate to eat dinner — I walked the mile into town in search of a restaurant. It was a beautiful walk through the streets as the sun set, and I quickly realized I had to get off the main street to find an affordable meal in a restaurant that wasn’t too crowded. There was no way I was going to pay $37 for a lobster roll on my first day in this tourist town, plus everywhere along West and Main streets was crowded.

bar harbor maine
It really puts the bar in Bar Harbor at low tide

A pandemic-related highlight of Bar Harbor were that restaurant and bar storefronts were open, allowing better airflow when all the tables were taken. The town also had boxes set up for visitors to take a free mask to use when entering businesses. For the most part, tourists followed mask recommendations in shops.

bar harbor maine
Downtown Bar Harbor

The next two days were spent driving around Acadia National Park, stopping often to take in views and set out on short hikes.

The time spent in Acadia National Park was the best part of this road trip through Maine. The weather was perfect (though warmer than it should have been in September), making the views more amazing. The escape from the city into such a beautiful natural environment was calming and refreshing. It also provided opportunities to talk with travelers in the safety of the outdoors.

acadia national park
How could I not love this?

I departed Acadia National Park after lunch and took the faster route to Portland rather than the scenic route I had taken to Bar Harbor. I hoped to get to town with enough time wander around before dinner.

Heading Through Portland, Maine

My hotel on the edge of Portland was not what I had hoped — there were a lot of long-term residents and the back entrance was never locked. There was a bus stop nearby to get to Portland, but the next one was always more than a half-hour away when I was ready to go out. The hotel did, however, save me about $100 per night and was right off the highway.

fore st portland
Fore St in Portland

I quickly took my bike on a ride (it’s a scary ride with a lot of traffic and no bike lane and a shoulder that’s a few inches from the curb) to the nearby industrial park that’s home to multiple breweries only to discover that all but one brewery were closed for the day. It was still a pleasant time outdoors with some beer at Definitive Brewing. The following day, I’d visit Battery Steele and Foundation Brewing (Allagash was closed for my entire stay).

definitive brewing beer
Some tasty beer at Definitive Brewing

After that, I began taking Uber, Lyft, and taxis (none of which were easy to get). Getting to Downtown Portland from my hotel wasn’t difficult — it required waiting 10-20 minutes, which was better than the infrequent bus — and it was about $10 for the five-mile trip. It was getting back that was more difficult with drivers canceling rides and 30-minute waits, not to mention the cost at almost $30. This more or less blew my budget, but I no longer cared; I wanted to enjoy myself.

maine lobster roll
Why did I spend so much?

It was also around this time that I broke down and overpaid for a lobster roll because I visited a restaurant that some friendly locals recommended the previous night. This was one of the few meals that I regret solely based on price. There were better meals to be had in Portland at more reasonable prices.

oysters maine
Oysters at East Ender in Portland

Aside from my hotel just outside Portland, accommodations on this Maine road trip were at hotels with individual entrances to reduce interaction with fellow travelers in common areas — it’s an additional safety measure to avoid infection. I rarely ate or drank indoors when the storefront wasn’t completely open — the few exceptions were uncrowded with plenty of space between customers.

Overall, this road trip through Maine was worth the price. I had a wonderful time exploring some hiking trails (though I didn’t venture too far as I was alone and saw few people on some trails), eating plenty of seafood, and drinking more than my share of beer. If I were to recommend the trip, I would suggest going with someone to share the driving or at least to keep the driver entertained and awake.

I never want to drive that much in a week again.

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