Monday, October 14, 2013

A Boston Girl's Guide to Bar Harbor

As a girl on the go who also relishes the tranquility of life on the coast, I generally favor two types of destinations when it comes to getting away from it all -- sand and city. When Mr. Chat and I began making plans for an extended weekend, we were thinking: San Juan (Puerto Rico has been on our list for like ever); Montreal + Québec City (a taste of France close to home), Napa + Sonoma (wine not?!), and Bar Harbor (my mom and our friend Mitt suggested Maine).

With Canada a top contender, but with Maine on our minds, we collectively paused our "parlez-vous" and traveled 280 miles north along the New England coast. We arrived in Bar Harbor on a sunny afternoon to a panoramic picture book of majestic mountains and a spanning sea. The town immediately reminded us of an East Coast version of Alaska.

We settled into the West Street Hotel, a boutique harbor-view property with a beautiful nautical-themed lobby. The hotel was impeccably clean and each floor offered a self-service laundry room (with washers and dryers) and mini-kitchen complete with complimentary coffee, tea, bottled water, snacks, board games. And how could I forget treats for guests traveling with dogs. No cat treats though.

Don't miss 2 Cats for breakfast. If you love cats like I do, you'll purr over the tables imbedded with cat prints. And the food is delicious too. Order the wild blueberry pancakes or lobster eggs Benedict and wash it down with an iced or hot cappuccino. And grab a cat paw print muffin for the road.

The Terrace Grill at the Bar Harbor Inn and Spa offers stunning views and a deliciously expensive lobster roll. The hotel is also home to the BEST wild blueberry pie (my opinion) in all of Maine. For lunch, I ordered the lobster roll followed by a slice of wild blueberry pie à la mode. Mr. Chat wasted no time helping himself to a piece of flaky crust oozing with wild blueberry goodness and topped with vanilla ice cream. On our last day, we returned to buy an entire pie for the ride home. Surprisingly it lasted us a few days.

La Bella Vita has seriously the BEST chicken parmesan I've ever had...and I've had a lot of chicken parm in my day. Two other options for dinner are Fathom and Havanna -- both were very good. Don't skip Stewman's Lobster Pound on West Street for lunch and cocktails. If it's a nice day, dine and drink on the back deck.

Take a guided tour of the island via Oil's Trolly. I know it sounds like something your grandparents would do, but it's the perfect way to learn a little history. I'm a sucker for narrated tours. If shopping's your thing, Bar Harbor has you covered from antique emporiums and art galleries to handmade jewelry vendors and specialty food stores. Shop 'til you drop. Literally.

Acadia National Park is an obvious must-see. We only had one really nice day (weather wise) to dedicate to the park, but you can easily spend two or three days exploring the wonders of Cadillac Mountain, Sand Beach, Precipice, Thunder Hole, Sieur de Monts Spring and Jordan Pond. One piece of advice, skip the food at Jordan Pond House (I was not impressed) and pack a picnic.

Walk the sand and gravel bar, which appears at low tide, from Bridge Street in Bar Harbor to Bar Island. Discover sea life along your stroll then hike to the summit of the uninhabited island, but be mindful of high tide. 

Bar Harbor is not big on nightlife, so we were pleasantly surprised to discover Improv Acadia. The performance was hilarious...and even more so because Mr. Chat was chosen to be an onstage volunteer. Embarrassment at its finest! 

A majority of the town's hotels and businesses close for the winter season beginning in late October and open again in the spring. However, there are a few hotels that remain open year-round. Personally, I would recommend Bar Harbor in the summer when the puffin tours are operating. Sadly, we missed the beautiful birds by a few weeks. No matter what time of year you visit, don't forget to pack hiking attire, rain gear, lots of layers and something cute. The weather is so very unpredictable and changes by the hour. And with a new year fast approaching, it's never too early to start thinking about your summer plans...again.

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