Road tripping from Portland to Bar Harbor reveals the many charms of Maine
Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, ME

Road tripping from Portland to Bar Harbor reveals the many charms of Maine

PORTLAND — Scenic views from lighthouses? Stunning coastal drives? Breathtaking natural parks and beaches? Coastal Maine ticks all the boxes for a memorable seaside vacation.

“Sharing a border with Quebec and New Brunswick, Maine is easily accessible to our Canadian neighbours,” said Steve Lyons, Director of the Maine Office of Tourism. “There is a wonderful mix of opportunities to relax and sightsee, or have an active adventure like paddling, hiking, biking or even rock climbing.”

Lyons explained that Maine’s historic connection to Canada began with lumbermen and textile workers who came south to work and settle. Visitors can explore this history at the Patten Lumbermen’s Museum in Patten, and the Biddeford Mills Museum in Biddeford.

Maine’s maritime heritage is easily discovered throughout the state from working waterfronts to maritime museums, like the Maine Maritime Museum located less than an hour from Portland.

“Our fishing heritage also comes to life in the dining experiences in Maine,” continues Lyons. “Our fresh seafood is renowned. Couple that with talented chefs and it’s no wonder Maine stands out as a culinary destination.”

“Every spring I head my car north – and longed for the moment when my car crossed the Kittery Bridge and I plunged into Maine.” E.B. White

One of the most popular options to uncover the natural beauty of Maine is a road trip along the scenic Atlantic coast. Starting in the south, there are many charming beach towns, then Portland, the state’s largest city. Heading northeast to the popular Camden area, it’s then on to Bar Harbor and the gateway to one of America’s most visited national parks, Acadia National Park.

Road tripping from Portland to Bar Harbor reveals the many charms of Maine

Maine’s Egg Rock Lighthouse, just off Bar Harbor

Many travellers start their trip at Kittery on the New Hampshire-Maine border and continue northward through the charming and historical beach towns of York, Ogunquit, Wells, Kennebunk and Saco. Take long walks on the beach, enjoy all the seafood delights and get outside with many water activities.

Heading north, clients will want to explore Portland at the city’s Old Port waterfront, wandering along cobblestone streets and checking out the 19th century brick buildings and fishing piers.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the city’s southeastern district has many distractions – gift shops, restaurants, bars – and access to the sea. Visitors can reserve a two-hour tour of Casco Bay onboard one of the historic Maine-crafted wooden schooners of the Portland Schooner Co., moored at the Old Port waterfront.

Road tripping from Portland to Bar Harbor reveals the many charms of Maine

The wharf at Portland, ME

Another historic area of note in Portland is the Waterfront Promenade, an 18 acre public park in the city’s west end and one of the oldest preserved spaces. With landscaping designed by the Olmsted Brothers, the sprawling park is on a bluff, overlooking Portland’s peninsula.

Adjacent to the park is the Western Promenade Historic District, where there are numerous classic Victorian-style homes. In fact, Portland has over 50 individually-designed landmark properties, including Adam P. Leighton House, a Colonial Revival-styled mansion designed for the city’s former mayor, credited as the inventor of the postcard.

Heading north from Portland on scenic Coastal Highway 1, in less than two hours visitors will arrive in the charming town of Camden, located on Penobscot Bay. A picturesque coastal village, Camden has been a preferred summer escape for urbanites from Boston, Philadelphia and New York City for decades.

Swimming, boating and hiking are top activities in Camden; a popular walking trail leads to the top of Mount Battie with unbeatable views of Camden Harbor from its summit. This tiny town also hosts the Camden Windjammer Festival, the largest gathering of tall ships in Maine every Labor Day weekend.

Spend the night at 16 Bay View, a luxury boutique hotel in Camden, found within a 100-year-old industrial building. Found close to the harbour, fine dining, shopping and art galleries, this elegant (and dog-friendly) hotel includes 21 one-of-a-kind rooms, including several which are ADA accessible, with private balconies, gas fireplaces, daily continental breakfast and access to the hotel’s private rooftop terrace.

Continue along Coastal Highway 1 to Bar Harbor, another town with an enviable summer pedigree as a seaside vacation destination and near one of Maine’s best-known national parks. Welcoming over four million visitors in 2021, Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, features rocky headlands, shady trails, beaches and granite peaks, offering myriad activities for hikers and cyclists.

Travel agents are advised to tell clients to purchase a park’s pass in advance – and make hotel or tour reservations well in advance – because of the area’s popularity. The Island Explorer shuttle offers complimentary transport to visitors to trailheads, campgrounds and popular destinations within the park from local accommodation.

A perfect end for a Maine road trip? Bar Harbor, founded in 1769 and located on pretty Frenchman Bay. The town’s Shore Path, created in 1880, follows the bay, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and Porcupine Islands, and is a welcome way to uncover this holiday hot spot.

The public pier provides another strolling opportunity and the perfect place to jump on tours offering wildlife excursions to see whale, seal or puffin. Visitors can also try kayaking and stand up paddling, with rentals and ferry service to nearby islands. During low tide, Bar Island becomes a natural bridge between Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island for those who want another way to access Acadia National Park.

The tranquil coastal elegance of the West Street Hotel is a welcome home away from home in Bar Harbor. This boutique property has 85 rooms and suites with harbour and oceanfront views and the only rooftop pool in the state. Guest amenities include a full-service marina on Frenchman’s Bay, boat tours, guest pantries, spa and Paddy’s Pub and Restaurant.

Travel advisors can begin building their resources on Maine by accessing the Maine Group Travel Guide 2021, a free guide created by the Maine Office of Tourism in collaboration with the Maine Motorcoach Network. The 300+ page guide offers detailed information and contacts for group accommodation, suggested road trip itineraries, dining, tours, state parks and parking.

“The best tips to sell Maine to clients is to provide them with information on all the options that exist, especially with the proximity to Eastern Canada. A great place to start is at www.visitmaine.com,” says Lyons.