Northeast Harbor, Maine

When I Went: Late July 2012

Was That the Best Time of Year to Go? I thought July was a great time because it was pretty miserable in Dallas at that point. It was also perfect in Maine: sunny and pleasant for boating, hiking, and biking during the day and refreshingly cool in the evenings.

Why I Went There: My family has been going to Maine my entire life, but we have been slacking since my sister and I got older, and we decided it was time to return.

Who Went With Me? My dad, stepmom, and sister

We Stayed Here: We stayed with friends who used to live in Dallas but now live in Northeast Harbor almost full time because they love it there so much. I think they intend to make their home a bed-and-breakfast but haven’t made the transition yet. The house is beautiful and has a view of the sound where all the sailboats are tied. It’s only a two-minute walk down the driveway to the adorable town center, complete with a mom-and-pop grocery store and a bunch of boutiques with nautical accessories and clothing. A few more minutes tacked onto that walk gets you all the way down to the boat docks.

You Won’t Want to Miss: This is more geared towards children, but there is an art barn in Northeast Harbor that I have gone to since I could hold a crayon that is a must-see. Dan runs the art barn (yes, it’s actually a barn) and works out of the second story. During the day you can go and do whatever craft your heart desires, completely for free. Beading, painting, drawing, whatever you can think of is there. All the doors are always open, so a really nice breeze is always coming through, and you can see the garden that Dan tends on one side of the property. Dan carves and paints statues, mostly of animals, that are perched and hung all over the barn, and the front yard is filled with carvings that double as stools. I always sat on those stools when I was painting snakes and fish, two shapes that Dan makes large amounts of so that kids can paint just like him. The second floor of the barn is filled with small and large carvings of zebras, pelicans, all types of wildlife. All of his art is available for purchase, and a lot of pieces are also furniture. Even as an adult without kids, I wouldn’t miss this place; it’s pretty magical.

Eat Here: Obviously, seafood would be my recommendation, but even more obviously: lobster. My family is into cooking, so we always go out and buy fresh, live lobsters to cook at home. Nothing beats that meal. The lobster is just so amazingly fresh and barely even needs the melted butter to go with it. Honestly, last time I was there, we had lobster twice in one week. There wasn’t a standout place that people should go. It’s a pretty small little town

Play Here: If you’re thinking of outdoor activities, venturing to Acadia National Park is definitely worth your time. Climbing around on the rocks and exploring down by the water is really fun, especially when you come upon a tide pool. The Thunderhole “blow hole” is usually a little crowded, but that’s because it’s so freaking cool. There’s a big gash in the rocks by the shore, and the water rushes up and shoots upwards. The Carriage Roads, built by the Rockefellers, are also a great place to ride bikes and check out scenery. Sailing is obviously another activity that’s hard to beat. If you’re looking for nightlife or shopping (that’s what I would consider play), you’ll be a little limited on bars  because Northeast Harbor is a pretty small, calm town. There are a few places on the main street in town where you could get a drink, but I don’t think you’ll be coming up on any raging partiers. Shopping on the main street is pretty good, pretty upscale, but they always have really cute stuff.  There is a Lilly Pulitzer store and a few other boutique-type clothing stores, and a fair amount of galleries full of paintings, sculptures, and other island-related art.

If I Went Again: I’ve been going for so long that I’d say we pretty much have our routine down, but I would NOT go again on one of the bike rides I went on. My father tricked me into going on a ride that I hadn’t investigated myself, and it was a major struggle. Granted, I was a college student who hadn’t been working out, but it was very rough. It was one of those bike rides that feels like it’s only going up. I’ve had the same thing happen to me on a hike. So I would just say to make sure you check out excursions like that in a travel book before embarking. Unless you want to walk your bike up a hill while your father and park rangers laugh at you (true story).

How Did You Get There From Dallas? We flew into Boston and rented a car to drive the last leg. There are closer airports, but we wanted to check out Boston as well, so we stayed there for a few days on the way back from Maine to break up the trip.

Other Tips For Fellow Travelers: This place is so special because it’s very tucked away from some of the more touristy parts of Maine. You just feel so at peace when you’re there, it’s a great break from a loud city like Dallas. Whether you’re a couple or a family with tons of kids, you’ll immensely enjoy visiting Northeast Harbor.

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