A Southern New Englander’s Journey North
Bar Harbor, Portland/Hadlock Field, Biddeford Pool, Maine
By Michael DiGioia

A national treasure filled with a seemingly endless supply of serene natural
Check. A family friendly vacation locale that strikes a brilliant balance
between tourism and regional authenticity?
Check. A sleepy coastal town
offering miles of picturesque beaches on the Atlantic for weary travelers hoping
to get away from the hustle and bustle of their daily lives?
Check. A quaint ball
park with a rabid fan base capturing the most intimate charms of our National

I found it all right here in New England, on the coast of Maine.

Sometimes we can take for granted what lies in our own backyard (though
coming from Connecticut, the drive at times made it seem like a very BIG
backyard), and this was a chance for us to explore some of the area’s intimate
pleasures. So we planned a five day trip, encompassing
Bar Harbor and Acadia
National Park,
then south down the coast for a stay in Biddeford Pool, with a
Portland Sea Dog game mixed in between.

Bar Harbor

The first stop on our mini-journey was
Bar Harbor. It was lengthy drive (It took
us almost eight hours from where
we live on the southern coast
of Connecticut), but we both had heard
wonderful things and were really
looking forward to our visit. The first
thing we noticed upon our early
afternoon arrival was how blue
the sky was. We were fortunate
enough to have very good weather
for the duration of our brief stay there, and I don’t know if that accounts for the
brightness of the sky, but it certainly seemed different than back home.

We entered Bar Harbor via Route 3, and it was clear that this was a popular
tourist destination. The route was flooded with lodging options, ranging from
the basic to the exotic; small motels, little cabins, well-known chain hotels,
quaint B&Bs and chateaus fit for royalty. They all were conveniently located
within a short distance of Acadia National Park and downtown Bar Harbor, and
most were priced between $100-$200 dollars per night.

After checking in and relaxing for a bit, we decided to head into the downtown
area for dinner. Downtown was active, but not crowded. The streets were lined
with restaurants, homemade ice cream and coffee shops, outdoor equipment
shops (There is an entrance to Acadia only minutes away), and plenty of
souvenir shops.

As one would expect, seafood and the famous Maine lobster were in
abundance. But there were also plenty of choices for those like myself, who
prefer their sea creatures to be left in the ocean: On our walk we saw American
bar and grill restaurants, open air cafes, as well as Cuban and Italian cuisine.  

We eventually settled on a steak and seafood restaurant named ‘The Reading
Room at Bar Harbor Inn’. The ‘Reading Room’ had an indoor and outdoor
dining area, and although it was attached to the beautiful inn housed right on
the waterfront, it was open to the public. Dinner there is not cheap; our meals
were both priced at about $30 a plate (she had the Maine Haddock, while I
dined on Filet Mignon). But the food was excellent, and the view of the harbor,
offering a glimpse of its splendor at sunset, fostered a very nice ambiance.

We spent the following morning casually strolling about the downtown area.
Two places I particularly enjoyed were the Opera House Café and Michelle’s
Brown Bag Café. The Opera House is a cute internet café boasting freshly
brewed flavored coffee and a full assortment of board games for their patrons’
entertainment. Michelle’s Brown Bag Café is a nice place for a quick lunch,
serving very tasty sandwiches and paninis in a (surprise!) brown bag.

There are plenty of other activities as well. Among the many things we saw
were a direct ferry to Nova Scotia, scenic boat cruises, and for those more
adventurous souls, biplane and glider rides over Bar Harbor. And of course,
there is the jewel known as Acadia National Park.

Acadia National Park

Visiting Acadia was the portion of the trip that I was most looking forward to.
Our hotel was only two miles from a park entrance, and we dedicated an entire
day to Acadia. As an amateur hiker and a very amateur photographer, I was
most drawn to Cadillac Mountain. At a little more than 1500 ft in elevation,
Cadillac Mountain is the highest point in the Eastern United States within 25
miles of the Atlantic Coastline. Supposedly, during certain times of the year,
visitors to the summit are the first in the United States to see the rising sun.

Our first order of business at Acadia was to hike the mountain, so upon our
arrival at the Visitors Center, we spoke to Park Ranger, who instructed us to
take a park provided bus (entrance to the park and the bus were both free of
charge) to the foot of the North Ridge (visitors can also access certain points of
the North Ridge by car). From here, we began our ascent.

The North Ridge Trail did not disappoint. Along the way we encountered wild
flowers and blueberries, and every climb and ascent is seemingly rewarded
with a beautiful view. This is especially true at the summit, where each scene
enjoyed along the way is pieced together into a breathtaking panorama of Bar
Harbor and it tantalizingly blue skies and water.

The roughly four-mile round trip hike is challenging, but it certainly can be
done by those who are not rugged outdoorsmen. My girlfriend (who is not a
hiker) and I completed the round trip journey in about four hours, including
picture taking stops and a 30-45 min rest at the top. Be sure to bring plenty of
water, a snack, and even some sunscreen, however. The trail is an open one, and
due to this lack of trees or shade, the sun above can be very strong on a hot
summer day.

Next, we ventured over to Sand Beach. Vehicles were charged $20 to enter that
area of the park, and the pass we received in return was good for a week. It was
money well spent. Sand Beach was a popular spot, with many of the Acadia
visitors spending a few hours on a small stretch of sandy beach and taking
pleasure in the 3-6 waves that routinely crashed onto the shore. The water is
chilly, even in the dead of the summer. But many people, children, and surfers
braved the cold and seemed to enjoy their stay in the water. We also visited
Thunder Cove, where the acoustics of the Atlantic’s waves crashing into this
natural cove made for a hauntingly beautiful sound from which the attraction
derives its namesake; Otter Creek, with even more majestic views of the ocean
meeting the cliff side; and Wild Wood Stables, which offered boarding facilities
with access to trails and Saturday carriage rides.

After completing our exhausting day at Acadia, we prepared to leave the
following day for our next stop: A date at Hadlock Field to see the Portland Sea

Portland/Hadlock Field

From Bar Harbor, we made
the roughly three-and-a-half hour
trek down the coast to Portland.
We drove via Routes 3 and 1, and
although this was done more
by accident than good planning,
it was a very pretty and relaxing
drive. The countryside, small
towns, and bridges immediately
brought to mind images
of the classic New England
‘scenes’, and I particularly
remember the Penobscot Bay area, and Lake St. George State Park.

Coming from New Haven, the town where minor-league baseball teams go to
die, my experience at Hadlock Field was great. The Sea Dogs are the Double A
affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, and from the red brick exterior, to the 37 foot
‘Maine Monster’ in left field, to the miniature Citgo sign that resides above it,
the park’s design has the charm and feel of the legendary Fenway Park.

On this particular evening, the atmosphere for a ball game was phenomenal; the
weather was perfect, the house was packed, and Portland was in the midst of a
winning season. In town was the New York Yankees affiliate, the Trenton
Thunder. New Englanders don’t need to be reminded about the intensity of the
Yankees/Red Sox rivalry, and that energy permeated here as well. And much
like their parent clubs have done so many times in the past, the two teams were
battling for first place.

Our General Admission tickets were only $8 dollars, and it seemed as though
everywhere in the 7,300 seat facility offered a nice view of the field. Food and
beverages ranged between $3 and $6 dollars (Beer was $4.50-$5.50), and an
outdoor grill was also available in addition to the standard ball park fare.

The only damper on the evening for Sea Dog fans was that Trenton emerged
victorious. But a trip to Hadlock Field is an economic and family friendly
alternative to a Major League baseball game, and it is an experience that
baseball fans will enjoy.

Biddeford Pool

The final destination of our little voyage
was Biddeford Pool, a hidden gem about
15 miles south of Portland, quietly nestled
between the Saco River and the Atlantic.

There are many towns (including Biddeford)
within only a few miles of Biddeford Pool,
but unlike Bar Harbor, we saw very few
hotels, restaurants, or businesses there.

A couple of places we did encounter, however, are a must for people staying in
Biddeford Pool; Hattie’s restaurant and E.O. Goldthwaite Pool Lobster Co. E.O
is particularly useful, as it is the only convenience store that we saw in
Biddeford Pool. To do any large scale grocery shopping, visitors most likely
have to venture into a nearby town, but many of the smaller items can be picked
up here. They also serve lunch and dinner (including the one-to-one-and-a-half
pound freshly caught lobster that my girlfriend thoroughly enjoyed) and keep a
small dining area in the back of the store.

The roads adjacent to the ocean were sparsely populated, and most tourists
appeared to be, like us, staying in vacation rental homes. The beaches were
beautiful, presenting her guests with miles of pristine waters (though like Sand
Beach at Acadia, the water was chilly) and light colored sands. But much of the
beach was private, reserved for those occupying the coastal homes. The access
restrictions prevented overcrowding and, together with the lack of a business
presence in the immediate area, created a refreshing illusion of isolation ideal
for people looking just to get away.

At the conclusion of our stay in Biddeford Pool, the time had come for us to
return to southern New England. We both left completely satisfied by our
journey, and our only disappointment was that we hadn’t discovered the Maine
coast sooner. There is truly something for everyone here, and visiting is a must
for New Englanders looking to explore our own great big backyard.

About the author: Michael DiGioia resides on the southern Connecticut coast. He is a
Communications Specialist at a large Connecticut bank, and a freelance writer for several
small New Haven area newspapers. He is also pursuing his degree at Southern
Connecticut State University, majoring in Marketing and Journalism. Michael can be
contacted at
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Bar Harbor, Photo Michael DiGioia
Bar Harbor, Photo by Michael DiGioia
View with chairs of Biddeford Pool
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