Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Schoodic National Scenic Byway

Bar Harbor is now crowded. The summer rush of vacationers has flooded in like a fast moving river. The downtown is a sea of cruise ship wanderers and families cramming in everything they can do (and buy) in their short precious vacation time. I understand, I get it, I was there before. But now, I choose to spend this extended vacation of mine in the less crowded places that have lots to offer if you look deep.

One glorious day we made the short drive east of us to check out the Schoodic National Scenic Byway. The byway leads you through some of Maine’s most scenic coastline, quaint towns, quintessential views of lobster boats and lighthouses, and to some of the most talented artisans along the coast. In all of our travels through Maine and the countless weeks we have spent here, we never made it to Schoodic. We've talked about it, read about it, were refered to come, but never have.

The 27-mile scenic byway was designated in 2000 and holds the title of being Maine’s first National Scenic Byway which set the bar pretty high. We stopped in downtown Winter Harbor for a quick bite at a hot dog stand so we would have plenty of time to explore the many things on our list. Winter Harbor is a great place for a quick stroll around town with a soda fountain, old style 5 & 10 store, galleries and art studios, an antique store and a few more odds and ends. Take in the scenery, feel the cool ocean breeze and get ready for lots more to see.

As you make your way east along the byway you will enter Acadia National Park (NP). Most of this national park is located on Mt. Desert Island (near Bar Harbor) but this less-visited section of the park is a true gem. There are many pull-off, picnic areas, and scenic views to be marveled at. Frazier Point was referred to us by some women in Winter Harbor who stopped to pet Spirit. They thought it would be a great place to let her swim and we could sit in the warm sunshine while taking in the view of Winter Harbor from across the bay. They were right! Spirit was one happy wet salty dog.

Much of the Schoodic Peninsula was owned privately by John G. Moore, a native Mainer and Wall Street financier. Upon his death, his family donated land to the National Park Service in 1929 and it became incorporated into Acadia NP. Some of the land was transferred to the U.S. Navy in the 1930's and 40's as a radio communications station and used until 2002. The former Naval base has lots of history and historic buildings that are now part of the Schoodic Education and Research Center – a joint public/private venture conducting environmental research. We were struck by the magnificent architecture of the Rockefeller Hall, an architecturally rich intricate blend of French Eclectic and Renaissance style with half timber and masonry exterior walls and steep pitched terra cotta roofs that resemble the gate houses of Acadia NP. In the 1930's John D. Rockefeller wanted to acquire land owned by the Navy in Otter Cliffs (on Mt. Dessert Island) so he could construct more roads along the water for visitors to enjoy. An exchange of land occurred and both parties were happy – the Navy moved to Schoodic and Rockefeller built more roads. The Rockefeller Building is now used as visitor center, offices, and suites for overnight guests.

Visitor Center
The Rockefeller Building
After driving for a few hours, eating hot dogs for lunch, and with a dog who was eager for more activity, we decided to stop at “Blueberry Hill” and hike up to Schoodic Head. Just a short mile long hike puts you on top of the 440-foot high Schoodic Head, the highest point on the peninsula. The views were great, but then again we never saw a bad one from the car either.

We continued on the byway where each little town was as cute as the last. Lobster buoys bobbed in the water and colorful flowers adorned the front yards of historic homes. The byway ends in Prospect Harbor which was home to the last sardine cannery in the United States. The town is also home to “Big Jim” - the 50-foot tall fisherman in a yellow slicker that once represented the Stinson Sardine Company. Big Jim used to hold a can of sardines, but when the factory was converted to a lobster processing facility, the sardine can was appropriately replaced with a lobster trap. The statue has been around some 30 years and even survived a strong storm in the 80's when the lower part of the sign (i.e., his pants) blew off. The pants were replaced and Jim still stands proudly.

Our day was full and we were getting a little tired but we decided to make one more stop at a local farm.  Darthia Farm is a 150-acre organic farm which raises sheep, beef cattle, chickens, pigs and plenty of produce.  In 2012 a fire claimed their barn and most of their animals but they were able to rebuild with the help of the community.  We picked up a pint of the most delicious little strawberries that almost didn't make the trip home as I could not stop popping them in my mouth.

Now we were all done for the day.


  1. A tired dog is a good dog!! Beautiful photos!

  2. Nancy: The Karr family (my parents, Debra, and the 5 of us) will soon be cruise ship tourists descending on Bar Harbor. Our ship is in port on Friday, August 1st. If you only had 1 day, what would you put on your "can't miss" list? Wish we could be there for several days so we can see all the beautiful places that you describe on this blog. Thanks! Lisa Karr Nickel

    1. Glad to hear you are coming to Bar Harbor. Too bad it is not for longer because there is so much to do. If I only had one day here I would use the time to see Acadia National Park. The 27-mile Park Loop Road offers great views that are iconic Maine. Inside the park is Cadillac Mountain which is a "must" as it offers great views of Frenchman Bay and the surrounding islands. Farther along on the Park Loop Road is Thunder Hole where the ocean waves crash on to the rocks and makes a great photo op. The Jordan Pond House is where everyone goes for popovers and tea on the lawn which overlooking Jordan Pond. The restaurant can be very crowded during the summer months but it has been a tradition for years and the popovers are delicious. If you have time and are feeling adventurous, there are great hiking trails in the park and/or the Carriage Roads are hard packed gravel and make for a nice leisurely walk.

      There is lots to do in downtown Bar Harbor with museums, shopping, restaurants, etc. There are also plenty of excursions whether it be whale watching, kayaking in the harbor, renting a bike to explore the park, or going lobstering on a lobster boat.

      Hope this helps. It is hard to consolidate Bar Harbor to one day which is why we spend five months here. Enjoy the trip. Let me know if you have any questions.

  3. Schoodic is one of our favorites also. New Brunswick and Campobello.....beautiful.

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