I’ll be on the 207 show tonight (WCSH 6, Portland’s NBC affiliate, 7 p.m.) discussing visiting Mount Desert Island on a budget. Conventional wisdom says it’s a pricey place, but truth is, there are bargains to be found and once you’ve purchased your Acadia National Park Pass, both your recreation and your transportation is free. And, this year, the park is providing free access on the third weekend of June, July, and August (June 20–21 July 18–19, August 15–16).
The Island Explorer buses circulate around the island and onto the mainland, and ridership for people and bikes is free with a park pass. Not only is this a green option, it also eliminates the hassles of finding parking near a trail head or intown.
Acadia is a natural playground, with trails for hiking, carriage roads for biking or walking, lake and ocean beaches for sunning and swimming, cliffs for scaling, and so much more.
• Pick up a Beaver Log, the park’s newspaper upon arrival and use it to plan activities. Don’t miss the park ranger programs. Most are free and include activites such as guided hikes, birdwatching, tide-pooling.
A sampling of other free activities:
• sunbathe/swim at Sand Beach or swim in Echo Lake or one of the swimming holes, such as Lake Wood.
• nature programs and wildflower gardens at Sieur de Monts Springs
• Jackson Lab and MDI Bio Lab, both world renowned scientific labs, offer tours, lectures, and other public programs
• walk Bar Harbor’s Shore Path; walk out to Bar Island at low tide; mosey along West Street and admire the “cottages” that survived the Great Fire
• most of the island historical society museums are free or request a small donation, and there’s some really cool stuff to be seen.
• Asticou and Thuya Gardens, okay, these aren’t free, but they are by donation, so quite reasonable.
• Admire the 10 Tiffany windows at St. Saviour’s Episcopal Church, in Bar Harbor. Pick up a brochure in the church to tour on your own, or ask about scheduled tours.
• visit the Whale Museum: run by the researchers from Allied Whale and chockful of interesting exhibits as well as a mesmerizing video of whales in their habitat.
• Festivals and concerts: there’s almost always something going on in Bar Harbor: town band concerts, Native American Festival, arts programs, lecture series, etc.
Now that’s just the freebies. If you’re willing to spend a bit, you’ll find plenty more. Expand the options by bringing or renting bicycles and/or kayaks.
Mom-and-pop motels pepper Route 3 into Bar Harbor, and I’ve seen signs out front of these with rates as low as $26 per night. Now don’t go expecting breakfast or fancy linens, but if all you crave is a bed and clean bathroom, these fit the bill without adding to it. Beyond these, check here for rooms that are a bit nicer but still come in at less than $100 per night, sometimes with a few perks included.
B&Bs tend to be pricier, usually starting around $150 per room, double, but the rate usually includes a breakfast that can tide many folks over to dinner and perhaps afternoon snacks, so if you’re budget isn’t too tight, worth considering.
Plenty of places offer early-bird specials, usually beginning around 4:30 p.m. and going to 6ish. Two good choices for early bird or later are:
• Poor Boy’s Gourmet Restaurant, Main Street, Bar Harbor
(Early Bird between 4:30 and 6:30: $8.95: about 9 entrees plus another 10 all-you-can-eat pastas)
• DeMuro’s Top of the Hill, Rte. 102, Southwest Harbor
Other choices for budget meals:
• College of the Atlantic’s Blair Dining Hall, not only cheap, but healthful! Call for summer hours as they vary with programs: 288-5015
• Cheapest breakfasts, white-bread lunches, or ice cream: West End Drug, Main St., Bar Harbor.
• Wander down Rodick Street for a good selection of inexpensive restaurants, many with an ethnic accent.
• check the local papers for notices re: Bean, chowder, potluck suppers, pancake breakfasts, etc.
• Hannaford’s, downtown Bar Harbor.
And if you want entertainment with dinner, consider Reel Pizza (tix $6; pizzas begin at $9 or $2.50 per slice; go early, grab a couch, order a pie, and enjoy.