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Acadia/Bar Harbor to White Mountain Nat'l Forest

Hoffman Estates
posts: 283
reviews: 3
Acadia/Bar Harbor to White Mountain Nat'l Forest

Hubby and I are taking a road trip from Chicago to Maine and New Hampshire (and all points in between) in a couple weeks and I've been busy mapping out our route. I THINK I finally figured out the route we want to take from Chitown to Bar Harbor/Acadia, but I'm having a difficult time figuring out the best possible route from Acadia to the White Mountain National Forest. We are most interested in driving the Scenic Byway once we get there. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Scenic but not the longest route is what we'd be most happy with. And anything we should take note of to stop and see along with the way would be a bonus!

Thanks so much!!!

Limerick, Ireland
posts: 2,296
1. Re: Acadia/Bar Harbor to White Mountain Nat'l Forest

best route would be route 302

from Acadia i - 295 south to exit 6b (302)

east-bound all the way.

Edited: 7:13 am, June 06, 2013
Limerick, Ireland
posts: 2,296
2. Re: Acadia/Bar Harbor to White Mountain Nat'l Forest

Freeport, Maine is an outlet town and is home to LL BEAN

enjoy.

P.S. there is no sales tax on clothing in Massachusetts

Edited: 7:19 am, June 06, 2013
Bar Harbor, Maine
posts: 3,680
reviews: 8
3. Re: Acadia/Bar Harbor to White Mountain Nat'l Forest

There isn't really one best possible route from Bar Harbor to the White Mountains. Nor is there one clear scenic byway. In fact, it's sort of difficult to get from Bar Harbor to the White Mountains. This is because none of the highways in New England travel east and west. They all go north and south.

Taking the advice above would keep you on the interstate for quite awhile, which I imagine is something you would just as soon avoid, although the interstate through Northern Maine is fairly scenic in itself.

In any case, leaving Bar Harbor you have to go to Ellsworth. No getting around that. From Ellsworth, instead of going on to Bangor, you could take Highway 1 south to Bucksport. There is a dramatic bridge over the Penobscot River at Bucksport. If you take a sharp right turn immediately after the bridge, you will be on 174. Take that to 1A north to Winterport. From there take 69, under the interstate, to US Route 2. You can follow 2 all the way to New Hampshire.

US 2 is a winding, two lane, country road that goes through several towns. It's a matter of opinion just how scenic it is. Once you get to Bethel, Maine, it very definitely does become scenic. Once in Gorham, New Hampshire you will be in the White Mountains and can decide what route to take from there.

Central Maine
Destination Expert
for Maine
posts: 5,693
reviews: 129
4. Re: Acadia/Bar Harbor to White Mountain Nat'l Forest

1) Rick W (above) is reading his compass upside down -- to get from Maine to New Hampshire, you're looking for US 302 west (not east)....

2) Bonniemaev's route is a good alternative -- will let you include the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory, a truly unique attraction. (And if you're into history, the Observatory shares an entrance gate with historic Fort Knox overlooking the town of Bucksport and the Penobscot River. Her route will take you through rolling farmlands, the foothills of the western Maine mountains and along the Androscoggin River on your way to New Hampshire. From Bar Harbor to Gorham, New Hampshire will be between four and one half and five hours driving time not counting stops.

3) Another alternative, allowing you to avoid Interstate (divided, multi-lane, high-speed highways) completely (a concept that appeals to some folks) would be to follow ME Rt 3 from Bar Harbor to Ellsworth; US Rt 1 from Ellsworth past the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory to ME Rt 3 west in Belfast, ME; US Rt 3 west to US 202 West in Augusta, ME; US 202 west to ME Rt 41 north in Winthrop, ME; ME Rt 41 north a short ways to ME Rt 133 north; ME Rt 133 north through the village of Wayne, ME to ME Rt 219 west; ME 219 west to ME Rt 26 in West Paris; ME Rt 26 north to Bethel, ME; and US Rt 2 west to Gorham, NH. This will give you a good look at rolling farmland between Belfast and Augusta, a few inland lakes around WInthrop and Wayne, the western Maine foothills along Rt 219, and the edges of the western Maine mountains on Rt 26, before getting onto US Rt 2 in Bethel and passing through the edge of the White Mountains National Forest on your way to Gorham, New Hampshire. This route should take about four and one-quarter to four and one half hours driving time not counting stops along the way.

Based on your stated preferences, I'd suggest either Bonniemaev's route or the one just suggested over taking I-295 into Portland and then US 302 south -- simply because it involves more multi-lane high-speed driving and takes you through more developed, more congested areas than either of the alternatives. It's also longer (distance-wise) and slightly longer timewise (about five to five and one quarter hours not counting stops).

Hoffman Estates
posts: 283
reviews: 3
5. Re: Acadia/Bar Harbor to White Mountain Nat'l Forest

Bonniemaev and Mariner,

Thank you both for the suggestions! It sounds like you are both quite well-versed on the routes. I guess the question now is:

Which route of the two that you suggested is less complicated and offers the best "bang" considering we have never been before. I'm assuming Bonniemaev's will offer us some beautiful scenery without being overly complicated. And both of those routes seems to be about 4.5 hours (give or take) correct?

I have more questions but figured I would tackle them one general topic at a time so as not to confuse myself. LOL

Thanks again for helping!

Central Maine
Destination Expert
for Maine
posts: 5,693
reviews: 129
6. Re: Acadia/Bar Harbor to White Mountain Nat'l Forest

For ease of navigation in unfamiliar territory, I'd probably give a slight edge to Bonniemaev's route...

Her route changes almost all take place at locations where there aren't really a lot of other alternatives... for example, the turn from US Rt 1 to Me Rt 174 takes place at the far end of a very large suspension bridge. The turn from Rt 174 onto US 1A is at a T-intersection where you have to turn either right or left. The turn from US 1 onto ME Rt 69 takes place in downtown Winterport (a small downtown area), but was very well marked the last time I went that way. And the turn from Rt 69 onto US 2 is also a T-intersection with a forced turn either left or right (or at least it was the last time I went that way, although it's been a while).

Once you're onto Rt 2, it's very straightforward except for where it passes through downtown Skowhegan and downtown Rumford, but even in those places its well marked.

I threw out the other option only because it offers some slightly more varied terrain and geography,.. but it also includes a couple of traffic circles (roundabouts or rotaries to some folks) in Augusta, which can be a bit challenging to folks unaccustomed to them. Bonnie's route will still give you a good look at rural, inland Maine with some good variety in scenery.... Enjoy !!

Hoffman Estates
posts: 283
reviews: 3
7. Re: Acadia/Bar Harbor to White Mountain Nat'l Forest

Thank you again Mariner! You obviously know your stuff!! How would you like to come along with us!? LOLOL

So remember I said I had more questions? Well, here comes another. At this point I was going to have us turn off the interstate onto US 1 at Portland - heading toward Bar Harbor. (I think somewhere right around Bath), but I am wondering if that is too soon and if we'd be better served staying on the interstate until sometime further down the route? I think I read somewhere that it's best to stay on the interstate until you hit Kennebunkport but I don't know if we'd miss some truly great places by doing that. I know that we can't really see the coast from US 1 and that half the adventure is turning off of US 1 to see the coastline. I just don't know which areas are "must sees" off of US 1 and some are "ehh, you can really pass that up". Any suggestions?

Again, thank you!!!!

:)

Central Maine
Destination Expert
for Maine
posts: 5,693
reviews: 129
8. Re: Acadia/Bar Harbor to White Mountain Nat'l Forest

Would love to come with you..... but have enough commitments around home for the summer that getting away would probably lead to considerable disharmony here.... But, if you wanted to post a Trip Report here on TA I'd love to see how things went for you....

As far as your question about I-95 and US 1 is concerned, it sounds like maybe you've inter-mixed a couple of different suggestions.... let me try to clarify....

For those coming north on I-95 from New Hampshire and simply trying to get to Bar Harbor/Acadia as quickly as possible, the general advice is to stay on I-95 all the way to Bangor, ME, then take I-395 to Brewer, US 1A from Brewer to Ellsworth, and Rt 3 from Ellsworth to Bar Harbor.... gives you the most multi-lane, divided, controlled access highway with highest speed limits. Additional distance is usually offset by not having to slow down for numerous village downtowns as you would have to on US 1.

For folks coming north on I-95 and wanting to spend a little time sightseeing between the New Hampshire-Maine border and Portland, the general advice is get of I-95 in York for a visit to The Nubble lighthouse and York Beach, then work your way north along US 1 to Ogunquit and Kennebunkport. Between Kennebunkport and Portland, US 1 becomes a further inland, less scenic, more commercial highway, so the general advice is, after visiting Kennebunkport, get on I-95 in Kennebunk and follow it and I-295 to Portland.

If you have time and want to visit Portland, places not to miss include the Old Port District near the waterfront and Portland Head Light lighthouse in nearby Cape Elizabeth.

From Portland the quickest route to Bar Harbor/Acadia is via I-95 to Bangor, etc. etc. as outlined above.

If you want to visit L,.L. Bean in Freeport or pick up US Rt 1 north of Portland, take I-295 (not I-95) north from Portland. After visiting (or bypassing) Bean's, take I-295 to the Topsham exit and watch for signs to US Rt 1 and/or "The Coastal Connector"... then follow US 1 north through Bath, Wiscasset, etc etc. to Ellsworth.

If you have the time along this route, that the down-the-peninsula-and-back drive to visit Boothbay Harbor, but allow 30-45 minutes driving time just to get down there from US Rt 1 and another 45 minutes to get back to Rt 1 after your visit.

Other options for seeing part of Rt 1 but getting to Bar Harbor slightly more quickly are to take I-95 (or a combination of I-295/95) to Augusta, then taking ME Rt 17 to access US Rt 1 in the Rockland/Camden area or ME Rt 3 to pick up US Rt 1 in Belfast (ME Rt 3 and US Rt 1 run together from Belfast to Ellsworth).

Whether you take US 1 or the combination route to Rockland,two must-see's on Rt 1 between Rockland and Belfast would be Camden Harbor (one of my personal favorites) and the Mt Battie Auto Road in Camden Hills State Park, just north of downtown Camden on Rt 1. And whether you take Rt 1 or either the Rockland or Belfast combination route, another must-see north of Belfast just off Rt 1 would be the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory just south of the town of Bucksport (you'll definitely spot the towers and suspension cables of this large suspension bridge before you get to the bridge itself -- take a left at the traffic light just before getting onto the bridge itself). The Observatory is a two-story enclosed observation platform built into the top of one of the bridge towers with a great view of the area -- including the mountains of Acadia National Park in the distance. Access to the observation deck, which is totally enclosed, is via high-speed elevator. For the history buffs, the Observatory shares an entrance gate with historic Fort Knox immediately next door to the bridge and observatory.

Most if not all of the points mentioned above can be Googled for more information and more precise driving directions.

Hope this helps clarify things a bit -- if it's simply made them more confusing, let me know and I'll try again.

Hoffman Estates
posts: 283
reviews: 3
9. Re: Acadia/Bar Harbor to White Mountain Nat'l Forest

Okay I goofed when I said I-95 from Portland into Bar Harbor. I was unintelligently trying to ask a question from my MEMORY of looking at the map versus actually LOOKING at the map. I actually meant Portland to Bar Harbor via I-295 and then getting off onto US 1.

So starting over: We will be on I-295 headed north from Portland. We were planning on getting off of I-295 around Brunswick (I believe it’s exit 28 according to the map) and then hop onto US1 and then follow that all the way into Bar Harbor - (driving through Bath, Wiscasset, Rockland, Camden, Belfast, Bucksport, Ellsworth and then Bar Harbor). Your last paragraph pretty much answered my “is it worth it” question. Seems like there will be a good amount to see and it will be worth it, yes? I have a feeling it’s going to take an entire day to get from Portland to Bar Harbor with all the pretty stops along the way (and apparently the individual towns we have to drive through as well, right? LOL

And best places to consider stopping at for lunch? Of course nothing but Maine lobster and clams will do!! I know, taste is all subjective, but…..I’ll gladly take your suggestions!

I think the only thing that concerns me is trying to figure out WHICH towns to definitely stop in beyond the ones you mentioned. I’m definitely taking the suggestions you put in your last paragraph “Whether you take US 1 or the combination route…….”, but I have a feeling I’m going to want to see even more!!

You sure you don’t want to come along? LOLOL

Central Maine
Destination Expert
for Maine
posts: 5,693
reviews: 129
10. Re: Acadia/Bar Harbor to White Mountain Nat'l Forest

Instead of taking I-295 to Exit 28 for Brunswick, stay on I-295 for three additional miles to Exit 31 in Topsham... at the end of the off-ramp, turn right onto Rt 196 and watch for signs directing you "To Rt 1" or "The Coastal Connector".... essentially, once you turn right at the end of the ramp, you'll be going straight ahead at all of the major intersections until you reach US Rt 1 East.... Unless you're stopping somewhere in particular in Brunswick, this route will let you bypass a major, sometimes congested commercial area in Brunswick and eliminate a sometimes tricky, and often-missed, turn in Brunswick to stay on Rt 1.... Gets you onto Rt 1 quicker than going through Brunswick.

As far as "taking all day" to get from Portland to Bar Harbor... plenty of folks do..... and I've always been one to enjoy the journey as much as the destination. As far as what towns to stop in along the way.... I'd probably start with the list in my previous response, decide which of those you want to do, take your best-guess at how long you'll want to spend there, and see what you have left for time for other stops...

In addition to the attractions already listed, I'd consider places like downtown Bath (great little coastal community), downtown Damariscotta (nice little village on the water), downtown Camden (take the walk up to the town library just off Rt 1 -- fantastic view from the front lawn), and maybe downtown Belfast. (Most of these towns have websites with photos to give you a sneak preview -- may help you pick and choose). Bear in mind that some communities, Damariscotta and Belfast come quickest to mind, aren't directly on Rt 1 because highway by-passes have been built to carry traffic around rather than through their downtown areas. But they're not all that far off Rt 1 (a mile or so at most) and can be more appealing because of the lighter downtown traffic. (And before anyone gets all upset -- this list of communities is my personal favorites -- am sure other folks lists might vary.)

If you're seriously planning to visit numerous small towns on your way north, you might want to consider leaving Boothbay Harbor off your list, only because of the amount of time it will take to get down the peninsula from Rt 1 and then back to Rt 1 when you're ready to leave... doing that will give you at least an hour and a half to spend elsewhere.

Am struggling with suggestions for lobster-and-clams along your route.... Even though we live in Maine, we consider lobster-and-clams a treat that we don't have more than once or twice a summer -- and then we prefer to take the time to drive down one of the peninsulas to a small place somewhere well off the beaten path... meaning none of our favorites are easily accessible from Rt 1 in a timely manner. When we travel Rt 1 we tend more to local sandwich shops, diners etc. If you want to wait for lobster until you get to Bar Harbor and have something quicker on your way north, we'd suggest Sarah's in Wiscasset (on your right at the bottom of the hill in downtown -- across the street from Red's Lobster Rolls, which are large and tasty but usualy require a long -- up to half an hour or more -- wait in line and only outdoor seating directly adjacent to Rt 1 -- not our cup of tea); Moody's Diner in Waldoboro; The Brown Bag in Rockland (sandwiches on bread made in their own bakery and fantastic fish chowder); or Boynton-McKay in downtown Camden (take your food to-go and take it down to the harbor or up to the Library lawn for a great picnic). If you are set on lobster-and-clams on your way north, you probably will see numerous places along your route and, in general, most of them will do a reasonably good job. If you're looking for a great lobster feed once you get to Bar Harbor, take the ride over to Thurston's Lobster Pound on "the quiet side" of the island.... good food and great view. Most of the locals can tell you how to get to Thurston's or you can Google it for directions.