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Route 1 from Boston to Rockland to Bar Harbor

PA
Level Contributor
227 posts
5 reviews
Route 1 from Boston to Rockland to Bar Harbor

Hi All,

We'll be traveling from PA to Bar Harbor in early August with a stop for 2 nights in Boston. I believe we're going to stop in Rockland on our way up to Bar Harbor for the Lobster Festival and then on to Bar Harbor.

I've been told the drive along Route 1 is fantastic, but I'm wondering if we should pick that up just after Boston or get it later on in the trip. Any ideas how much this will slow down the trip? It looks like it would normally be 4-5 hours, so I'm expecting a bit longer on Route 1, but I don't want to double my time!

Would it be better to stay on 95 and just exit at certain points to drive sections of Route 1?

Thanks for any advice/input!

Central Maine
Destination Expert
for Maine
Level Contributor
7,233 posts
160 reviews
1. Re: Route 1 from Boston to Rockland to Bar Harbor

"The drive along Rt 1 is fantastic" is definitely a subjective description.....which some folks would agree with and others would dispute.... For the majority of its route through Massachusetts and New Hampshire, Rt 1 serves as the major route for local commercial traffic, providing decent access to lesser roads to the immediate seashore, but with few direct coastal views itself. It also passes through numerous local "downtowns" with associated local traffic and speed limit reductions. Once you cross into Maine, things improve marginally for a few miles, then Rt 1 runs parallel to, but inland from, the coast, often far enough inland that you don't really see the water. Again, it offers good access to other routes that loop beach-siide and provide access to in-the-water communities, but actual ocean frontage along Rt 1 itself is limited. The village of Ogunquit is a great little town to visit, but Rt 1 runs through the heart of the village business district, with major traffic back-ups the norm rather than the exception, especially on weekends. North of there, intermittent glimpses of the ocean are possible, but there are more inland than on-the-water miles.

Kennebunk is another nice little village, providing easy access off Rt 1 to the popular Kennebunkport village area, but again, Rt 1 itself is inland from the coast. North of Kennebunk Rt 1 runs through the commercial areas of Saco and Biddeford and, in spots, could be "anywhere USA" with no water views whatsoever. And the area from there to Portland tends to be more commercial than scenic. North of Portland, Rt 1 continues to run through the business district of numerous communities, but offers some water views along the way....

My advice, admittedly slanted because I don't enjoy sitting in some of the Rt 1 traffic in southern Maine for the few true water views available there, would be to take I-95 North out of Boston to Augusta, ME. then take Maine Rt 17 to Rockland, maximizing your time that day in the Rockland area and minimizing traffic delays. You certainly will see more, and better, views of the Maine coastline on your way up Route 1 from Rockland to Ellsworth and after you get to Bar Harbor than you will on any part of Rt 1 between Boston and Rockland.

Rockville, Maryland
Destination Expert
for Bar Harbor
Level Contributor
1,010 posts
194 reviews
2. Re: Route 1 from Boston to Rockland to Bar Harbor

I agree with MOTG. Driving Rt 1 all the way up could more than double your time and your stress level. There are just too many people. Parking spaces are hard to come by so if you wanted to get out and walk along the coast for a while you'd have a hard time doing so. Do the 95 to Augusta to Rt 17 and you'll be much happier. Save the Rt 1 exploration for another time off season.

PA
Level Contributor
227 posts
5 reviews
3. Re: Route 1 from Boston to Rockland to Bar Harbor

Thanks so much for the input. I'm glad I asked. We certainly don't want to double our travel time for nothing . . . don't need that kind of frustration starting out on vacation! We'll take your advice and follow the route you suggested.

Nashua, NH
Level Contributor
5 posts
4 reviews
4. Re: Route 1 from Boston to Rockland to Bar Harbor

I also appreciated this advice. We were planning to take Route 1 to Bar Harbor (from New Hampshire) in a few weeks--hoping to get a coastal view--but since you've said that you can't really see it anyway, I think we'll take your advice and pick it up around Rockland. Thank you!

MEADVILLE
Level Contributor
154 posts
52 reviews
5. Re: Route 1 from Boston to Rockland to Bar Harbor

We've got a similar quesiton to the OP. But, what about Augusta to Belfast, out Route 3 and then up route 1 to Bar Harbor? This is what my mapping software keeps showing.

And, for fastest time and least frustration, do we take 95 or 295 when we reach Portland from the Boston area?

Thanks

Central Maine
Destination Expert
for Maine
Level Contributor
7,233 posts
160 reviews
6. Re: Route 1 from Boston to Rockland to Bar Harbor

DC -- Depends a little bit on when you're coming -- both season and day of week.... In general, Augusta-Belfast-Ellsworth will be 10-15 minutes quicker than Augusta-Bangor-Ellsworth -- assuming you don't hit traffic delays, slow-moving traffic, etc.... The biggest difference between the two routes is that Augusta-Bangor-Ellsworth gives you 75 miles of multi-lane, divided, controlled-access Interstate driving, while the entire route from Augusta-Belfast-Ellsworth is two-lane, open-access highway driving which passes through many more small-town downtowns with reduced speed limits, pedestrians, a greater chance of slow-moving agricultural or commercial delivery vehicles, even rural-delivery postal carriers.

Augusta-Belfast-Ellsworth offers some nice views of rural Maine between Augusta and Belfast and some limited views of Penobscot Bay as you head north along the coast on US Rt 1/ME Rt 3 (they run together after you get to Belfast), this route also offers you a chance to stop at John's Ice Cream on Rt 3 in Liberty (great, home-made, hard-serve), to visit the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory on Rt 1 just south of Bucksport, and passes a few small ponds along the way. Augusta-Bangor-Ellsworth offers easier driving and some nice scenic views (especially at Lucerne in Maine south of Brewer on US 1A) along the way. In general, given the vagaries of traffic, not a lot of difference from one to the other. When we go day-tripping in that direction, we often take one route going north and the other coming south.....

You'll find a variation in opinions re: I-95 or I-295.... biggest difference is that I-295 is toll and I-95 is free. But, if you're coming in the next few months, you're apt to hit major bridge reconstruction on I-295 in South Portland (think it's six bridge decks in all).... which can be avoided by taking I-95 to the Falmouth Spur exit -- except there's also a major construction project on the Spur.... On the other hand, I-95 is a toll road (about $3.00 in tolls from Portland to Augusta) and has a few single-lane work zones of its own, but not as big an impact on traffic as on 295. I-295 also offers the option of stopping at L.L Bean in Freeport if that's of interest... One other difference we're noticing more as we get older -- parts of I-295 around Yarmouth and Freeport were among the first sections of Interstate highway built in Maine and are definitely "tighter" traffic-wise (shorter on-off ramps, shorter sight distances, less roadside clear-zone) than I-95, so it often feels much more crowded.... This is another case where which we choose depends more on where we're going to or coming from in Portland than a marked difference between the two... although, that said, because it is a toll road, I-95 is often less congested (think: easier, more relaxing driving) than I-295, which can get rather crowded at times, especially the section between Portland and Brunswick.

That's the best I can do to differentiate between Augusta-Belfast-Ellsworth and Augusta-Bangor-Ellsworth and between I-95 and I-295. Hope there's enough there to help you decide....

Nashua, New...
1 post
1 review
7. Re: Route 1 from Boston to Rockland to Bar Harbor

We stopped at the Portland Head Light House last night--definitely recommend it! Spent the night in Freeport and plan to go to LL Bean today, then drive over to Rockport and up to Bar Harbor. We did notice a considerable amount of construction and single-lane traffic on I-295 between South Portland and Freeport, but traffic wasn't too bad in the evening when we were driving. Further back around Wells-Beach, ME, there was a traffic back up and some construction going on I-95.

MEADVILLE
Level Contributor
154 posts
52 reviews
8. Re: Route 1 from Boston to Rockland to Bar Harbor

MainerOnTheGo: We are heading north on a Sunday and heading south on a Thursday. Does that impact the decision about which day to take the Bangor route versus the Belfast route?

Central Maine
Destination Expert
for Maine
Level Contributor
7,233 posts
160 reviews
9. Re: Route 1 from Boston to Rockland to Bar Harbor

DC -- Probably won't make much difference.... on Sunday when you're headed north (on either route), the bulk of the traffic is likely to be headed south -- folks coming into the state for a weekend or a week-long vacation tend to arrive, for the most part, on Friday and Saturday (so northbound traffic is heaviest then), but whatever day they come, they tend to hold off on heading home as long as possible -- meaning a lot of them are headed south on Sundays (earlier in the day if the weather is bad, later in the day if it's good). You'll be going in the opposite direction. Could mean more oncoming traffic on the two-lane roads on the Augusta-Belfast-Ellsworth option....and have virtually no impact on the Augusta-Bangor portion of the Augusta-Bangor option, with an increase in oncoming traffic between Bangor and Ellsworth. Could also mean that places like the Penobscot River Bridge Observatory might be more crowded due to Sunday day-trippers from Maine and folks who want to stop there on their way south.

Heading south on a Thursday really won't make a difference on either route....

Given your travel days, I might be tempted to go Augusta-Bangor-Ellsworth on my way north (more divided highway and fewer miles of two-lane-oncoming traffic) and go Ellsworth-Belfast-Augusta on my way south on Thursday....

10. Re: Route 1 from Boston to Rockland to Bar Harbor

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