The inlets and peninsulas of the Maine coast make it impossible to plot a straight course. This trip takes you a little more than halfway up (really across) the coast, allowing time for serendipitous detours and delays. Tack on some extra time at the end to really explore Acadia.
Day 1: York
Drive into Maine from the south on I-95, and head immediately for York Village (the first exit). Spend some time snooping around the historic homes of the Old York Historical Society, and stretch your legs on a walk through town or the woods.
Drive north through York Beach, stock up on saltwater taffy at the Goldenrod, and spend the night near the beach.
Days 2 & 3: Portland
Using the right route, getting to Portland can be as fun as being there. You can hit the antiques shops along parts of Route 1 as you drive north. If you're in a hurry or traveling in summer, avoid the crowds on Route 1 by taking I-95.
In Portland by afternoon, collect tourism information and devise a schedule. Plan to stay in the city or on a nearby beach, shopping for jewelry, souvenirs, or even kites; taste-testing chowder and microbrewed beer; and just soaking up the salty air and atmosphere. Don't forget a walk along the Eastern Promenade or a day cruise on a local ferry.
Day 4: Freeport, Brunswick & Bath
Head north early to beat the shopping crowds at the outlet haven of Freeport. You can't leave too early for L.L.Bean -- it never closes!
From Freeport, continue north to Wiscasset, the so-called "Prettiest Village in Maine," or to the Boothbay region. Spend a relaxing night in a picturesque B&B.
Days 5 & 6: Camden & Penobscot Bay
Heading north from the Bath-Brunswick area, detour down to Pemaquid Point for a late picnic as you watch the surf roll in. Then head back to Route 1 and set your sights on the heart of Penobscot Bay.
Rockland, which you'll reach first, is the workaday part of the equation. The best places here are the arty cafes and the excellent museum and restaurants. Nearby Rockport is a tiny harbor town with excellent views and a small main street.
Finally, head a few miles north to wander around downtown Camden, poking into shops and galleries. Hike up one of the impressive hills at Camden Hills State Park, hop a ferry to an island (North Haven and Isleboro are both great for biking), or sign up for a daylong sail on a windjammer. We also like getting ice cream and hot dogs down by the harbor.
Day 7: Blue Hill & Deer Isle
From Camden, drive up and around the head of Penobscot Bay and then down the bay's eastern shore. The roads here are great for aimless drives, but head for Stonington, far down at the end of the peninsula.
Next, head to scenic Blue Hill for dinner and lodging. I love the views from here, and the combination of a Maine fishing town and new-blood bookshops and restaurants is quite appealing. Also take a spin around the peninsula to smaller towns such as Blue Hill Falls and Brooklin, where you'll see boatyards, old-fashioned general stores (post offices included), and ingenuity holding it all together. This is the real Maine.
Days 8, 9, 10 & 11: Bar Harbor & Acadia National Park
Bar Harbor is a great base for exploring Mount Desert Island, which is well worth 4 (or more) days on a Maine itinerary. You may want to stay at least 2 nights in Bar Harbor, especially if you have family members along. It provides access to comforts and services such as a movie theater, souvenir shops, bike and kayak rentals, free shuttle buses all over the island, and numerous restaurants. Yes, it's a lot more developed (perhaps too much so) than the rest of the island, but think of it as a supply depot.
Hike, bike, boat, or do whatever you must to explore the island and Acadia National Park, one of America's finest. What it lacks in size, it makes up for through intimate contact with nature. Explore the island at your own pace: Take a beginner's kayak trip down the eastern shore, a hike out to Bar Island, or a mountain-bike trip along one of the many carriage roads built by the Rockefeller family. Only bicycles and horses are allowed on these roads, making them a tranquil respite from the island's highways, which -- almost unbelievably -- do get crowded in summer.
The scenic Park Loop Road is a great introduction to what's in store for you later (crashing waves, big mountains, drop-dead-gorgeous views). Make sure to get a park pass that lasts more than a day.
While exploring the rest of the island, be sure to hit some of the nonpark towns, too. Northeast Harbor and Southwest Harbor are fishing towns that tourism has partly transformed into tiny centers of art, music, and shopping. However, they still have small stores where fishermen shop for slickers and Wonder Bread.
What about those things you wanted to do but didn't have time for? Do them on your last day in Acadia. Watch a sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain. Cap off your visit with a cold-water dip at Sand Beach and tea and popovers at Jordan Pond House. Take a quick last hike up The Bubbles. Or just enjoy one last lobster atop a wooden pier.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.