You’ll only see a portion of the coast following this 6-day itinerary, but you’ll see it deeply. This is a trip all about minimizing time in the car and maximizing time in Maine’s rugged outdoors, from mountain biking the Camden Hills to sea kayaking the Stonington Archipelago to hiking some of Acadia’s more overlooked trails.
Luckily, for all its wild corners, this stretch of coast still has plenty of great dining—and beer!—so you can stay, you know, fueled up.
Get yourself to Camden the night before this trip to make the most of the daylight on day one.
Day 1: Camden Hills Mountain Biking
Get a full-day mountain bike rental (with helmet, of course) from the helpful, knowledgeable folks at Maine Sport Outfitters and head for the hills. The Camden Hills offer an impressively varied 6-mile trail network at Camden Snow Bowl and the adjacent Ragged Mountain Preserve. The beginner’s network is wooded and crisscrosses a shallow brook; trail names like Chutes & Ladders give you an idea of what kind of bouncy fun you’re in for.
The New England Mountain Bikers Association prints a map you can pick up with your rental. Camden’s Scottish Drouthy Bear pub, 50 Elm Street, is an NEMBA sponsor and pours a mean post-ride pint.
It’s a (scenic) 2-hour drive from Camden to Stonington, following Rte. 1 over the Penobscot River, then following Rte. 15 south along the Blue Hill Peninsula and onto Deer Isle.
Day 2: Stonington Paddling
Some 60 islands, many of them tiny, make up the Stonington Archipelago in the glittering waters south of refreshingly proletarian Stonington. Old Quarry Ocean Adventures can rent you a sea kayak by the day or half-day or (even better for the inexperienced) lead tours; they’ll even shuttle you out to the island of your choice.
The islands are mostly edged by charismatic humps of exposed granite—quarrying them used to be big business here—and you’re likely to spot eagles, osprey, harbor seals, and porpoises as you ping-pong from one to the next.
Day 3: Isle au Haut Hiking
The first mailboat out to Isle au Haut leaves Stonington at 7am—catch it, and you’ll have an 8-hour day on this gorgeous island outpost of Acadia National Park, strewn with silent, rugged trails (and very few visitors). Hike the Ridge Trail over the here-and-there exposed spine of the island for some great views of the Atlantic, and hang out in the horseshoe cove of Barred Harbor to spot sea ducks (and feel like you’re the last person on Earth).
Catch the 4:30pm mailboat back to Stonington and grab a patio table at Aragosta, just steps from the dock.
From Stonington, follow Rte. 15 and then Rte. 172 through Blue Hill to Ellsworth, about an hour’s drive. From there, Rte. 3 leads south onto Mount Desert Island and into Bar Harbor, another half hour in the car if the traffic isn’t intense.
Day 4, 5 & 6: Acadia National Park Hiking and Biking
As public land in Maine goes, Acadia National Park is the crown jewel (Baxter State Park, with mile-high Mount Katahdin, comes in a close second, but that’s a trip for another itinerary). Rent a bike from Cadillac Mountain Sports for the full 3 days, then find a central home base on MDI, preferably out of Bar Harbor—you could do worse than Mount Desert Campground at the tip of Somes Sound or Acadia Yurts on the “quiet side” of the island. Then spend the next few days exploring the carriage roads and trail systems.
If I have to suggest don’t-miss hikes, I’ll say The Precipice Trail, The Bubbles, and Acadia Mountain. But what you really ought to do is take a map, a backpack full of snacks and water, and an open mind. Then head out onto the MDI roads and carriage roads each day with no particular destination, stopping to hike at whatever trailhead looks interesting.
If you’re craving one last new campsite on Day 3, you could break camp, backtrack to Route 1 off the island, and drive 15 miles east to the Schoodic Peninsula, a much less visited section of Acadia, where you can pitch a tent at the new Schoodic Woods Campground and have a new set of trails (biking and hiking) to explore.
Skip the coast on the way home. Backtrack to Ellsworth, then follow Rte. 1A 30 miles to Bangor, where you can pick up I-95 (with tolls, alas) for a quicker ride back to Portland (about 3 hrs total from Bar Harbor) or the New Hampshire border and points south (4 hrs, or longer on a Sunday or a holiday).
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.