Coastal Maine and Acadia National Park Cycling Tour

Bar Harbor, Camden and Rockland

Ah, Maine, you’re beautiful even when it rains.

The steady rhythm of pitter-patter, pitter-patter echoes from the gravel filled water puddle directly below a crack in the old wooden gutters hanging from the porch of the charming 150-year-old Camden Harbour Inn, our temporary home for two nights this week. I patiently wait for Diane, my wife and cycling partner, to appear from the lobby as the dense early morning fog makes me shiver while I rock back and forth in one of the Inn’s comfortable old chairs.

The Camden Harbour Inn, our home for two of the nights we toured Maine.

We’re part of a group sponsored by BACKROADS, an adventure travel company based in California. It’s the third day of a weeklong cycling tour the two of us and fifteen others who call Massachusetts, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and several other states home. We’re all here this week to explore the central coastal region of Maine from the perspective of a bicycle seat.

Our multi-day bike tour gave us a chance to explore the beautiful central coastal region of Maine, with special emphasis on Acadia National Park. (Graphic courtesy of BACKROADS)

I’m convinced it’s going to be a soggy 20-mile ride to Rockland today, but we have rain gear and we’ve come too far to let raindrops stop us from visiting the charming New England region to the south. The porch door then swings open and Diane pops out with gloves and an extra jacket in hand. Moments later, we’re on the road, ready for another day of making memories.

How Did We Get Here and Why?

The Why

During the horrific peak months of COVID-19, while our family and much of the world hibernated, Diane and I made a pact to explore more, enjoy life and family to a greater degree and invest in less “stuff.” Instead, we promised one another that we’d throw our collective energies and resources towards traveling once the world regained a sense of normalcy.

First up: Maine

Neither Diane nor I had biked in Maine before, but we’d discussed it multiple times through the years. Its rocky shoreline, cobalt blue waters, iconic lighthouses, fresh seafood and storybook alpine forests made it a priority in our quest to begin our post-COVID adventures.

The planning and logistics were hurdles we would have to overcome, though. Early June would be the target period because the weather would likely be ideal and school would still be in session — two important factors. Diane had conferences to attend in Phoenix June 2 and 3 and a second one in Boston June 12 and 13. We used those dates as bookends and sandwiched several days in the middle to ride the coastal shoreline in the Bar Harbor, Camden, and Rockland area.

The How

I wait for the train to take us north to Portland so we can connect with the rest of our cycling tour group. TD Garden is the home court for the Celtics and doubles as the AMTRAK station for the northern part of Boston.

Our Friday flight from Phoenix to Boston gave us an opportunity to enjoy Boston and a buffer day between the end of Diane’s Arizona conference and when we were scheduled to meet with the BACKROADS group the following Monday. It was nice to experience Sunday’s two-hour train ride from Boston to Portland with very few passengers in our car.

(Footnote: I’m considering using AMTRAK more for future bike tours since they allow passengers to take their bikes with them with plenty of storage room and very few hassles.)

At last, we arrive in Portland, Maine.

We explored Portland the evening we arrived, slept well in a local hotel and then joined the group downtown for a three-hour shuttle van ride to Bar Harbor the following morning. Now connected as a team under sunny blue skies, the group leaders fit our rental bikes, gave us a brief explanation of the afternoon’s planned ride, detailed our bike computers with the GPS pre-programmed routes and sent us on our way.

Acadia National Park

One of 16 carefully sculpted stone bridges that makes the gravel Carriage Road through Acadia National Park so breathtaking. I could ride this 40-mile route every day for a month and not feel satisfied I’ve seen it all.

The paved roads, lined with majestic fir and spruce trees along Somes Sound eventually led us to Acadia National Park, the first national park east of the Mississippi River founded in 1919 and now one of the most popular destinations for nature and adventure lovers in the country. We rode for less than an hour and made our way to the famous Carriage Roads, a 40-mile network of car free gravel byways built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in the early part of the 20th century. Its 16 stone bridges and crushed gravel paths, all built between 1919 and 1931, are constructed from hand-hewn local granite and makes riding across ravines and creeks something I’ll never forget.

We were off and running and couldn’t wait to soak in what the week ahead would provide.

Bar Harbor

A view of Bar Harbor’s Frenchman’s Bay and West Street, the primary tourist destination for those visiting the town.

Bar Harbor, which takes up half of Mount Desert Island in central coastal Maine, is the gateway to Acadia National Park. The town was settled in 1763 and was originally the home of fishermen, shipbuilders and those looking for a fresh supply of old-growth trees. Today, it’s a mecca for tourists from around the world seeking to explore the outdoors.

Lobster, fresh from the local bay, was dinner the first night we spent in Bar Harbor.

Next up: Day Two and the ride up Cadillac Mountain, the first place on US soil to see the rising sun.

3 thoughts on “Coastal Maine and Acadia National Park Cycling Tour

  1. Genevieve Erickson says:

    Good read, Joe. Were there supposed to be pictures? Did not get any. Stay well and enjoy the good old U. S. of A. eastern territory!


  2. Paula Golightly says:

    Hi Joe! Great read. I spent one day in Acadia 5 years ago and loved it. Looks like such a great trip. Hope to talk to you and Di soon. Love Paula


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