Maine in Late October: Good Planning and Good Luck

It could’ve been a disaster, a birthday to remember for all the wrong reasons. A trip to the northeast corner of the United States at the end of October could’ve been all about cold rain (or snow!), gray skies, closed shops and restaurants, and desolate landscapes.

But, through a combination of decent planning and excellent fortune, our trip to Maine turned out to be memorable for all the right reasons.

To me, the most important part of planning is to mine own self be true. We know ourselves well enough to know that crowds (too much people!) and shopping and go-go-go aren’t fun for us. So we planned a trip that matched our temperaments.

We went to Acadia National Park in Maine. The park, mostly situated on Mount Desert Island, is 47,000 acres of granite, mountains, pines and birches, and crashing waves. The park is wild and lovely, with scenic roads to drive but also trails and paths and carriage roads to walk. (You can click on any photo to savor the details!)

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The island shore is mostly rocky—I love a rocky shore better than most anything.

But for those who prefer a sandy beach, the park provides one perfectly perfect Sand Beach.IMG_9405

And Acadia also provides a new candidate for world’s most perfect mountain.

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Cadillac Mountain isn’t that high but it is the tallest mountain within 25 miles of the ocean anywhere in the eastern US. It has a bare peak, with views all around. A winding, thrill-inducing road means one can drive up the mountain but a number of trails also allow climbing.

One of Cadillac Mountain’s claims to fame is that it is the first spot in the US to be touched by the rising sun, and every morning throngs of people gather to watch that sunrise. With our good planning, we had every intention of being on the top of Cadillac for the signature moment but . . . planning isn’t everything. More on this in a moment.

When it comes to accommodations, my husband and I tend to be seat-of-the-pants travelers, trusting that we can find a place to sleep when we find an area that we like well enough to stay. This time we actually planned a little, though, and found ourselves a cottage to rent right on the ocean’s shore. We watched the tide go in and out, we saw the mist from the cold air drift over the warm water, and, each morning, I watched the full moon set, plop, into the water.

That full moon was part of our good fortune. We had no idea! The first night we were in Maine, we drove to the town of Bar Harbor for dinner. We came over a hill and saw the enormous almost-full moon rising over the ocean. We gasped out loud!

And therein changed our plans for watching sunrise on Cadillac Mountain. The full moon was the next night and, instead of going up for sunrise, we drove that twisty, turny road at dusk to watch the sun set on one side of the mountain. Then we turned our backs on the last bit of light from the sun, to see the pink cuticle of the moon beginning to rise on the other.IMG_9314


Beyond the magic of a full moon over the sea at twilight, we were lucky in other ways. We liked that the touristy town of Bar Harbor was less overrun with people than it is most of the year but it hadn’t occurred to us that this would also mean that most of the restaurants we had targeted wouldn’t be open. MUCH of the area simply closes for the winter! So, we counted ourselves lucky that we still managed to eat reasonably well.

The best of our luck came as a gift from Mother Nature, though. Except for one wicked day, we experienced the best that late autumn could offer. The days started with a crispness that only added to the beauty and drama of the setting and stayed clear and sunny throughout. Many of the trees still had their cloaks of radiant leaves, leaves that glowed against the foil of dark fir trees all around. The ocean and sky burned blue and dazzled. The hot, red foliage of the blueberry bushes contrasted with the cool gray of granite.

Is there a prettier place than the coast of Maine?

I guess you can see, we were pretty pleased with ourselves! We had the good sense to plan to go to a place we could love and the good fortune to find it at its most lovable when we got there!

81 thoughts on “Maine in Late October: Good Planning and Good Luck

    • We’ve never done a trip as part of a tour (although I did go on a biking tour with my mother, in Holland). I guess we go more for unstructured travel. It’s limiting in some ways but meets our needs!

  1. Nothing I have read previously has made me want to visit the States quite as much as this one piece. We’ve been to Canada once (BC: Mainly Vancouver and Vancouver Island) which was unforgettable, but a sea trip down Puget Sound to Seattle is all we managed of America. So much to experience, so little time……..

    • The U.S. is SO big and SO varied–I haven’t seen most of it! I do think you’d like New England, including Maine. There’s history, much of which is, of course, connected to your history, some terrific big cities with world-class museums, and all kinds of wide open spaces to ramble in. Better start planning that trip! 😉

  2. Oh, I am so glad you had a good time! You are right, this is the best time of year to be here to avoid crowds. And our weather has been exceptionally good this autumn – we joke that we get a months’ worth of rain at the end of each month – and you were here for that day, but all the rest were good days. I am sorry you missed all the really delicious places that close up after Columbus Day, but glad you found some good ones that don’t. Next time you think about coming this way, give me a head’s up, I can make sure you find good food and things to do in case of inclement weather – and also, I would be thrilled to have a cup of coffee and get to meet you! (and I can point you to where the textile treasures and fabric and yarn can be found. 🙂 )

    • Maine treated us very well! We will be back, I’m sure, and I will let you know so I can benefit from your insider knowledge! We went to one wonderful store–Halcyon Yarns in Bath–that totally met my needs!

      • You found Halcyon, then you don’t need me! That is an amazing shop, and I order from them fairly often. And save my pennies for big trips there once or twice a year. But that is tough because we have so many great yarn shops between here and there. 🙂

          • It is nice to see all the colors. I go in there and just have to spend a few minutes absorbing it all before I can actually see it. I would love to bring the whole lamb’s pride wall home with me. 🙂

  3. How splendid are all the photos! They will hold many lovely memories for you. Where there are 4 pictures in a row .. The third photo down looks like a turtle yawning,settling down for a winters sleep.

    • I love those big granite boulders, scraped clean by glaciers, I guess. Blogging about trips works out so well for me–I have a place where I can put my favorite photos and know where to find them when I want a little trip down memory lane!

  4. Some of your photos made me gasp! They are absolutely gorgeous. Were there other people up on the mountain top watching the sun set and the moon rise?

    • Thanks, Susan! Yes, there were quite a number of other people at the top. Many were leaving as we were driving up, though, which I thought was weird. I suspect they didn’t realize about the full moon due to come up right at twilight. I guess that mountaintop is pretty packed for summer sunrises!

  5. Let’s hope that this perfect trip is just the beginning of you ‘plain sailing’ into your next decade. I am so glad that everything seemed to harmoniously combine to create a break for you which you will never forget. Your photographs are stunning and the light so pure and bright. As you say, poor accommodation, bad weather and it could all have been so horribly different. And the moon! Now that was so fabulous! Last winter when friends came to visit we walked in the forest near my home in the moonlight, it was totally magical.

    • The moon was so much more spectacular than my photos show! It made me mad at myself that I’ve never bothered to learn to use my camera to take full advantage of all its gizmos. I was shooting in the dark, literally and figuratively!

  6. Yep…..that’s our beautiful state of Maine, if you don’t mind me toot’n a horn for the Pine Tree state. So glad you shared your birthday with us Mainers, and Acadia is truly gorgeous. October is actually a great time to be here, yes it could go either way weather wise, but you’ve avoided the crowded season, and that’s always nice. Great photos, Kerry and I’m so glad it was the place you celebrated your birthday!

    • Even though we were disappointed that some restaurants were closed, we were still so happy to have avoided what must be the enormous crowds of summer and early fall! There were too many people at the top of Cadillac Mountain for my taste, as it was! Your state is a beauty!

  7. Wowser Kerry!! Maine is known here for it’s stunning ‘fall colour’ and your beautiful photos have most certainly captured some of it! What a great birthday treat. And how imminently sensible to do something that brings you nothing but pleasure – brilliant!!

    • I think the autumn color must’ve been truly spectacular a week or two before we were there. We didn’t expect to see much and were pleasantly surprised at how much still remained. It was a little faded but, when combined with the dark pines and the bright sky and sea–woohoo!

  8. Beautiful, beautiful state and fabulous coast, though I’ve never been there later than September. Mt. Desert and Isle au Haut are favorites of mine. I must go back next year!!!!! So glad this was your birthday trip! It bodes well for the next decade!

  9. Glad you like my home!!!!! Not that I live in Acadia …… I’m in Bangor, about 44 miles north of there. Lovely lovely place. Happy belated birthday!

    • I love your state, Jennifer! It treated us very well. We didn’t go to Bangor but I know where it is–you have a good central location, to get to lots of Maine’s best spots!

      • Plus we have shopping ….. everybody comes to Bangor to shop ……. we chose Bangor after PEI because PEI was SO REMOTE and everything was so far away! I like it – we live on a square with a park in the middle – I’m glad you had a great time.

  10. Maine looks absolutely wonderful in the autumn. I’ve always wanted to visit Acadia–and this post confirms that it’s someplace I need to have on my “to visit” list.

    • It really is so perfect–you should go! The only issue is that it is so popular, I bet it can be pretty overwhelming during the “season.” Bar Harbor, the town on the island, is very touristy–fun but very, very touristy.

  11. Well this trip made some awesome memories for you and your husband! And it brought back good memories form our trip to Arcadia and Mount Cadillac and whale watching of the coast. Thank you, dear Kerry and I am happy you had such a good time, xo Johanna

  12. What a wonderful trip… so glad the weather played along.
    I was looking at the pictures of Acadia thinking back to our last trip to Maine. I honestly think I took the exact same pictures, stopped on the exact same sandy beach, climbed the same mountain… 🙂 Great minds!

  13. Pingback: A Weavers’ Road Trip: Two Stops in Maine | Love Those "Hands at Home"

  14. What a lovely trip and perfect birthday. I have only been to Maine once but it is on my short list of places to visit. I do think it is a natural beauty, unique and rustic! Your photos captured the beauty of Maine in the fall. So breathtaking!

  15. Had to return to this post. Bar Harbor and Cadillac Mt were wonderful on our cruise ship stop there several years ago. Oh what views from the top! Thanks for the reminders and for showing me more … gotta love the rocky shores!

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