By Pamela Jacobs
I’ve traveled around the world, and until recently had never been to Maine—a state that many consider to be the most beautiful in the Northeast, and arguably, the country. Travelers often venture far and wide, forgetting about the splendors our own country has to offer. This summer, I finally decided that enough was enough; I had to go see the state where lobster (my favorite food) is in abundance, wild blueberries (my favorite fruit) grow aplenty, and the sea offers up a bounty of activity, beauty, and charm.
With only one weekend to spare—clearly not enough time to see all of Maine—I decided on Bar Harbor, an area that many people had told me was simply gorgeous. Next, I decided on Bar Harbor’s most luxurious and acclaimed hotel: The Harborside Hotel, Spa, and Marina, located directly on Frenchman’s Bay. Finally, I made a goal: to eat as much lobster as humanly possible. I wanted the local lobster supply to be depleted upon my departure from Maine.
After an easy, hour and a half flight out of Laguardia, I arrived in Bangor, Maine, and a short, pleasant drive (with a quick stop for a roadside lobster roll) brought me to the Harborside Hotel. Located downtown, about three minutes from Bar Harbor’s Main Street, in what could be the town’s most picturesque location, the hotel was ideal. Being only seven years old, the Harborside Hotel, a member of Preferred Hotels® & Resorts, manages to combine that perfect blend of New England charm and grace with modern amenities and creature comforts. And you can practically dive off their property into the water.
Furthermore, it’s about a five minute drive from Acadia National Park, which many consider to be one of the country’s most breathtaking natural wonders.
The Harborside Hotel features 187 deluxe rooms and suites, all of which have balconies, most of which look directly onto the water. They are very spacious, impeccably maintained, tastefully designed, and perhaps best of all, simply perfect for sipping a coffee in the morning while feeling the sea air breathe life into the day, or a glass of wine in the evening while watching the sun set over the bay. Marble bathrooms with luxurious amenities and plush, welcoming beds complete the picture. The hotel also offers deluxe studios, one, two and three-bedroom suites, some with a full kitchen, dining room, private balcony, jacuzzi and a fireplace—perfect for crisp Maine evenings in the late spring and early fall. My deluxe room with a direct view of the bay couldn’t have been more comfortable, and was the perfect home away from home.
With all that Bar Harbor has to offer, you might not want to spend too much time in their beautiful rooms, but with the hotel’s dining options, you’ll probably find it difficult to leave the property. There’s La Bella Vita, reminiscent of an Italian trattoria, with indoor and outdoor seating and a serene, lovely atmosphere, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and emphasizes wholesome ingredients, including garden-grown vegetables. There’s the casual Pool House in The Bar Harbor Club, serving light fare at their gorgeous pool and Jacuzzi. And there’s Enoteca, a wine bar adjacent to La Bella Vita, serving antipasti and small plates. Each of the restaurants serves top quality, delectable dishes, and they are some of the finest in Bar Harbor.
Harborside guests enjoy a heated pool, a top-notch fitness center, and a state-of-the-art spa, offering luxurious accommodations and fabulous treatments such as the Rose Petal Envelopment and Bayside Island Wrap body treatments, as well as a Blissful Stone Retreat and Therapeutic Healing Massage. A day shopping in Bar Harbor or hiking in Acadia National Park is best ended with a massage in Bar Harbor’s finest spa.
Finally, guests of Harborside have access to the historic Bar Harbor Club, reopened in 2009 after a major renovation. The Bar Harbor Club, located on the water and adjacent to the hotel, is a grand, stately tudor facility steeped in Maine history that was the playground of Bar Harbor’s elite in its heyday. Here, Harborside guests can enjoy its two story poolhouse, oceanfront pool and Jacuzzi (where you can enjoy a waterfront lunch and cocktails), the fabulous Bar Harbor Club Spa, a luxurious fitness room, oceanfront tennis, private function rooms, and access to the pier, marina, whale watching sails, and more. The Bar Harbor Club, in conjunction with the Harborside Hotel, is the perfect combination of seaside Maine luxury and stellar accommodations.
My Bar Harbor weekend began with dinner at La Bella Vita—indeed, the perfect place to begin. The server couldn’t have been friendlier (not surprising, considering every staff member at the hotel is professional, warm, and helpful), and he helped guide me to some excellent choices. My friends and I began with two of their brick oven pizzettes—the classic margherita and the Umbria, with wild mushrooms, asiago cream, truffle oil, and arugula—and both were absolutely delicious. Choosing an entrée was difficult, but I knew I had to have lobster, so I went with their pasta creations; here you choose the pasta, sauce, and topping you want. I, of course, topped my pasta with lobster, and it was fantastic. Other menu choices include a two pound garlic butter poached lobster, classic Italian favorites, and what looked like a delectable surf and turf. I finished the meal with their sensational blueberry pie, and slept very well that night.
The next morning I began my day with breakfast at La Bella Vita, enjoying an outstanding lobster benedict, then it was off to Acadia National Park. I boarded Oli’s Trolley, which leaves from the hotel, and it took me on a guided tour through the park, including a ride up to the top of Cadillac Mountain, serving million dollar views that must be seen to be appreciated. The history of Bar Harbor and the park are fascinating, as is the experience itself, and they alone are worth the trip to Bar Harbor. To get the most out of the experience, it’s recommended to go to the top of Cadillac Mountain—standing at 1,532 feet high—at sunrise or sunset, which many locals told me was one of the must-see experiences of a visit to Maine. While in Acadia, beyond breathtaking views of the ocean, the Porcupine Islands, and the pink granite landscape, you might spot some of the 350 species of birds, as well as foxes, mink, beavers, and a variety of other wild creatures.
Back in town, I spent some time walking around the quaint, charming Main Street, which is home to boutiques, ice cream parlors, cafes, and souvenir shops. A stroll down to the water leads you to the marina and pier, where you’ll find the Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co., the town’s best choice for viewing Bar Harbor from the sea. As brimming with creatures of the land and air as Acadia is, the ocean is with sea life. You can choose to board different marine adventures that will take you to see seals, puffins, birds, lobsters, and of course, whales. One of the favorites is the Sunset Whale Watch, which provides spectacular whale viewing and an equally breathtaking sunset over Frenchman’s Bay. In my lobster obsession, I chose to do the Lobster Fishing/Seal Watching Cruise, where I learned about the lobster fishing industry (for instance, last year Maine fishermen brought 93 million pounds of lobster to the shores), spotted bald eagles and seals, and got a perfect view of Bar Harbor from the water. It was absolutely lovely.
That night brought me to Stewman’s Lobster Pound, a casual, waterfront seafood restaurant with great views, where I was to enjoy what I had been waiting for all day long—an all-out gluttonous lobster extravaganza. I happily devoured their “Downeast Lobster Experience,” which included a cup of clam chowder, fresh steamer clams, a one and a quarter pound lobster, corn on the cob, potatoes, and homemade blueberry pie. I was in heaven.
A stroll into town brought me to Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium, where the smell of fudge and homemade ice cream was calling my name, and I had to try the lobster ice cream (yes, it has actual chunks of lobster in it). With that as the finale of my lobster extravaganza, I had successfully managed to have lobster for breakfast (lobster benedict), lunch (a seaside lobster roll at the Bar Harbor Club), dinner (Stewman’s lobster experience), and dessert (lobster ice cream). Mission accomplished.
I spent the following day lounging around the hotel, enjoying even more food (I now had a blueberry goal, and so I began my day with wild Maine blueberry pancakes at La Bella Vita), relaxation at the pool, and peaceful serenity around Bar Harbor. My only regret was that I didn’t stay longer.
Maine, it seems, is a wondrous place, filled with nature, friendly people, seaside serenity, and, of course, delicious food. Bar Harbor was the perfect introduction to this lovely state, and the Harborside Hotel was the absolute perfect place to call home. My next visit will have to be longer—there are still some lobsters left in their waters, and I don’t believe in the concept of too much of a good thing.
Harborside Hotel, Spa, and Marina:
Stewman’s Lobster Pound:
Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co.:
Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium: