Autumn in Maine – Bar Harbor Whale Watch Lighthouse Tour & Mount Desert Island

When I started planning my trip to Maine I intended to spend the bulk of my trip exploring Acadia National Park but the government decided to shut down making this nearly impossible.  I did manage to get into a couple areas of the park (yes, my inner Beavis voice was saying “breakin’ the lawwww breakin’ the lawwwwwww!“) but the majority of it, including Cadillac Mountain, was not able to be explored.  I had to come up with some last minute travel changes.  I blogged the other day about what I did before my stay at Bar Harbor at the Bar Harbor Inn and Spa, this post is all about my only full day on Mount Desert Island.  One of my favorite things to photograph is lighthouses and originally I planned to only photograph a couple and explore Acadia more.  Due to the shutdown, I decided to pick up a lighthouse tour via boat with Bar Harbor Whale Watch.  I booked the trip the night before and woke up early to make sure I got a good spot on the boat which ended up being a good thing because there were a bunch of cruise ships in town and due to the park shutdown the tours were swamped. My “spot” ended up being right up front on the left hand side of the boat in this image just before the nose of the boat juts out (water splashed up in that area like mad!).  It seemed to be where all of the photographers hung out.

bar harbor whale watch

While the day was beautiful it was on the cool side which was exacerbated when the boat ramped up to its top speed of 45 knots.  Thankfully I had my Columbia coat with me that is an amazing windbreaker but my face still broke out in hives but the views?  Totally worth it.

We started out slow though backing out of the docks and coasting along the coast of Mount Desert Island.  Below is the bar that I spoke about in the previous post that forms near Bar Harbor.  Yes, people drive out and yes, many vehicles have been lost this way by the advancing tide.

bar harbor maine

This is the hotel that was my home for two nights, that night I would eat in the restaurant located in the circular end on the right hand side.

bar harbor inn and spa

This is the part of the hotel that I stayed in, how cute is this!?   I highly recommend this hotel!  The views were amazing, the breakfast was tasty and it was wonderful being right in town!

bar harbor inn and spa

My first proper views of Acadia National Park!

acadia national park during government shutdownacadia national park in octoberacadia national park

Notice the people – lots of people I found out were going into the park regardless of those pesky laws shutting the park down.  You can easily bike around but walking in to this area was a bit of a hike and while I wanted to do it I decided that I’d rather spend the day seeing more instead of walking more.  I’m glad that I opted for the boat tour, I think I got a great taste of the park!

acadia national park shoreline

Juuust before peak – the reds popped the week after I was there – of course.  Ha!

acadia national park in autumn

The first official lighthouse on the tour, Bear Island Light, is in a bit of a sad state.  It is currently being renovated though – or at least I hope!

bear island lighthouse in mainebear island lighthouse on mount desert island

From here we sped up and out to Great Duck Island Light and boy was that trip chilly!  I think we were all relieved when the boat slowed down so we could all see this gorgeous lighthouse.  This lighthouse is painted brown in the winter so that it is visible from the ocean – so much snow gathers here that the white lighthouse becomes invisible in the snow.

great duck island lighthouse in mainegreat duck island lighthouse off the coast of maine

This was the view from Great Duck Island – I loved the way the ocean was sparkling.

bar harbor whale watch lighthouse tour

Do you see the lighthouse?

baker island lighthouse

Baker Island Light is within a few years of completely disappearing due to the growth of the trees on the island as you can see above.  The light isn’t essential to navigation anymore since they’ve replaced the light with a lighted buoy so it’s not worth the cost to log the island to keep the lighthouse’s path of light clear.

baker island lighthouse in maine

Nearby there is a lifesaving station which I also love to photograph!  The Outer Banks is the only place I’d seen them until this one so it was fun to see one in a different spot.

lifesaving station in maine

I think that Winter Harbor Light is absolutely adorable and I want to stay here (even though that’s not an option, it just looks too cute!).  A playwright and a writer have owned the lighthouse in recent years and I can imagine that it would be extremely inspirational to write from here!

winter harbor light in winter harbor maine

I loved that the boat would spin around each lighthouse so that you could see it from multiple angles and were able to photograph the lighthouses in the best light possible.  I shot all of these images handheld much to most of my fellows passengers dismay.  Everyone came armed with tripods which made me laugh when they all started falling over in the winds.  Everyone has their own method of madness and for me I prefer to travel light!

winter harbor light

I love the Maine coast!

coast of maine

I loved seeing Egg Rock Light from my room at night and its signature red beam but seeing it up close was a MILLION times better.  This is such a unique lighthouse!

egg rock lighthouse near bar harbor

The skies started bluing up which made me happy!

egg rock light in maine

As you can tell, we spent the most time here at this lighthouse so I got a few more images of this lighthouse.  I couldn’t pick just two for the post so you’re getting a few more.

egg rock lighthouse

I am a huge animal lover so when the tour guide told us to look for seals my eyes were PEELED for these guys that typically sun themselves on the rocks around the lighthouse.  I was so disappointed that I didn’t see any and no one else did either.  When I got home and was editing I decided to zoom in on the pictures because I was determined to see them.  Imagine my surprise when I found a whole slew of seas on the rocks including a wee baby one!  In the image below there are 4 seals visible but a few more that you can see bits and pieces of.  How many can you see?

seals on rocks at egg rock lighthouse

Having issues seeing them?  Imagine trying to see them on a boat!  Ha!  Here’s the same image with a few clues Highlights style.   The one on the far left appears to be a wee one and the one on the far left made me giggle when I saw the image.  Seals are so fun.

seals in maine during october

Here’s an image of one of the seals coming to see what the boat is doing.  See his nose in the water?  So cute!

seal in the atlantic ocean

Heading back into Bar Harbor we passed a familiar ship that was docked outside of my window when I woke up in the morning, the Norwegian Dawn!  I sent an image of it to all of my friends that I had been on the ship with back in February, it was fun to see the ship again!  Our balcony was the one just above the dorsal fin on the dolphin.  I would meet back up with her for a third time that year in December too when we went to Cozumel (those pics will be blogged soon!).

norwegian dawn cruise ship in bar harbor maine

This is so my happy place and while I was bummed about the park being closed I am so glad that I took this tour.  I couldn’t imagine a prettier way to see the area.

bar harbor lobster boats

I couldn’t decide which image of the Wind Spirit was my favorite so you get two.

wind spirit boat in bar harbor maine

Which one do you prefer??  I still can’t decide!  I think I like the prior one better but the light is great in this one too.  Sigh.

wind spirit ship in bar harbor

After the tour I had one thing and one thing only on my MUST DO list and it’s ridiculously silly but that’s how I roll: eat lunch at Capt’n Nemo’s.  When researching the available area food, this place popped up and I fell in love immediately.  This is a place my Dad would have ADORED.  It reminded me of our favorite restaurant in the Outer Banks called Art’s Place.  Sadly, both of these beloved places had a similar fate: burning down.  Arts was rebuilt but sadly Capt’n Nemo’s was a total loss after the fire in early December.  I was so sad to hear about the fire – which I only found out about when writing out this blog.  Sorry to those that are foodies – that’s just not me.  I hate seafood, I generally just don’t like the frou-frou stuff.  I’m a burger and fries kind of gal.  *shrug*

Anyway, my experience at Nemo’s was amazing and one I’ll remember for a long time.  There’s a lot to the saying that you remember how people make you feel and the owners made me feel so welcome even though I was the only person there and they were probably looking forward to a relaxing hour or two off before the dinner rush.  You walked in through the entrance near the lighthouse and the restaurant was chaotic but in a good way.  Drawings, notes, pictures and all kinds of random things were pinned to the wall, mismatched tables and chairs covered the floor and the owner greeted you with a smile and a warm welcome.  I ended up ordering a ton of food – basically so I could have a bite of everything.  The mozzarella sticks were my favorite  by far but the burger and potato circles (thick oval cut potatoes w bacon, cheese and sour cream) were delicious.

capn nemos in bass harbor maine

This charmed me so much I had to have a picture of it.  It was pinned to the wall near where I was seated, if you can’t read it it says, “Always be yourself.  Unless you can be Batman.  Always be Batman.” along with, “You can get away with anything, as long as you say the right catchphrase.”  HMS, I don’t know who you are but you are wise!

captn nemos batman note in maine

After my delicious lunch I headed off to the nearby lighthouse I just had to try and get an image of.  The tricky bit was that part of the road leading to the lighthouse is part of Acadia National Park so it was shutdown (ridiculous right?) but people were parking on the road and hiking the mile or so in so I joined the masses.  I figured if this crew was able to do it, I should be able to do it as well.

closed entrance to acadia national park during government shutdown

I had to document my first act of breaking the law while on vacation.  LOL.

october 2013 government shutdown of national parks

Here she is, Bass Harbor Head Light.  When you got to the end of the road and the parking lot, there were two paths.  One to the right and one to the left.  I chose the right one first since that’s where most people seemed to be going.  It takes you RIGHT up to the lighthouse and I mean RIGHT up to it.

bass harbor head light in bass harbor maine

The views from the spot were pretty but I knew that there had to be a better view of the lighthouse because I had seen tons of images of it online and this was not the view that was most commonly seen.  I decided to go back and investigate the left side path.

view from bass harbor head light in maine

The path led me down to a crazy steep set of stairs and I found all of these people on the rocks below.  I decided to be brave, channel some inner balance and climb out onto these rocks like the ridiculous person I am.  It really wasn’t that bad but one slip would probably be painful, if not deadly.

boulders in bass harbor maine

Yes, that is the view I was looking for!!!

bass head harbor light in bass harbor maine

The view in the opposite direction was just as stunning.

coast of maine off mount desert island in october

This is what the stairs and the view from the top of the stairs of the area looks like.  Kind of amazed I did this with ease – I have asthma which is pretty mild but in situations like hiking it can come on.  GO ME!


On the way out I was the only one around so I wanted a better image of the barricades.

acadia national park closed during us government shutdown in october 2013

While not quite peak, the leaves were still beautiful.  I want to preface this by saying YES I took a picture while driving but trust me when I say it was done under VERY safe conditions.  I was the only one on the road and would slow down to a stop, snap a pic with one hand while keeping my face free and move on.  I’m kind of a professional (LOL) so trust me when it’s easy for me to snap a pic w/o looking through the viewfinder.  I set my camera up and snapped at will.  A MILLION times easier than doing with a phone and something I’d only do on the deserted roads that were Mount Desert Island during a government shutdown.

leaves in acadia national park in mid october

One of my other favorite things to photograph is bridges and while there weren’t any covered bridges on this trip, I couldn’t pass up the ADORABLE Somesville Bridge that I saw on my drive.

somesville bridge in maine

It’s another case of me not being able to choose my favorite so you get both.  This bridge is so adorable and I could have easily grabbed a book and spent hours here.

somesville bridge on mount desert island in the fall

I did walk on this bridge and while it’s cute it isn’t the sturdiest of things (or at least that’s what all the swaying would make me think!).

somesville bridge

This is the view from the spot where I took the two photos of the bridge, isn’t it pretty?  You can see how green this side of the mountain still is compared to the other side seen from the water during the boat tour.

view of cadillac mountain

Even though there wasn’t a lot of red and oranges poppin’ yet with the leaves, the yellows weren’t too sho

mount desert island in october

RED!  I see some red leaves!!! Again, safe driving always.

acadia national park in autumn

After passing the entrance to Eagle Lake en route to Bass Harbor and seeing a ton of cars parked alongside the road I decided to join the masses and trespass into Acadia properly.  I parked near an entrance to the lake and walked in to the parking lot which was blocked off.

government shutdown acadia national park

Let’s do it again shall we?

maine travel

One of the main reasons for my trespassing was because I really wanted to see some of the carriage road bridges.  This isn’t one of the ones that were on my list to photograph but beggars can’t be choosers and I’m glad that in the end I chose to go in at least one small part of the park despite what the government said.

carriage road bridge in acadia national park near eagle lake

I didn’t stay a long time but I loved what little time I had on the lake.  Such a beauty!

eagle lake in acadia national park

On the opposite end of the lake is Jordan Pond where I REALLY wanted to go.  The route around the lake was about 6 miles though and sunset was rapidly approaching so I opted to just walk about a mile or so before returning to my car.

eagle lake in acadia national park in octobereagle lake in acadia national park in autumneagle lake in acadia national park

It’s weird what images you really love – this is one of the ones from my time on Eagle Lake that I really enjoyed

path along eagle lake in maine

These little “facts” were tied to a bunch of trees along the path.

government shutdown 2013eagle lakelake in maine

Driving along the roads headed to my final stop for the day I was elated to pass another carriage road bridge and stopped to capture an image of it.

carriage road bridge over highway in maine

My final stop of the day – Seal Harbor.  This is where Martha Stewart calls home when she’s in Maine.

seal harbor sunset in october

I had dinner reservations back at my hotel so I couldn’t stay long and scooted back to Bar Harbor.  Before dinner I went back out to capture yet another beautiful sunset in Bar Harbor.

sunset in bar harbor maine

For dinner I had reservations at the hotel’s restaurant, The Reading Room, which had rave reviews.  Everyone kept asking me if I’d had lobster yet in Maine and quite honestly I am not much of a seafood person.  However I did love the lobster at our wedding so I decided to give it a try.  I don’t know if it wasn’t prepared correctly or not but it was a rubbery mess and was a awful.  The steak was OK and the server was completely terrible.  Bummer 🙁

the reading room restaurant in bar harbor maine

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