Ever since we decided to take a Gap Year, Leslie and I knew visiting national parks would be a big part of our travel plans. With limited experience traveling our own country, we figured taking road trips and stopping at national parks would give us a better understanding of the diverse landscape the U.S. has to offer.
When talking to people about their experiences visiting national parks, many considered Acadia National Park one of the most beautiful places they had been. This, along with the lack of national parks on the east coast, made Acadia an easy choice for our first big road trip of our gap year.
Looking back on the trip we couldn’t agree more with the people we talked to. Acadia, and Maine in general, is an extremely beautiful place. The mix of nice people, great seafood, and breath-taking scenery made our trip one we will never forget.
While planning the road trip we were concerned with the weather reports. Just a few days before we were supposed to leave, hurricane Joaquin was making his way up the east coast and his path was unpredictable. At the time, it was supposed to rain for 9-out-of-12 days of our trip.
Luckily, Joaquin’s path went out to sea and we enjoyed spectacular weather for most of the trip. Besides the first few days in Boston, the weather was sunny with temperatures in the mid-50’s to 60’s. With the beautiful weather, we were able to do most of the activities we had planned for the trip.
STOP 1: BEVERLY, MASSACHUSETTS
We left West Chester around 11:30am on October 1st (which was much later than we had planned to leave) and ended up arriving at my brother’s house around 6:30pm. After the long drive, it was nice to just relax and not do much of anything. Leslie and I ended up getting Thai food with my brother, Chris, and watching some TV while I caught up on some work.
The next day it was raining, so we opted to walk around Salem rather than head into Boston. We ate a late lunch at the Howling Wolf Taqueria and explored some of the stores in town. Later in the evening, the four of us ended up going bowling. Now I don’t know about you, but the bowling I am used to involves a 15-pound ball and pins with curves.
Sunnyside Bowling Alley in Danvers, Massachusetts
However, that’s not the case in New England. Instead, they play what is called candlepin bowling. This variation of bowling uses a 3-pound bowling ball that is about 4 and a half inches wide and pins that are straight as a…well, a candle stick. There was definitely a learning curve, but in the end we had fun and celebrated with some ice cream from Goodie’s Ice Cream Parlor.
STOP 2: ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, MAINE
Saturday morning we packed our bags and headed to Acadia. Upon arrival we bought an Annual National Parks Pass and checked into our cabin. We spent two nights in the cabin before heading to the accommodation we found on Couchsurfing (where we stayed for the rest of our time in Acadia). Not only did our hosts give us great recommendations, but they also invited us to a bonfire in the woods and a theatre performance at their barn.
Our cabin at Quietside Campground
The barn at our Couchsurfing accomodation
With the weather cooperating, we were able to spend our days hiking the many trails in Acadia. Some of our favorite moments from the trip were watching the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain, hiking the rocky coastline of the Ocean Path, and climbing the challenging Beehive Trail.
The Ocean Path in Acadia National Park
STOP 3: PORTLAND, MAINE
On our way home from Acadia, we stopped in Portland, Maine. Luckily for us, our friend from Penn State, Marykate, moved into an apartment in South Portland the same day we got to Acadia. So instead of paying for accommodation in Portland, we stayed with her and her boyfriend in their new apartment!
Even though we only spent one weekend in Portland, we saw a good amount of the city. From Marykate’s apartment, downtown Portland was a quick 10 minute drive over the bridge. We explored the Arts district during the day, full of Mom & Pop shops, then moved onto Old Port at night to enjoy the bar scene.
The following day, we ate brunch at the famous Becky’s diner, walked around the city some more, then made our way to Fort William’s Park in South Portland. The park is home to several abandoned military buildings and the beautiful Portland Head Light, the oldest lighthouse in Maine. Catching the sunset here is highly recommended!
The Portland Head Light in Fort Williams Park
Have you taken a Northeast road trip before? If so, what was your favorite stop along the way? Let us know in the comment section below!