Arrive in Portland and transfer to our boutique hotel in the Old Port district. Portland’s historic waterfront is lined with working fishing wharves and converted warehouses now filled with restaurants, shops and galleries. If you arrive early, step out the door to wander the cobblestone lanes among the 19th-century brick buildings, or borrow the hotel’s complimentary bikes and go exploring. This evening, join your Expedition Leader for a welcome dinner.
Day 2: Bradbury Mountain / Beech Hill / Camden
Drive north to Bradbury Mountain State Park where we’ll take a short hike. An important raptor migration spot, bald-topped Bradbury Mountain was sculpted by a glacier and offers sweeping views of colorful woodlands and Casco Bay. Continue up Maine’s classic coastal route, Highway 1, to Beech Hill Preserve, part of the Coastal Mountains Land Trust. The 300-acre nature reserve lies on the Maine Birding Trail and is home to 141 bird species including the eastern towhee, savannah sparrow and northern harrier. Originally an early 20th-century farm, today the preserve is managed for grassland bird habitat and organic blueberry production. If we time it right, the blueberry barrens may have turned bright crimson when we visit. From Beech Hill’s summit, survey Penobscot Bay and the Camden Hills. Late this afternoon we reach Camden, one of the most picturesque towns on the Maine coast. This evening, we head to an authentic Maine lobster shack for dinner.
Day 3: Schooner Sail / Rockland Lighthouse
Located on Penobscot Bay, studded with forested islands, Camden is one of Maine’s prized sailing meccas. Schooners, tall ships and sloops ply the bay, and this morning we take part in a thoroughly Maine adventure on a private 2-hour voyage aboard a historic windjammer originally launched as a racing vessel in 1918. View the tapestry of red and gold foliage on the hills behind the town, plus elegant yachts and summer estates as we sail off the rockbound coastline. Back on shore, tour a noted Maine landmark as we walk the trail along Rockland Harbor to the famous Rockland Light.
Day 4: Penobscot Bay / Deer Isle
Follow Highway 1 along Penobscot Bay and down the Blue Hill Peninsula to Deer Isle. Although the distance from Camden is just 19 miles in a straight line, our route follows the nooks and crannies of the coast for 70 scenic miles. Enjoy bucolic views of old barns in open meadows, shingled cottages that hug high bluffs, and lobster pots on docks in quiet coves. Before crossing the famous Penobscot Narrows Bridge, we stop to survey the panorama over bay and islands from the observation tower 437 feet above the Penobscot River. Once on the other side, enter a set-apart realm on sleepy Deer Isle. With its dense woods, pink granite shorelines, salty air and squawking gulls, this is quintessential Maine. The Island Heritage Trust manages more than a dozen different nature preserves on Deer Isle and offshore islets, and we’ll explore one or two this afternoon. Of special interest is Crockett Cove Woods Preserve, known as the “fog forest” because its towering fir and spruce trees trap heavy mist brought in from southwest winds over the ocean, nurturing ferns, mosses and lichens. Spend the night at Pilgrim’s Inn, one of the oldest buildings on the island, built in 1793. Dinner is sure to feature local seafood, and Deer Isle, with a fleet of 300 lobster boats, leads the state’s catch.
Day 5: Acadia National Park / Bar Harbor
The last stretch of our drive "Down East" brings us to Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park, encompassing the highest rocky headlands along the U.S. Atlantic coast. Inhabited by the Wabanaki people for 12,000 years, the region was vied over by the French and British in the 18th century, and a century later, Mount Desert Island became a popular summer home retreat for America's wealthiest families. By the early 20th century, the impetus for conservation had established Acadia as a national park. Today, the park protects 47,000 acres of forest, mountains, lakes and ocean. Drive the Park Loop, stopping for photos of glorious fall foliage and clifftop views before arriving at Jordan Pond House for lunch. The restaurant is famous for its popovers, which it has served to guests since it opened in 1893. Complete the Park Loop with a stop at Thunder Hole—when sea conditions are right, waves crash against the rock and water is forced through a crevice into a cave, creating a sound like a thunderclap. We exit the park for Bar Harbor, the classic resort town that is our destination for the next two nights.
Day 6: Acadia—Cadillac Mountain Sunrise / Lobster Boat Cruise
Rise before dawn to partake in Acadia's most iconic experience: watching the sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain. The highest point in the park is one of the easternmost locales in the United States, and thus one of the first to greet the sun's rays each morning. The view over Bar Harbor, Frenchman Bay, the Gulf of Maine and myriad islands is dramatic even without the pink glow of dawn. We return to town for breakfast, then investigate the less-visited southwest corner of Mount Desert Island. In the afternoon, a consummate Maine experience awaits: board a working lobster boat for a cruise around the island, enjoying views of rocky coast, autumn foliage, lighthouses and small harbors. This evening, get your fill of fresh Maine seafood one last time at our farewell dinner in Bar Harbor.
Day 7: Bar Harbor / Portland / Depart
After breakfast, we depart Bar Harbor for the drive back to Portland, trip of approximately 3 hours. We travel directly to the Portland airport to meet departing flights this afternoon, which should be scheduled any time after 1:30 pm.