All the details of our Maine Family Vacation…the best trip ever! Lighthouses, beaches, whale watching, Acadia National Park, and more!
This summer we took one of our very favorite vacations ever…we went all through New England, including a week in eastern Maine. It was hands down one of the best weeks ever; we absolutely loved it. It was a week full of the most gorgeous scenery, wildlife, and outdoor splendor. We unplugged, and just enjoyed our time together in the great outdoors! We decided to also focus our trip on more remote areas, rather than cities with museums and waterparks. Those things are definitely available, but we were looking for mostly outdoor experiences like kayaking, whale watching, hiking, and discovering less traveled areas. Both ways are wonderful, and provide different experiences. Maine is also famous for its lobsters, blueberries, breathtaking coasts and scenery. It’s a must-visit!!
We have six kids, and the youngest was 5 years old on this trip. They’re mostly elementary age, with a couple in middle school. This was definitely a trip we could have taken with even younger kids–with just a couple of alterations (different hikes).
We actually spent three weeks through New England, taking some time in each state, which was wonderful. But we stayed an entire week in Maine, and could have stayed even longer to fit in a couple more cities. You can easily alter this itinerary to fit your needs–stay a little longer, or switch out something to add in another city or more time in one place. We also quickly realized we needed to pay attention to the tides–and downloaded an app to keep track of them as they change each day. Many of the things we did revolved around the tide, so it was an essential part of our stay.
Maine Family Vacation Itinerary
We stayed in an Airbnb in Jonesport, which was central to all of the things we did. This way we had a home base, and then each day took a day trip to where we wanted to go. I HIGHLY recommend passports, Nexus cards, or enhanced drivers licenses (kids under 16 need birth certificates) so you can cross the border into New Brunswick, Canada—we spent a lot of time there too. (More info on this below.)
We were in Massachusetts for the first half of our trip, and drove all the way through Maine to the most eastern part of state. We really wanted to make a stop in Portland on our way through—but we just didn’t have the time, and we wanted to stay more rural. But if you’re looking for a larger city, and want things like a zoo, museums, observatory, shopping, etc., definitely plan a day in your itinerary for a stop.
Day 1: Whale Watching, Eastport
What a treat! We had so much fun on our whale watching tour, and it was the perfect start to our trip. We left from Eastport, which is the most eastern city in the US. There were several places there to book trips, and it was easy to do. I recommend booking them in advance, just to make sure you can get a spot. The summer can be very busy.
The captain was really great at doing his best to find whales and other sea life for us to see. We saw humpback whales, fin whales, minky whales, porpoises, bald eagles, osprey and the largest tidal whirlpool in the Western Hemisphere. (It’s called Old Sow, and it’s where where waters exchange between Passamaquoddy Bay and the Bay of Fundy. It was quite incredible. We were right near the New Brunswick coast as well, and the coastline was absolutely stunning. Unfortunately, I was way too slow with my camera, and I didn’t get any great whale pictures, but they’re seared in my memory. My kids were thrilled! It was an adventure we will never forget.
Afterward, we drove back to Jonesport to eat dinner. Just a warning…everything closes very early in this area, including restaurants and grocery stores, so I suggest getting back no later than 8 if you plan to stop. Check times just to make sure!
Day 2: Campobello Island & New Brunswick
TIP: New Brunswick is a different time zone (an hour later), so make sure you are remembering that when checking on times. Also, the tide rules everything, and it changes every single day. We downloaded a tide app that made things a lot easier. Depending on when it’s low tide or high tide, things will look very different, and it may change what you can actually do.
Campobello Island is actually in Canada, and is accessible by bridge from the US. We have Nexus cards (for travel between the States and Canada), and if you live in a state that borders Canada, I highly recommend getting them. They’re free for under 18, and adults are $50. They last for 5 years, and also come with TSA precheck for airline travel. Definitely one of the best things to have when traveling in the northeast, or along the Canadian border!
I suggest starting the process as early as possible, since it requires an application approval, then interviews at a border station with both countries. Otherwise, you’ll need a passport to cross the border. (Or, an enhanced driver’s license will work, and birth certificates for children under age 16. Double check this info before traveling…it’s always up for change.) UPDATE: Check the current requirements to cross the Canadian border, which change due to COVID updates. As of right now (July 2022) you need to use ArriveCAN, an app where you can upload any required info.
We first stopped at the Mulholland Lighthouse for lunch, and then walked around and explored for a couple of hours. The kids didn’t want to leave! We saw some very friendly seals right off of the shore that we were sure were playing with us, and it entertained them for a long time. It was so gorgeous…definitely one of my favorite spots.
Afterward we headed up the road to catch the ferry to Deer Island, and then another one over to New Brunswick. They are car ferries, and you pay a certain amount ($22 while we were there) per car, plus extra depending on how many people you have in your vehicle. They take Canadian or US dollars, but you’ll pay the same either way. (No exchange given.) Once you’re in New Brunswick, there are so many different places you can explore.
Day 3: Kayaking on Patrick Lake
We knew we wanted to go kayaking while on our trip, and actually brought all of ours with us. We have five of them, so actually built a special stand for our trailer to fit all of them! But if you’re not bringing your own, no fear–there are places you can rent them by the hour, day, and even week.
We had actually planned on going to a different lake, but after a serendipitous conversation with our waitress one night, we headed to Patrick Lake. It was her favorite place to go with her kids, and since she was a local and knew all the best places, we went with her suggestion. I’m so glad we did! It was a quiet, gorgeous lake, and provided a day full of fun. My kid also played on the shore, splashed in the water, and we had a picnic.
Day 4: Great Wass Island
My kids love love to explore and discover, and this was the perfect day for that. We planned to visit Great Wass Island during low tide, because then we would be able to see so much more of the sea life up close. During low tide, the water goes down dramatically–between 20 and even up to over 50 feet, depending on where you are. So the landscape completely changes, and you can go out and walk where there is water half of the time. It was the best! On the sandy beaches we found lobsters, crabs, shells, and more. We hiked and explored, and had the best time.
Day 5: Bar Harbor
While most of our Maine experience was in nature, we did spend a day shopping and exploring in Bar Harbor. It was so fun exploring all the shops in this darling coastal town, and you’ll want to be prepared to buy tee shirts and sweatshirts–they’re pretty irresistible! We had a lovely day walking up and down the streets, eating yummy food, shopping, and looking around. SO fun!
There is a playground for the kids to get our some energy, and places to rent bikes if you want to explore the town on two wheels. Maine is busy with tourists during the summer months, and our time in Bar Harbor is where we saw most of them. But the town is set up for exactly that, and we were able to enjoy our time there even though it was busy.
Day 6: Acadia National Park
It’s an absolutely breathtaking park–I wish we could have stayed here even longer! Did you know…it’s the only national park in the entire northeast? There are so many incredible hikes and trails to choose from, and so many fun things to do. Keep an eye out for moose! We looked at the list of hikes, and chose one based on the ages of our kids. There are others that we want to come back and do when they’re a little older. And if you do have older kids, take a look at the one with iron rungs!
Definitely come prepared to hike…bring water, wear hiking shoes, and make sure you have snacks. If you plan to be in the water, an extra pair of clothes is a must. Even on short hikes, being prepared makes a huge difference with kids.
We picked blueberries along the way…the best blueberries ever.
And the views were second to none. We took a little rest at the top, then hiked back down. We were definitely ready for dinner and relaxing that night! My only regret is that I wish we could have spent more time there…and on the whole trip!
Day 7: Head Harbour Lightstation (East Quoddy)
Head Harbour Lightstation is on Campobello Island, so yes, we made another trip! Originally we had planned to do it the few days earlier, and we actually tried, but didn’t make it in time. It’s only accessible during low tide, because you actually walk down cross where there’s normally water, in order to get over to the light station. The Lightstation island iscurrently accessible to visitors only during the 4 hours surrounding low tide, so check the tidal schedule before visiting. Also…remember it’s on New Brunswick time–which was our mistake the first day!
It was thrilling, climbing down iron stairs that were covered in algae and sea matter, since they’re covered by water most of the time. We crossed a beach, hiked along rocks, then back up on another ladder to the top on the other side.
It’s slippery–you’ll definitely want to make sure everyone is wearing appropriate footwear. But it’s worth the hike! We toured the lightstation, and it was fascinating. No one lives there now–it’s all automated–but for many years it was occupied by a full-time lightkeeper and his family.
With a family of eight, Airbnb and VRBO are our favorite ways to book travel, especially for more than a couple of nights. On this trip we also visited some fairly remote areas, where hotels and even larger resorts weren’t available within a close enough distance. We try and stay in one place for as long as possible, so we choose a central location to each of the places we want to visit.
For this trip, we stayed in Jonesport, Maine, and it worked really well for our itinerary and desired experience. It was a gorgeous cabin with lake views, surrounded by trees, and tons of room for exploring and kayaking. The sunsets were unbelievable, and grilling on the deck was the perfect way to enjoy the evening. It was quiet, peaceful, and somewhat remote, which is exactly what we were looking for.
There are also family resorts that you can research and consider, depending on which areas you want stay in, and your planned trip destinations. Vacation rentals through local sources are another option to look into. If you’re looking for certain amenities, such as an outdoor pool, hot tub, fitness center, beachfront or water access, tennis court, a certain amount of rooms (traveling with a large group), or close to family entertainment, I’d suggest looking at each of these options.
It was one of our favorite things on the trip, although we loved everything! Thank you, Maine, for the most wonderful trip! We can’t wait to go back!
P.S. If you’re in the area, make sure to stop at Helen’s in Macchias to eat and especially for pie…it is THE BEST!! We are all still dreaming about it!