Fall to the Rising Sun Trip • Avoiding the Crowds in Maine • Our Favorite Campsite
As much as I love to write about our travels and share reviews and recommendations for places to go and things to do, I don’t know if I’d really make a good travel blogger. I mean, look at that title: Avoiding the crowds. That’s what we’re always trying to do. Our favorite places are where we get to enjoy God’s creation alone. Seeing vehicles in a parking lot will sometimes make us reconsider doing a hike. I know there’s a reason why places get crowded — it’s because they are actually really enjoyable, or maybe really talked up, or because there’s awesome pictures of them floating around social media. There’s a reason so many people go to, say, Disneyland. Or big cities. Or National Parks. And in our case on this trip, Acadia National Park and all the cute little towns along highway 1 in Maine. There’s a reason why people visit these places, and these towns certainly benefit from all the traffic as the tourism industry brings in a lot of money.
But that doesn’t mean we like it. I had wanted to drive along highway 1 in Maine and visit Acadia for so long, but our experience of driving through in late September really ruined those pretty images in my mind. Seeing crowds of people driving and walking around makes us just want to blaze on through every town and go find where the people aren’t. And that’s exactly what we did. We avoided the toll roads by driving on highway 1, but driving from Sanford to Millbridge, ME literally took 6 HOURS. It didn’t look like it’d be any more than what we did the day before (driving from Saratoga NY to Sanford), but it felt SO much longer.
Once we made it passed Ellsworth, ME, we took a sigh of relief. Almost all traffic was gone and it was just long highway roads driving through pine forests with peeks at the coast. If you’re like us and prefer to avoid crowds, this is the place you want to be. Ellsworth is where the road to Mount Desert Island turns off, which is where Bar Harbor and most of Acadia National Park are. Most people don’t go any further North than this.
As much as I like sharing about our favorite places, there’s always a little part of me that’s hesitant to share because by making a place better known, it’ll become more popular, more crowded, and less enjoyable to the people that see it as the hidden gem. A great case in point is Supai. Since our visit two years ago and last year, Supai has become a tourist nightmare! But that’s another rant for another post. Lucky for me, this is not a popular travel blog, so I feel like I’m just writing this to friends and family and giving you all our best recommendations, without the guilt of knowing tons of people will see this and ruin our “secret spot”. So let’s just keep this between you and me, deal? 😉
We arrived at our campground around 3 in the afternoon. It was about an hour away from Acadia, so we didn’t plan on going back there today. This campground is in Millbridge, ME, South of Highway 1 in McClellan Park. There is a picnic area, 10 small tent sites, and a rocky coast. The cost is $10 a night, and that includes hot showers and flushing toilets. (Score!) Compared to $30/night to camp in Acadia proper along with everyone else, this was an obvious choice for us. We claimed our spot (and on this late September day, we were the only ones here!) and met the campground host. He was super friendly, a local guy who has kept up this campground for a long time. We learned very quickly that he shares our desire to be away from the tourism and enjoy the quieter places, which I’m sure a lot of people who live in this small, quiet town would also agree with — why else would they choose to live here? We enjoyed talking with him and his wife, and they even shared some fresh produce from their garden with us! This place easily won for best campsite on our vacation as far as I’m concerned.
However, I haven’t even gotten to the best part — we had this beautiful rocky coastline all to ourselves for 3 days! Each night there was 1 other person camping here, but every morning I got up and enjoyed the sunrise all by myself. We enjoyed sunset together alone, and lay under the pitch black starry skies with probably the best view of the Milky Way that I’ve ever seen. I was totally okay with not cramming every day full of going different places when I knew I had one of the most beautiful spots all to myself, just steps away from our tent.
We spent the rest of the day that we arrived walking along the coast and enjoying it from all angles. After setting up the tent and starting off for our walk around 3:30, Curtis asked what else I wanted to do since walking around surely wouldn’t take more than a half hour. I told him he underestimated my ability to wander around aimlessly and take a gazillion pictures. Two hours later, we walked back to our site to make dinner. 😉 After a long day of stop and go driving, this was the best possible way to end the day.
I’ll take a rocky coastline over a sandy beach any day. This place was like a playground for adults (and basset hounds 😉 )! We hopped around the rocks, watched how the waves crashed into the giant boulders, and marveled as the fog that had hung over us all day started to move away and revealed islands scattered around. This gorgeous coastline looked exactly what you picture the coast of Maine to look like, and unlike at Acadia, you have it all to yourself.
In short, we HIGHLY recommend going the extra miles to stay at this gem – McClellan Park in Millbridge, ME. You’ll find that there is much more to do further North in terms of hiking and being alone in nature. You’ll want to bring your own food though, because no tourists means not so much in the restaurant category around here. And because once you arrive, you might just never want to leave.