Maine Coast and Maritimes Road Trip: The Plan

This is not a photo of me, nor of my car. But damn, I wish it was!

Here it is–the plan.  It only took me a week to put together, which I think is rather impressive.  Though when I say ‘only a week’, you should know that I did use the better part of every spare moment of that week–at least 6 hours the first day and 6 hours the last day, with at least ten hours during the week–so a little more than a full 24 hour period.

But it was a daunting task.  We went to the book store on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend and purchased four guide books. One week later–this past Sunday–I made the last of the lodging reservations. In that 26-or-so hours I learned everything I could about Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. Every town, every national, state, or provincial park, every city small and large. I even checked out festival schedules. Did you know that U2 is playing in Moncton, New Brunswick on July 31st? I do.

With all of the information that I quickly accumulated I formulated a plan that I hope will be relaxing. Our plan is as follows:

We will be driving directly from our home in PA to Ogunquit, Maine. Why Ogunquit? Because it is the closest cute town in Maine. We will be staying at my first ever Bed and Breakfast, the Yardarm Village Inn for two nights, giving us one full day to check out Ogunquit. There’s really not much to do in Ogunquit, which is the other reason I picked it. I thought it would be a relaxing start to the trip.

Upon leaving Ogunquit, we plan to spend a day on the road. Kennebunkport is en route to our next destination, and I’d really like to stop there and sightsee for a few hours. Sometime before dinner we plan to arrive at our next destination–Boothbay Harbor.

I picked lodging for this trip based on many things–location first, price second but still important, private bath required. I did not pick lodging based on cute name–though most places we will be staying have cute names. Our motel in Boothbay Harbor does not. We will be staying at Cap’n Fish’s Waterfront Inn. I’m not kidding–though it is more motel than inn. I liked it because it is just outside of the busy part of town, with great views, proximity to restaurants, and they even offer boat charters for scenic cruises.

After two nights in Boothbay, we’re on the road again, this time passing through Bath and Camden for some sightseeing. Our final destination–Bar Harbor.

We chose Bar Harbor for the same reason that everyone else chooses Bar Harbor–proximity to both the trails of Acadia National Park and the creature comforts–restaurants and bars–of the town itself. We will be staying in yet another B&B, The Hearthside Bed and Breakfast.

Because we want to do some hiking, I felt Bar Harbor deserved three nights, giving us two full days to enjoy the area. The ‘plan’ for those two days looks something like this: wake up, have breakfast, go hiking, come back to B&B, shower, walk to town, eat, sleep. Seems pretty laid back to me! After Bar Harbor, we assume we will have had our fill of coastal Maine so it’s off to Canada we shall go!

Because we will be hitting New Brunswick on the way back, this leg of the trip presented some problems. I had no desire to see St. John–it looks industrial and ugly–but my husband had no desire to drive directly from Bar Harbor to our next stop, Halifax, Nova Scotia. To be fair, it is really far. So we found a cute little town in the middle–about a four hour drive from both Bar Harbor and Halifax–that is supposedly a scenic 45 minute drive outside of St. John: St. Martins (apparently they like their saints in New Brunswick–we also considered St. Andrew and St. Stephen!) We’re only stopping here for one night for a stay at Salmon River B&B (we’re going to be eating a lot of breakfast on this trip!) This inn has a restaurant–we imagine we will want dinner after driving from Bar Harbor–and is within walking distance to the not-exactly-famous Bay of Fundy Sea Caves. Low tide is at 7:15 that night, so I’m not sure how that will work out with dinner and all, but I’m sure that the innkeepers will help us figure that out.

So what do you think? Am I overscheduling so far? At this point, one week has elapsed.

Next stop–Halifax. This is a husband-selected stop. He saw something about a Beer Lovers tour of Halifax in our one guide book and read a bit about the Citadel in the middle of the city and he was sold. So we shall be spending three nights and two full days in Halifax, staying in the Lord Nelson Hotel which, if a bit run down, looks typical-grand-hotel-esque, and is fantastically located a block or so from the Citadel and across the street from the public gardens.  It is the only ‘real’ hotel of the entire trip.

While my husband is planning on overdosing on history and beer on this portion of the trip, I plan to find some non-shellfish, non-dipped-in-butter dining options. Perhaps something Thai. You know, because coconut milk is so much healthier than butter.

We originally planned three full days for Halifax, thinking one day would involve a day trip to the southern part of Nova Scotia, but instead we decided to devote more days to the northern part of Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island. If you’ve not ever heard of Cape Breton Island or The Cabot Trail, google image search it now. Or I guess I could put in a photo or two…

There. Did that help you understand why we’re spending four nights here? That would be the actual road we (I) will be driving upon.  Wow.

We were going to be camping on Cape Breton–you know, to save money–but then I decided that the campground I picked was WAY too far away from the area we wanted to actually be in (like two and a half hours away–it looked smaller on the map in my guidebook, ok?) So I ended up finding ‘alternative lodging’.  I swear this has nothing to do with my reluctance to camp.  Promise. 

Night one will be spent in a little motel in Cheticamp after slowly driving from Halifax, stopping whenever we feel like it.  After checking out of the little motel there (it’s called Albert’s Motel and is so small it doesn’t even have a real website–imagine!) we will make our way around the top part of Cape Breton, again stopping wherever we can to get out, hike, take photos–whatever.  There’s a place along the way that my husband read has ‘the best whale watching ever’, so he’s kind of obsessed about doing a whale watch.  We end the day in Wreck Cove, 20 minutes ouside of Ingonish where we will stay for three nights in a cottage at Maven Gypsy B&B and Cottages.  I’m super excited about this part of the trip–and I have absolutely no solid plans other than ‘drive until we see somewhere pretty with a pull over area and stop’.

You’d think at this point we’d be tired of being on the road, and you’d be right. But there’s no way that I’m driving this far north (and east) and not stopping at this next location. And so, after Nova Scotia, we drive to Prince Edward Island where we will spend five nights in a cottage-like motel room at The Bay Vista Motel, complete with kitchen, deck, and grill, relaxing and immersing ourselves in all things…Anne of Green Gables.

Yes, that’s right, I’m one of those people.

We will likely also spend at least one full day at the beach, if that makes you feel any better. But the real reason we’re going to PEI is because I love all things Anne, and I don’t care who knows it. I want to wear a long white dress and walk on sand dunes with my friend Diana.

I’ll be content with a short white dress (which I already own), dunes, and my husband. Because I don’t have a friend named Diana.

We chose to spend five nights here because we know that we will need some permanence at this point. Up until this point, we will not have spent more than three nights in any one location. We are staying on PEI for five nights so that we can build up our stamina for the back home trip–which we are also dragging out considerably as the idea of driving the 16 hours from PEI back to PA does not appeal to us.

After PEI, it’s national park time again! This time we will be staying in New Brunswick, at Fundy National Park.  While we have reservations at a campground, I’m betting this will change by sometime later today (I have a reservation request in to Fundy Highlands Inn and Chalets–they rent out little shed-like cottages for not very much money.)  Since we won’t be camping on Cape Breton, it seems silly to drag along a whole bunch of camping crap just for one three-day stay–right?  Yeah, that’s what I thought.  Again, this has absolutely nothing to do with my reluctance to wake up in the middle of the night and hike to an outhouse.  I swear.  It also has nothing whatsoever to do with my concern about mosquitoes, sweaty tents, or my dislike of baked beans cooked in a fire.  Cross my heart.

The plan for this leg includes romping about in the crazy tides and doing yet more hiking (I figure worst case scenario, this trip will be great exercise!) We are here for three more days before making the long drive to our final stop–Portland.

Portland is the only stop on this whole trip that I’m not super excited about–and I’ve reserved the right to cancel our lodging–at yet another B&B, The Inn at Park Spring— and change it to somewhere in a small town we pass through that I like.  I don’t mean to sound so negative about Portland, but there’s just nothing there that grabs me and says ‘you must visit here’, other than the fact that my husband is saying ‘we must visit there’.  Oh–and the fact that it supposedly has a great restaurant scene.  And I found a trolley tour for foodies.  That does seem like fun.  But I still reserve the right to change our final destination plans.  The crazy thing about this trip is that if we do pass through a town in Maine that we like on our way up, we still have three weeks to change our lodging for the back home stop.

This is going to be a long trip.  Hell–this is a long post, and I’m just writing about the trip!

But that’s ok, and here’s why: the point of this trip–other than seeing lots of lighthouses and eating lots of lobster–is for my husband and I to spend some qualitly time together. Because, you see, three weeks after we return home, I’m leaving again.

But more on that in my next post!

So–what do you think? I’d love feedback on our plan. Will things go wrong? Absolutely. Will it rain, will I be eaten alive by bugs, will traffic suck? I’m sure. But I’m going into this knowing these things, expecting them, even. That has to help–right?

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