I have two dogs, and I’m not exaggerating when I say they run my life. They dictate when I can leave the house, how long I can be away for, and what I do on the weekends. And like many of my fellow dog lovers, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
However, there are times when I want to travel, to get out of Dodge for the weekend and enjoy new scenery. Fortunately for me, Maine is a great place for pet parents. There are plenty of green places to explore, loads of dog-friendly beaches, and dozens of hotels and rentals that welcome canine companions.
This summer, I plan to bring my pups all over the state, starting with one of Maine’s most picturesque places: Acadia National Park. In anticipation, here’s a roundup of dog-friendly places to eat, stay, hike and swim on Mount Desert Island. Pack up your leashes and your treats and get ready for a weekend away with your animal bestie. I’ll see you there.
WHERE TO STAY
21 Albert Meadow, Bar Harbor, 207-288-2610, balancerockinn.com
This stunning and stylish inn was once one of Bar Harbor’s grand summer “cottages,” which deserves quotation marks because no regular person would consider these sprawling summer homes a cottage or a cabin or any cutesy term. However, Bar Harbor in the early 1900s was not a place for “regular people,” but rather Rockefellers and railroad tycoons. Built in 1903 for Scottish businessman Alexander Maitland, Balance Rock is an elegant, shingle-style mansion named for a nearby geological formation that seems to defy the laws of gravity. Experience the luxury of fin-de-siècle Bar Harbor with Fluffy in tow by renting one of their pet-friendly accommodations. Rooms will run you an extra $40 per night per pet, but that’s a small price to pay when you consider the perks (waking up to dog breath is one of the simplest, stinkiest pleasures in life).
70 Freeman Ridge Road, Southwest Harbor, summerhousecottagerentals.com
If you’re planning a longer trip, Summer House Cottage Rentals has plenty of cabins you can rent by the week. My personal favorite is the rustic A-frame known as Calm Breezes. This comfortable camp, located in the woods of Southwest Harbor, would be a perfect headquarters for an Acadia vacation. Plus, the owners actually encourage guests to bring pets along, offering a 25 percent discount for dog lovers. That means the summer rates of $800 and up are slashed by a whopping $200. Woof, what a deal!
864 State Highway 3, Bar Harbor, 207-288-3038, roseeden.com
For the budget-minded traveler, Rose Eden Cottages are a godsend. These charming little cabins range in price from $320 per week in the off-season to $1,000 per week during high summer. You can also rent them by the night, which is great for us weekend warriors. Located outside the hustle and bustle of Bar Harbor, they’re quiet, private and just a half-mile away from Hadley Point Beach (a public beach with a picnic area that’s also pet-friendly). Additional guests, including animal visitors, cost an extra $10 per night.
WHAT TO DO
Unlike Baxter State Park, which asks that visitors leave dogs at home if they want to get their sneakers on Katahdin, Acadia is wonderfully dog-friendly. Fido and Spot and Rex are all invited to trot down the carriage roads and hiking trails. However, you must keep your dog on a 6-foot-leash at all times (no roaming free for pups, no matter how well behaved they may be). Pets are also prohibited on certain trails – including Precipice, Beehive, Ladder Trail, Beech Cliffs Trail, Perpendicular Trail, and Jordan Cliffs Trail – since many of these routes require hand-over-hand climbing up iron rungs and ladders. But this still leaves over 100 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads to explore. Visit Bubble Pond or Eagle Lake for some stunning views of the mountains and greenery, or take a stroll up Champlain Mountain on Bear Brook Trail, a 2.2 mile hike up a piney slope with vistas of Frenchman’s Bay.
Check the tides before planning your trip, because a must-do on Mount Desert Island is the sandbar walk out to Bar Island. At low tide, it’s possible to amble across the ocean floor all the way from the West Street town pier in Bar Harbor to the beaches of the small, wooded island. Since it’s only accessible during certain times of day, plan your visit accordingly (unless you want to get stuck on the island for six hours). Dogs are welcome on the sandbar, and while they may not enjoy the view of Acadia’s softly rolling mountains quite like their humans do, they will definitely like the fragrant seaweed, seashells and scurrying hermit crabs that populate the sea floor.
150 Main St., Bar Harbor, 207-288-0404, barkharbor.com
Perhaps your dog is like mine and she destroys every toy she touches within minutes – even those extra-tough rubber kind. No matter! You can buy her a new chewable or a nice rawhide at Bark Harbor, Bar Harbor’s delightful pet supply shop. This cute store has everything from dog-themed gifts to gifts for your dog, plus those regular ol’ items that every dog needs (leashes, bowls, treats, et cetera). And the store’s animal-loving owners are dedicated to doing good, which means they donate a percentage of proceeds to the MSPCA and other local animal welfare nonprofits.
119 Eden St., Bar Harbor, 855-732-3294, acadianboattours.com
The Acadian is “pet-friendly to friendly pets,” according to their website, which means you can bring your dog along for a two-hour tour of the Atlantic. The nature cruise, which is fully narrated and takes guests throughout Frenchman Bay and around the islands, often pulls up alongside puffins, porpoises, and seals. In addition to any wildlife you may spot, you’ll also get to see some timeless mansions and the quaint beauty of Egg Rock Lighthouse. Or if you’re seeking something a little more romantic, may we suggest the Sunset Cruise? It’s BYOB, so grab some champagne and your significant other and get ready to brave the waves.
WHERE TO EAT
Park Loop Road, Seal Harbor, 207-276-3316, acadiajordanpondhouse.com
The popovers at Jordan Pond House are a tradition for many families visiting Acadia, and for good reason. The fluffy, lighter-than-air pastries are just the thing for pairing with tea – and a perfect way to top off a hike in the park. Dine in the glorious gardens outside the restaurant and bring your well-behaved dog with you. If popovers don’t strike your fancy, Jordan Pond House offers a simple, wholesome menu of Maine items, including sandwiches, salads, chowders and lobster-rich entrees.
13 Abel’s Lane, Mount Desert Island, 207-276-5827, abelslobsterpound.com
What’s a Maine vacation without a lobster boil? Since you can’t miss out on the state’s favorite crustacean, you might as well head to Abel’s Lobster Pound, where you can feast on fresh-caught lobster with a side of coleslaw and a ramekin of melted butter. One of the wonderful things about Abel’s is that it’s located on the shores of Somes Sound, so you can get your grub to go and eat it outside. Understandably, dogs aren’t allowed in the dining room, but there’s plenty of porch space for you and your pooch.