Having traveled internationally many times, I began to realize how little we’ve explored our own country. Everyone raves about the great Pacific Northwest, and rightfully so. But being from the east coast, my husband and I craved an escape to our own version of the PNW, and knew it could be found in the upper right USA.
Towards the end of last summer, we, along with two other photographer friends, took a road trip up to the Northeast in the middle of wedding season, hoping to take a break and be inspired. We had our eyes set on the woods and coastline of Acadia, Maine as our destination, but we were 100% okay with taking our time getting there.
Beginning in Pennsylvania, we made our way up to Rhode Island. We camped outside of Newport and had our first taste of New England seafood at a downtown restaurant. The following morning we continued onto Boston, exploring what that city had to offer. Our time was brief, but the quaint cobblestone streets and Mike's famous cannoli gave us a good taste! We hadn't booked a place to camp for our night in Boston, but we were graciously welcomed into a home of a mother of a friend of a friend. See how that happens sometimes? ;) If I've learned one thing from traveling it's that the hospitality of total strangers usually makes a trip more memorable. It's those people who have that desire to be open and hospitable that greatly adds to the experience of a new place. The people who have let me crash on their floors or rent a bed in their Airbnb have shown that, no matter where you go, there is a spirit of hospitality between travelers. You help me out, and you know that in return, you'll always have a place to stay when coming through my town.
From Boston we continued on, briefly stopping in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for some dock laying and seaside swimming, and then onto Kittery, Maine, to explore the harbors. I love that having a car while road tripping leaves room for spontaneous exploring. If you like a place, you stay for a bit. But if you don't love a place? You move on. Each harbor and town was filled with beautiful natural tones that make up the palette of the northeast. Life seemed slower, quaint, and full of that adventurous spirit that living on the sea is sure to bring. Arriving next in Portland, we spent a day exploring this small, yet vibrant, community. We popped in to say hello to friends and owners, Will and Kathleen, of Tandem Coffee Roasters. Their location on Anderson Street and their bakery on Congress Street are definitely worth the stops! If their bakery isn't enough, The Holy Donut will fulfill any lingering sweet cravings you may have left. Portland's downtown is full of eclectic shops and boutiques, some favorites include More and Co, and Circa Home and Vintage. We ended the evening with pizza by the water and camping at Wolfe’s Neck Farm in Freeport.
Portland is on the southern edge of Maine, so left us with another few hours until we hit Acadia National Park. We made small pit stops in many of the small coastal towns lining Route 1 on the way up to Acadia. Camden, Maine, wooed us with its charm and it’s incredible Thai food at Long Grain Thai. This intimate restaurant has limited seating and is only open from 11:30-3 and then 4:30-9. Making reservations is your best bet or order some takeout and snag a bench at the harbor! Stumbling upon this restaurant made such a huge impression on us that we made sure to hit it during open hours on our trip back home five days later! Bristol and Belfast are two other great towns to make pit stops in on your way up through. We connected with shop owner Alex, of Pemaquid Mercantile, on Instagram a few days prior and made sure to check out his collection of goods. His shop is in a restored barn beside his home. Alex was a rad shop owner, and he was open to talking, hanging out, and sharing knowledge about the area. He has anything from antiques to linens, hand carved spoons and cutting boards, and maps. We snagged some pottery by New England artist Ariela Kuh. Down the road from the mercantile is a lobster co-op where, if you're lucky, you can watch the men and ships bring the morning’s catch back in with them.
Before we knew it, we had made it the whole may up to northern Maine to Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, our final and most coveted destination. The fog was thick and the air a bit chilled. Forest smells and sea mists welcomed us. Camping in Acadia during peak season is hard to come by unless booked far in advance, and most spots had been filled before we began our planning. We chose a campground outside the main park perimeters but still close enough to drive in each day - Somes Sounds campground. They have spots in the woods, spots along a quarry, and spots right on the edge of the waterfront. You can also rent kayaks which we took advantage of during our last day there. A storm was about to roll in that day we kayaked, and the sky was dark and moody. Everything was still except for the lapping of the water on the edge of the paddle. We passed A-frame houses and many private sailboats docked nearby. In that moment, I was reminded of a quote saying : “If the private life of the sea could ever be transposed on to paper, it would talk not about rivers or rain or glaciers or molecules of oxygen and hydrogen, but of the millions of encounters its waters have shared with creatures of another natures.” I felt privileged to be the one gracefully carried by the sea beneath us. My husband and I have always had a small dream in our hearts to move somewhere where we would live on the sea, and I think this trip confirmed that dream for us!
Acadia was full of great hikes, some of our favorites being the Beehive Trail and Champlain Mountain. If you’re hiking around Schooner, head down towards Thunder Hole. We found lots of little tide pools and caves to explore on our hike. Finally, the fog broke and gave us a hot sunny day. We all decided that cliff jumping off of the rocky coast of Otter Point was a brilliant idea. We were hit by the refreshing Atlantic, and we used our hammock straps to pull us in if the water got too rough by anchoring them to the cliff’s rocks. Pure adrenaline rush! I loved the way the layered rock formations at Otter Point created so many nooks for people to rest, lounge, and kick back. We even had VW Westfalias lining the road behind us. Not being one for the sand, this was my type of beach.
Getting up early to catch the sunrise over Cadillac Mountain is a must! It’s the first spot light touches in the United States. If you hike further down up to the front of the rocks and away from the crowds, you'll feel like you’re the only one there for the show. Everything starts dark and blue, thick with fog. As the sun comes and begins to lighten everything, you realize just how high you are and you’re able to see all the billows of clouds below you. It's an unreal moment to witness- so peaceful and tranquil.
I love how travel has this way of taking you outside your normal perspective of life to help you see things a bit differently. It broadens horizons, inspires new things, awakens old passions and ideas that may have been put aside, and connects you to people and nature and places that otherwise would have felt so distant. This trip was refreshing and inspiring, and like many artists, something my spirit needs after a busy season of work.
Marisa Albrecht is an internationally featured wedding and editorial photographer based on the east coast in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She has traveled to over 21 countries and is always open to adding to that list. She is fueled by a desire for preserving, exposing, and sharing the moments that make up life. Storytelling by capturing human to human connection and human to nature connection is what makes her work unique and timeless.