Maine – Booth Bay Harbor

This is our group shot in front of the house that we rented in Bar Harbor right before we left to continue our trip.  We stopped off first in Camden.  Camden is called the “Jewel of the Coast.” A beautiful seaport town with a harbor full of sail boats, Camden has been used as the setting for so many movies, from Carousel to Peyton Place.  It is quaint and adorable so we stopped there for lunch before heading on.

Above was our next stop; Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park.  It was a beautiful day driving there, but as soon as we were within a mile of the park; fog rolled in and made the pictures not as clear as we would have liked.  Pemaquid is home to one of Maine’s most iconic lighthouses.  In fact, the Pemaquid Light is on the Maine quarter, the first U.S. coin to feature a lighthouse. The Pemaquid Point Light was built in 1835, and marks the entrance to Muscongus Bay and Johns Bay. This beautiful light and lighthouse keeper’s home and museum are preserved in a spectacular coastal park, perfect for picnic grounds on the smooth rocks that border the ocean.  We all loved this stop even with the fog.

We had booked the Topside Inn in Booth Bay Harbor and I would highly recommend staying there if you are in the area.  It is run by two men and they are very accommodating.  The rooms are very lovely and most have a beautiful view of the harbor area.  Booth Bay is a small harbor town with lots of quaint shops and restaurants.  There is some hiking that you can do and this is a good place to just rest, shop and relax a bit.

We did go to the Coastal Main Botanical Gardens and that was a beautiful stop. Then we headed  on to Portland; our last stop on our Maine trip.  Please join me next week as we explore Portland.

Maine – Bar Harbor continued

This picture is typical of what you will see in the harbor area in Bar Harbor.  It is a quaint little town.  If you’re considering a vacation in Maine, Bar Harbor should top your list of destinations, as it is truly one of the best places to visit in Maine.  Not exactly a well-guarded secret, but not overrun with tourism either, Bar Harbor is a Maine vacation spot that is awesome.  Of course one of its many attractions is its close proximity to Acadia National Park—over 50 square miles of mountains, lakes, hiking, biking, views and dramatic coastline.

We all really love Acadia National Park.  The pictures below are some that we took on our drive around the Park.  There is a scenic 27-mile loop that begins at Hulls Cove Visitor Center and offers access to Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Cliffs, Jordan Pond, and Cadillac Mountain.  If you get the opportunity, go to Cadillac Mountain at Sunrise as it is supposed to be spectacular.  Most of Park Loop Road closes for the winter (December – April 15).  We really enjoyed Jordan Pond and if you can make sure to eat a meal there and get the popovers as they are yummy.

The first picture below is Thunder Hole.  The next picture is one that we took while hiking the carriage roads.  The bubbles at Jordan Pond is next and the last is just a scenic picture we took of the water.

Besides hiking, our group went kayaking and biking.

Acadia National Park was our main source of entertainment here in the Bar Harbor area but there were plenty of other sites that we got to see.  The picture below is one of the most photographed bridges in the area.  While not officially located within the National Park boundaries, this is still a must-photograph for any visit to the area. Situated right next to the Selectmen’s Building (built in 1780), the Somesville Bridge is something that you can’t help but see and stop at when driving by. This idyllic white bridge spanning the small waterway is a fantastic location for photographs.

And speaking of photographs, we found a photographer that owned Acadia photo safari and he took us out on a boat to take some awesome photos.

Of course, what stop in Maine wouldn’t be complete without eating lobster.

From Bar Harbor, we traveled to Booth Bay Harbor.  Please joint me next week as we continue our journey through Maine.

 

 

Maine – Bar Harbor

We traveled to Maine with our group of travel friends.  We decided to split up the trip to go to three places; Bar Harbor, Booth Bay Harbor and Portland.  We flew into Portland and from there rented cars and drove to the house that we rented near Bar Harbor.  Our first stop was for dinner in Portland and we found the most adorable spot to eat in.  It was called Miss Portland and the food was pretty good.  We then stopped at the nearest Trader Joe’s to pick up food and drink to last for this portion of our trip.

The we drove a few hours to the house that we rented.  The house we rented was huge, but since we had 14 people to accommodate, it needed to be big:)

Bar Harbor is a town on Mount Desert Island. It serves as a gateway to the mountains and cliffs of Acadia National Park. Towering over the park, Cadillac Mountain has trails and views of the town, the bay and the Cranberry Islands. Sand Beach is ringed by mountains. From the town pier, the Shore Path winds along the bay overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the Porcupine Islands.

There is so much to do in Acadia National Park.  Acadia National Park is a 47,000-acre Atlantic coast recreation area primarily on Maine’s Mount Desert Island. Its landscape is marked by woodland, rocky beaches and glacier-scoured granite peaks such as Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the United States’ East Coast. Among the wildlife are moose, bear, whales and seabirds.  Sorry for the short post this week, but please come back next week and I will go into more detail about Bar Harbor.

 

Banff National Park – Canada

From our original group of 14 that went to Glacier; six of us decided to go to Banff National Park for a few days.  Before we left, the entire group of 14 decided to travel up to Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada to see the Prince of Wales Hotel and eat lunch there.  Perched on Waterton Lake, this landmark 1920s seasonal hotel is beautiful.  See below for the picture of the outside and of the lobby.  You can tell from the first picture of sky above the hotel that it was very smoky.

We arrived here right before lunch time intending to lunch at one of the restaurants in the hotel.  However, since the wild fires were also up in the Waterton Lakes area and the smoke was so bad the hotel was in the process of closing things up.  There was a voluntary evacuation in place for health reasons due to the smoke.  So we had to go to plan b which was to find something open in the town.  We found a restaurant appropriately named Fireside:)  Here’s a picture of those of us who decided to stay and have lunch.

After lunch the group heading on to Banff left and drove through some of the remotest land I’ve ever seen.  There was no where to stop until we were about three hours into the drive.

The place we stayed in Banff was an air b&b that one of the ladies of our group found and it was just a block from the downtown area of Banff.  It was a great location and since it was on the Whyte property we were able to go to the Whyte museum for free.  The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies is located in Banff. The museum collects, preserves, and exhibits materials related to the cultural heritage of the Rocky Mountains of Canada.  The Whytes were both artists and some of their work was displayed at the house we rented.

The town of Banff was filled with restaurants and shops.  My favorite shop was the Banff Tea Shop as I love tea.  Our favorite restaurant was Melissa’s.  Of course, I should say this was the only restaurant we went to, but we loved it so much when we went to breakfast that we went back the next night for dinner.  Since I have celiac and cannot eat anything containing gluten, I must say that everywhere I went in Canada had lots of options for me.  I think the US could take lessons from them on this:)

This picture was taken on a walk we took up to see Banff Springs Fairmont.  This hotel is simply awesome.  We walked through the hotel and had drinks on their outside deck.

 

The next day we went up to see Lake Louise.  I had it in mind to do a two mile hike to a tea house on a hillside.  I am an avid walker so two miles sounded like an easy hike to me.  Unfortunately, it was two miles all uphill.  However, we all made it to the top and enjoyed a tea and a cookie at the top.  Before we got to the top, we came to Mirror Lake where we were able to catch our breath a bit before the last section of the hike to the tea room.

Lake Louise is an beautiful lake.  It is known for its turquoise, glacier-fed lake ringed by high peaks and overlooked by a stately chateau.

The Lake Louise Chateau is also a Fairmont and it is quite huge.  However, we all thought the Banff Springs Fairmont had more character.

On the way down from Lake Louise, we came across Moraine Lake.  Moraine Lake is a glacially fed lake in Banff National Park, outside the Village of Lake Louise. It is situated in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, at an elevation of approximately 6,183 feet.  It was also beautiful.

You can see that my pictures are quite smoky as there were also wild fires in that area as well.  We all enjoyed our brief stay in Banff and headed back across the border to meet up with our friends for a final dinner before some of us headed home and the rest headed on to Yellowstone.

Cheers friends; until we travel again!

Glacier National Park

As the sign above says; Welcome to Montana!  We just returned from a trip to Glacier National Park.  We had a great time!  The scenery was beautiful and we had a great group of friends that went with us.  We flew into Kalispell and drove to Glacier National Park.  It was approximately a three hour drive, but it was such a beautiful drive.  We took the Going to The Sun Road into the park and if you have a chance, I would recommend you driving in on that road.  It is a bit of a curvy drive, but the scenery is so worthwhile seeing.  We were lucky we drove in on it as half of the road was shut down due to wild fires for the rest of our trip.  The wild fires made for some smoky pictures, but it was still beautiful.  We stayed at Many Glacier Hotel which is inside the park on the east side.  It is very nice and just like most national park hotels; the rooms are cozy; aka very small:)  Many Glacier Hotel has a deck in the rear that overlooks a lake and this was our view every morning.

Our first morning there, we decided to do a red bus tour so we could get an idea of where things were in the park  There are about half dozen different tours that the red bus offers, but we took the shorter, four hour one.  Red Bus Tours are the perfect way to enjoy Glacier National Park. Most of the red buses are restored originals that have been on tour since the 1930’s. The guides are seasoned Park veterans who are here because they love the Park and enjoy sharing it with visitors.  Once aboard the bus, they roll the canvas top back to reveal a commanding view of the best scenery in the Park. They pick you up at Many Glaciers Hotel and several other hotels in the area.  Here’s our crew.  As you can see, we took up almost the entire red bus.

After the red bus tour; our bus driver took us back to our hotel where some of us decided to do a hike to Red Rock Falls.  It was a beautiful falls and unbelievably we ran into people we knew from our home town.

We took many hikes while in Glacier National Park, but the hidden lake trail was perhaps the most challenging especially to those of us who were not experienced hikers.

The hike to Hidden Lake begins from the west side of the Logan Pass Visitor Center.  The trail begins as a paved surface, but soon turns into a raised boardwalk after only a short distance. At this elevation snow tends to linger around well into the summer. The boardwalk helps to keep hikers above the snow, slush, and mud. Once the snow melts, however, the Hanging Gardens becomes an incredibly beautiful carpet of wildflowers.

A little more than a half-mile from the visitor center, after climbing a series of steps, hikers will reach the end of the boardwalk section. From here the trail shifts to a more southwesterly course, and begins heading in the direction of Bearhat Mountain.

Even relatively late into the season it’s likely you’ll have to cross over a couple of small snowfields as you proceed towards the overlook.  It was very smoky when we arrived at the overlook that day so we did not get a very clear view of the lake.

clements-mountain

We enjoyed this hike, but the over 250 steps sure made it a challenge.

We found a variety of items at Many Glacier with huckleberry in them; huckleberry beer; licorice and tea to name a few.  We would spend nights on the deck outside enjoying these treats.

This is a view of the sunset we saw from the deck.

Some of our crew saw a lot of wild life.  I don’t have pictures to show here, but their pictures were awesome as they saw elk, deer, bears, and big horn sheep.  I personally only saw a couple of bears and that was from the comfort of the car:)

Part of our group left Glacier National Park midway through the week and traveled to Banff National Park in Canada.  Join me next week as I take you on that part of our trip.

 

Hawaii – Kauai

We docked in Kauai on a beautiful sunny day and this stop was an over night one.  We all went our separate ways the first day.  My sister and my niece decided to have mimosas on the beach and have fun in the water.  I must say that the mimosas sure looked yummy.

Part of the group went out to see Waimea Canyon Lookout and the Kauai Island Brewery.  They had some great pictures that they took at Waimea and of course, they really enjoyed lunching at the Kauai Island Brewery.

I love to take pictures so I found Kauai Photo tours and booked a tour for me and my husband.  It was a fun trip with a very knowledgeable photographer that took us to quite a few beaches.

After our photo tour; the rest of the group picked us up and we went to the beach that was known for their sunsets.

It was fun to take the pictures, but the police showed up and made us all leave. We went back to the ship after that and just enjoyed relaxing.  The next day, we had arranged to take a plane ride with the Wings Over Kauai.  I was not excited to go as I hate heights, but I really think this was a highlight for me.  Below are some of the pictures that we took of us in the van leaving for the tour and pictures from the plane.

After the plane ride and some shopping in the area, we all headed back to the ship where part of our group decided to do the rum tasting.

The rest of us feasted on the chocolate covered strawberries that the ship gave to one of our group.

We all enjoyed our Hawaiian adventure but the trip kind of kicked our butts:)  Those two can sleep anywhere:)

Aloha until our next vacation!

Hawaii – Kona

The sunny Kona District stretches almost two-thirds of the entire West side of the island of Hawaii.   Kona was the first capital of Hawaii.  There are lots of historical landmarks within walking distance of the pier.

It was a beautiful sunny day when we arrived at Kona so some of our group went snorkeling.   They found Fair Winds Cruises to take them and they all had a great time.

The rest of the group decided to just explore the city a bit and shop.  We had a very relaxing lunch and proceeded to go shopping.  A friend of one of our  cousin’s lived in Kona and operated a bead shop so we all went there and found some interesting beads.  We also stopped by a flower market that had lots of colorful flowers.

Both groups then met up at the Kona Brewing Company for some beer.  Kona Brewing Company is a brewery in Kona on Hawaii’s Big Island. Since October 1, 2010, it has been owned by Craft Brew Alliance. Kona’s year-round beers include Longboard Island Lager, Big Wave Golden Ale, and Fire Rock Pale Ale

Please join me next week as our next Port of Call will be Kauai.

Hawaii – Hilo

Welcome to Hilo; the home of Volcanoes National Park and that was our first stop of the day after debarking from the ship.  Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is on Hawaii Island (the Big Island). At its heart are the Kīlauea and Mauna Loa active volcanoes. The Crater Rim Drive passes steam vents and the Jaggar Museum, which features volcanology exhibits and a viewpoint overlooking Halema’uma’u Crater. Thick ferns mark the entrance to the Thurston Lava Tube (Nāhuku). The Chain of Craters Road weaves over lava. Trails crisscross the park.

We all really enjoyed exploring Volcanoes National Park.  It was exciting to see an active volcano and go through the lava tube.

Mr. Pineapple guy was our mascot for this trip and he enjoyed being along for the ride.

Here’s a road shown below that has had parts covered by lava several times due to eruptions of the Kīlauea volcano.

Our next stop was the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center.  For over thirty years the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation has brought delicious macadamia nuts roasted to golden perfection. You can visit the factory, enjoy free samples and shop for a delightful array of island treats and gifts including the exclusive selection of MAUNA LOA products found nowhere else.  It was a fun stop.

We then really all wanted to see one of the beaches that has black sand made of basalt and created by lava flowing into the ocean which explodes as it reaches the ocean and cools.  It was quite a ride to get to one of them, but we finally found one and it was worth the drive.

We had a great day exploring Hilo and spent the evening on the back deck of the ship enjoying this spectacular sunset.

Please come back next week as we go to our next port of call; Kona!

Hawaii – Maui

This was our view as we were sailing away from Oahu.  We were on Norwegian; Pride of American ship.  We got a balcony room as I really enjoy ordering my breakfast and eating it out on the balcony.  Funny story about our rooms though.  We all had rooms in a row with the first one starting at the end of the hallway.  Every night it sounded as if we were in a bowling alley.  I am guessing we were just below one of the restaurants and that they were preparing for the next day, but boy was it loud for some of us.

Our first port of call was Maui.  We had two days there and we made the most of it.

The first day in Maui we split up in two groups.  One group went to the Molokini Crater to snorkel and the other went to a lavender farm.  Molokini is a crescent-shaped, partially submerged volcanic crater which forms a small, uninhabited islet located in ʻAlalākeiki Channel between the islands of Maui and Kahoolawe, within Maui County in Hawaii.  Here are some pictures that were taken at both spots.

I was fascinated by the green lizard that we saw at the lavender farm.  We all enjoyed our trips and met back up at the ship and drove together to the Maui Brewing Company.

I think we had worn out my sister and my niece as they look very tired in the picture above.

The next day we again split up in two groups; one went on the bicycle ride down Haleakala.  Depending where you get started from on Maui, it can take you up to two hours to drive the Haleakala Highway and then up the winding Haleakala Crater Road leading to the summit of Haleakala. It’s an early wake-up call, but the reward is well worth it. Drive past the Park Visitors Center at 7,000 feet to get to the Haleakala Visitors Center at 9,740 feet. Try to arrive at the Haleakala Visitor Center no later than a half hour before the sun rises — earlier for a good spot. In the summer the sun rises as early as 5:38 AM, in the winter as late as 6:55 AM. The color of the sky and clouds before daybreak are stunning. Here’s a picture that they took from the top.

The rest of the group went to see the Ioa Needle.  Iao Valley is a lush, stream-cut valley in West Maui.  Because of its natural environment and history, it has become a tourist location.  We had bought a pineapple and used the Mr. Potato Head pieces to make him Mr. Pineapple Man and he ended up being our Hawaiian mascot so he went along with the group going to the Ioa Valley.

From there, we decided to start the road to Hana.  I’ve been told that the Road to Hana is more than just a great drive through a beautiful area of Maui. Most visitors tend to zip to and from Hana with a checklist of sights to photograph. This is the wrong way to do it. Do your due diligence beforehand, decide on a few locations that look the most intriguing, and take your time at each location.  We just wanted to take the road to a winery we read about, but sadly it was closed.

We met up with the other group and went to lunch at Mama’s Fish House.  Mama’s Fish House is a world famous restaurant on Maui’s North Shore, featuring Hawaiian fish brought  daily by fishermen.  This is a must to eat at if you can get reservations.  We made them weeks in advance and while it is pricey; it is so worth it.

The food was awesome and we even tried poi.  I’m not exactly sure what poi is, but it’s not something I would try again.  We were all so tired from our bike ride and exploration of Maui that after lunch, we all decided to go back to the ship and rest.

Please join me next week as we travel to our next port of call.

Hawaii

We are very fortunate that we have such a good group that we travel with.  It was so nice that for this trip both my sister and my niece came along with our travel group.  It was fun to be with both of them for the ten days we were in Hawaii.

We had all decided that the best way to see the islands was to do a cruise.  There was only one cruise line that starts in Hawaii and that was Norwegian Cruise Lines.  The ports for this cruise was Honolulu; Maui; Hilo; Kona and Kauai.

We went a few days early to explore Honolulu before taking off on our cruise. I do have to give a shout out to my niece for her stepping in on the flight out to help a passenger having a health issue.  She is a nurse and was the first to notice this man go down and she helped him until the plane could land and get him safely off the plane.  We were diverted to another airport to land so we were about an hour late for our connection to Hawaii.  However, Delta held our flight and we were able to make that connection.

Honolulu, on the island of Oahu’s south shore, is the capital of Hawaii and gateway to the U.S. island chain. The Waikiki neighborhood is its center for dining, nightlife and shopping, famed for its iconic crescent beach backed by palms and high-rise hotels, with volcanic Diamond Head crater looming in the distance. Sites relating to the World War II attack on Pearl Harbor include the USS Arizona Memorial.

Our first morning in Hawaii we decided to visit the Pearl Harbor Memorial. Millions of people from all over the world come to this majestic setting to see for themselves where World War II began for the United States on December 7, 1941.

Located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 3,000 miles from the West Coast of America and 4,000 miles from Japan, Pearl Harbor serves as a central gathering place for the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument, which consists of 9 historic locations in 3 of the westernmost United States – California, Alaska, and Hawaii. Of these, five are located within Pearl Harbor itself: the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Oklahoma Memorial, the USS Utah Memorial, and parts of Ford Island and Battleship Row.

The USS Arizona Memorial is a must-see destination for all individuals coming to Hawaii, drawing more than 1.8 million visitors each year from all over the world. Visitors are free to explore the grounds of the $65 million Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, which was expanded from the original 3 to 17 acres, in December of 2011.

We rented cars so it was easy to get about there and our next stop was The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific; also known as the Punchbowl Cemetery.   It serves as a memorial to honor those men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces , and those who have given their lives in doing so.  Millions of visitors visit the cemetery each year, and it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Hawaii.

Below is a picture of the view from the Punchbowl.

We then went to see Diamond Head State Monument which offers breathtaking views overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Honolulu.  The trail takes you to the edge of a 300,000 year old crater. This is a rather strenuous hike so some of us passed on this, but the others that did go up to the top said it was worth the hike up.  Again, I do not usually post pictures of our group, but this is one I couldn’t pass up posting and I hope they forgive me:)

We spent almost a whole day exploring the North Shore.  It was so worth our extra days on Honolulu exploring this area and I would highly recommend doing so.

Please join me next week as we start our Hawaiian cruise adventure!