Taking the Kids — and exploring Maine

Maine is as famous for its wild blueberries as its lobster
Maine is as famous for its wild blueberries as its lobster

By Eileen Ogintz

Tribune Content Agency

How about some lobster ice cream?

Check it out at Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium in Bar Harbor, Maine, considered the gateway to Acadia National Park.

Just ask for a taste — great bragging rights, even if you opt for something chocolate or with blueberries. Maine, after all, is as famous for its wild blueberries as its lobster. Thousands of acres of wild blueberries are harvested on and around Mount Desert Island where Bar Harbor is located. If you visit in summer, you might even be able to grab some off a wild blueberry bush when you’re hiking in Acadia National Park.

You’ll find all variety of dishes made with lobster — mac and cheese, pasta, chowder, and, of course, iconic and delicious lobster rolls and lobster salad (every lobster “shack” has a different recipe) served up on hotdog-like buns. And you’ll find everything made with blueberries, too — pie and pancakes, jam and syrup … and plenty of souvenirs. How about a lobster key chain or socks with tiny lobsters on them?

Take the kids out on a lobster boat and learn all about lobstering from a pro. Ask any fisherman in Maine and they’ll tell you they’re a lobsterman — 6,000 of them, though they all don’t necessarily trap lobsters. Many come from families who have been trapping lobsters for generations, See tiny lobster hatchings or tidal creatures at the Oceanarium northwest of Bar Harbor

“I get to go lobstering with my uncle on his boat when school is out. I help bait traps, pull traps in and band the lobsters’ claws. It’s great to be on the ocean and my uncle is really fun to hang out with,” said Tommy, 15, from Freeport, Maine, who was one of the scores of Maine kids interviewed for my new Kid’s Guide to Maine and the Kid’s Guide to Acadia National Park, which releases next spring.

At some seaside restaurants, watch as the boats bring in their catch.

“One of the best things to do during the summer in Bar Harbor is to eat lobster. Bar Harbor is known for having some of the best lobsters in the world caught straight from the bay,” said Jacob, 12, who lives in Bar Harbor.

“You might think you look stupid wearing the plastic bibs they give you when you have steamed lobster, but definitely wear one. Lobster juice goes everywhere because the lobsters get lots of water in them when they are cooked. And usually it’s the person sitting next to you who ends up getting their lobster on you when pulling off the legs. It’s all messy but really, really good,” suggests Gina, 13, who lives in Portland.

Bar Harbor, ME
Bar Harbor, ME

A visit to Maine is a great way to encourage kids to expand their palates with all varieties of seafood and lobster. It’s also a great destination to learn about the ocean, bird-watch (there are more than 330 species in Acadia National Park), try a new sport or simply enjoy the outdoors. (If you feel you need help, hire a professional Maine Guide.

It’s easy to see why Bar Harbor, home to less than 6,000 people year round, is the quintessential tourist town — picturesque with amazing coastal views, great shopping, restaurants and plenty to do — everything from biking and kayaking, sailing, fishing and, of course, Acadia National Park, which covers a third of the island, is a short, free Island Explorer shuttle bus ride away. But be forewarned that Bar Harbor can be packed with tourists, especially with big cruise ships in port.

“Go to the pier and see the big ships honk and drive away, and then you can walk the streets and go to all the shops,” suggests Sydney, 11, a local middle-schooler.

“My favorite thing to do in summer is to get ice cream and walk around Bar Harbor,” agreed Eli, 11, who also lives on Mount Desert Island.

There are plenty of ways to get away from the crowds.

“Every summer my cousins come up from Virginia and we all go on a whale-watching trip. We’ve seen humpbacks, minkes and once there was an ocean sunfish sunning itself on the surface. It was so bizarre looking with its big eye looking up,” said Petra, 13, from Yarmouth.

Take a walk on the Shore Path along the shore of Frenchman Bay. There are great views of the ocean — and the grand summer cottages.

There’s no better place to stargaze. Three towns — Bar Harbor, Tremont and Mount Desert have passed lighting ordinances to make sure you can best see the night skies. There is an Acadia Night Sky Festival every September.

See how many seals and birds you can spot at the Indian Point Blagden Preserve. There are more than 130 species of birds here! (A tip: at low tide, the seals will be on the rocks.) Bring Binoculars!

Visit the “Bar” of Bar Harbor during low tide — the large sandbar that connects downtown Bar Harbor to Bar Island. Check out the sea life uncovered at low tide. But make sure to check the tide schedule!

Look for bald eagles on a sailing trip (you can go out on an old-fashioned schooner named Margaret Todd with Downeast Windjammer Cruises, or go kayaking along the coast with Coastal Kayaking Tours.

Learn more about what you are seeing with the big selection of kids’ books at the Naturalist’s Notebook, a short drive from Bar Harbor, where you’ll find lots of kids’ books and “think spaces.”

Take a ferry to an offshore island or spend the day biking around the quieter Schoodic Peninsula. Meet local kids and families at Bar Harbor’s Park Street Playground and enjoy the weekly free concerts and outdoor family movies.

“You’ll have a blast,” promises Sydney.

Another lobster roll, please!

© 2018 EILEEN OGINTZ
DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

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