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Best driving routes from Portland to Bar Harbor

Boston...
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Best driving routes from Portland to Bar Harbor

Hi, I'm spending 2 nights at Bar Harbor in late May. We're coming up from Portland ME. One route takes 95 to Bangor then 1A to Bar Harbor. Is there construction on 1A that would cause big delays at that time?

Other obvious routes are getting on Rt 3 at Augusta or getting on Rt 1 at Brunswick.

I'd prefer to take the fastest way there and the most scenic route home. Thanks!

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1. Re: Best driving routes from Portland to Bar Harbor

The Maine Department of Transportation website shows an active road construction project on Rt 1A between Brewer and Ellsworth. The actual impacts on traffic will vary from day-to-day, but given the traffic volume on that highway, and previous experience with construction projects on other sections of that route within the past few years, I'd guess that slight to moderate delays will be likely even in May.

Drive the Augusta-Belfast-Bucksport-Ellsworth route just yesterday and it took us a just about two hours from the I-95 area in Augusta to downtown Ellsworth. Without construction, the Augusta-Bangor-Ellsworth route usually times out at about an hour and forty-five minutes, so you're only talking about a fifteen minute difference without the construction.....

Regardless of how active or inactive the construction zone (and resulting delays) might be, for fifteen minutes or less difference, I'd go the Belfast route just to avoid the construction zone aggravation.

As a side note, if you decide to go I-295 to Brunswick and pick up Rt 1 there, you're going to encounter construction on I-295 between Falmouth and Freeport! They plan to do most of the work at night, but there may be some inconvenience during daylight hours as well.

And even if you take I-95, the Maine Turnpike, from Portland to Augusta, you can expect to encounter a couple of work zones at bridge rehabilitation projects on the Turnpike.

It's a short construction season in Maine and, with the federal stimulus funds construction projects starting up this Spring, there's going to be a lot of roadwork in Maine this summer.

Based on the way various entities manage their work zones and personal past experiences, I'd say take I-95 (the Turnpike) from Portland to Augusta, then Rt 3 and Rt 1 from Augusta to Belfast to Bucksport to Ellsworth and on to Bar Harbor. Should give you the best bet at minimizing delays and reducing aggravation along the way.

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2. Re: Best driving routes from Portland to Bar Harbor

Mainer pretty much summed it up. I drove the 1-A route a little over a week ago. It was late at night (last plane into Bangor) so there was no construction activity. However, it was clear that they are very active during the day. Some of the old road bed has been removed already---just uneven dirt, stone, and gravel.

For the small difference that Mainer noted, the Rt. 3 option through Belfast and Bucksport is a good one. Moreover, it will enable you to see the Penobscot Narrows Bridge.

If you are interested in the Maine DOT site, it is at:

http://www.511.maine.gov/main.jsf

They do a decent job of keeping it current, but effects will vary day to day.

Boston...
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3. Re: Best driving routes from Portland to Bar Harbor

Thanks for the replies. I was planning on taking 295 from Portland instead of 95, it looks like less miles but sounds like it might take longer?

I'm now leaning towards taking Rt 3 near Augusta on the way up but still considering taking Rt 1 all the way to Brunswick on the way back, is that a scenic drive or nothing much to see?

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4. Re: Best driving routes from Portland to Bar Harbor

First, 295 through Portland is a little shorter than the swing west on 95; the Portland area is fairly scenic as well.

Second, at least in my opnion, once you get south and west of Rockland on the way back, Rt. 1 stays inland, there is more local traffic around the various towns, and there really isn't that much scenery to enjoy. From just southwest of Rockland, you could take 131 to 17 at Union and 17 across to Augusta and I-95.

Boston...
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5. Re: Best driving routes from Portland to Bar Harbor

thanks again, sounds like 295 then Rt 3 might be our best bet in both directions. Is Rt 3 a small road as in 1 lane in each direction?

Bar Harbor, Maine
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6. Re: Best driving routes from Portland to Bar Harbor

Yes, Route 3 (as well as route 1A to Ellsworth from Bangor) is one lane each way. Well-maintained with wide shoulders and occassionally a middle lane on a hill so that passenger traffic can pass slow-moving trucks.

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7. Re: Best driving routes from Portland to Bar Harbor

Except for a relatively short stretch near Augusta, yes. Most highways in Maine, once you get off of the interstate highways, are that way. Several have passing lanes on big hills, but basically they are two-lane roads.

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8. Re: Best driving routes from Portland to Bar Harbor

Would agree that Rt 1 south of Rockland probably isn't worth the extra time -- unless you're also alllowing extra time to go down onto one of the penninsulas to places like Pemaquid or Boothbay Harbor, and it doesn't sound like you'll have enough time to do that.

If it helps you make up your mind, think of the part of Maine between Rockland and Portland as being like the palm of your hand.....with Rt 1 traveling along the row of knuckles closest to your palm... Most of the interesting views and villages are down on the penninsulas represented by your fingers.... On Rt 1, you may catch a glimpse of ocean or coast occasionally, but it's not a scenic coastal drive in my opinion.

The earlier suggestion of Rt 1 south from Ellsworth to Rockland and then Rt 17 to Augusta would make a nice alternative to Rt 3, which you'll have already seen on your way down. If time is critical, the Rt 17 option will take you about an hour longer than using Rt 3, but will allow you to see the scenic village of Camden, the harbor in Camden, and a great view of the town and harbor from atop Mt Battie at Camden Hills State Park.

Rt 3 is considered a "primary" non-interstate highway by the Maine Department of Transportation. That means that, for the most part, it has the widest travel lanes of Maine's non-interstate highways, paved roadside shoulders, and, even though it's only one lane in each direction except where there are climbing/passing lanes on the uphill sections, the speed limit is generally 50 or 55 mph except where it passes through towns or villages along the way. Generally good, easy driving.....

A word of caution though -- be alert to, and obey, the speed reductions in the local town and village areas. While they're not operating the classic "speed traps" so famous in some southern states, local and state law enforcement folks do take the reduced speed limits seriously.... Slowing down to the reduced speed will still get you through town quicker than the time you'll lose if someone decides to pull you over and write you a ticket. In general, 3-5 mph over the speed limit won't attract attention, but anything from there up can get you at least a road-stop and warning.

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9. Re: Best driving routes from Portland to Bar Harbor

I disagree that Route 1 south of Rockland isn't worth it. Remember Damariscotta? Maine's Loveliest Village Wiscasset? Bath and BIW?

My suggestion: if you have the time, take Route 1 back as far as Camden. In Rockport pick up Route 90 which cuts off Rockland and take it to Route 1 south of Thomaston. Continue on Route 1 all the way to 295 in Brunswick.

If you have time to stop Camden, Damariscotta, Bath and Wiscasset are all sweet little towns. If you don't have time to stop, at least you've had a more scenic route than Route 3/295. There is a little town about every 10 miles as you work yourself down Route 1 back to 295 in Brunswick, and though you won't see the coast, you'll see pretty tidal waters (rivers) at Damariscotta, Wiscasset, Bath and Brunswick. I take it every now and then when I want something different than the same old interstate.

10. Re: Best driving routes from Portland to Bar Harbor

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