Along with the rest of the country Maine and MDI are re-opening cautiously as COVID-19 continues.

Guess what? Things are different!

This is probably not a surprise as a trip to your local grocery store is probably already different too, but here’s some helpful hints.

If you’re not in Maine yet.

Things are continually evolving and changing daily, so be sure to check these links before you step out of the door.

First, you need to bring and wear your masks anywhere where you cannot maintain a 6 ft. distance, so you’ll need it for any shops, restaurants, grocery stores and enclosed spaces.

Do your homework, folks!

Restarting Maine’s Economy   should be your first stop. This is the overall plan. We are currently in Phase 2 which allows Residents of Maine, New Hampshire & Vermont to travel freely.  Beginning June 26,  lodging is open to all other out-of-state residents who meet the requirements of the Keep Maine Healthy plan.  This plan allows adults who obtain and receive a negative COVID-19 test no later than 72 hours prior to arrival to forgo the 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Maine.

  • People who are not Maine, New Hampshire, or Vermont residents must complete a Certificate of Compliance form indicating they have received a negative COVID-19 test result, that they will quarantine in Maine for 14 days, or that they have already completed their quarantine in Maine.
  • This Certificate of Compliance must be provided to check-in at all Maine lodging, campgrounds, seasonal rentals, and other commercial lodging, such as Airbnb. Visitors may be asked to furnish proof of negative test result upon request.

Individuals may be tested in Maine, but they must quarantine while awaiting the results.

MDI is located in Hancock County which is designated part of the Rural Re-opening Plan. BE AWARE that Androscoggin, Cumberland, and York Counties have greater restrictions than we do (and if you are driving north to MDI, you will drive through some of these counties). Individual towns on your route may also have differing compliance levels.

If you’re on Mount Desert Island right now, with my Certificate of Compliance in hand and my mask on.

All businesses on MDI are subject to a myriad of minimum safety regulations and if you want details, feel free to explore them here.

Shops

The majority of shops are open in line with State requirements, so you will have your opportunity to support them and shopping entertainment. The main thing is that you’ll need to wear a mask and wait your turn. We love our quaint little shops for sure, but size restraints mean that most places are limited to 5 customers at a time.

Many of our stores are owner operated, so you’ll see all kinds of creative ways they do this as it’s not practical to have a person motoring the door.  Make discovering and following each stores method part of the experience. Windowpanes has these adorable owl stones that you take when you enter and return at the register where it’s sanitized and replaced when you leave. No owls roosting in the basket? Wait your turn, they’ll be flying back in soon. (I should mention that you can purchase your own owl if you fell in love with them like I did.)

House Wine has these colorful hang tags and special “I Changed my Mind” spots where you can leave the bottle you inadvertently handled and Dawn the owner will clean it and return it to the shelf, which highlights how you can help: minimize handling items, touch only what you want to purchase.

The majority of stores have also added online stores if they didn’t have them and offer pick up or curbside parking.

You’ll see the standard clean and dirty pen holder, encouragement to pay by credit card, Plexiglas shields, as well as plenty of smiling eyes behind those masks we are all wearing too.

One great advantage of these limited number though is the great personal service these stores can offer as we all have more time to answer questions and help you find the perfect item. The store owner may know of something that has just come in but isn’t on the floor yet or be able to show you something you might have missed in a crowded store. Honestly, it kind of feels like the store is open just for you!

Restaurants

Dining has definitely evolved and it’s an ongoing process.  We are allowed to offer inside dining, outside dining and take out, so restaurants are figuring out what works best for them.  At this point,  distancing regulations has drastically reduced the quantity of inside seating available. Once again there are advantages here as you won’t be banging elbows with the neighboring table and it’s definitely conducive to romantic dinner for just the two of you.

Having said that, it’s summer, and we all enjoy being outside, so restaurants are getting creative in maximizing outside seating. Sweet Pea Cafe has actually done away with their inside seating and created outside seating right in the vineyard, Red Sky in Southwest has created a whole new patio area and a lot more people are discovering that The Thirsty Whale actually has a beer garden as it’s been converted to dining space! To those of you unfamiliar  with Project Social, it’s a tiny place, but  they are  expanding their outdoor seating – I’m really excited intrigued to see how they manage that, but owners Cody & Pavlina Gordon are incredibly creative.

Take out is available at most places and we’re seeing delivery options popping up. Royal Indian is delivering Islandwide and even to the outer islands!

There are a few restaurants who have flirted with take out and not found it ideal or have closed to refine their systems, so don’t worry too much if your favorite isn’t open, keep checking back on their Facebook pages and websites. A resource that is new to us is apparently trying to keep up with local dining options in real time: Eatdrinkbh.com

Activities & Services

This is a bit more of a mixed bag as State guidelines had many activities and services allowed to re-open during Phase 3.

Museums are able to be open, with restrictions and limited numbers. For example, Seal Cove Auto Museum has re-opened, but the Abbe Museum with its smaller galleries and exhibit items requiring closer interaction is still in the planning stages.

Water based activities are limited as no gatherings of over 50 people are allowed and guidelines have only recently been issued. Bar Harbor Whale Watch plans to be sailing limited trips in July, as does  National Park Sea Kayak . Given the stringent cleaning requirements, expect schedules to be limited and consider making reservations in advance if it’s integral to your trip. Small custom boat tours for a family group of 6 or less are offered by Acadian Boat Tours for example.  There are also boat and canoe rentals options that may be operational. You can even do something creative like going on a nature tour with Rich at The Natural History Center or take a Maine style cooking class at Ambrosia Cooking School.

The cinemas are not open as yet.

Walking tours are happening with limits on numbers Bar Harbor Ghost Tours is currently offering their History tour and reintroducing the foodie tours once restaurants are open and ready. Red Cloak Tours have got really creative and are offering live tele tours, you could even do one of these to  help plan your trip!

Driving tours are an option with self-guided options. Ollies Trolley is offering a limited schedule starting June 15th. We believe that they are limited to 10 people per bus, so it should be a great intimate experience.

The majority of summer festivals, live music, and large scale events have been cancelled, however there will be a “Reverse Parade” for July 4th, though unfortunately no fireworks or Lobster Festival.

Bar Harbor Farmers’ Market is alive and well, with widely spaced vendors and a one way concept, but don’t forget that mask!

On a more general note, professional services, grocery stores, town offices, post offices etc. are open, but not the visitor centers, though you can call them. Hairdressers are open, but spas not yet. If you have a medical need for massage that is doable, but not your couples massage! The island libraries are offering pick up services so you can still get your reading and other self entertainment going.

Creating a Whole New Box

I saw an article mentioning “it’s not thinking outside the box, it’s creating a whole new box”, so here’s a shout out to a couple of MDI businesses that have done that.

Blaze owner, Matt Haskell has gone beyond restaurant take out and pop up food events and is launching a whole new business to help farmers get their product into the supply chain. Blaze Meat Company has been born!

Coda is instituting BBQ Saturday’s in addition to their regular offerings.

Reel Pizza is unable to open the Cinerama, so what to do? Open a take out and “beer garden” joint, complete with drive thru’ lanes. We also totally love the “explore social distancing through on line ordering” tag line!

Bar Harbor Catering Company is nailing it in the chameleon category, starting off doing pop up events (Fried Chicken Fri-yays and an amazing Cinco de Mayo pop up pre order), moving on to re-opening Abel’s Lobster Pound ,and offering homemade sausage at Bar harbor Farmer’s Market.

So all in all we are totally blown away and proud of our resilient Island and its businesses. Yes it’s different, yes it’s a bit more work, but it’s also amazing fun and excitement figuring out  how to navigate the “new normal” and support our beloved Island.

We say embrace the changes and enjoy the fact that it’s not quite so hectic – you’re gonna discover new things and things that were here all along.

Come, support and see us!

Can’t make it yet or just not quite comfortable?  God (err giftMDI) makes buying that gift certificate easy. Your purchase to use later will provide some much needed income NOW!

In the meantime, if we missed something, please leave it in the comments so everyone can know!

Other useful sources of ‘right now’ info:

We’re Still Here Support MDI Businesses Facebook Group

Safe Bar Harbor Resources (Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce)

Bar Harbor Merchants Association

One comment on “Navigating MDI Now That We’re Re-Opening!

  • The private Long Pond carriage roads went through open mowed fields alongside the pond, which meant that no matter how bad the deer flies might be in the woods, my mare would not be harassed by them here, and we could unharness and all have a relaxing picnic overlooking the water. From then on, our “picnics” became more of a gastronomic event, as was fitting for the setting, occasion, and most of all, the handiness of the nearby truck. We now had ice chests, champagne glasses, white linen, elaborate desserts and fine china. The feast began with the ritual toast to Peggy, our Grantor of Wishes that we had not even thought of making. Did her ears happily tingle just a bit? I hope so.

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