Our Top Ten List for Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park

This is truly God’s Country. Joyce and I have spent a lot of time on Mount Desert (including a month back in the 1980s) and plan to spend at least another month on the island in a few years.

But until then, we can only enjoy a few snippets of time. Our ten favorite things to do are:

Number One – Chill Out

Chill out and soak in the atmosphere, a necessary first step of deceleration to ensure that you savor the charm of the island, its coast, harbors, and villages:

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Number Two – The National Park

The National Park Loop Road, which takes you all along the coast, with stops including Sand Beach, Blow Hole and Otter Rocks.

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Number Three: Hiking Trails

The Hiking Trails, including two of our favorites, which we did on this trip:

  • Acadia Mountain. Although even this small mountain was fogged in on the day of our hike, it is still a pretty and relatively gentle hike, especially when you combine it into a loop with Mount Saint Saveur.

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  • Cadillac Mountain (which, at 1,530 ft, is the highest point on the Atlantic Coast between Canada and Brazil). We ascended the very steep West Face trail (which was more of a non-technical climb than a hike) from Bubble Pond and descended the South Ridge Trail to the slightly less steep Canon Brook trail, and returned to the Pond on one of the carriage roads. Although we were prepared for fog, this was a beautiful day with superb

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Number Four. The Carriage Roads

The Carriage Roads and their graceful stone bridges were originally built for John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s horse-drawn carriages. Today they are today used primarily by bicycles, walkers and joggers.

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Number Five. The Inns.

Although Bar Harbor is a pretty kitschy tourist town that is crammed with many mediocre tourist lobster restaurants, it does have its charms. These include walking across Frenchman’s Bay on gravel bar (during low tide) to Bar Island, listening to a summer evening concert at the town bandstand, exploring some of the town’s interesting relatively few real interesting restaurants (see our accompanying blog on Mount Desert restaurants) and especially the dozens of gracious and charming Inns. Three of which we have stayed and enjoyed are Mira Monte, Primrose and Moseley Cottage.

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This having been said, those who choose to stay outside of Bar Harbor also have wonderful opportunities to stay in some amazing inns with even more history behind them. As discussed In Numbers Six and Seven, the Asticou Inn in Northeast Harbor and Claremont Hotel in Southwest Harbor, are both charming, have longer histories and are located in more scenic and serene (albeit also less diverse and active) towns than are the inns in Bar Harbor.

 

Number Six. Northeast Harbor

Northeast Harbor, with its gallery-lined main street and two lovely public gardens, Thuya Gardens and the too beautiful for words Asticou Azalea Gardens.

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Then there is the incredibly gracious Asticou Inn, with its lovely rooms, incredible view of Northeast Harbor, accommodating staff and very nice dining room;

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Number Seven. Southwest Harbor

Southwest Harbor, with its business district and especially, its historic Claremont Hotel, the Southwest Harbor Matron with its gracious “Rusticator era” main building, three croquet courts and boathouse bar and now, summer lecture (which examines everything from poetry to the Euro crisis) and concert (classical piano to Blue Grass) series.

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Number Eight. Taking to the Sea

Experiencing the coastline by sea. There are many opportunities for doing so. Although sailing cruises are widely available, the more adventuresome may take kayaking tours or rent their own sailboats or kayaks for their own explorations, perhaps followed by a picnic on a secluded shore or nearby island. (Sorry, no pictures from previous trips in which we sailed and kayaked our way to did these).

 

Number Nine. Go Off-Island

Off-Island segments of Acadia National Park, such as the Schoodic Peninsula (the peninsula to the east of Mt. Desert) and Isle a Haut (off Deer Island to the west). (no pictures from previous trips to the peninsula or the Isle, but we do have a couple of the towns of Castine, Stonington and Blue Hill, on the way to Isle a Haut.

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Number Ten. Learning the Ways of the Lobster

Learning the ways of the lobster via a full-cycle tour, beginning at the Oceanarium (to see a lobster hatchery), taking a 2-hour cruise on the lobster boat “Lulu” (where you can watch or participate in setting and hauling of traps, the measuring of “keepers” and getting answers to questions you never knew you had), touring the lobster docks and finally, eating at one of the ubiquitous lobster pounds, particularly those that are right on the water (like Abel’s, on Route 3 just north of Sargent Drive) or on the docks (like Beals’ in Southwest Harbor).

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And, while you are there, you can also get a view of how the “other half lives.” Mount Desert, which was effectively “discovered” and developed by the Rockefellers, became one of the most fashionable resorts of the Guided Age. And, as you can see from the mix of old-money, and new-money cottages, it still retains considerable allure.

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But Where are the Restaurants?

Those readers who are particularly astute, or who know of Joyce’s and my passion for food will recognize one big gaps in our Mount Desert Top Ten list. Other than brief mentions of lobster pounds and the Asticou and Claremont dining rooms, we did not specifically discuss restaurants.

Unfortunately, one of the big reasons is that we have not found all that much to discuss. Generally speaking, Maine’s best restaurants are further south and west on the coast. By the time you get up to Mount Desert, your options are a bit more limited. This, however, is certainly not to suggest that your trip should be one big fast. Our next blog, therefore, provides our perceptions of the restaurants we visited this trip.

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