Mount Desert Island in 48HRS
Mount Desert Island’s abundant natural beauty has long drawn visitors from around the country and around the globe. The island’s picturesque towns, from celebrated Bar Harbor on the eastern shore to small “quiet side” treasures Bernard and Bass Harbor to the far southwest, complement the treasure that is Acadia National Park, which occupies about half of the island.
It’s an easy drive down east from Portland and we cross the bridge onto Mount Desert Island by early afternoon. The day is sunny and cold and the ocean sparkles as we head toward Bar Harbor. The island is quiet in March—one of many reasons we love this time of year here. We drive straight into town, catching beautiful views of Northeast Creek, Frenchman Bay, and the mountains of Acadia along the way. The Acadia Hotel is right in the center of town and we are warmly welcomed by owner Peter Hastings, who updates us on what’s happening in town this time of year. Peter shows us to our room, a spacious suite with a king-sized bed, sitting room, a working wood stove, large windows looking onto a porch with views of the mountains, and a whirlpool tub.
After settling in, we decide to check out some of the local shops, more and more of which are staying open through the winter. At Spruce & Gussy, a store filled with art, jewelry, and goods from Maine artists, we find a gift for an upcoming birthday. Bark Harbor offers all kinds of treats for your canine or feline friends. We pick up treats and a new bandana for our pup Sophie.
After a short rest, we bundle up and stroll down to the Bar Harbor Town Pier to take in views of Frenchman Bay and the Porcupine Islands. The cold temperatures inspire us into Geddy’s restaurant and bar, a favorite among locals and tourists alike. A friendly bartender, a slightly dirty martini, and a bowl of fried calamari are just what we are looking for. Dinner awaits us at McKay’s Public House, a warm and cozy spot serving Irish fare, local seafood, and much more, complemented by an extensive menu of top-shelf beers and wines. We leave sated, sedated, and primed for the rest of the weekend.
Our room is so cozy that we take our time heading out. After coffee at the hotel, we head to Acacia House Inn for breakfast. This local favorite (recommended by Peter at our hotel) is only open to non-guests during the off-season. The menu offers a variety of creative dishes with fresh ingredients that will leave every guest ready to tackle the park. After enjoying ample plates of smoked salmon hash, local eggs, sausage, and warm salad of roasted cauliflower, asparagus, fennel, and toasted pine nuts we make a quick stop at A&B Naturals for healthy snacks and then head into Acadia National Park. Part of the Loop Road is open to cars in winter, so we start with a stop at Sand Beach. We take a short stroll along the water and are rewarded by the sight of a half-dozen loons gathered in the small protected cove. We watch snowmobilers enjoying the groomed track as we make our way to Otter Cliffs. Snowshoes on, we walk along the Loop Road overlooking the cliffs. The bright sun on the water is uplifting on a very cold day.
The day is going by quickly. We head back to Bar Harbor for a late lunch at The Thirsty Whale, a local favorite where the menu offers just what you’d want from a coastal town. Staff and guests alike are in the spirit for St. Patrick’s Day. Our heaping plates of fish and chips—one blackened, one traditional—are restorative after the chilly morning’s hike. We’re excited to stop at the Jessup Memorial Library, a local architectural and cultural gem bustling with activity. This space is beloved by children and adults alike and offers programs throughout the year. The neighboring Abbe Museum, now affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, offers a thorough history of the Wabanaki Nations in Maine. It’s a must see for anyone interested in Maine history and culture.
It’s easy to ignore the “quiet side” of MDI—and it’s a mistake to do so. Keeping an eye on the setting sun,
we head toward Bass Harbor to take in the views from Bass Harbor Head Light perched on the cliffs at the island’s southernmost point. The small fishing village of Bernard, on the west side of Bass Harbor, is quiet this time of year; we stop for a few minutes to enjoy views of the water as the sun makes its way to the horizon.
We stop in Southwest Harbor at Red Sky restaurant for pre-dinner drinks, including a lively and bracing raspberry-infused Red Sky mocktail. The bar is small and cozy and the bartender welcomes us in from the cold. After a brief respite, we are excited to head to Rogue Café for a late dinner. We order the signature Motini named for chef-owner Maureen Cosgrove, a sublime take on the martini inflected with lemon and St. Germain. The menu offerings, including homemade gnocchi, ravioli, and pork scaloppini, leave us full but still wanting dessert, so we choose a chocolate torte. We leave filled with gratitude for the fantastic meal and good conversation.
After a peaceful night’s sleep and a good cup of coffee we thank the staff at Acadia Hotel and head on our way. Choco Latte beckons for breakfast. The café is bright and bustling; the menu offers sweet and savory options as well as great coffee concoctions. After a leisurely morning, we head to Northeast Harbor in search of the Colonel’s for donuts (chocolate and glazed twists) recommended by locals. These will get us through our walk at Little Long Pond. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful morning to wander the peaceful property recently donated to Acadia by David Rockefeller.
We complete our weekend adventure with a walk on Seal Harbor Beach, grateful to have had a beautiful weekend away.