Mount Desert Island: Family Friendly
Photographs + stories by Maine magazine staff:
Rebecca Falzano, Managing Editor, Maine Home+Design magazine
It’s the last Friday in May and the noon sun is making promises for the weekend. I’ve been to MDI at least half a dozen times—once as a child and twice now with my own child. This is where my parents honeymooned, where they took us when we were kids, where I got engaged to my husband, where we went on our first family vacation with our daughter. I can’t think of a place in Maine that evokes more memories.
5:30 p.m. @ Harbour Cottage Inn
I’ve only ever stayed in Bar Harbor, so I’m looking forward to having Southwest Harbor as basecamp this time. We pull up to the stately bed-and-breakfast on a grassy hill with colorful Adirondack chairs. Co-owner Don Jalbert shows us to our Carriage House, a charming cottage with a kitchenette, living room, bedroom, and bath. It’ll be perfect for our little family of three. Don tells us the inn was built in 1870 by Henry H. Clark, as an annex of the Island House, the first summer hotel on Mount Desert Island.
6:30 p.m. @ Cafe 2
On Don’s recommendation, we head up the street to Cafe 2 where we are assured dining with a 16-month-old will be no big deal. Owner Nancy Woodward explains that Cafe 2 is the sister restaurant to Eat-A-Pita (which is what they call the restaurant during breakfast and lunch). I enjoy my first lobster roll of the summer and my husband, Steve, has the filet. We order a second helping of the homemade breadsticks because a certain someone has one in each tiny fist.
8:00 p.m. @ Southwest Harbor Upper Town Dock
It’s bedtime for our girl, but we make a quick detour down to the dock where we see boats resting in the harbor and a sign for the ferry to the Cranberry Isles. The sky is filled with the colors of the sunset, which make a repeat performance in the water below, and we decide to end the day on this picturesque note.
8:00 a.m. @ Harbour Cottage Inn
Breakfast is served in the main house, and Don’s partner and inn co-owner, Javier Montesinos, has made delicious shirred eggs with pesto sauce accompanied by a homemade biscuit and slices of prosciutto. My fellow guests are raving about the lobster risotto they had at Sips the night before and we discuss our favorite hikes in Acadia.
9:00 a.m. @ Milagro Coffee and Espresso
Since Steve stayed with the napping baby while I was at breakfast, we stop to get him a dark roast coffee and a rosemary sea salt bagel that smells amazing.
9:30 a.m. @ Seawall in Acadia National Park
I get goosebumps when we pass the sign that says we’ve entered Acadia. The naturally formed granite and rock seawall stretches alongside us, nature’s red carpet. It’s pure magic here—dramatic, cinematic beauty as far as the eye can see.
10:00 a.m. @ Ship Harbor Nature Trail
We take an easy family hike on one of my favorite trails in Acadia, meandering through trees until the view opens up to the harbor and then the ocean beyond.
11:00 a.m. @ Bass Harbor Head Light
I’m surprised to learn the commander of the local Coast Guard unit lives in this lighthouse at the southernmost tip of MDI. We make out a line of islands on the horizon, Black Island and Swans Island among them.
12:00 p.m. @ Vanderbilt Carriage House
I’m excited to get a tour of the in-progress designer showhouse from Kim Swan of the Swan Agency Sotheby’s International Realty. Vanderbilt Carriage House is the last remaining structure of the oceanfront Bogue Chitto estate built in 1888 (stone arch ruins remain at the oceanfront). The showhouse opens next month, and it’s clear the designers and craftspeople have been hard at work transforming the space. Upstairs, we run into Larry Stoddard of Distinctive Tile and Design laying a stunning marble floor in one of the bathrooms. I can’t wait to see the finished product.
12:30 p.m. @ Agamont Park
We begin our Bar Harbor stroll overlooking the Porcupine Islands in Frenchmans Bay. My husband proposed to me years ago out there, on a private boat ride with Captain Winston Shaw of Sea Venture Custom Boat Tours. We wish we had time for a tour today, complete with the captain’s expert narration of wildlife and eye for bald eagles.
12:45 p.m. @ Sherman’s Maine Books and Stationery
In 1886, Bill Sherman opened this shop in Bar Harbor, where he printed the local newspaper and sold books and stationery. Today, it’s one of four locations.
1:00 p.m. @ Side Street Cafe
Stomachs are growling so we walk over to Side Street Cafe where a welcoming deck is filled with happy diners, including several families with kids. Our salads and sandwiches hit the spot.
2:00 p.m. @ Matsumoto Joe Cafe 2
This tiny coffee shop specializes in French/Italian-style espresso, coffee, and loose tea “for the serious drinker.” The triangular tables are welcoming, but we opt to cross the street and soak in the sun on the Village Green.
2:30 p.m. @ Spruce and Gussy
Patty Savoie and Michelle Souza’s shop is filled with beautiful handmade home goods, jewelry, handbags, and more. I recognize the work of Anabelfuzz, from whom I bought a dress for my daughter last year at a craft fair.
2:30 p.m. @ Bar Harbor Brewing Company
While I’m shopping, Steve does a beer tasting a few doors down. I’ve been enjoying Old Soaker root beers from Atlantic Brewing Company all weekend, which is Bar Harbor Brewing’s sister brewery. Steve especially likes the Summer Ale, and we buy a six-pack.
2:45 p.m. @ Window Panes
Before heading out of town, I stop to admire some glazed porcelain dinnerware with hand-painted spruce trees.
4:00 p.m. @ Northeast Harbor Town Dock
We drive past stately old homes and then park for a few minutes to take in the glistening harbor. A picnic boat is returning from what must’ve been a blissful afternoon on the water.
7:00 p.m. @ Quietside Cafe and Ice Cream Shop
I’ve been looking forward all day to eating at McKay’s Public House in Bar Harbor—dreaming about dinner and cocktails in the garden under the heat lamps and twinkle lights. It’s the last night of halibut season and the special with potatoes and sautéed Brussels sprouts sounds amazing. But it becomes pretty clear that our little tike is tuckered out. Time for Plan B: takeout from Quietside Cafe. I spotted this place earlier next to Hatched on MDI, a cute children’s clothing store. We order a delicious spinach pizza, and wash it down with wine on the deck of our carriage house—an unexpected perfect end to a full day.
8:00 a.m. @ Harbour Cottage Inn
I spy the first trace of daylight at 4:50 a.m. Sunrise here is only 10 minutes earlier than in Portland, but this miniscule jumpstart on the day, combined with the richness of the morning light, fills me up. I make my way over for another decadent breakfast prepared by Javier and served by Don. I spot my husband and daughter making their way back from Little Notch Bakery, which, sadly, was closed. Don wraps up some blueberry muffins and fresh fruit for them.
9:00 a.m. @ Pier One Vacation Rentals
Our innkeepers also own a 5-unit vacation rental property down the road, so I ask to see it. Don tells me it was built in 1850 and was once a chandlery. Now, it houses beautifully appointed suites on a series of docks with private sundecks right on the harbor.
10:00 a.m. @ The Gallery at Somes Sound
On our way to Acadia, we drive by Tyra Hanson’s gallery overlooking beautiful Somes Sound. It’s closed for another couple hours, but I notice the current exhibitions include Arts and-Crafts style furniture by the talented Kevin Rodel.
10:45 a.m. @ Jordan Pond House
I wander into the Jordan Pond House restaurant 45 minutes before they open for the season. Outside, staff are wiping down tables where the first popovers and tea of the summer will be savored overlooking Acadia’s Jordan Pond and the Bubble Mountains.
11:30 a.m. @ 2 Cats
Whenever we’re in town, this place has a line out the door. This time, we walk right in and enjoy summer omelets with tomatoes, scallions, and herbs. On our way out of town we spot Bar Harbor Cellars Winery at Sweet Pea Farm, which Kim Swan raved about. We add it to the list of things to do next time, hoping that will come sooner rather than later.