Mount Desert Island
Photographs + stories by Maine magazine staff
At the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, my fiancé and I pass by cars with license plates from across the country and move through groups of people speaking different languages. When we find our lookout, we are in awe of this expansive view that stretches past islands, land, and mountains. People travel to Mount Desert Island from all over the world; we are so lucky it’s just a three-hour drive north.
Saturday 2:00 p.m. @ Bluenose Inn
I arrive earlier than my fiancé, Sam, who is a musician and is playing in Portland on this seasonably warm day. When I check in to the Bluenose Inn, the kind receptionist hands me a gift bag that is filled with chocolates, a painting of the blue Colonial-style hotel, and a handwritten note from co-owner Jim Ash. As I get to know Ash throughout the weekend, I’m charmed by his old- time hospitality—the kind where he wants to meet and be of service to each and every guest and the kind that has him calling the Coast Guard to pick up guests who didn’t pay attention to the tides on Bar Island. Our room is spacious and comfortable and is on the fourth floor of this classic hotel on a hill. I immediately open the French doors to the salt air and the view of Frenchman Bay.
2:45 p.m. in downtown Bar Harbor
While I wait for Sam to arrive, I drive less than five minutes to the downtown. I park on West Street, where behind gates are Victorians that are as grand as the landscape they overlook. I walk up Main Street; the sidewalks are full of families, many eating ice cream cones. Younger children are calling out the state names on license plates as they pass by. “Tennessee!” I stop into Acadia Country Store, where I walk slowly through the large collection of nautical-inspired gifts, and fall especially in love with a large brass clock shaped like a ship’s wheel. Then I wander into Sagegrass Gallery, a fun, whimsical store with handmade products from around the world that include hand-painted mirrors and colorful local art. I find a vibrantly painted, translucent night light that I know my nephew will love turning on.
3:50 p.m. @ Trailhead Cafe
I take a caffeine break from the shopping at Trailhead Cafe.
4:10 p.m. in downtown Bar Harbor
Next, I head into Cool as a Moose, where it’s impossible to resist the soft Acadia sweatshirts that I know will be ideal later tonight when the temperatures fall. Then I pop into Bar Harbor Tea Company, where candy-colored teapots and mugs are on display. Further down Main Street, In the Woods is crowded inside, and I love all the thick natural wood kitchen essentials; they feel as though the person who made them knew exactly what makes for a good cutting board. I’m drawn into Window Panes because I spy a wind chime that my friend will adore. In the store, I peruse a variety of home furnishings and learn that the family- run store relocated from Massachusetts to Bar Harbor over 20 years ago. Next door, Katahdin Photo Gallery is full of customers flipping through beautiful shots of the surrounding area. All images are available as prints, framed or unframed—perfect weekend mementos. Over on Mount Desert Street, I find playful designs from children’s toys and books to adult yoga gear at Spruce and Gussy.
6:10 p.m. in Agamont Park
I sit for a while in Agamont Park, where others are gathered to admire the Porcupine Islands across the harbor. The trees’ shadows stretch across the grass and I’m reminded I have dinner reservations that I need to get ready for.
7:15 p.m. @ Looking Glass
Restaurant JimAsh and his friend Liane Wood meet me at this restaurant, further up the same hill the Bluenose is on. The floor- to-ceiling windows burst with views of Bar Harbor and the spikey pine islands I was just sitting across from. Sam arrives after we’ve looked over the menu and have enjoyed a glass of champagne. Chef Matt McPherson prepares an incredible meal that starts with oysters harvested that morning from the chilly bay, crab cakes, and lobster fritters. For my main dish, I have the pan-seared scallops and Sam gets the filet mignon that comes with mashed potatoes and charred asparagus. Outside a group gathers around a fire pit under the stars. After our dinner of friendly conversation and fabulous service, I can imagine this being a great regular gathering spot.
10:10 p.m. @ Side Street Cafe
Every night, the Bluenose has live piano music, and Sam and I see guests gathered in the Great Room. But on the recommendation of a friend we decide to head downtown to Side Street Cafe. Inside regulars and a few tourists who have happened upon the place sit around a cozy bar that invites conversation. We talk with a couple from New York City who are heading to Portland the next day and we give them plenty of suggestions for their southern Maine adventure in our home city.
Sunday 9:30 a.m. @ Cafe This Way
There’s a wait at Cafe This Way, a popular local brunch spot, but we don’t mind. We use the time to explore the little downtown that Sam hasn’t seen yet. When our name is called we tuck into a corner table from which we admire bold, colorful paintings on the walls by Neiley Harris, who is based in Monmouth. The cafe’s door is propped open on this warm late- spring day and a breeze blows into the large open space. Sam digs into a giant breakfast burrito and I’m very satisfied with my eggs Benedict over avocado and tomato on a fluffy English muffin.
11:30 a.m. on The Shore Path
We head down a side street to the Shore Path—a small stone path that winds its way along the coast. Sam climbs on the rocks while I admire the view as a tour group of kayakers passes by.
12:25 p.m. on Cadillac Mountain
After purchasing our park pass at the visitor center, we climb diagonally up the mountain in our car. We stop prematurely, as first- timers do, at each lookout: first at one that looks over the ridges and valleys of Acadia and Eagle Lake and next when we spot the Atlantic and the Cranberry Isles beyond. But nothing can match the sight at the top of the 1,530-foot mountain. We walk along the granite surface and find a place to sit awhile.
2:45 p.m. @ Jordan Pond House
At Jordan Pond House we can barely find a parking spot. We didn’t make a reservation, so instead of eating inside the restaurant that is known for afternoon popovers and tea, we get sandwiches and snacks at Grab ’n Go upstairs and settle into two Adirondack chairs by the pond. We chat and watch as hikers emerge and disappear from different paths along the pond.
5:25 p.m. @ Asticou Azalea
Garden On the drive to Northeast Harbor we pass coves and a beach; we spy homes beyond gates, trees, and walls and point out dream homes with a view. We drive down Main Street and pass shops like Schneible Fine Arts and Kimball Shop and Boutique that we hope to circle back to. When we arrive at Asticou Azalea Garden green plants and flowers surround a pond and it’s the ideal location to wander and relax.
6:10p.m. @ Fiddler’s Green
Everything in Southwest Harbor seems to move at a slower pace. It might be the absence of crowds or the quiet atmosphere, but over drinks at Fiddler’s Green we are reminded to take a deep breath and relax— after all, we are on vacation!
7:15 p.m. @ Red Sky
Red Sky is the kind of restaurant where you celebrate special occasions. That is exactly what a large party seated near us is doing, sharing a meal with close ones. Sam and I indulge in mussels steamed in white wine, main courses of halibut, which is in season, and the restaurant’s well-known favorite, lobster and risotto. I pass on dessert, but when Sam can’t resist the homemade vanilla bean ice cream, I insist on two spoons.
10:40 p.m. @ Bluenose Inn
With a nightcap from the Great Room’s bar, we are able to catch Bill Trowell’s last few songs. We sink into the couches for a few minutes before heading up to our room.
Monday 5:05 a.m. @ Bluenose Inn
Sunrise comes early this time of year, and I’m typically not awake quite yet, but a warm orange beam shines through the French doors of our room and I watch the new day begin from our balcony.
8:45 a.m. @ Cottage Street Restaurant and Bakery
Two Cats, where we plan to have breakfast, has a wait this morning, too, but again we don’t mind and head over to Cottage Street Restaurant and Bakery for two iced coffees.
10:20 a.m. @ 2 Cats
We’re glad we waited for this breakfast. We dig in to French toast with maple syrup and a side of fruit and admire the brightly decorated rooms of this funky little spot.
12:45p.m. on Bar Island Trail
We collect shells and stones on Bar Island Trail, which can only be accessed at low tide. The sand bar is so wide that cars drive across to park and hike the island’s trails. We don’t plan appropriately and find ourselves running to make it back as the water passes over the sand connected to the island. A friendly driver offers to get us in his Jeep, but luckily, it’s only up to our knees.
3:00 p.m. on Cadillac Mountain
We make one last trip up the mountain.