Mount Desert Island

Off the beaten path, Northeast Harbor and Seal Harbor offer quieter charms

The home of Acadia National Park, which draws more than two million visitors a year, Mount Desert Island is the most popular destination in Maine. A place of dramatic natural beauty, what locals call MDI is divided roughly in half by Somes Sound, a deep, fjord-like body of water extending five miles inland from the Atlantic coastline. The western or “quiet” side of MDI includes the towns of Southwest Harbor and Tremont, with the village of Bass Harbor at its southern tip. The larger, eastern side includes the main entrance to the park, Cadillac Mountain, and the town of Bar Harbor, which teems with visitors in the warmer months. Not far away are the quieter communities of Northeast Harbor and Seal Harbor, both part of the town of Mount Desert. Here, elegant summer homes can be glimpsed along leafy lanes and classic sailing yachts bob at their moorings.

Real estate broker, hospitality investor, and music producer Kim Swan has called Bar Harbor home for most of her life. The owner of the Swan Agency Sotheby’s International Realty, which has offices in Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor, and Blue Hill, Swan is a devoted member of the MDI community, involved in local initiatives ranging from television and film projects to animal rescue. “Mom” to two Yorkies, Ava and Izzi, she often walks her pups on Acadia’s private carriage roads reached from Seal Harbor. “During the high season you may have to stand aside while one of the gorgeous horse-drawn carriages goes by—that’s a treat for visitors,” Swan says.

Swan also likes to take friends to the charming village of Northeast Harbor, known by sailors for its protected anchorage. “Our first stop is my friend Erika Wibby Mitchell’s shop, Main Street Mercantile,” Swan says. Across the street, Shaw Jewelry has unusual pieces and paintings by a variety of artisans, and lunch is often at the grand and historic Asticou Inn, where the menu includes the same popovers made famous at the Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park. And no visit to the area would be complete without a hike. “Our favorite is Day Mountain—you can either follow the carriage roads to the top or take the path,” says Swan. “Either way the views are fantastic, especially in the fall with all of the colors.”


Did you know
At 108 square miles, Mount Desert Island is the largest island in Maine and the second largest on the eastern seaboard, topped only by Long Island in New York.

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The well-known and well-heeled have called MDI at least their part-time home since the days of J.P. Morgan and the Vanderbilts. Today, the island’s biggest celebrity is Martha Stewart, whose sprawling stone retreat, Skylands, perches above Seal Harbor.