Mount Desert Island in 48 Hours

While Acadia National Park, with its seaside hikes and miles of carriage trails, is the main attraction, there are more than a dozen unique villages to discover on Mount Desert Island.

A classic view of Jordan Pond framed by the Bubbles of MDI.
A classic view of Jordan Pond framed by the Bubbles.


Water views and lobster rolls

Originally opened in 1883 and rebuilt in 1901 after a fire, the Asticou Inn looks out on the boat-filled Northeast Harbor. Along with its rooms in the main inn building, the Asticou has a handful of nearby cottages, including three dog-friendly Topsider Cottages on its sloping lawn.

The Asticou Inn on Mount Desert Island was originally opened in 1883 and rebuilt in 1901 after a fire.
The Asticou Inn originally opened in 1883 and was rebuilt in 1901 after a fire.

Across the street from the Asticou Azalea Garden, the inn serves as a convenient home base for exploring either the east side of Mount Desert Island, which includes Bar Harbor, Park Loop Road, and many of Acadia National Park’s most-popular attractions, or the quiet side to the west.

Abel’s Lobster Pound, less than 10 minutes away on Route 3, is tucked into a peaceful edge of Somes Sound. The owner of Bar Harbor Catering Company took over the restaurant last year and updated the menu of the longtime mainstay. Stick with the classics—the pound’s lobster roll and wood-fired steamed whole lobster are as good as you can get—or step off the well-trodden route with the pimento cheese crab melt or fried chicken sandwich. Whatever you order, you’ll be treated to tranquil water views from either the dining room or the picnic tables scattered around the property.


Early-morning hikes and Bar Harbor dining

Start your day early if you want to see the most popular Acadia attractions without waiting in line or circling parking lots for a spot. Be sure to buy your pass online in advance, so you can head straight to Park Loop Road, the scenic park route that circles the island’s eastern edge and Cadillac Mountain.

Walking the 3.4-mile loop around Jordan Pond of MDI
Walking the 3.4-mile loop around Jordan Pond.

One of the busiest stops along the route, the 290-yard-long Sand Beach is open to pets before June 15 and after September 8 and typically fills with visitors by mid-morning. But the best view of the beach, along with the Beehive in the background, is found on Great Head Trail, which can be accessed by crossing the beach or from a parking lot off Schooner Head Road. The moderately difficult loop trail, which can be 1.3 or 1.9 miles long depending on your route, features wide-open ocean vistas, rocky climbs, and forested paths.

The best view of Sandy Beach and the Beehive can be found on Great Head Trail on Mount Desert Island
The best view of Sandy Beach and the Beehive can be found on Great Head Trail.

Continue on Park Loop Road, and you’ll pass by Thunder Hole, Otter Cliff, Jordan Pond, and the entrance to Cadillac Mountain. You’ll need to plan ahead if you want to drive up to the highest point on the North Atlantic seaboard— vehicle reservations are now required for Cadillac Summit Road from May 26 through October 19.

Away from the crowds of Bar Harbor’s downtown, Atlantic Brewing Company’s Mainely Meat Barbeque has plenty of seating and more than a dozen tap lines. The dog-friendly restaurant has a just-extensive-enough menu that will keep everyone in your party happy, especially the barbecue lovers.

Head into the downtown for a range of independently owned shops, including your dog’s favorite store, Bark Harbor. The Main Street storefront has a large variety of pet toys, supplies, and baked treats for the pups in your life. Afterward, grab a treat for yourself at Mount Desert Island Ice Cream, which makes some of the best ice cream in the state, from traditional favorites to more unique creations like reverse root beer float and coriander lemon curd.

If you need a break from shopping, stop in Bar Harbor Beer Works for a drink on its ground-level patio or second-floor deck looking out on the downtown. The pub has nearly three dozen Maine beers on draft, along with specialty cocktails and wine. For seasonal small plates, creative cocktails, and Ellsworth-made beer, visit Fogtown Brewing’s Bar Harbor taproom on Cottage Street. On your way back to the Asticou Inn, make a pit stop at the Burning Tree Restaurant’s wine shop on Route 3. Along with an excellent wine selection, the storefront sells local cheese, seafood, meats, and pastries.

Small plates and cocktails at Project Social Kitchen and Bar in Bar Harbor near Mount Desert Island
Small plates and cocktails at Project Social Kitchen and Bar in Bar Harbor.

After resting at the inn, return to Bar Harbor for the town’s extensive dinner options. The original cocktails and small plates shine at Project Social Kitchen and Bar, which has dog-friendly seating in a beautiful garden setting. For libations, try the smoky Pineapple Express with grilled pineapple–infused mezcal, cayenne simple syrup, and vanilla bean foam or the refreshing Strawberry Fields with strawberry and basil–infused gin, Domaine De Canton, and lemon.


Quiet side exploring

Take advantage of waking up next to one of the ten most-visited national parks by getting an early start at Jordan Pond. On the way from Northeast Harbor, you’ll pass under the picturesque Stanley Brook Bridge, one the sixteen carriage road bridges in the park. The full hiking loop around the pond is more than three miles, but you can just walk along the southern edge if you’re looking for the quintessential view of the pond framed by the Bubbles peaks. For the full experience, have popovers and tea on the Jordan Pond House Restaurant’s lawn looking over its namesake pond.

Before heading to the western side of the island, visit Northeast Harbor and its eclectic mix of shops and restaurants. Shaw Contemporary Jewelry features stunning jewelry and artwork by owner Sam Shaw and other artists. For more art, visit Swallowfield, an adorable storefront with work from locals, including owner Jennifer Judd-McGee, along with paper goods, housewares, books, and other gifts.

While you could spend a whole weekend (or longer) on the quiet side of Mount Desert Island, an afternoon trip provides a needed change of pace from the bustle of Bar Harbor. It’s home to some of Acadia’s less-traveled but no-less-gorgeous hikes, including Flying Mountain and Wonderland Trail near Seawall Campground, along with Echo Lake Beach, Southwest Harbor, and the villages of Seal Cove and Bass Harbor.

Peter Trout’s Tavern and Inn in Southwest Harbor, MDI serves Southern staples like a Nashville-style hot fried chicken sandwich.
Peter Trout’s Tavern and Inn in Southwest Harbor serves Southern staples like a Nashville-style hot fried chicken sandwich.

Follow Route 102 toward Southwest Harbor, and you’ll drive through Somesvilles, one of the cutest villages in Maine (and the earliest established on MDI), and past its Monet-like footbridge scene. Just after Southwest Harbor’s Main Street, turn left into the Manset neighborhood to find Peter Trout’s Tavern and Inn. The casual eatery across from the town dock serves Maine seafood dishes, Southern staples, and well-executed pub fare. If you don’t mind heat, the Nashville-style hot fried chicken sandwich pairs well with the hefty wedge salad, which is topped with fried bits of pork belly, red onions, and blue cheese vinaigrette. Don’t forget the sides, including biscuits with honey butter, grilled cauliflower, and baked beans.

Continue around the southwestern side of Mount Desert Island and stop at one more landmark: Bass Harbor Head Light. The trail to the west will take you right up to the lighthouse, but for the classic (and often-photographed) view of the beacon atop its rocky cliff, take the trail to the east. Complete the loop—and your trip—around the island by following Route 102 north on the western edge, passing through Tremont and Pretty Marsh on your way to your next destination.

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