Salty sea air, rugged granite cliffs and sandy beaches welcome visitors to this island refuge on the northeastern U.S. coast.
Mount Desert Island is home to the town of Bar Harbor as well as Cadillac Mountain and Acadia National Park. The area has long been a summer getaway for well-to-do Americans, including J. P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, John Astor and William Howard Taft. Take a short self-guided walking tour to see mansions and hotels built for these celebrities.
Industry giant John D. Rockefeller donated lands for development of the national park in the early 1900s and built 50 miles (80 kilometers) of carriage paths with cut stone guard rails. Hike or bike these trails that were set up with reasonable grade to accommodate horse carriage travel.
Inside the park, Cadillac Mountain, at 1,528 feet (470 meters) tall, is the highest point along the North American coastline. It’s also one of the places in the U.S. where the sunrise is first visible. Join other early risers to drive or hike to the top of the mountain to see and photograph the sun rising over the Atlantic Ocean. Park rangers frequently give sunset talks atop the mountain, highlighting local geography, flora and fauna and overhead constellations.
The rugged granite of Mount Desert Island is ideal for rock climbing; the cliffs can also be treacherous. Hire an accredited guide from a local mountain climbing organization to ensure safety. You’ll learn how to tie knots, belay and find footing and handholds. Or, go on a guided sea kayaking or canoeing trip in the ocean waters around the island.
Sign up for a whale-watching excursion; you’re likely to see whales breaching and clearing their blowholes and you may see porpoise, sharks, dolphins, tuna and puffins.
The town of Bar Harbor has numerous art galleries, souvenir shops and dining areas. See lobster farming at the Mount Desert Oceanarium and Lobster Hatchery and local history at the Abbe Museum. Or, visit the free Sieur de Monts Spring and Nature Center to learn about the plants and animals in the park. In summer, enjoy classical and jazz music festivals.
Car parking in Bar Harbor is generally plentiful and free. Sites and activities have fees.