Mount Desert Island
48 HOURS-July 2012
Photographs + stories by Maine magazine staff:
Kevin Thomas, Susan Grisanti + Kate Gable
Kevin Thomas, Publisher
4:30 p.m. @ Bar Harbor Inn
The Bar Harbor Inn is a stately William Emerson–designed shingle style on the water just past the town pier. During the summer, the four-masted schooner Margaret Todd docks in front. The inn first opened in 1874 as the Oasis, a social club catering to the island's well-heeled summer residents. Today, it boasts 64 rooms, spa, pool, and a restaurant. I'll be calling the inn home for the weekend.
6:00 p.m. @ Havana
We're meeting my colleagues at my favorite Bar Harbor restaurant. A mojito made by local bartending legend Mark "Duffy" Dyer is the requisite beginning to every island visit. Art director Kate Gable is eating at Havana tonight, so I'm off to try another favorite.
7:30 p.m. @ Mache Bistro
Chef–owner Kyle Yarborough was well known for his cooking at Havana before taking over Mache Bistro in 2010. I immediately recognize it as a local hangout. The dinnertime conversations are lively, and new arrivals stop to talk with friends at tables throughout the dining room. Even in May, the restaurant is full. We order the cabernet-poached pears to start and find ourselves in culinary heaven for the rest of the night. The food rivals my experience at Havana.
8:00 a.m. @ Morning Glory Bakery
This bakery and coffee shop on Rodick Street takes pride in supporting local farms. Students from College of the Atlantic discuss summer plans outside the door. The shop is buzzing behind the counter and at the tables along the wall. Espressos and biscotti start our day.
9:00 a.m. @ 2 Cats
The setting is whimsical and fun. We decide to sit on the porch in unmatched, colorfully painted chairs and order a sensible breakfast in anticipation of the day's adventure. A dish of lobster Eggs Benedict is carried by, and I'm soon questioning the wisdom of being sensible. I vow to come back soon for a more decadent dish.
10:00 a.m. @ Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop
Our plans change when Al Minutolo, co-owner of Bar Harbor Bicycle, informs us that the boat to the Cranberry Islands, where we planned to bike for the day, runs infrequently in May. He's quick to suggest a new plan. We leave with mountain bikes, helmets, and a great map of Acadia National Park's carriage roads.
10:30 a.m. @ Cadillac Mountain Sports
We decide we need to pick up "some stuff." The backpack I brought is better suited for a weeklong expedition into the backcountry of Baxter State Park. Cadillac Mountain Sports is my favorite outfitter on the island, mainly because they always have exactly what I need. A lightweight, small-capacity Geoffrey backpack does the trick, along with a pair of capri-style bike pants for Lisa. I'm eyeing the kayak hanging from the rafters and wishing that it wasn't a little too early in the season, and too cold, to go paddling.
11:20 a.m. @ Park Loop Road, Acadia National Park
We pedal west on Mt. Desert Street to Eagle Lake Road. These roads were built for cars, not bikes, and the half-hour trek to Eagle Lake is primarily uphill. Along the way, we pass under the stone bridge that leads to the Park Loop Road, which is a must-do for every first-time visitor.
11:30 a.m. @ Eagle Lake Carriage Road
The view from the north end of Eagle Lake looking toward Pemetic Mountain is simply stunning. Acadia is full of breathtaking beauty. We're here to gain access to the 45 miles of carriage roads that crisscross the park, a gift from John D. Rockefeller Jr. in the early 1900s. As we ride along the west side of Eagle Lake, a canoe emerges—a scene that could easily grace an L.L.Bean catalog cover. We take the Around Mountain carriage road as directed by Al, and we're treated to gorgeous waterfalls, old stone bridges, and a sweeping view of the fjord-like Somes Sound.
12:50 p.m. @ Gate Lodge near Northeast Harbor
Our plan is to leave the carriage road briefly and ride into Northeast Harbor. We pass one of only two gate lodges built in Acadia and proceed down the long grade of Route 198 toward lunch. We've been on our bikes for nearly two and a half hours and we're loving every minute of it.
1:00 p.m. @ Shaw Contemporary Jewelry
We ride toward the town's business district, bypassing the marina, and notice Shaw Contemporary Jewelry up ahead. Sam Shaw is away, but the hundreds of unique pieces of jewelry and artwork by Phil Barter and William Irvine are visual treats. The four workstations for the Shaw jewelers are in full view. It would be fun to see them in action.
1:30 p.m. @ The Colonel's Restaurant and Bakery
The restaurant was destroyed, along with four other buildings, in a devastating fire in 2008. The Reece family rebuilt the structure in 2009. They offer a thorough lunch menu of sandwiches, pizza, and pub food. We make our choices quickly so we can get started back to Bar Harbor.
2:00 p.m. @ Northeast Harbor
As we pass by the harbor, I grab a photo of a classic shingle style summerhouse, before looking nervously at my watch. The bikes must be back by 4:30 p.m. and we're roughly halfway through the route. We need to pick up the pace. The return trip provides a dramatic contrast to the first half of our ride. The return feels entirely uphill and my thighs are burning. We don't let ourselves stop and conversation will have to wait for dinner. This has got to be over soon!
4:30 p.m. @ Terrace Grille
The bikes are turned in by 4:00 p.m., and we've earned the chance to lounge in the warm sun. The Terrace Grille is located just outside and in front of the Bar Harbor Inn. I'd definitely recommend it for an afternoon appetizer and drink. We settle in. Life is very good indeed.
10:00 p.m. @ Dog and Pony Tavern
After our five-hour bike ride, I decide to take a nap. I oversleep and scramble to rearrange our dinner plans. I begin calling all over town, but I keep getting the same response: "We're no longer serving." Not to be deterred, I ask where the servers go after their shifts and I'm told the Dog and Pony. We find it off Rodick Street, and pass through an outdoor deck filled with college-aged kids before being directed to the "entrance"—a set of stairs to an unmarked door. Only later do I realize this is the back entrance. It's packed and loud, but the pub food is delicious.
11:00 p.m. @ Rupununi
We notice women filtering in and out of the Dog and Pony dressed for a party. We leave in their direction and hear the low beat of dance music. We walk to Rupununi's and run into local restaurateur, Michael Boland, who owns this restaurant, Havana, and Guiness and Porcelli's. It's good to reconnect at the beginning of another Maine summer.
11:30 p.m. @ The Carmen Verandah Club
Michael tells us that the music is coming from Carmen Verandah's. The second floor dance club has two bars, an outdoor deck, and rocking DJ. I order tequila and a corona, and survey the young, boisterous crowd. Within minutes, we're on the dance floor, thankful that we found this fun late-night gem.
9:30 a.m. @ Reading Room
Our Saturday night dinner was supposed to have taken place at the Reading Room. We celebrated my fortieth birthday here, and I'm happy to be back. The restaurant has a sweeping curved wall with large picture windows, and we score a table directly in front of one. The view is of the town pier, Bar Island, and lots and lots of blue Atlantic water.
11:00 a.m. @ Bar Harbor Coffee Shop
It's triple-espresso time for Lisa while I check the tide chart at the harbormaster's office on the town pier. It's low tide—a perfect time to cross over to Bar Island.
12 p.m. @ Bar Island
Bar Harbor—it was called "Eden" until 1918—is named for the sandbar that connects the town with Bar Island. Our goal is to reach the highest point of Bar Island and take in the view of Mount Desert Island. It's a short hike across the sand bar and down the length of the island. The view is well worth the small investment of time. Signs on the island warn visitors to leave three-and-a-half hours before the returning tide. Some have been stranded here in the past.
1:30 p.m. @ College of the Atlantic
We had a chance meeting with Lisa's friends, Jay and Ursula Friedlander, at Havana on Friday. Jay is the Sharpe-McNally Chair of Green and Socially Responsible Business at COA. He had told me, proudly, that we should make sure to tour the college during our visit. We're not disappointed. We visit the Turrets, a summer cottage designed in 1893 by Bruce Price (he also designed the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City), now an administration center, the terraced Beatrix Farrand Gardens, and metal sculptures by Wendy Klemperer. The college's pier is also the departure point for Diver Ed's popular dive excursions.
Kate Gable, Art Director
3:00 p.m. @ The Hinckley Company
After a three-hour drive north, Joe and I arrive at the Hinckley Company for a guided tour of the facility. We're especially excited to kick off our weekend at Hinckley because Joe is a woodworker and sailor, and I have a background in yacht design. Phil Bennett, vice president of sales, greets us in the driveway. As we tour the warehouses, Phil takes us through every step of the boat-making process. We end up in the "clean room," where we are able to get on some of the classic picnic boats. Although we could easily visit the boatyard for hours, we have other places to go. We say farewell to Phil and look forward to seeing him at the Kennebunkport Festival's Hinckley party.
4:15 p.m. @ The Gallery at Frenchman's Bay
While driving toward Southwest Harbor we stop in Somesville, where I see the sign marking the new location of the Gallery at Frenchman's Bay at the bottom of the hill. I'm amazed by the property's inspiring mountain and ocean views. We spot a seal. When I walk in, I'm greeted by Tyra Hanson, who is busy hanging a show. I am especially taken by the work of Peter Yesis.
4:30 p.m. @ MDI Community Sailing Center
As we drive farther south, we sense that adventure awaits us. Joe is familiar with the island, so we make our way to the MDI Community Sailing Center, which his friend Will's father started years ago. We watch the young sailors hone their skills as they make their way back to the dock.
5:15 p.m. @ Thornhedge Inn
We are pleased to see that our inn is located right downtown and close to lots of shops and restaurants. The inn's owner, Andrew Geel, who inherited the spacious Queen Anne style inn from his grandmother, greets us. The space is overflowing with antiques. We are the first guests of the season, so we get our pick of rooms. The huge master suite features a large bathroom, fireplace, and several pieces of period furniture.
6:15 p.m. @ Havana
We walk to Havana to meet Kim Swan and the rest of the Maine magazine crew. With its brightly colored façade, the restaurant is easy to spot. As soon as we walk in the door, Joe bumps into his old friends Ursula and Jay. I've been waiting to taste Havana's famous mojito, and it exceeds my expectations. The others leave for their dinner reservations and we sit down to eat. We start with a bottle of the riesling kabinett and the mixed-grill asado. I order the seafood paella and Joe asks for "whatever Obama had when he came." The special lobster dish isn't on the menu this time, but the chile-dusted tuna with lemon aioli and avocado fries is perfect. We are struck by the attentive service and hospitality of our server and general manager Jon Poto. We finish the meal with a glass of the Clairette de Die, a sparkling dessert wine. A slight bit of citrus and sweet is the perfect way to end our meal.
9:00 p.m. @ Main Street
After dinner, we walk up Main Street toward the inn. We window shop and get in a good laugh as we survey the clever T-shirts and products in the window of the Man Store.
8:30 a.m. @ Thornhedge Inn
I wake up to a cup of coffee that Joe grabbed from downstairs. After preparing for a day of hiking and exploring—and layering on sunscreen—we head downstairs for bagels, fresh fruit, and coffee with our host, Andrew. He tells us of his days in New York City working for a record label, his recent trip to Brazil, and the story of how the inn was originally a bachelor's summer home. It turns out that Andrew's family has owned the inn for many years.
10:00 a.m. @ Park Loop Road, Acadia National Park
We decide to take in the perimeter of the park before we head out on a hike. We start with a drive on Park Loop Road, stopping on a hill so that Joe can get his longboard out. I follow him as he weaves his way down the roads. The day is bright and sunny and just about perfect. We stop the car several times to look at the views and explore the trails before veering off to check out other parts of the island.
12:00 p.m. @ Fish House Grill
We stop in downtown Bar Harbor at Fish House Grill for a classic lobster roll overlooking the water.
1:00 p.m. @ Hulls Cove Tool Barn
In Hulls Cove, we take a dirt road that leads to the Tool Barn. We find the perfect tool to remove a stubborn nut on the Pearson 30 sailboat we are refitting. Joe also picks up several old tools for his woodworking business. We pull off the road when we spot a beautiful waterfront estate for sale. We take a walk around and talk about the amazing potential awaiting a new homeowner—unbeatable views of the water and exposed rock foundations could be easily converted into a modern fire pit. We move on, but not without a little envy.
2:00 p.m. @ The Bubbles, Acadia National Park
We make our way to the set of mountains called the Bubbles. What a day for a hike. From the top, we see the wind blowing ripples on the ocean and the sparkling deep blue of Jordan Pond.
3:30 p.m. @ Downtown Bar Harbor
We stop into Epi's for a slice of pizza and a beer before making our way through all of the downtown shops. We spot Cadillac Mountain Sports, Bar Harbor Tea Company, Debbah's, Ben and Bill's Chocolate Emporium, and Fiore Artisan Olive Oils and Vinegars, to name only a few.
4:30 p.m. @ Sawyer's Market
It's time to catch our sunset boat ride, so we drive over to Southwest Harbor to grab some provisions. We pack a bottle of pinot grigio, some olive tapenade and crackers, and then head over to the harbor.
5:00 p.m. @ Downeast Friendship Sloop Charters
The sloop isn't going in the water for another week, so we take a ride on the Elizabeth T, a lobster boat. Captain Karl is out of town but graciously arranges a trip with Captain Lou and his wife Astra. We tour the shoreline, and see that it's dotted with luxurious estates. Astra gives us a history of Mount Desert Island. We spot old osprey nests and get tips on the best spots to drop anchor.
5:45 p.m. @ Great Cranberry Island
We dock on "Big Cranberry Island," as the locals call it, and Astra takes us on a walk. The entire place smells of freshly mown grass and, with the light hitting the houses and barns, the scene is straight out of a painting.
6:30 p.m. @ Sips Cafe
We have such a good time on our ride that we ask captain Lou and Astra to meet us at Sips for a drink, which turns into dinner. I have a "sip" of the Easton Zinfandel and Astra gets the Sailor's Martini. A local music teacher will be on the drums with the Doug Hoyt Band later in the evening. For the opening act, his talented students perform to help them overcome stage fright. Clearly, stage fright is not an issue for the young duo in the band Told. They own the room.
9:30 p.m. @ Cap'n Nemo's
We meet at the place where "the ceilings are low and the drinks are filled high." Astra and Captain Lou recently purchased a Tahiti Ketch, a sailboat popular in the 1920s for live-aboard couples, so we have plenty to talk about. We order dark and stormies and beers and talk about our sailboat projects.
12:00 a.m. @ Thornhedge Inn
Wiped from a long day, we head to bed—but not before perusing the many antiques downstairs in the parlor.
9:00 a.m. @ Morning Glory Bakery
We pack our things, say farewell to Andrew, and make our way to the Morning Glory Bakery. A bagel with wild sockeye salmon and caper-dill cream cheese is the perfect start to our last morning.
11:00 a.m. @ Acadia National Park
We continue exploring Acadia by car, and then head back to Portland, feeling fulfilled by our amazing weekend. We can't wait to return to Mount Desert Island to visit our new friends, hit more restaurants, take a ride on a Friendship sloop, and explore the island on our bikes.
Susan Grisanti, Editor-in-chief
My daughter Casey and I travel to Bar Harbor on a scenic route. We lose count of roadside graveyards, red barns, and ice-cream stands while passing through China, Liberty, and Searsmont. Through Belmont and Belfast, we zoom by open fields dotted with dandelions and old stone walls. In Searsport, we pass stately Victorian mansions, and classic New England clapboard houses. We cross the Penobscot Narrows Bridge, one of only three bridges of its type in the United States. Every time I drive up to it, it takes my breath away. We make our way into Bucksport and pass under dark blue-gray clouds and brief showers on roads that were blasted through ledge, before continuing on over rolling hills and ruby-hued blueberry fields on our way toward Ellsworth.
3:30 p.m. @ The Harborside Hotel
We spot the commanding hotel just after entering Bar Harbor. We joke that the walk to our room from the front desk takes ten minutes, although we timed it later and it was no more than two! We are greeted with a luxurious room and a stunning view of Frenchman's Bay. We drop our bags and head out on foot. The last little raindrops hit us as the sun burns through the clouds and stays above us each day for the remainder of the weekend.
3:40 p.m. @ Macey's
We stop at this boutique where Casey favors a pair of white eyelet shorts and I fall for a leather blazer.
4:30 p.m. @ McKays Public House
We're greeted by bartender Chris Romero, who immediately makes us feel at home. It isn't long before he and his friends—who have just arrived after spending the winter away—are shouting out suggestions for our visit: Eden for seasonal vegan cuisine, Fiddlers' Green Restaurant in Southwest Harbor, La Bella Vita for authentic Italian, Fathom for dinner or brunch, a trip aboard one of the Downeast Friendship sloops. In my mind, I'm already starting to plan a follow-up trip for later this summer. My margarita is topped only by a taste of Chris's Island Time Saisson beer that he pulls out from under the bar in unmarked corked bottles. Someone belts out, "Tastes like a lonely day in November!" We clink glasses to that, and to their reunion. I can hardly think of a better time with more delicious food and warmer camaraderie.
6:00 p.m. @ Havana
The Maine crew meets our friend Kim Swan for a drink. We visit with owners Michael Boland and Deirdre Swords, who are back in town after spending the last four months in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, with their young family. I am so happy to connect with them and hear about their adventurous time away.
7:45 p.m. @ Red Sky Restaurant
Casey and I head to Southwest Harbor for dinner. Despite our late and hearty snack, we easily make room for the delicious meal. Casey declares her tagliatelle with tomato, caper, olive, and garlic "the best pasta I have ever had." We share the banana split made with vanilla, salt caramel, and coffee ice cream from Mount Desert Island Ice Cream.
8:45 a.m. @ Cafe This Way
We see Bar Harbor busily preparing for the full swing of the season. Locals are reconnecting with one another and readying their beloved summer spot. We thoroughly enjoy our tasty meal and the bright, cheery atmosphere of Cafe This Way.
10:00 a.m. @ Parkman Mountain, Acadia National Park
We meet our friend Julie and her daughter Wildes in Northeast Harbor for a hike. While neither of us acknowledges it aloud, it's pretty special that we're here together with our daughters on an unseasonably warm, bright Saturday morning before Mother's Day.
12:15 p.m. @ Northeast Harbor
We view from the car the classic Asticou Inn, Asticou Azalea Garden, Thuya Garden and Lodge, and the harbor and neighboring streets. The late Brooke Astor's home and Madame Marguerite Yourcenar's home, among many others, are pointed out.
12:40 p.m. @ Jack Ledbetter Photography
We meander through Jack's studio and are especially drawn to his series of the 16 stone bridges in Acadia National Park.
1:00 p.m. @ Lisa Hall Jewelry
We've come when Lisa's inventory is full in anticipation of the summer season. Earrings, necklaces, rings, bracelets in every color of seaglass imaginable are set in silver or gold. We also take in her Renaissance Collection of precious gems and the work of other featured designers and craftspeople.
1:25 p.m. @ Maine Coast Exchange
Casey and I make our way through this fantastic store, rumored to be a place where Martha Stewart consigns pieces. I could easily treasure hunt here for hours. A fetching vintage necklace and a mid-twentieth-century Chinese desk are especially tempting.
1:40 p.m. @ Shaw Contemporary Jewelry
I've admired Sam Shaw's superb designs for some time, so it's a pleasure to finally see the imaginative and intricate work in person. We linger for a while, taking in his and other jewelers' designs.2:05 p.m. @ The Kimball Shop and Boutique Many friends pointed me in the direction of this local landmark, but even their complimentary words did not prepare me for the extensive collection of housewares and gifts in this sprawling, perfectly appointed, shop.
3:00 p.m. @ Side Street Cafe
We're shopped out and ready for lunch at this local favorite. I order a salad topped with lobster and Casey goes for a Caprese salad and a side of chips and guacamole.
5:45 p.m. @ Asticou Connection
The delightful Savage family recently renovated this two-story gallery to feature their work and that of other artists. The collection includes finely crafted wood furniture, sculpture, paintings, photography, and rare maps. After touring through the space with Rick Savage, I'm taken next door to their workshop by Ken Savage. When I express how moved I am by the work, he tersely replies, "Well, don't cry!" Casey and I are both utterly charmed by his sweet saltiness.
6:30 p.m. @ Town Hill Bistro
We like this place as soon as we step in. The intimate dining room is imaginatively designed and surprisingly full for this early in the season. We find out later that even in January reservations are almost always necessary to guarantee you a seat. I'm guessing it's because the food is absolutely wonderful. We linger over each delectable dish. It isn't long before we're deep in conversation with the couple next to us, two "regulars," Joe and Alan, who share some of their other favorite spots around the island: the Thirsty Whale for delicious pub fare, the boathouse at the Claremont Hotel in Southwest Harbor for cocktails, Reel Pizza Cinerama for dinner and a movie, XYZ Restaurant for scrumptious Mexican. I add each of their recommendations to a growing list for my return visit.
9:30 p.m. @ The Harborside Hotel
Despite our intention to walk around town and end up at the Lompoc Cafe for a game of Bocce and some live music, we're beat. We decide to head back to our comfy beds at the hotel.
7:15 a.m. @ Morning Glory Bakery
We're due back home soon, and still have so much to fit in. We grab a quick bite at the bakery and take home a strawberry rhubarb pie for dessert that evening.
7:45 a.m. @ Acadia National Park
We drive along Park Loop Road and spot several deer grazing. We pass Jordan Pond House Restaurant where we hope to return later this summer to try their famous popovers after biking around the pond or walking the path along the stream. We continue exploring the park and take in all the colors of the jagged rocks: dusty purple, pink, brown, and red. Chartreuse leaves contrast with dark evergreens and white birch bark. I can only describe the scene as confoundingly beautiful. For hundreds of years, families who can travel anywhere in the world faithfully return to Mount Desert Island every summer—and it's not hard to see why. You could never grow tired of Acadia, and never fully grasp it. Awestruck, we drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain, take in Thunder Hole, and make our way to Sand Beach.
10:15 a.m. @ Spruce and Gussy
On our way home, we make one last stop in Bar Harbor. We're rewarded with a fabulous shop full of extraordinary items. It's the perfect way to end our trip, but it won't be long before we return.