Mt. Desert Island is quite a beautiful place, with rocky shores and quiet harbors.
Like Newport, RI, Mt. Desert Island was a favorite place for the very wealthy to have summer cottages. However, rather than being sophisticated and elegant, filled with grand, showy homes, like Newport, MDI was known for its quiet, rustic ways. Homes, while huge, and filled with servants, were simple, wood houses, with fireplaces and always set back into the wilderness. Some of the houses from the late 19th century survive, but many were torn down by the 1950s because they were obsolete and too rustic for modern living. The descendants of the original families who had homes here (Fords, Rockefellers, Astors, Vanderbilts) still have homes here, and many come for the summer season; but the houses are not as visible – they are mostly hidden in the woods…
The heart of social life, for those who participated, was (and is) the town of Bar Harbor. Many elegant hotels line the waterfront. Many of the families, though, stayed away from the town – they preferred to be in the woods, and along the sea, living the simple life – swimming, sailing, and taking long carriage rides along the carriage roads (mostly built by John D. Rockefeller). In fact, most of the land making up Acadia National Park was donated by the Rockefeller family.
We had been warned about the terrible traffic both in Bar Harbor, and in Acadia; we also were warned about road construction in the area. So, armed with good maps we set off at 7:00 am (along with Larry and Kathy Warrren) to get an early start on the day. We easily found the “good” road, and we easily found parking in Bar Harbor. We strolled down empty streets; the only people out this early are folks heading for the whale watching boats. We were soon at our destination – Sunrise Café. We enjoyed a nice quiet breakfast in this tiny place, then we walked along the Shore Path. The path runs right along the water’s edge, and it extends from the edge of town for about 1 ½ miles. We then could walk back along quiet residential streets. It was a great way to start the day.
Once back to the car we headed up Cadillac Mountain, the tallest “mountain” along the Atlantic coast – about 1,500 feet elevation. (In California we call these “hills”…) From here you can see all the islands surrounding the main island of Mt. Desert Island. The views are stunning!
As the park began getting busy we headed to the quieter side of the island, where many of the original wealthy families had their summer cottages. We stopped in Seal Harbor, a beautiful place, and amazingly quiet. The town of Seal Harbor consists of a church, an empty store building, a coffee house, and a bookstore. And, of course, a real estate office. There are three or four houses along the water’s edge, and many more in the hills. All the houses are simple, neat, and unassuming. There is a tiny Yacht Club perched on the side of the hill overlooking the harbor.
Someone even built a very nice new vacation house right at the harbor’s edge:
The next town is Northeast Harbor, a bustling place, filled with many art galleries. The harbor is much larger, and ferries run regularly between the harbor and two of the larger islands just off shore: Great Cranberry Island and Little Cranberry Island. Many houses dot the streets of the town and the surrounding hills. People who live in Seal Harbor must come here to shop and eat.
By now we were ready for lunch. We had been tipped off to another fabulous lobster pound, Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound. Only it was much more of a restaurant than a lobster shack. They served wine and offered napkins, eating utensils, and tools for eating the lobster. Lobsters were great, but it was not as much fun as a real lobster pound…
We decided to call it a day and head back to the Villa. Tonight we had GAM #5, and we are hosting. As we arrived at the RV Park it started to rain. And it continued to rain. Cold rain. Maine rain. We decided to have our GAM inside The Villa – all 10 of us. It was cozy. But it was much nicer than sitting in the pavilion out in the cold. We had great snacks and there was free flowing wine as we got to know another set of new friends. An enjoyable time was had by all…