For some reason, we always tend to write about faraway, exotic places because, perhaps, just by dint of the fact a place is faraway, it seems more exotic. In truth, the USA offers tremendous opportunities for adventure … just as diverse and exciting as South Pacific islands and trips down under.
Maine has over 6,200 offshore islands, but none are more naturally dramatic nor as frequently visited as Mt. Desert (pronounced “dessert”) Island. Named in 1604 “Isles des Monts Desert” or Islands of the desolate mountains” by French explorer, Samuel de Champlain, the name seems hardly appropriate for depicting the rugged beauty and delightful ambiance of this island, part of the 30,300 acre Acadia National Park. You don't have to sail there though. You can drive over the Penobscot Bridge from Ellsworth, Maine to get there, too.
Here’s 10 great things to do:
1. Climb to the top of Cadillac Mountain and catch a glimpse of the first sunrise visible in the continental U.S. each day. Or, if you’re not an early riser, hike to the top and just enjoy an outstanding panoramic view of the island and the ocean beyond. By the way, Cadillac Mountain is the tallest mountain on the Atlantic coast (within 25 miles of the coast) north of Brazil. Don't want to walk? You can take a tour.
2. Go in July or August and feast on fresh blueberries growing wild along the mountain trails
3. Take an exhilarating dip in the cold (and we mean cold…less than 60F/15C most summer days) North Atlantic water
4. Take the free shuttle bus to Southwest Harbor and visit the famous Hinckley boat building facility or use the bus system for a great island tour.
5. Partake in one of the local Downeast “specials” for dinner: boiled lobster, chowder, corn on the cob and blueberry pie for dessert! We prefer some of the smaller island town restaurants like the Docksider in Northeast Harbor versus the crowded, more expensive restaurants found in downtown Bar Harbor. Yes, wear the bib they offer. If you don't know how to clean a lobster, this is a good time to learn.
6. Check out the downtown antique shops, boutiques and artist’s galleries in quaint Bar Harbor or take in a free concert on the village square.
7. Visit Somes Sound, the only real “fjord” on the east coast of the U.S.
8. Have tea at Jordan Pond and sample a delightful tradition from island days gone by. After tea, take a walk around the pond and listen to the loons.
9. Hike the miles of scenic trails throughout Acadia National Park or wander along the network of carriage roads constructed by multimillionaire and philanthropist, John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
10. By all means, walk along the rugged coast, view the blowholes, stare out at the mighty Atlantic, watch for whale spouts and appreciate the power of the waves that crash against the granite cliffs. It's foggy on Mount Desert Island … a lot. Don't let that deter you. The fog adds to the mystique and quaintness of the place.