Best Mountain Biking | Carriage Roads, Acadia National Park
Photo Credit : Jerry and Marcy Monkman
With 108 square miles of rocky coastline, mountains, woodlands, and the splendor of Acadia National Park, Mount Desert is the ultimate New England outdoor vacation destination. Prefer shopping and strolling? Bar Harbor’s restaurants, B&Bs, and tourist-friendly shops, guarantee the Mount Desert experience offers something for everyone. Plan your perfect Mount Desert Island vacation with our picks for the best of Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island, Maine.
Best Family Adventure | Go down to the bottom of the sea, virtually, with “Diver Ed” Monat while cruising off Bar Harbor aboard the Starfish Enterprise. Help Monat suit up, then push him overboard and watch on the big screen as he explores the depths, selecting lobsters, sea cucumbers, starfish, and other critters to bring aboard for everyone to examine before he returns them to their watery home.
Best Lobster-Boat Cruise | Why are shedders a little sweeter? What’s the biggest lobster ever caught in Maine’s cold waters? Captain John Nicolai answers these questions plus a whole lot more. Climb aboard the Lulu, a traditional Down East– style lobster boat, for a humor-filled two hour cruise covering everything you wanted to know about Maine’s tasty crustacean. The seal sightings and breathtaking coastal beauty aren’t bad, either.
Best Family Hike | Pick up a trail guide at the park visitors’ center and pack a picnic. This gentle 1.2-mile figure-eight hike passes through varied ecosystems, from moss-laden woods to pink granite ledges.
Best Mountain Biking | Pedal into the heart of Acadia National Park on 45 mapped and signposted miles of car-free, crushed-stone carriage roads, punctuated by 17 handsome granite-faced bridges and two gatehouses.
Best Parkside B&B | Built as a summer cottage in 1916, the stately Birches combines gentle summer ease with a location that puts the Flying Mountain, Acadia, and St. Sauveur trailheads and Valley Cove fire road within easy walking distance.
Best Classic Seaside Hotel | White curtains billow in the afternoon breeze at The Claremont, a pleasantly old-fashioned yet elegant grand dame, with a croquet court on the lawn rolling down to Somes Sound.
Best Bird Watching | It’s possible to see shore-, freshwater, marsh, and woodland birds, and maybe even an eagle, from guestrooms in this family-owned, budget- friendly motel overlooking the rare freshwater pond/saltwater shore combo.
Best Pet-Friendly Lodging | Furry guests are welcomed to these motel-style accommodations on estate-like grounds with a bowl, a treat, and recommendations for places to go, things to do, and dog-friendly al fresco restaurants.
Perched above Bass Harbor, Thurston’s Lobster Pound is easily one of the prettiest lobster shacks in New England. The meat in their lobster roll is wonderfully plump and tender, and it’s extra rewarding to enjoy such a classic summer staple in such a beautiful spot. In fact, it’s so good it nabbed a spot on Yankee‘s 2017 list of the best lobster rolls in Maine. Don’t miss snapping a photo in front of Thurston’s signature wall of lobster buoys.
Best Fine Dining with a View | Linen-draped tables, candles, and fresh flowers set the tone in the dining room, where big windows frame views over the manicured lawn, croquet courts, and Somes Sound. In the background: Acadia’s peaks and Frenchman Bay’s outer islands.
Best Bistro Fare | Come hungry. Hanger steak to duck confit, Atlantic scallops to lamb shanks, might be on Chef Kyle Yarborough’s daily-changing menu, featuring traditional French cuisine with Mediterranean accents.
Best Bar Food | Watch the chef prepare meats and veggies on an Argentinian-style wood-fired grill as the bartender concocts you a memorable mojito at Parrilla, the casual open-air, streetside bar of Bar Harbor restaurant Havana. Cobble together a Maine-accented, Latin-inspired tapas meal of charcuterie or cheese plates, Mexican corn on the cob, seafood salad, or the chef’s-choice mixed grill. Still hungry? There are entrée-sized offerings, too, as well as a menu of sweet treats such as coconut flan.
Best Breakfast | A bit quirky (yes, that’s a garage door opening onto the patio) and charmingly eclectic (artsy tabletops laminated with images of everything from Charlie’s Angels to Moxie), this Bar Harbor café ticks all the breakfast boxes: organic and vegan options, a slew of Benedicts and omelets, and pancakes and French toast with real maple syrup. We recommend planning a good hike after downing the Café Monte Cristo, a French toast sandwich loaded with fried egg, ham, and cheddar cheese served with home fries.
Best Twofold Food Stop | Twofer! Enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner from the wood-fired oven at Sweet Pea Café and purchase Maine-made wine, beer, and chocolates at Bar Harbor Cellars Winery, both located on Sweet Pea Farm.
Best Acadia Tradition | The view of Jordan Pond and across it to the two “Bubbles” mountains is reason enough to stop by this iconic restaurant—but the popovers with strawberry jam are legendary. After hiking one of Acadia’s peaks or biking the carriage trails, reward yourself with tea and these classic egg-batter rolls. Go ahead—slather on the jam, and while you’re at it, splurge on some ice cream, too. Heaven! Sandwiches, salads, soups, and full entrées are also offered, for both lunch and dinner.
What would you add to our list of the best of Mount Desert Island? Let us know!
This post was first published in 2015 and has been updated.