Adventure on Mount Desert Island, Maine
Spruce-strewn Mount Desert Island accounts for 35,000 of the 47,000 acres of Acadia National Park, which teems with visitors during the summer months. In September, while the island's trees explode with color, tourism drops considerably, and osprey, seals, and deer have the place practically to themselves. Bar Harbor is the largest town, but the quiet villages of Northeast, Southwest, and Seal Harbors are the region's true gems.
What to Do
Mount Desert's 45 miles of rustic carriage roads (closed to cars) were financed by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in the early 1900's and are a must-do for cyclists. Swing by Steve Boucher's Island Bike Rental (1 Maine St.; 207/276-5611; bikes from $15) in Northeast Harbor to rent a bike and learn the ins and outs of the island's paths. Weather permitting, take a guided tour with Maine State Sea Kayak (254 Maine St.; 877/481-9500; mainestatekayak.com; tours $46 per person). Unlike other outfitters in the area, they'll bring you to the remote western side of the island for the best wildlife viewing. The three-hour kayaking trip from Pretty Marsh to Clark Cove is perfect for beginners.
Where to Eat
To passersby, the no-frills seafood shack Docksider (14 Sea St., Northeast Harbor; 207/276-3965; lunch for two $30) won't look like much, but the "fisherman's lunch"— a cup of clam chowder with a lobster roll—is as good as it gets. Off the beaten track, pint-size Pectic Seafood (153 Quarry Hill Rd., Southwest Harbor; 207/244-7544; lunch for two $25), sells everything to go: lobster stew, smoked salmon sausage, and blueberry pies. For seafood fresh from the dock—and an impressive wine list—head to Red Sky (14 Clark Point Rd., Southwest Harbor; 207/244-0476; dinner for two $80) and try the panko-crusted, sautéed fillet of halibut with sesame soba noodles. Leave room for toasted gingerbread with house-made caramel sauce and apple brandy-spiked whipped cream.
Where to Stay
The 19th-century Claremont Hotel (22 Claremont Rd., Southwest Harbor; 800/244-5036; theclaremonthotel.com; doubles from $144, including breakfast), recently redone, is a refreshing change from the homely, doily-clad inns typical of the area. The wraparound wooden porch and 11 of its 24 rooms have views of glistening Somes Sound—North America's only fjord.
Avid cyclist and bike shop owner Steve Boucher suggests you try his favorite ride, "the 12-mile Around the Mountain Trail, which runs from Brown Mountain past Eagle Lake to Jordan Pond House restaurant [207/276-3316; snack for two $20], where you can break for warm popovers and chai."
—Clara O. Sedlak