The Shore Path: Roughly a mile in length spanning from the municipal pier to Wayman Lane, the Shore Path is one of Bar Harbor’s longest standing traditions. Open to the public thanks to the generosity of several private land owners, the Shore Path strolls along past spectacular summer cottages and splendid parks. Observe the unique glacial erratic “Balance Rock,” skip some stones, take an evening stroll with an ice cream cone, or perhaps enjoy a breathtaking sunset (or all of the above)!
Bar Island: Bar Island is one of the five Porcupine Islands in Frenchman Bay, but the only one you can walk to at low tide! The Sand Bar is exposed for a couple hours around low tide, and this allows folks to stroll across what is at high tide the ocean floor right onto the island, where a remarkable view of the town and the surrounding mountains can be taken in.
Compass Harbor: A lesser known but downright gorgeous cobblestone beach accessible via a short walking trail through the forest which begins just beyond the reach of downtown Bar Harbor. The entrance to the path is marked by a small dirt parking area just before the Schooner Head Road splits off from Route 3 headed towards Otter Creek and Seal Harbor.
Schooner Head Overlook: The Schooner Head Overlook, about a 10-minute drive from The Inn on Mount Desert, is accessible via The Schooner Head Road. The overlook offers views of Egg Rock Lighthouse as well as wave-battered cliffs and even a sea cave (to see this detail you’ll need to venture down the dirt walking paths to the granite cliffs).
Great Head Trail: This moderate hiking trail begins just beyond the aforementioned Schooner Head Overlook and offers incredible views of Sand Beach and the Beehive. The trail’s proximity to the Schooner Head Road makes it easily accessible 12 months a year, though we would recommend exercising caution in slippery conditions.
The Ocean Drive: The Ocean Drive section of Acadia’s Park Loop Road is a must see for all who visit Mount Desert Island. This roughly three mile section of road is accompanied by a walking path—the Ocean Path—which meanders by Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Monument Cove, Boulder Beach, and Otter Cliff, some of the most spectacular venues to be seen anywhere. We recommend spending a good bit of time exploring this area with its incredibly dense concentration of unbelievable spots.
Gorham Mountain: Gorham is an excellent hike for most anyone as it is only moderately strenuous, doesn’t take more than an hour or two, offers panoramic ocean views, and is easily accessible via the Ocean Drive section of the Park Loop Road. We suggest parking at one end of the mountain, hiking up, then hiking down the other side and using the Ocean Path to make a loop of it.
Seal Harbor Beach: If Sand Beach is just a little too busy for you consider giving Seal Harbor Beach a try. Follow Route 3 about 15 minutes from downtown Bar Harbor and you’ll end up right there, just past the fountain that marks the fork in the road to head to Northeast Harbor. Seal Harbor Beach is a favorite of children who enjoy playing in the small stream that cuts through the center of the beach before spilling into the ocean.
Little Long Pond: Home to the picturesque Rockefeller Boat House, Little Long Pond and its surrounding path is a popular spot for walkers and joggers, as well as photographers and anyone seeking some peace and quiet. While it’s not exactly unknown or off the beaten path, Little Long Pond can always be relied upon to provide some peace and quiet.
Day Mountain: Day Mountain has the distinction of being the only of MDI’s peaks with a carriage road to the top, meaning that one can bicycle up it (if one is so inclined—we find it much less strenuous simply to walk!). It’s not a particularly high summit (just under 600 feet) but the views of Seal Harbor and the outer islands are quite expansive nonetheless. In our opinion the best views are situated, if you’re hiking up the trail, just prior to the trail’s crossing of the carriage road for a third and final time prior to their intersection at the summit. Therefore if you’re using the carriage road up and down we would strongly suggest stopping at this third intersection of road and trail and venturing a minute or two along the trail until the sweeping ocean view presents itself just above the treetops.
Hunter’s Beach: Hunter’s Beach is the Island’s best kept secret. The trailhead off of Cooksey Drive between Otter Creek and Seal Harbor only offers parking for about four or five cars, and yet it is nearly never full. The trail to the beach, a relatively short one, follows a stream through the pine forest. The stream eventually spills onto a cobblestone beach surrounded by jagged granite cliffs. Hunter’s Beach is especially captivating following a rainstorm—it gives the stream a boost.
Thuya Garden: If Hunter’s Beach is the Island’s best kept secret Thuya is hot on its trail. The Thuya parking area, a small dirt lot, can be found—if you’re coming from Seal Harbor way—just prior to reaching the Asticou Hotel, opposite a staircase proceeding up into the woods alongside Peabody Drive. The spot is demarcated by a sign reading “Asticou Terrace,” but the sign isn’t very big, so keep an eye out. You certainly don’t want to miss Thuya—the only debate is what’s more breathtaking: the hiking path up to the garden overlooking Northeast Harbor, or the Garden itself. When you visit Thuya please do consider making the suggested donation at the entry gates.
Asticou Azalea Garden: The Asticou Azalea Garden was created in 1957 by Charles K. Savage and utilizes plants acquired from Beatrix Farrand’s Reef Point Garden. As the Land and Garden Preserve explains, “Savage had shown an interest in Japanese garden design for many years. His design ideas for the Asticou Azalea Garden show some resemblance to a Japanese stroll garden but one that was designed for a coastal Maine setting. The garden is meant to inspire serenity and reflection and creates an illusion of space – of lakes and mountains and distant horizons.”
Sargent Drive: Sargent Drive is a gorgeous drive along the shore of Somes Sound, the fjord that just about splits Mount Desert Island in two. Enjoy peeks at splendid Northeast Harbor summer estates, some by the famous shingle style architect William Ralph Emerson, as well as views of various boatyards and mountainsides.
Flying Mountain: Flying Mountain offers views of the aforementioned Sargent Drive and its accompanying summer cottages from the opposite side of Somes Sound. The mountain is not a particularly tall one (it is, in fact, the shortest labeled peak in Acadia) and the hike to the summit is short. We recommend hiking down the other side to Valley Cove and walking back the fire road to the parking area. The whole loop takes only an hour or two.
Beal’s Lobster Pier: Came to Maine for a real lobster pound experience? We suggest Beal’s at the end of the Clark Point Road in Southwest Harbor, where you can choose your lobster right there on the dock and observe the coming and going of the boats as your enjoy your meal. For those who aren’t into lobster Beal’s also has a fine selection of burgers and other offerings.
Bass Harbor Head Light: The most famous of the area’s lighthouses and one of the area’s most iconic landmarks generally, the Bass Harbor Head Light appears on the back of the Acadia National Park commemorative quarter. Although it’s on the other side of the Island, the lighthouse is only about a half hour from The Inn on Mount Desert by car. Parking can get crowded, particularly around sunset, so plan accordingly. For the best vantage point hike down the rustic wooden staircase to the rocky ledges below the lighthouse and look back up at it—downright spectacular!
Wonderland Trail: The Wonderland Trail is a very moderate—basically flat—hiking trail of roughly a mile which begins right off the side of the road on the way to Bass Harbor and ends on a sprawling rocky beach. Wonderland is an excellent venue for a leisurely afternoon stroll, or to explore tidal pools at low tide.