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Bass Harbor Head Light

Mount Desert Island is off the Down East coast of Maine, a state of the United States of America. It is always referred to by the locals in Hancock County as "The Island."


Map of Mount Desert Island

Other destinations[edit]

Bar Harbor Bay


Acadia National Park occupies about half the Island and much of the rest is preserved by conservation groups. The Island is very crowded with visitors during the summer months, but one may still find solitude by getting out on the Island's many hiking trails. For the summer visitor each of the several villages has a unique flavor. Bar Harbor is the largest town, and caters to nearly every variety of tourist. Northeast Harbor and nearby Seal Harbor are much more reserved. Bass Harbor retains much of the flavor of a fishing village. Spring and fall are excellent times to visit, when all the beautiful spots are nearly deserted.

Get in[edit]

By air[edit]

By road[edit]

  • 30 minutes from the city of Ellsworth via Route 3.
  • 60 minutes from Bangor, Maine, depending on traffic, which can be very heavy during the summer months. Take I-395 to Route 1A to reach Ellsworth, where you pick up Route 3.
  • 3½ hours from Portland, Maine. Take I-95 to exit 182A at Bangor, then I-395 and follow route as above via Ellsworth. Alternatively, take I-95 to Route 3, exit 113, just north of Augusta, and follow the slower but more scenic Route 3 east to Belfast, and then through to Ellsworth and Bar Harbor.

Get around[edit]

The Island's interior is easily accessible by private car, but if you'd rather leave the driving to someone else (a knowledgeable and friendly bus driver), then the Island Explorer Buses are a great choice. The buses make their routes through all of the villages on the Island, as well as through Acadia National Park, with plenty of scheduled pick-up spots.They will also stop for passengers anywhere that the bus can safely pull over- just flag them down. Expect plenty of traffic in the busy summer months. At other times of the year, much of the Island is nearly deserted.


Anyone interested in spending time in Acadia National Park should visit the Park Headquarters. Here, rangers lead programs, answer questions, and administer park passes. If you're interested in working with a GPS and learning about the park's Natural History ask about the Earthcache program- a virtual scavenger hunt which will lead you to some of the most celebrated locations on the island. Park Headquarters is the ideal location for beginning your Acadia adventure.



You can explore the island's 120 miles (190 km) of hiking trails for a good workout and spectacular views:

  • Cadillac Mtn. 1,530 ft. The summit can be accessed by an auto road if you're going up to see the sunrise/set, but the mountain also has some wonderful hiking trails. On mornings between 7 October and 6 March, those at the summit of Cadillac are the first people in the country to see the sun rise.
  • Sargent Mtn. 1,373 ft. Sargent Mountain has beautiful views, and part way up the climb there is Sargent Pond, a refreshing and beautiful spot for swimming.
  • Dorr Mtn. 1,270 ft. Door Mountain is an exciting hike with stone staircases, fallen rock formations and beautiful foliage.
  • Pemetic Mtn. 1,248 ft.
  • Penobscot Mtn. 1,194 ft. Sweeping vistas await you at the top of Penobscot. The climb down is an adventure, with lots of rocky crags. A moderate hike.
  • Bernard Mtn. 1,071 ft.
  • Champlain Mtn. 1,058 ft. Home to nesting pairs of peregrine falcons, which restricts access to the Precipice Trail at certain points of the year, generally between March 15 and August 15.
  • Gilmore Mtn. 1,036 ft.
  • Bald Mtn. 974 ft.
  • Mansell Mtn. 949 ft.
  • Cedar Swamp 942 ft.
  • Parkman Mtn. 941 ft.
  • North Bubble 872 ft.
  • Norumbega Mtn. 852 ft. After a steep, challenging hike you are rewarded with spectacular views of the southern islands - Bear, Sutton, and the Cranberries.
  • Beech Mtn. 839 ft. Gorgeous views, with a fire tower at the summit. The valley trail is a relatively flat option to a point, with incredible lichen growth.
  • South Bubble 766 ft. A relatively easy hike, the South Bubble is a quick walk and features "bubble rock", an enormous glacial irratic.
  • Huguenot Head 731 ft. A neat hike keeps you along the edge of this bluff and leads you to a nice lookout over the Tarn and across to Dorr Mountain. Keep hiking down into the valley on the other side to begin the hike up Champlain Mountain.
  • McFarland Mtn. 724 ft.
  • The Triad 698 ft.
  • Acadia Mtn. 681 ft.
  • Young's Mtn. 680 ft.
  • St. Sauvier 679 ft.
  • Day Mtn. 580 ft.
  • Gorham Mtn. 525 ft. A moderate hiking trail, great view of the coast from the summit, from Sand Beach, down to Thunder Hole and Otter Cliffs.
  • The Beehive 520 ft. A nice short, but steep hike, with metal rungs and ladders; the southern end of the summit gives a perfect view of Sand Beach while the northern end looks out over to Champlain Mtn and Frenchman's Bay.
  • Flying Mtn. 284 ft. A very short hike leads to a small summit which provides one of the best views of Somes Sound.


There are many exciting paddling options around the island, for example.

  • Eagle Lake in Bar Harbor Can get choppy on windy days, but sticking to the shoreline is relaxing, with views of Cadillac Mtn. No swimming though, as the lake is a public water source for the town of Bar Harbor.
  • Hamilton's Pond in Hulls Cove. Generally quite calm.
  • Long Pond Kayaks can be launched easily from the landing at "pond's end" off Pretty Marsh Rd. near Somesville.
  • Sea kayaking tours and boat rental services are offered from numerous establishments in Bar Harbor and Southwest Harbor allow access to Mount Desert Island and other destinations.


Salt water

  • Sand Beach: One of the only sandy beaches on the island. Relatively calm water, albeit icy. Definitely bring some warm clothes and a blanket to wrap up in, if you plan on swimming. Lifeguard on duty. Sand beach can be extremely be extremely busy during the high season- parking is a nightmare. Accessible by The Island Explorer. You will need a park pass to get in, as there is a ranger station which checks passes on the Park Loop Road.
  • Sommes Sound: There are several locations on the Sound that are great for swimming. One of the best is located at the base of the Flying Mountain trail. Why not get warmed up by hiking over the mountain (15 minutes to the top, a nice easy hike with a beautiful view of the sound from the top), then cool off at the cobble beach once you reach the bottom?
  • Hull's Cove: Hull's Cove is extremely flat, and would be ideal for younger children. Located near several restaurants.
  • Hadley Point: This mudflat is a great place to wade around and explore. There are tons of crabs and clams (be aware, you need a license to actually collect them for harvest. Even if you have a license, be sure to check that there's no Red Tide in the area. In the summer months the algae can be quite prolific around the island!) Warning- you will get muddy!
  • Hunter's Beach: (best for wading) A short walk alongside a beautiful flowing stream leads you to the beautiful Hunter's Beach. Large and small stones abound- a great place for creating Andy Goldsworthy type natural art. Beach sculptures created by other visitors can often be found on the shore. The surf can be rough.

Fresh water

  • Echo Lake: An artificial sand beach, calm water, relatively warm. Lots of space. Lifeguard on duty. A great place for families with young children. Lots of ducks!
  • Echo Lake Ledges: Located on the side of Echo Lake across from the Acadia Mountain trailhead, these cliff ledges are great for jumping off of. Not recommended for young children or inexperienced swimmers.
  • Lake Wood: A lovely little swimming spot, with lots of tadpoles, frogs, turtles and fish. There is a short hike from the parking area, so be sure to bring shoes. Camps sometimes bring their campers here, so it can be packed with children.
  • Long Pond 'Pond's End': A roped-in swimming area, great for all ages. The water gets deep enough for older swimmers to be content, but the shallows are extensive enough that youngsters are not in danger if supervised. There is a large floating dock which is fun to jump off of. Sometimes bi-planes will land on the pond, putting on quite a show for the swimmers! Be aware- there can be lots of leeches in the shallows by the rocks. Just keep moving and they won't bother you at all.
  • Sargent Pond: Located part-way up Sargent Mountain, this is a great spot for hikers to catch a quick dip.
  • The Bowl: Located on the backside of Beehive Mountain, this is a great place to cool off after a difficult hike. Be warned- The trek up Beehive can be arduous for some. The Backside is manageable for older kids (4th grade and up), but will likely take a while to complete. If you choose to climb the Ladders Trail, be aware that you will be edging along cliffsides, climbing up iron rungs, and not leaving much room for error. Definitely not a hike for beginners, but a worthwhile one if you're up for the challenge!


Mount Desert Island's intertidal zone is rich with diversity. The tidepools that form on the granite cliffs are one of the most interesting aspects of the island, and are often overlooked. They are a great way to introduce young children to the aquatic world. People of all ages will have a great time searching for crabs, sea urchins, periwinkles and limpets. Be careful of barnacles, they will leave nasty gashes. Band-Aids and closed-toe shoes are recommended, just in case. Don't forget to check the tides! If you go tidepooling at high-tide, you're going to be quite disappointed by the lack of critters. Tide charts can be purchased in town, or check the newspaper.

  • Wonderland: A ten-minute hike through the woods leads to a beautiful expanse of rocky shore. At low tide the area is filled with seaweed and small pools. Wonderland is ideal for small children because of the flat landscape.
  • The Bar: Don't be fooled! The Bar isn't a place to party. It's a sand bar which connects Bar Island to Mount Desert Island, and is only visible at low tide. This is what gives Bar Harbor its name. It's a completely unique environment, with tons of shells, snails and clam worms. In the deeper pools, one can find crabs, and even rock-gunnels. Be careful not to get stuck on Bar Island! If you are on the island when the tides change, you'll be stuck their until low tide comes again. Plan to only be on The Bar an hour and a half before or after low tide to avoid any unfortunate strandings.
  • Otter Cliffs: These tidepools are situated amongst the rocky crags of the shoreline, and some can be difficult to reach. This location is not recommended for young children who are not steady on their feet. Otter Cliffs offers an extensive array of biodiversity not seen in many other locations on the island: here you can find nudibranchs, anemones, star fish, sea urchins, crabs, and many other creatures.



Lobster pound restaurants on Mount Desert Island or anywhere in Hancock or Washington counties do a great job cooking crustaceans. Just steam them so many minutes per pound and you've got a perfect seaside meal. Same goes for the clams (soft belly clams, the true clam, not the quahog pretender).

  • Beal's Lobster Pound in Southwest Harbor is a classic lobster pound on MDI. Everyone knows Beal's!
  • Thurston's Lobster Pound in Bernard, near Tremont, is a little known secret. Thurston's has great food and great atmosphere.

The prices can be just a tad less expensive at the pounds in Trenton just before you cross the bridge onto MDI. Lunt's in particular is quite reliable.

Stay safe[edit]

  • It is unsafe to venture out onto Maine's coastal waters without having the necessary equipment and experience. This is true of kayaking, canoeing, sailing or any other kind of boating. The water is cold and hypothermia can set in a short amount of time. Dense fog often rolls in very quickly as well as the occasional storm. If you are determined to go out on your own to do so without every single passenger wearing a lifejacket and/or without having a compass and knowing how to use it and/or without understanding how to navigate safely around other boats and water hazards is not only foolish but could result in serious fines from the Coast Guard or a Marine Patrol officer. There are many companies on Mount Desert Island and elsewhere that offer guided sea kayak, sailing, and power boat tours.

Go next[edit]

This region travel guide to Mount Desert Island is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.