Main Road Trip: Mt. Desert Island

from The Most Scenic Drives in America | 217

5. Northeast Harbor
With its large marina, beautiful homes, and upscale art galleries, the village of Northeast Harbor has long been a mecca for sailboaters and well-to-do vacationers. Throughout the warmer months, craft by the hundreds anchor in the harbor, periodically heading out to the ocean for regattas. Ferries also ply the choppy seas, shuttling to the historic Cranberry Isles.

6. Somes Sound
A fjord that nearly splits the island in two, Somes Sound is the star attraction along Sargent Drive, a spectacular route (open to passenger cars only) that traverses the clifftops on the waterway’s eastern shore. Here, thousands of years ago, a glacier deepened a river valley, and then, as the ice melted, seawater flooded the deep gorge. A turnoff near the narrowest part of the fjord affords fine views of this sliver-shaped stretch of sea as well as Acadia Mountain, which rises beyond the opposite shore.

Near the head of the sound on Rte. 102 lies quaint Somesville. Founded in 1761, the island’s oldest settlement has many examples of early New England architecture. Set along tree-lined brooks and beside quiet ponds, the buildings have a timeless charm.

As Rte. 102 leads down the western flank of Somes Sound, a side road exits to Echo Lake Beach, a popular spot for swimming. A short and fairly easy trail through stands of firs and spruces climbs to the crest of Beech Mountain, where hikers can enjoy uninterrupted views of the lake and hills.

7. Southwest Harbor

A quiet fishing village with shops, galleries, and restaurants along its main street, Southwest Harbor is known for its maritime history and its museums. One of them, the Oceanarium, has exhibits on marine life and offers up-close glimpses of the animals that live in the local seas and tidepools.

Farther along, the town of Seawall looks out on the Cranberry Isles. The only creatures that flock here in large numbers are seabirds, and this corner of the park is an enjoyable spot to pass a quiet day.

8. Bass Harbor Head
Bass Harbor Head, at the southernmost point of Mt. Desert Island, is one of the finer spots for watching the sunset. A white-painted lighthouse crowns the rocky, sea-washed ledge here. Its flashing red light, visible as far as 13 miles away, has been guiding sailors safely into port through the nearby rocky reefs since 1858.

9. Pretty Marsh
After passing through the little fishing community of Bass Harbor, the drive follows the western branch of Rte. 102 to Pretty Marsh. A trail there switches back and forth through thick forests to the bayshore, an idyllic spot for picnics and bird-watching.

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