Mount Desert island, home to Acadia National Park, can at times feel like Tasmania’s smaller cousin. Both bask in an island identity anchored in rugged individualism: Tasmania is the home of shepherds, Mount Desert the home of lobstermen. They even share chronological kinship: Freycinet National Park on Tasmania’s northeast coast was founded in 1916, the same year that Acadia National Park was established. The park is comprised of nearly 50,000 wild acres―including parcels on several islands other than Mount Desert―and features 125 miles of hiking trails along with dozens of miles of rocky, spruce-capped shoreline. The island is easily reached by car across a short causeway, and is a five-hour drive northeast of Portland, Maine’s largest city.
Eat smart: In nearby Bar Harbor, seek out hidden Cafe This Way, which has an artsy coffee-shop vibe well suited to a late-morning breakfast. Make sure to include a slice of the café’s blueberry pie, which is baked with the small but intensely flavored wild berries found in abundance in eastern Maine. A short drive south of Bar Harbor is The Burning Tree (207-288-9331), a long-time island mainstay with upscale dining and local focus―much is grown just outside the back door. Seafood is a specialty, and the menu shifts to reflect the seasons.
Be fit: The crown jewel of Acadia National Park is a network of stone-lined, century-old carriage roads, which twist around pristine lakes and ascend blustery peaks. Although created with horse and buggy in mind, today the trails attract hikers and mountain bikers. You can rent bikes in Bar Harbor to easily explore on your own. For an upper body workout combined with coastal sightseeing, sign up for a guided sea kayak tour. Destinations range from sheltered coves to open ocean, with routes dependent on the weather.
Live well: Catching the sunrise from atop 1,530-foot Cadillac Mountain, the island’s highest peak, is a favored ritual among active travelers who love the subtle colors of early morning. Your reward? The peak is the first spot in the United States to be touched by the sun during much of the year.
Where to stay: Mount Desert Island has accommodations ranging from opulent to affordable. The Claremont Hotel in Southwest Harbor is an 1884 gem with pleasantly plain rooms and a well-tended croquet pitch. For value hunters, it’s hard to beat the Edgewater Motel outside Bar Harbor, with its cluster of 15 tidy suites and cottages on sparkling Frenchmen’s Bay.