Acadia Hiking Guide: Grindstone Neck

Grindstone Neck

Looking at MDI from Winter Harbor’s Grindstone Neck

 

OK, we admit that Grindstone Neck isn’t really a hiking trail per se, but we at the Mira Monte Inn strive to help our guests see not only the mandatory highlights but also the not-so-well-known areas to hit. Yes, Schoodic Peninsula and Winter Harbor have been frequented much more often the past few years, and this has brought traffic to the area. But this is a good thing because since the Navy left the base out on the tip of  the peninsula, Winter Harbor has had little economic activity apart from the park (in fact, the town no longer has even a school!). But here’s the thing, almost everyone heads straight for Schoodic Peninsula upon arriving in Winter Harbor, and that’s great, but it’s also not all.

Grindstone Neck is on the opposite side of Winter Harbor from Schoodic Peninsula. It’s an area loaded with money and families who preferred a view of Mount Desert Island as opposed to the actually living on the island. It’s a fair point because the views are spectacular, and almost no one goes Grindstone beyond locals. When taking the ferry boat over from Bar Harbor, the boat passes right by the neck before it lands on the town dock. In fact, the piece of land right across the harbor is, in fact, Grindstone itself.

Now, Grindstone Neck isn’t exclusive. Without getting too lost (not a bad thing if you want to do some “house shopping”), there’s a cul-de-sac at the bottom of a hill that has no houses around it. Park here and walk out onto the rocks to get immediate results. Head right and you’ll get dramatic views of MDI and its eastern mountains. Head left and you’ll get the wonderful coziness of the small islands in the harbor of Winter Harbor itself.

To get there, take one of the boats from Bar Harbor and, upon getting off, walk up the street and head left once in the gallery area of downtown. There are several different roads leading to Grindstone, but the road called “Grindstone” is probably the easiest. If you’re driving, when you come into town and hit the T intersection, Schoodic Peninsula is to your left and “downtown”, where the galleries and eventually Grindstone Neck are, is to your right.

There’s even a nice little church on Grindstone, and because this is Maine and this is Winter Harbor, the doors are always unlocked!

To book your stay at the Mira Monte to get more info like this, check our availability calendar here.

St. Christopher's By the Sea

St. Christopher’s By the Sea

Acadia Hiking Guide: Jesup Trail

Acadia National Park Jesup Trail

The boardwalk on the Jesup Trail.

Sometimes the park is furiously busy. I’ve been in a car on the Park Loop Road, just past the Precipice parking lot before the toll booths, that has taken over 1.5 hours to get to Sand Beach. That’s less than a mile in that time. Yes, Acadia is magical, and it is one of the most beautiful parks in the United States, but at times the hot spots can get crowded and parking can be next to impossible. That’s why we at the Mira Monte Inn have a few trails that we can recommend where one can leave the car at the Mira Monte and hike straight from the front porch. The Jesup Trail is one of those hikes.

As you can see from the photo, I walk my dog out here quite a bit. From the Mira Monte, out to Sieur de Mont Springs and back, the hike is about 1.5 hours and is mostly flat. One also gets to walk on the Great Meadow Loop enroute. And if you want to make things a bit longer, you can add other loops such as the Hemlock Trail, the Strathden Path, and even Kebo Brook and Kebo Mountain. For more serious hikers, the Gorge Trail and therefore Cadillac Mountain and Door Mountain are also accessible off the same system of trails. The Great Meadow Loop alone is about an hour, so there’s a shorter option if that fits your itinerary better.

To get to the Jesup Trail from the Inn, walk across the street to Spring Street and follow that straight, keeping the kiddie pool at Glen Mary to your left, out to Ledgelawn Cemetery. From there, look diagonally right across the street and you’ll see the start of the Great Meadow Loop. Most of the Great Meadow Loop is on private land, but that’s OK as it is designated as a hike in the area. Follow that around eventually to the left where you’ll walk along the road a little bit near Kebo Valley Golf Course. The path picks up a bit down the road near the Holy Redeemer Cemetery. Actually, at the Holy Redeemer Cemetery you’ll see access to the Strathden, Kebo Brook and Mountain, and Gorge Trails, so you can do that if that’s your wish.

To head to the Jesup Trail, keep going up the path that follows the road. At the Park Loop Road, stay left on the Great Meadow Loop until you come to the Jesup Trail sign post. Cross the Park Loop Road and you’re there. To come back, either re-trace your steps, or follow the Great Meadow Loop around, eventually ending up on the other side of Ledgelawn Cemetery. There’s even a nice rocky brook to soak your feet in near the end of the hike. Pandora, the pup in the picture, uses that as a must-stop drinking spot.

Do this hike at dusk and there’s a high likelihood you’ll spot some deer.

To get us to repeat these directions in person, check our availability calendar here.

Lobsters on the Sound

Another fun event that we enjoy attending is Lobsters on the Sound over at Hinkley in Southwest Harbor. It’s a casual lobster bake that starts with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres from 5:30-7:30 along with a silent auction. Then the fun really begins at 7:30 when the lobster bake (and other yummy crustaceans) begin right before the live auction and dancing. It’s a fun time that supports the Harbor House, which is Southwest Harbor’s community center.

Lobsters on the Sound

Lobsters on the Sound (image courtesy of the Harbor House)

The event is August 7. For more info, click on the Harbor House’s website at: harborhousemdi.org/lobsters-on-the-sound/

And for availability here at the Mira Monte Inn, here’s a link to our reservations calendar: www.miratemonte.com

Acadia Hiking Guide: Eagle Lake Carriage Trails

 

Eagle Lake, Acadia National Park, Hiking Guide

      Serenity on the Eagle Lake Carriage Trails

 

Looking for some thing easy but has length? I walk my dog around the Eagle Lake carriage trails every now and again, and she’s often quite ready to eat dinner and go to sleep afterward. A solid two-hour hike, this is one of those “walks” that will give you exercise without hurting the ankles or knees. Parking can be found at either the boat launch area or across the street at the bottom of the McFarland’s Hill (the top of which houses the park’s headquarters).

 

A couple of tips are needed here. The first is that the Eagle Lake parking lots are notoriously difficult to navigate during the busy season. It’s not uncommon to find cars parked along the side of the road all the way up Route 133 (the Eagle Lake Rd, as locals call it). Most of those parked there during the day are bikers out enjoying the 50+ miles of carriage trails that are available to them without having the worry of passing cars. If you get there at a busy time, don’t be bothered by the quantity of cars. The carriage trails are both wide enough and spaced out enough across the park to allow the area to not feel crowded. However, if you want to beat the crowds then the best times to hike are 8am or after 5pm. If you’re hiking later in the season then a headlamp might be helpful, even if the road is pretty easy to follow in the dark.

Another healthy tip is knowing what you’re getting into if you decide to take the hiking trail at the southern end of the carriage trail. It might look as if it’ll save you time, but in fact, despite it being a shorter distance across the edge of the lake than the rounding carriage trail, it is actually quite a bit more difficult to walk. There are many good trails around the southern end of Eagle Lake (Connor’s Nubble, North and South Bubble, etc.), but the Eagle Lake Trail is very rocky with lots of unbalanced and precarious steps. I made the mistake of doing it once with my dog, and I’ll never do that again. It’s way too easy to lose one’s balance. If you’re looking for a surprisingly challenging hike, then this is a wonderful trail. But if you’re just looking for some exercise, stay on the carriage trails and get your heart rate up by setting a good pace. There’s still some good views and lovely hiking to be had.

If you’d like some more tips, we’d love to have you stay with us. Click this link to check availability: Mira Monte Booking Calendar.

Southwest Harbor Flamingo Festival

One of the craziest festivals we have on the island is the Southwest Harbor Flamingo Festival, sponsored by the Harbor House. Flamingos on MDI? Come on! Well, no, we don’t have any native flamingos waltzing around, but there is a lot of pink!

This is one of the best family-friendly events all summer long, and events include a lobster dinner, pancake breakfast, fun run, and of course the parade! So bring your best pink clothes, maybe your favorite flamingo lawn ornament (we know you have one), and head over the Southwest Harbor for one fantastic time.

The event runs July 13-18, so it lasts several days. It also helps to benefit the Harbor House, which is Southwest Harbor’s community center and offers a lot of services and events to the community year-round.

Southwest Harbor Flamingo Festival

Flamingo Festival (image courtesy of the Harbor House)

To book your room, head over to our website at: www.miramonte.com

And for more info on the festival, check out the Harbor House’s page at: harborhousemdi.org/flamingo-festival/

Somesville Strawberry Festival

One of our favorite summer traditions is the Somesville Strawberry Festival. Now in it’s 43rd year, the festival offers fresh strawberries to buy, but that’s not what most people go for: They go for the homemade strawberry shortcake (believe me, it’s good!). This is one of the most popular events of the summer season, and not just for tourist but for locals, too.

The festival benefits the MDI Historical Society, which is based out of Somesville and studies, as you might have guessed, the history of the island. But not only that, the Society is active in preserving artifacts and certain historical aspects through the History Trust. It’s a good cause because the island has gone through several cultural revolutions from being dominated by Native Americans to shipbuilders (both French and British) to it’s gilded era to today’s mix of local, park, and tourism offerings.

The festival is July 10 from 1pm to 3pm at the Somesville Firehouse.

For more info on the festival, go here: mdihistory.org/event/strawberry-festival/

To check availability here at the Mira Monte that weekend, click here: www.miramonte.com

Somerville Strawberry Festival

We love strawberries! (credit: MDI Historical Society)

 

Bass Harbor Lobster Boat Races

Lobster boat races are a part of the tradition of lobstering along the coast of Maine, and have been since the introduction of powered boats in the early 1900s. There are professional lobster racing boat builders, and then there are the amateur, real-life working lobstermen and women who take the day off to have some fun and show what their boats can do. Several communities have their race day, and there’s even a points series for the winners. But it’s mostly all fun. Some do it for the trophy, but the vast majority of them do it for the bragging rights. Of course, no lobster boat race day is without a blueberry pancake breakfast.

Mount Desert Island’s lobster boat races take place in Bass Harbor, about a 20-min drive from Bar Harbor, and this year the fun is on Sunday, June 24th. Breakfast starts at 7am and goes until 10am, with lunch from 11:30 until the races end, usually around 1pm. Food is served on the Bernard Town Dock. Having been to many over the years, we can attest that it’s a wicked good time.

To book your stay, check out our availability at: www.miramonte.com.

For more info on the races, go to the Bass Harbor Library at: bassharborlibrary.com/boat-race-breakfast-bbq/

Bass Harbor Lobster Boat Races

And they’re off (credit: Acadia Chamber)