Of course Mount Desert Island is famous for Acadia National Park, but would you believe that not everyone comes to the island for the park? Well, it’s true, and while it may seem a bit funny to ignore the park as a destination, there are plenty of other things to do and places to see. There are three gardens in particular that bring many tourists to the island each year. Two of them are in Northeast Harbor and owned by the Land and Garden Preserve while one is near Bar Harbor and is in the park itself. You can do all three in a convenient loop. It doesn’t matter which way go, but stopping for lunch at the Asticou Inn is a wonderful idea, especially if you can get out on the terrace.
- Asticou Azalea Gardens: Part of the Land and Garden Preserve set up by the Rockefellers, the Azalea Gardens are small but quite tranquil despite being right off Rt. 198. If you’re going to Northeast Harbor, there’s a turnoff to the left before you get into town. This turnoff goes to the Asticou Inn. You can park there if you’re going to the restaurant after the garden (or before), but the parking for the garden itself is right before that intersection on the left-hand side. Many people who can’t get into the small parking lot end up parking on the road. My favorite part is the sand garden, but there are some wonderful ponds, stone bridges, benches, and plenty to admire plant-wise, of course.
- Thuya Gardens: Also part of the Land and Garden Preserve, the Thuya Gardens are on Rt. 3 between Northeast Harbor and Seal Harbor, and they’re right around the corner from the Azalea Garden as well. At the turnoff for the Asticou Inn, before you arrive in downtown Northeast Harbor, turn left and drive past the Asticou Inn for a minute or so. Down the road a bit you’ll see the path that ascends up the left-hand side of the road. There is a small dirt parking lot right across the street from that path on the right. It only holds about 10 cars, so if that’s full, or if you don’t fancy the hike up (not long and worth it), drive a minute down the road and find Thuya Drive on the left. Drive up the hill and find maybe another 10 parking spaces closer to the garden. My favorite thing here is the smells. All those flowers lined up that way really challenges the senses.
- Wild Gardens of Acadia: These are on Rt. 3 just outside of Bar Harbor (between the Jackson Lab and the parking area for Dorr Mtn.and Champlain Mtn.) at the Sieur du Mont Springs section of the park. You can get here either off Rt. 3 or via the Park Loop Road as well. These gardens are famous for having a sample of all the native species on the island. There are also plenty of hikes in the area, and not all of them go up mountains, such as the Jesup, Stratheden, and Hemlock trails, which all form loops off the Great Meadow Trail. These hikes can be accessed on foot straight from the Mira Monte, too.
To get directions to any of these, check out our availability calendar and we’ll set you up right: www.miramonte.com.