SOUTHWEST HARBOR – Mount Desert Island, Maine 
44.2797° N, 68.3256° W

This is the place, if you: need to unplug | lust for lobster | want to smell sea air and pine forests

Maine Coastline

Maine. Glorious Maine. This is the place to get back to basics for a week or two. Swim. Fish. Bike. Nap. Read. Stargaze. And by all means, unplug. People flock to Mount Desert Island for the stunning Acadia National Park, as well as for the biking, hiking, fishing, sea kayaking, sailing, and the lovely Asticou gardens. Biking the rustic carriage roads of Acadia was a highlight of the trip. We spent two weeks here in August. The first week we rented a house on Great Duck Island. The second week, we rented a little beach cottage in low-key Southwest Harbor (the quiet side of the island) and pretended to be Mainers for the week.

The Drive
If you’re driving up the twisty coastal route from Portland, look out for these Maine gems:

 – Sea Bags – unique, waterproof totes made from recycled sails.
6 Bow Street | Freeport, Maine

 – LL Bean – in case you forgot your Wellies.
95 Main Street | Freeport, Maine

 – Graffram Brother’s Seafood Shack
This place has the lobster roll of your dreams. Stop by this scenic shack for the freshest lobster rolls, beer-battered haddock sandwiches, and fried clams. Grab a colorful picnic table in the shade. We got so excited, we couldn’t finish everything we ordered. Open seasonally May – October.
211 Union Street | Rockport, Maine | 207.236.8391

 – Chase’s Daily
This farmstand/restaurant is a treasure. Vegetarian dishes incorporate food from the farm. Try the baked goods. Located in the quaintest historic downtown you ever did see. The kind of place you fantasize about moving to immediately.
96 Maine Street | Belfast, Maine | 207.338.0555

CoastalDrive

Once in Southwest Harbor
 – Sawyer’s Market  Grab a baguette and pack a picnic or provision a boat at Sawyer’s Market. Sample the local cheeses like the brie-like Pearl from Seal Cove Farm. (Pearl was a beloved, spunky goat from the farm.) Try Pearl with some Wild Maine Blueberry Jam.
344 Main St  | Southwest Harbor

 – Beal’s Lobster Pound  The place for your next lobster binge. It seems due to global warming, there is a surplus of lobsters. Smaller lobsters have sweeter meat, so choose two little ones from the tank and get cracking at this popular hangout (If you’re new to this, watch How to Crack a Lobster before you go.)
182 Clark Point Rd. | Southwest Harbor | 207.244.7178

 – XYZ Mexican in Maine? Hell yes. XYZ (standing for Xalapa, Yucatan, and Zacatecas) is the real thing – authentic regional recipes. Happy memories include costilla de res (beef short rib in adobo), chiles rellenos, and cochinta (pork in achiote). We visited three times. If it wasn’t a 10-hour drive from my house, I’d be there tonight for dinner. Reservations recommended.
80 Seawall Road | Southwest Harbor | 207.244.5221

SouthwestHarbor

Pack
Wellies, raincoat, sweaters, wool socks, bug spray. Unfortunately, my swimsuit didn’t get much wear. The water is cooold, even in mid-August. And that is coming from someone who learned to swim in Lake Michigan.

Read
This was a back to nature trip, thus the outdoorsy inspired reading list:  I read:

– Charles Darwin’s The Voyage of the Beagle (1839)– a vivid account of his second voyage and the natural world.
 – Stalking the Wild Asparagus (1962) by Euell Gibbons, renowned wild edibles advocate. This book made me want to go out and forage (I found rose hips and huckleberries!)
 – Passage (2004), a beautiful book by renowned nature sculptor Andy Goldsworthy. I then tried my hand at site-specific land-art – a memorable way to spend a sunny afternoon.

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Been to Southwest Harbor? Know about any hidden gems? Things to explore off the beaten path?

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