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Mount Desert Island
Travel Guide – Maine

Mount Desert Island Travel Guide

Mount Desert Island, Maine, covers 108 square miles, making it the second-largest island on the U.S. east coast, second only to Long Island, New York. Its residential population is only around 10,000, but over 2.5 million tourists visit the island every year, mostly to tour Acadia National Park. Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor, and other locations on the island are also popular as summer homes.


The Wabanaki Indians used Mount Desert Island seasonally for, perhaps, centuries, finding it a place of abundant clams, fish, and berries. One of their villages was spotted by Samuel de Champlain, when he discovered the island for France in 1604. In 1613, the French established a mission on the island, but it was destroyed by Virginian raiding party only two months later. The island stood at the boundary of New France and New England and was at the center of conflict for years until the British finally prevailed. From 1760 on, Mount Desert Island was open to English and then American settlers, and by the mid-1800’s, the island was the scene of fishing, ship building, farming, and other industries. During the mid to late 19th Century, Mount Desert Island became a popular “rustic retreat” for many in the northeastern United States, and it is still a popular tourist hot spot to this day.

Things to see and do in Mount Desert Island

Hike to the top of Cadillac Mountain, which rises 1,528 feet, both for the scenic ascent and to see the sun rise over the ocean below. There are several trails leading to the top, besides a scenic driving route.

Hike around Jordan Pond, and enjoy the scenic beauty and fresh air. You will walk in the shadow of Penobscot Mountain and the twin mountains known as “the Bubbles,” and be sure to see the “tea house,” a very popular tourist stop.

Investigate the Sieur de Monts Spring Nature Center, with its numerous local specimens and educational exhibits. The spring itself is right next to the nature center.

Tour the waters in and around the island on the Margaret Todd or a number of other schooners dedicated to use in boat tours, some of them built as far back as the 1800’s. Tours begin in Bar Harbor on the north side of the island.

Asticou Azalea Garden – Mount Desert Island, Maine

Beautiful tree landscape with sky and pond in The Asticou Azalea Garden in Northeast Harbor, Maine.

On Mount Desert Island’s more relaxed, southern shore, you can visit two exquisitely planted and landscaped gardens in Northeast Harbor: the Asticou Azalea Garden and the Thuya Gardens. If you visit in the spring time, when the gardens are in full bloom, the sight will be especially beautiful.

Climate conditions

Summers are moderate on Mount Desert Island, with highs averaging in the mid to high 70’s, while winters are cold, seeing average highs in the mid 20’s to low 30’s. The island is especially popular with tourists in the summer, though fall is also a good time to visit.