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Friday, February 16, 2024

The Grateful Traveler: Visiting Northern Maine and the Historic Asticou Inn

CRL's travel columnist takes us on an adventure in Maine.

Acadia National Park is a National Park located in northern Maine. It reserves much of Mount Desert Island and smaller islands off the New England Atlantic coast.

Northeast Harbor, Bar Harbor and Arcadia are not quick jaunts from our area, but with so many great places to stop along the Maine seacoast as you travel north and east, it is a must-do for all of us during the warm summer months.

Over the years, I have noticed that my friends who make the trip every summer do so because they are looking for solitude, exercise and perhaps, total escape. Packing for a getaway to this region can be as simple as books, swim suit, jeans, hiking shoes and/or sneakers, camera and sun screen. Whether you are camping in the park or staying at an Inn or resort, these simple choices in preparation can work!

One great accommodation is the Asticou Inn. If you put the most beautiful views in this country up for a vote, then used the results of that vote for placing an Inn location, The Asticou Inn in Northeast Harbor, Maine would be the winner. It is comfortable and a perfect fit for the rugged beauty of the landscape.

Like so many of the Inns in Maine, The Asticou is rich with history hosting many of the country’s earliest millionaires who wanted to enjoy the rustic setting and escape the city heat. These folks were aptly named the “rusticators”. Walking through the lobby can certainly bring you back to the days when the wealthiest from New York City – the likes of the Roosevelts, Astors and Rockefellers – would enjoy the clean, fresh break.

Nearby the Inn is Thulya Gardens, a stunning color display with walking paths and waters. The Asticou Azalea Gardens are a mere walk across the road for the Aticou Inn and they are equally, if not more, spectacular.

After a busy day of sightseeing, return to the Inn for unpretentious (because the beauty is enough to impress), but excellent food. Made fresh with local ingredients (Maine blueberries at the head of the list) it makes for some incredible dishes to enjoy with family or a certain someone.

I mention a certain someone because this northern most region of Maine is a romantic spot; partly because of the solitude, but mostly because of the harbor and ocean views. This particular harbor, Northeast Harbor, is magical. The craggy coastline with the deep blue harbor waters and sail boats dotting the view takes your breath away at any hour of the day and evening, but the sunsets need to shared!

Prices for lodging, food and entertainment are another reason to venture the few hours beyond the southern coast of Maine. Summer lobster dinners on the southern coast can and do cost double what they are here. Why pay upwards of $50 for a lobster dinner when you can spend $23.95 and still enjoy all that Maine has to offer? Even in the more touristy areas like downtown Bar Harbor, the prices are terrific.

Acadia has five lighthouses spread throughout the bays: Bass Harbor Head, Bear Island, Baker Island, Egg Rock and Great Duck Island lighthouses are visible from various spots in the park. You need only drive  through the park to see and take photos of them for your vacation memories.

While many locals will share their fears about the growth to this area, and the park does feel those impacts, the area is still pristine. However, one does get the feeling that now is the time to make the journey and enjoy it before expansion of both tourism and year-long population changes it.

For more information visit www.asticou.com.

Things to do in Acadia
Acadia National Park is a destination for more than two million visitors each year. With many different facilities and attractions in the park, there is something to interest everyone.

The average visitor spends three to four days in the area, although you easily could fill a week with activities in the park and nearby attractions. Listed below are some suggestions based on length of stay. Use the information to tailor these activities to suit your own interests. Whatever you chose to do, remember to take some time to relax and enjoy your time in the park.

Half-day
Stop at the visitor center to pick up a map and park newspaper (the Beaver Log), pay your entrance fee, watch the 15-minute orientation video, and plan your visit using the 3-D map of Mount Desert Island.

  • Drive the 20-mile Park Loop Road for breathtaking views of ocean, mountains and forests. Don’t forget the 3.5-mile road up Cadillac Mountain. Driving the entire road, including short stops to read wayside exhibits or enjoy the scenery, takes three to four hours.
  • Walk the 1/3-mile loop trail (part of which is accessible) atop Cadillac Mountain.

One day

  • Take a short walk on a trail or carriage road.
  • Participate in a ranger-led talk or walk.
  • Investigate the Nature Center, where you can learn about plants and animals and how the park manages them.


Multiple days

  • Explore the park’s scenic 45-mile carriage road system on a bike or horse-drawn carriage tour.
  • Hike through forests and up mountains on 125 miles of historic hiking trails.
  • Visit the west side of Mount Desert Island, including stops at the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, Carroll Homestead guided trail, and the Ship Harbor or Wonderland trails.
  • Take one of our ranger-narrated boat cruises to learn about sea life, island history, and more. Other ranger-led walks, talks, hikes and amphitheater programs are available daily from late May to early October.
  • Have tea and popovers at the Jordan Pond House, a tradition for more than a century.

Visit www.nps.gov/acad/planyourvisit/things2do.htm, for more information

The Asticou Inn in Northeast Harbor, Maine, is celebrating summer with the appointment of a brand new restaurant team.  Stephen Barck heads the kitchen as executive chef in an exciting move for the resort which will bring a new style and menu to the hotels’ restaurant, Peabody’s at the Asticou.

Chef Barck is one of the finest chefs in Boston, who has been consistently praised for his expertise and innovation. The holder of numerous awards including Best of Boston, Boston’s Best and Bride’s Choice, his food has been featured in several magazines and garnered frequent favorable reviews. His experience has included the Boston Four Seasons, Colonial Hilton, Sheraton Tara, and his own company, Tables of Content.  Stephen holds a degree in Entrepreneurial Studies from Babson College in Wellesley, MA.

Also joining the team is Sous Chef Jonathan Lewis, who has worked with Chef Barck before and whose experience ranges across a number of established names in Maine and New England. Together, they will bring a fresh and vibrant approach to dining at the Asticou Inn, ensuring it continues to cater to loyal customers with classics and old favorites, alongside the introduction of some new dishes and approaches to cooking at Peabody’s at the Asticou.

With a focus on seasonal, regional cuisine from across New England, the restaurant offers one of the finest coastal views in Maine for breakfast, lunch or dinner, as well as the Sunday Brunch complete with made-to-order omelets and a carving station. In addition to its cuisine, Peabody’s offers a wine list from across the US and Europe with a depth and quality for any diner wanting the perfect glass to accompany their meal. All of this combines to make for a wonderful culinary experience, and the Northeast Harbor view is included!

Vikki Moran
Vikki Moran
Vikki Moran is a travel writer and the founder of the Grateful Traveler.

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