Each year, more than two million people pass through the borders of Acadia National Park, the 47,000-acre expanse that protects some of Maine's most scenic shorelines and bald granite summits. Some of these hikers and kayakers find a charming home base in Bar Harbor, the bustling resort town made famous by New England's vacationing elite. But others discover the Maine of their dreams on the peaceful streets of Southwest Harbor, a nearby seaside haven known as much for its sparkling beauty as its complete and utter tranquility. It's a place to rest and retreat into the "quietside" of Mount Desert Island - and you'll do it best at our beautiful Southwest Harbor vacation rentals.
Where is Southwest Harbor?
First settled by Europeans in 1761 and incorporated as a town in 1905, Southwest Harbor is named for its position at the southwest entrance of Somes Sound - the body of water that cuts through the center of Mount Desert Island. With a population of just 1,800 people, Southwest Harbor is the largest town on the western quietside of Mount Desert Island, and one that sits only 20 miles south of Ellsworth on Route 102. You'll be directly across the sound from Northeast Harbor, 14 miles southwest of Bar Harbor, and 14 miles south of Acadia's Hulls Cove Visitor Center.
Things to Do in Southwest Harbor
In its early years, Southwest Harbor was a community built upon fishing, lumber, agriculture, and trade. But since that time, the town has sustained itself as a yacht-building epicenter and an alluring summer respite for visitors to Acadia.
Your vacation begins on the quiet streets that trace the harbor, where you can peruse a lovely selection of shops, restaurants, and art galleries, or charter a boat to reach Sutton, Little Cranberry, and Great Cranberry Islands offshore. Spend your days kayaking, sailing, or visiting the Wendell Gilley Museum, a community institution that showcases and teaches the art of decorative bird carving.
Taste the incredible flavors of the ocean at Beal's Lobster Pier near the tip of Clark Point, or catch a glimpse of the Bear Island Lighthouse from the village of Manset to the south. Come sunset, there's no better view than the one from Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, a picturesque beacon that sits just four miles south.
Visiting Acadia National Park from Southwest Harbor
Roughly one-third of Acadia's lakes, summits, and shores
sit on the quietside of Mount Desert Island, making them an easy drive, paddle, or bike ride from our Southwest Harbor vacation rentals.
Within a few miles of Southwest Harbor, you'll find a walking trail that traces the shoreline of Long Pond and several others that climb the summits of Beech Mountain, Bernard Mountain, and Mansell Mountain. Spend a summer day on the sand at Echo Lake Beach three miles north, or take a short drive to the west side of the island to experience some of the park's most famous landscapes.
Hit the Cadillac Mountain North Ridge Trail before dawn to catch the first rays of sunshine in the United States, or stroll along the Ocean Path to watch the waves crash on Acadia's most iconic cliffs. Thrill-seekers will relish an ascent of Champlain Mountain on the Precipice Trail, while leisure-lovers can sample homemade popovers and chowder in the dining room at Jordan Pond House.
Experience the rugged coast of Maine in its natural splendor - reserve your stay at one of our Southwest Harbor vacation rentals!
Photo Credit: Chris Potako via Flickr