Where the locals eat, shop, and relax is a constant source of fascination for travelers. And why not? What could be a better guide for where to get off the beaten track to find value?
That’s why I was delighted recently to see the proprietor of Sip’s and Sawyer’s Specialties in Southwest Harbor eating dinner at the bar of Red Sky. Red Sky, with its creative cuisine and emphasis on local ingredients, has always been a personal favorite. I felt validated by the local endorsement.
Interesting enough, earlier that day I had visited Sawyer’s Specialties to ask Scott Worcester if he’d be willing to share some “insider secrets” about Mount Desert Island. Here’s what he and two other Southwest Harbor locals-in-the-know told me.
As I chatted with Scott, I eyed the delicacies in the counter at Sawyer’s Specialties. There were “banana shooters” stuffed with provolone and prosciutto, smoked shrimp and scallops, and roasted red peppers. He told me Sawyer’s Specialties features over 100 cheeses. What a picnic! All of a sudden I saw an intriguing alternative to my turkey sandwiches atop Pemetic Mountain. My Nalgene of water morphed into a bottle of Pinot Noir as Scott talked about his philosophy: “I like to find out what customers like and then introduce them to something new in the genre they enjoy.” So, what site would I choose for my elegant picnic?
Scott’s Tip: Go to Wonderland, the trail at the southern point of Mount Desert Island’s “Quietside.” A spruce-scented gravel path, 1.4 miles out and back, leads you to the ocean where Maine’s rocky coastline offers ample seating – as well as tabletops – for you to relax and enjoy your feast from Sawyer’s Specialties. Breathe in the salt air to complement the bouquet of the wine you’ve chosen. Scott talked about the “stone chairs” at Wonderland. Find the most regal for this feast.
When I was looking for a house to buy on Mount Desert Island, I stayed at the Harbour Cottage Inn. I still think it has one of the most appealing living rooms I’ve seen anywhere. On my most recent visit, while I was waiting for one of the innkeepers, Don Jalbert, I mused how nice it would be to curl up on the chintz sofa in front of the fireplace with a volume from the well-stocked bookshelves. Instead, I maintained my decorum and enjoyed the lovely Southwest Harbor view over their rolling lawn. When Don arrived, my first question was whether or not they were still serving their pesto eggs for breakfast, my all-time favorite egg preparation. Having answered me in the affirmative, he surprised me with a recommendation I fully intend to pursue for myself.
Don’s Tip: “Not many people know about this,” he said, “Somehow it is kept very quiet. If you are on the island in June, July and August, be sure to call for a ticket to see The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden. It sits atop a bluff in the village of Seal Harbor.” The garden has both a Spirit Path and English-style flowers so it is an unusual blend of Western and Eastern elements. Reservations are required and available from 9 AM to 11 AM Thursdays only. Tickets are free, but reservations are limited so you must call well in advance: 207-267-5525.
If there’s a rainy day during my vacation to Acadia, I love buying baby gifts at Hatched on MDI. For friends who have become entranced with Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, I always buy little cotton sweaters emblazoned with lobsters, which I then bestow with a lecture on why I like Mount Desert Island much better. This year the owner, Northeast Harbor born-and-bred Heather Brown, attracted my attention with a table of marked-down “values” outside the shop. I felt apologetic as she rung up the $10 item that my daughter had chosen strictly because of its incomparable snuggliness.
Heather’s Tip: I asked Heather for a suggestion for a thoughtful gift to bring home to a little one after a trip to Acadia. She showed me a biblet (that covers not only the baby’s chest, but lap) in blue with a fiery-red lobster. As we were talking, another great tip emerged. If you (or your spouse) need a break from perusing the local gift shops, the Southwest Harbor Library offers a comfortable setting, variety of newspapers, and even free Wi-Fi. And you don’t need to be a library cardholder to access the library’s three computers. I can’t imagine abdicating on a visit to Southwest Harbor’s expanded hardware store, but I must admit that the library is an appealing alternative, especially on a rainy day.
I’d like to thank my contributors Scott, Don, and Heather for this post. If you have tips you’d like to share, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, you can check out more of my favorite ways to explore, eat, and relax when visiting Acadia National Park at www.ouracadia.com. Stay tuned for more tips from Bar Harbor!