The Northeast region of the United States has many historical sites especially related to the American revolution. However, when it comes to national parks, only one of the 58 US national parks is located in the region: Acadia National Park in Maine. I wrote a little bit about Acadia as part of my series of postings on my New England trip a few weeks ago, so this posting is also about Acadia, but a different aspect of visiting the park that might be interesting to potential visitors.

If you ask any locals or frequent visitors to Acadia for a favorite place to visit inside the Acadia National Park, one likely answer is the Jordan Pond. It’s a nice pond in the middle of the park that is located near the Bubbles, two mountains that are among the well-known landmarks inside the park. The scenery is wonderful, but what makes a visit to Jordan Pond memorable is a stop for a lunch or dinner at the Jordan Pond House Restaurant situated near the Jordan Pond. The restaurant has wonderful view of the Jordan Pond and the Bubbles, and it’s also famous for its popovers. These popovers are served fresh from the oven with a meal there, part of dining tradition dated back to 1870s. I followed the suggestion and stopped by at the restaurant for lunch. The popovers are indeed worth the visit (and the wait for table during the busy season).

The photo below was taken from the lawn just outside the Jordan Pond House Restaurant. You can see the Jordan Pond and the Bubbles in the distance. During the summer, the restaurant also has outdoor seatings at the lawn area.

Jordan Pond

Mount Desert Island

When most visitors come to Mount Desert Island, the primary destinations are usually the Acadia National Park, which occupies a large portion of the island, and Bar Harbor, a town closest to the park where you find accommodations during the visit to the area. The island is actually more than just these two places; if you have a car (or a bike), you can also tour the island and visit many little towns there. In the last few posts, I mentioned about a couple of those places, Northeast Harbor with its beautiful Asticou Azalea and Thuya Gardens, and Bass Harbor with its famous light house. There are other towns around that may not necessarily have any particular landmark to visit, but are good representations of small Maine / New England coastal villages.

And not to be missed when you’re in Maine is a visit to one of the local lobster pounds where you could get the local product fresh from the fishing boat and at very reasonable price. These places may not have the nice decor as some fancy restaurants you find in Bar Harbor, but if you’re looking for lobster, I think this is the best way to get it. I went to Thurston Lobster Pound in Bernard, and had a wonderful feast of lobsters with side dishes and desert that was pretty easy on my budget but also very memorable experience.

The photo below was taken in a little town called Somesville. It’s located right in the middle of the island; you would pass it if you drive around the island between some of its harbor towns. There was a beautiful footbridge over a pond there that is very picturesque, especially in the autumn. I stopped there to take photos of the footbridge and the pond, but as I turned around, I saw this wonderful scenery of a home near the inlet with a gorgeous tree next to it. This is an example of one of good photography lessons I learned — be aware of your surroundings when looking for interesting scenery to photograph; sometimes you can find more interesting subjects beyond your initial one by simply turning around and look what is behind you. You can find more sights on Mount Desert Island in my flickr photo album.

Fall morning in Somesville, ME

Asticou Azalea and Thuya Gardens

Sometimes when you travel you find a place or an experience that was not necessarily part of your original travel plans, but ended up to be one of the highlights of your trip.

When I went to Mount Desert Island, ME, a couple of years ago, the primary reason to go there was to visit the Acadia National Park. I had a whole day allocated during my New England road trip to explore the area. Initially I wanted to do a day hike in the national park to really experience the nature there. However, I did not arrive in Bar Harbor until around midnight the night before (after an all-day driving around Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine), and I wanted to catch the sunrise at the Cadillac Summit in the morning (which meant waking up around 5 am and heading up to the summit). After catching the sunrise in the morning, a short nap, a nice breakfast, and a drive around the Park Loop Road, I was quite tired by mid-day. The idea of doing day hike didn’t sound that appealing anymore. So after taking another short nap, I decided to change my plan and to drive around the Mount Desert Island to explore the area by car instead.

I had planned to go to Bass Harbor just before sunset to photograph the light house, so I decided to drive towards that area. On the way there, I passed a town called Northeast Harbor, and on the visitors guide for Mount Desert Island, there were two adjacent public gardens, the Asticou Azalea Garden and the Thuya Garden, that descriptions said were not to be missed. I had never heard of these places before, but I had some time to kill in the afternoon, and they’re on the way to Bass Harbor, so I thought why not stopping by and check these places out. The visit to these two gardens ended up becoming another highlight of the trip.

The Asticou Azalea Garden is a Japanese garden location right on the main road entering the Northeast Harbor area. When I visited the garden, there was hardly anyone there, so I practically had the garden for myself. The landscape was beautiful with a small man-made lake that provided beautiful reflection of the landscape on the water from far away. The fall colors made the garden’s landscape even prettier.

The Thuya Garden is located pretty close from the Asticou Azalea Garden, though it’s located on a hill at the back of the Thuya Lodge, so it was a little secluded and difficult to find from the main road. When I did find it, it was quite a unique place. Since it was at the end of the visiting season, there was also practically no one there when I came (four more people showed up few minutes after I got there). It felt like I was in a secret garden when I was alone in the enclosed garden area. It was very peaceful, and just a wonderful time being alone enjoying the beautiful scenery and taking photographs of this place.

The photo below was at the Asticou Azalea Garden. You can see more photos from these two beautiful gardens in my flickr album. I highly recommend including these two wonderful places if you’re planning on visiting the Mount Desert Island area.

Asticou Azalea Garden

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is a wonderful place to visit in Maine to experience the beauty of nature. The park is located on Mount Desert Island, which is reachable from the mainland through a bridge. Most visitors stay at the town of Bar Harbor, which is located just at the edge of the park. The park is a popular getaway destination in the Northeast United States especially during the summer months and early fall when the fall foliage is at its peak. The park is the oldest national park east of the Mississippi. It has a wonderful one-way road called Park Loop Road that goes around the park on the coastline — the landscape was beautifully designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr, who was also the landscape designer of the National Mall, the White House grounds, the Jefferson Memorial, and Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC. There is also a network of old carriage roads that was financed by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and now provides a nice network of trails to explore the park.

There is one cool place to check out and experience if you go to Acadia — going to the Cadillac Summit, the highest point along the eastern seaboard of the United States, in the morning to see the sun rising over the horizon. During the months of October through March, this place has the distinction as the first place to see the sunrise in the United States. The photo below was taken when I went up there to experience the sunrise on my first morning at Acadia. It’s a neat picture of the sun rising over the horizon on the left, and on the right there was a couple sitting bundled up and enjoying the view.

Sunrise at Cadillac Summit

Bass Harbor Light House

One of the famous landmarks in Maine is the Bass Harbor Head Light House near Acadia National Park. It’s one of the most photographed lighthouses in New England, which means that if you go there to take the iconic photos at sunset, it’s very likely that you will not be the only one with that great idea. I arrived at the location about a couple of hours before the estimated sunset time, enough time to look for the spot to take the iconic shot of the lighthouse. There were already a couple of other photographers getting set up, so I found a spot on the rocks to get my tripod and camera ready for taking the shots. I thought all was great, until more and more people arrived as we got closer to the sunset time. Some were respectful of the photographers who were already there, and picked spots on the side that would not interfere with the view of the other photographers. But there were only limited room to ‘spread out’ so before long people started jockeying for positions to take photos, even if that meant obstructing others’ view. Somewhat annoying, especially for those who had come earlier to find good spots to set up. After some positional adjustments and using a zoom lens to limit the view to only the lighthouse, I was able to get some shots of the lighthouse. But then I thought of an interesting point of view — rather than ‘fighting’ the other photographers, why not capturing that very experience of having photographers taking photos of the landmark. So I took few steps back, changed my zoom level, and shot the photo below.

Bass Harbor Head Light House