Mount Desert Island, ME, Guide and Information

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Welcome to Mount Desert Island

Home to Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, Maine’s Mount Desert Island is one of the most beautiful destinations in New England. Sculpted by glaciers millennia ago, the island is left with seaside mountains, long lakes, and Somes Sound. The beaches, ocean-side cliffs, and numerous hiking and cycling trails offer many opportunities to enjoy the unique setting, while Bar Harbor offers a unique selection of shops and dining options, from seafood—the local specialty—to foreign cuisine.

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History Highlights of Mt. Desert Island

Huge piles of seashells found throughout the island indicate that Native Americans inhabited Mt. Desert Island throughout the ages. The first recorded reports of Maine Indians living here, however, date back to the early 1700s, about a hundred years after the first European explorers arrived in the area. Known as Wabanaki Indians, these peoples lived off the land and water by hunting, fishing, gathering shellfish, plants and berries. They summered on the coast and wintered inland where they could hit the salmon runs upstream and find shelter from Maine’s harsh winter storms.

French explorer Samuel de Champlain is believed to have been the first European to have contact with the natives. On September 6, 1604, he and his crew crossed what is today known as Frenchman Bay and sailed up to the island. Within less than ten years later, French Jesuits established the first French mission in America without incident with the natives. Conflict occurred later with an English raid, spurred on by the dispute of the boundary between the French colony of Acadia to the north and the English colony of New England to the south. After about 150 years of conflict, the British finally took Quebec, a triumphant victory which eventually led to the demise of French domination of Acadia. More divisions ensued–this time between the British and the Colonists–during the Revolutionary War until all landholdings were eventually sold off and Maine became its own state–separate from Massachusetts–in 1820.

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Loving Nature on Mount Desert Island

Some people think that Acadia National Park makes up all of Mt. Desert Island. It actually makes up about half of this renowned island in Maine, the second largest in the Atlantic Ocean off of the east coast of the United States. For many, it is the whole reason for coming here. But once here, people discover that the rest of the island has also been graced by Mother Nature’s omnipotent hand and that in fact all of the island–with a total surface area of just over one hundred square miles–seizes the senses with an extraordinary beauty all year long. (Most people, however, come here during the fair weather season. And in July and August, they come in droves.)

It’s no wonder Acadia National Park, the first national park in the eastern United States, established in 1919, ranks second in popularity to Yellowstone National Park. When you consider how remote this far-reaching northeast corner of the United States is, that’s truly remarkable. Yet when you arrive, you discover why.

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