Our Favorite Islands
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The island: Mount Desert, Maine
The goods: The principal town, Bar Harbor, with its perfume of salt air and perpetual sound of gulls, is about as authentic a Down East setting as you can find. But the best part of this drowned mountain of an island (pronounced, despite its spelling, as if it were something sweet to eat) is that it's home to Acadia National Park. The pine-clad mountains give way to bare granite outcroppings that then fall abruptly to the sea—the best place on the East Coast to witness the dramatic confrontation between land and water.
Be sure to: Make the fairly easy hike (or drive) to the top of Cadillac Mountain. Although a mere 1,532 feet, it's the highest point on our Atlantic Seaboard and an excellent vantage point from which to appreciate the rocky topography of the Maine coast. Between October 7 and March 6, it's also the first place in the States touched by the morning sun (although, admittedly, during those dates we'd probably recommend waking up to the morning sun in, say, Anguilla).
Best beach: Tiny Sand Beach, on the southeast coast, is a pleasant place to sunbathe—just don't fall asleep on a rising tide. It's an even better place to watch the sun rise, especially if you'd prefer to skip the morning hike up Cadillac.
Perfect season: Early September, after students are back in school and the Winnebagos have begun their annual migration south.
Call it home: Kingsleigh Inn, in Southwest Harbor. Eight rooms on the quiet side of the island make this Victorian-style B&B a good hideaway and a perfect base for hiking and biking. Boat lovers should opt for one of the four rooms with private decks and views of the lobster boats in the harbor.
Tel: 207 244 5302
Doubles from $140