Southwest Harbor, Maine
Southwest Harbor, Maine, is located just west of the southern entrance to Somes Sound on Mount Desert Island in Hancock County. It is the largest municipality on the southwestern “quiet side” of the island. The town has some great shops, galleries and eateries worth checking out. Many people choose to stay here during their visit to Acadia National Park for its more relaxed pace and for the many excellent accommodation options available from single home vacation rentals to bed & breakfasts and inns. Access to the offshore islands by boat can be found here as well via taxi service, mail boat, or boat rentals. The approximate population is 1,764 (per year 2010 census - 2000 census was 1,966) and it encompasses 8,884 acres or 22.69 sq. miles (58.77 km2). One of the more picturesque sections is in Manset where you have a distant view of Bear Island Lighthouse, Sutton Island, Little & Great Cranberry Islands, and the open ocean. (View panoramic of Southwest Harbor and Manset.)
First Steamboat Wharves on MDI
For many years, it was thought that the first known visitors to Mount Desert Island were the Abnaki Indians who would cross over to the island from the mainland to fish and collect berries and shellfish (there was no bridge then as there is today). However, recently excavations and carbon dating has verified that the “Red Paint People” were living on the island as far back as 4,000 BC! The first settlement on the island by a person of European descent was created by Abraham Somes, a sailor/fisherman from Massachusetts, at the northern shore of Somes Sound in 1761. The first steamboat wharves and hotels on Mount Desert Island were built in Southwest Harbor in order to be closer to the entrance to Somes Sound. When you look out into the harbor you will see the Bear Island Lighthouse. This marks the southern entrance to Somes Sound.
Master Yacht Builders & Services
This area is also home to some great yacht builders. The Hinckley Company, located just south of the town center on the Manset Shore Road, is world renown for its quality workmanship. Another, Morris Yachts, Inc., is located on the Clark Point Road just east of the town center. No doubt, many of the beautiful yachts you will enjoy in the harbor and other areas offshore from Mount Desert Island were made by them. While in the area, consider going on a guided boat tour utilizing Captain Services that are available or, if you are experienced, rent a power boat or sailboat from one of the boat rental services.
Places to See
Another place of note is the Wendell Gilley Museum of Bird Carving. Featured are the exceptional works of the world famous Wendell Gilley - widely recognized as one of the early pioneers of this American art form. The museum (207) 244-7555 is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Another unique nearby place is the Seal Cove Auto Museum with an extraordinary collection of "Brass Era" (1886 - 1917) automobiles. If you like fresh baked goods, there is a very nice bakery right on Main Street in the center of town on the right side as you enter town.
- Mt. Desert Oceanarium:
172 Clark Point Rd., (207) 244-7330: GPS 44.278169, -68.317095
- Public Library:
338 Main St., (207) 244-7065: GPS 44.280074, -68.326107
- Town Center:
Main St. and Clark Point Rd.: GPS 44.279767, -68.325914
- US Coast Guard Office:
184 Clark Point Rd., (207) 244-4200: GPS 44.275381, -68.312349
- Wendell Gilley Museum:
4 Herrick Rd., (207) 244-7555 : GPS 44.283623, -68.327036
- National Park Headquarters:
Rt. 233 Eagle Lake (207) 288-3338 : GPS 44.409286, -68.247501
- Southwest Harbor Town Office::
26 Village Green Way (207) 244-5404
- Southwest Harbor Vacation Rentals
- Pemetic Elementary School:
327 Main St., Grades K - 8 (207) 244-5502
- Churches & Synagogues for Mount Desert Island area
- Golf Courses in the area
- Fire Department (Volunteer): (207) 244-7911 Emergency: (207) 244-5233
- Ambulance: (207) 244-5030
- Chamber of Commerce: (207) 244-9264
Exploring Southwest Harbor
The character of this part of Mount Desert Island is noticeably different from the northern part. It is not better, or worse. It just has different qualities with a different ambiance. I do like the more relaxed feel. This is a master boat building community in a unique setting that is a central hub for several points of interest both in Acadia National Park and out. On the North side in the Park, is Echo Lake and Echo Lake Beach, a favorite of many knowledgeable visitors and locals. On the Southeast side is the section called “Manset” - an excellent place for photographing sunrises and the many yachts that frequent the harbor. Go past Manset and you will arrive at Seawall and Bass Harbor Head Light, both of which are on Park land. In the distance to the East is Bear Island and the Bear Island Lighthouse. On Acadia National Park land yet closed to the public, it still offers some great photo opportunities from boat. If you have never been to this side of the island, I highly recommend it. Give it a try and make sure to bring your camera!