“Live like a billionaire, enjoy the best of Maine, like Martha, on Mount Desert Island”
Martha Stewart is no Mainer, she doesn’t endure mud season or
February's chill and best snow on
Maine's ski mountains (she's
more Sun Valley
chic), and I doubt she shops at Marden’s, but she does savor the best of
Maine by vacationing on Mount Desert Island. You don’t need Martha
Stewart’s mega wealth, or Rockefeller relatives, to enjoy
the very best of Bar Harbor.
Among the most famous and celebrated history of Mount Desert Island emanates for the exclusive Bar Harbor Club, built by J.P. Morgan in 1930 for his wealthy friends, socialites and celebs. The beautiful oceanfront club is now part of Harborside Hotel in Bar Harbor and available to guests staying at the four-diamond Bar Harbor Hotel.
Read a book by the gorgeous seaside pool on deep cushioned chaises, play tennis on the clay courts, and sip cocktails at the Mahogany Wine Bar in the sophisticated Pool House while the attentive Bar Harbor Club staff sees to your every whim. For added amusement, watch the tourists walk across the sand bar during low tide to Bar Island, the harbor’s namesake, and see if any of them neglect to get back (or worse leave their car on the sand bar) as the tide returns with 11’ of sea water.
It’s hard to fathom that the impressive, iconic Bar Harbor Club closed in 1980 due to waning membership. Tom Walsh of Ocean Properties saw the potential, bought the Club in 2000 and restored it to its previous grandeur while enhancing the spectacular oceanfront setting with an elegant Pool House, a swank Spa, fitness facilities, and an upgraded oversize ocean-front pool and hot tub encircled in granite.
The best things in life aren’t free (even Martha Stewart would agree), and Harborside Hotel guests do pay a $25 resort club fee for the Bar Harbor Club on top of their room rate, which start at $149 per night on a Fall special. The resort club fee also includes WiFi, valet parking, and turndown service in the Hotel, plus a $15 discount on boat tours with Bar Harbor Whale Company on your choice of whale, puffin or lighthouse boat tours.
Back in Bar Harbor’s heyday, 1880-1930s’, socialites from the city would flock to Acadia. They came for clean air, ocean breezes, to tour the island. A major attraction was the new National Park, originally established as Lafayette National Park in 1919, renamed Acadia in 1929. Most of all, they came to play and party. Bar Harbor was anything but dry during prohibition as millionaires and billionaires, J.P. Morgan, the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Tiffany and Pullitzers, threw big bashes in their lavish “summer cottages” and at The Club.
Ironically, when cars brought tourists to Bar Harbor in the 1940’s, the elite Fords and Rockefellers moved further out on the island to Seal Harbor, away from the riffraff. Martha Stewart now owns Edsel Ford’s 1925 mansion. It is in this 35,000 square foot “Skylands” with a pink granite driveway that Martha discovered historic maps of Maine and Mount Desert Island, which prompted her chronological collection, “Charting a Story: Martha Stewart’s Maine Map Collection.” Clearly this compilation of Maine maps shows Martha Stewart’s passion for Maine and her impeccable organizational skills; her maps were on display at Bar Harbor’s College of the Atlantic.
You can map out your own Acadia adventure on over 45 miles of carriage roads, designed by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and built from 1913-1940, perfect for walking and biking through the Park this fall. Enjoy a sail around Frenchman’s Bay or a boat trip to best view five lighthouses, the gorgeous granite shores and mountains of Acadia. Or just luxuriate at the Bar Harbor Club with a cocktail. In the late afternoon when the cruise ships head out to sea, you can stroll in to town for that lobster roll or Bah Habah t-shirt, then ease back into your posh resort setting and Harborside room.
In Sherman’s Guide to Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island of 1892, W.H. Sherman wrote, “it will cost you from $250 per season, according to the style of the house you wish to live in. The cottages let at still higher figures if you wish to go for style. What we wish to impress upon people is that they can live as cheaply and as well at Bar Harbor as they can anywhere!”
Well, those $250 rates are nightly now at the Harborside, not for the season, but that includes a spa credit and breakfast for two. The Harborside Hotel is very stylish, and with membership at Bar Harbor Club, you will be hobnobbing like Martha the homemaker maven, rolling like a rock star, or in this case - a Rockefeller.