Linda

I first noticed the Asticou Inn last summer when we were searching for Thuya Gardens in Northeast Harbor. I’d love to stay at that inn, I thought. It faces a cove filled with boats of all sorts which creates a perfect picture of the coast of Maine in the summer.

The inn celebrated its 130th year in 2013, so it’s been around a while. It is large as well as charming, and one can almost imagine it as a thriving inn a hundred years ago. On the first floor are two quiet sitting rooms, a large restaurant and bar, and a big deck — all with extraordinary ocean views.

Our room featured a view of the harbor, hardwood floors, wallpapered walls, two wing chairs and a very comfortable king-size bed. It even had a small desk facing the water where George happily spent time writing. Big old-fashioned windows opened to let in the fresh salty air.

The grounds are massive, too. We found a walking path by a brook in the woods, gorgeous flower gardens in full bloom, comfy sitting chairs out on their immaculately trimmed lawn and a swimming pool and tennis court. In addition to the 31 rooms in the main inn, they offer 17 rooms in other buildings — Cranberry Lodge (built in 1854), Bird Bank, Blue Spruce and in a few unique round cottages called Topside. There is no typical room. Each is unique.

This is a great place to locate, given that it is out of the hubbub of Bar Harbor but just a few miles from the southern end of Acadia National Park. I loved the fact that we were a 15-minute walk from the Thuya Gardens. We took our daughter Rebecca, son Josh, daughter-in-law Kelly and 16-month-old granddaughter Ada for a visit to Thuya, and George and I walked up again the very next day. These massive gardens are gardener’s dream, nary a dead blossom, weed or bad bug to be seen, all accomplished without pesticides. The plants are well-marked, and I was mentally noting the ones I want to add to my gardens next year. For a $5 donation per person, this place sure delivers joy to all who visit.

The restaurant and inn are now run by the Acadia Corporation, local folks who live on the island. They used to have the concessions in Acadia National Park, including the famous Jordan Pond House. Remember those huge popovers that made the Jordan Pond House famous? Well now they are a feature of the restaurant at Asticou. You might come for the tea and popover service in the late afternoon out on the deck or, if you are fortunate enough to dine here at night, you will get them to start your meal. They are incredible.

I began my dinner here with a cup of tomato basil bisque. Holy schmoly, that was good. Chunks of tomato and lots of fresh basil made for a light and delicious start to my meal.

I was intrigued by the chicken entree, a prosciutto-wrapped chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese and herbs. And what a great choice it was. The baked prosciutto made a crispy coating for the tender chicken, while the cheese and herbs added another layer of flavor. It came with carrots, broccoli and rice. George agreed that my dish was very tasty and did not refuse a taste when I offered.

We enjoyed a visit with Susan Kropff, the inn’s director of sales and events, who told us that many of the tables and deck furnishings came from the Jordan Pond House, and that the partnership between the inn’s owners and Acadia Corporation has been beneficial for both parties. She says the restaurant is much busier this summer and doing well. With the quality of food they are serving I can certainly see why. We had a breakfast here on our last morning featuring traditional Eggs Benedict (me) and Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon (George). Both were very good, but it was the sunny day, sitting on the deck, the ocean calm and glittering, that made this memorable.

George

The view of the harbor from many of the rooms and the restaurant is spectacular, the restaurant’s food is creative and tasty, the staff from General Manager Gabrielle Martina to the servers and maids is very friendly and helpful, and the inn is historic and beautiful. No wonder guests have been staying at the Asticou Inn since 1883. Susan Kropff told us that Asticou is the name a Penobscot Indian chief gave to the area in the early 1600s, and means “boiling kettle” or, in her words, “a lobster’s worst nightmare.”

Plenty of lobsters were plunging into their worst nightmares for guests who wanted the traditional lobster feast that included corn on the cob, but I opted for the shrimp cocktail appetizer. The six jumbo shrimp were just right, with lemon and a spicy cocktail sauce that Linda explained must have had a good amount of horseradish. I loved it.

To make up for the sacrilege of eating shrimp from the Gulf Coast, I ordered the crab cakes — local crab served with a green onion sauce. The three crab cakes were delicious, nice and moist, and I loved the sauce so much I ordered extra. Mmmm good! And that pretty much describes our entire three-day stay here.

We ventured into Bar Harbor one day, drove over to Schoodic Point another, but it was the time spent lingering here at the inn that made this trip particularly memorable. We even extended the trip for another day, because we didn’t want to leave!

Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed in the “Best of Maine” section.


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