As our rainy week at Mount desert Island continued to curtail outside activities we went in search of things to do outside of the park. Every National Park is there for a reason but the beauty doesn’t end at the park borders. By exploring beyond the park we’ve found some hidden gems. We encourage you to “think outside the park”.
While we were in Camden another camper told us about some beautiful gardens near Acadia. He wasn’t sure of their exact location. I Googled ‘gardens Bar Harbor’ and found some general directions for gardens off Route 1 (Peabody Drive) in Northeast Harbor. We drove by the parking area for Asticou Landing and the harbor the first time. Signage is very discreet i.e. it helps you if you already know where you are going. This was a lucky accident however as it led to Thuya Drive and Thuya Gardens. Thuya Drive is a residential street leading to the gardens. It might as well have been part of the gardens. It was beautiful. We spent twenty minutes hopping out of the car every tenth of a mile to photograph the hillside. Mother Nature is a fantastic landscaper.
Eventually we reached the parking lot for Thuya Gardens. Originally this was the summer home of Joseph Henry Curtis, a renowned landscape architect and civil engineer from Boston. He designed the terraced trail to serve as a path from the harbor to his home called Thuya Lodge after the local white cedar, thuja occidentalis. Upon his death he gifted the property to the community under trustee management. The adjacent apple orchard was developed into a semi-formal English style garden in the style of Gertrude Jekyll by two other Bar Harbor landscape architects, Beatrix Farrand and Charles K. Savage. Many of the original plants were purchased from Beatrix Farrand’s garden in 1956. The property is now owned and operated by the Mount Desert Land & Garden Preserve, a non-profit corporation. Their website is www.gardenpreserve.org. You may visit the garden for a donation of $5.
We returned to the harbor landing and parked. Then we walked to both the harbor and across the street to Thuya Terraces. (Steve) this was my favorite part. I loved the way the terraces were incorporated into the natural beauty of the area. It combines landscaping and nature at its best. Although overcast, the harbor view was a fantastic site. The oriental style of the overlook shelters added a graceful element. (Chari) I’ve always been attracted to oriental design and took the opportunity to play with some post processing of photos taken here.
Third but not last by any means was Asticou Azalea Gardens located just half a mile away. This garden was also designed and built by Charles K. Savage, owner of the Asticou Inn. He obtained financial support from John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to purchase the plant collection of Beatrix Farrand when her Reef Point estate was dismantled in 1956. This is a Japanese style garden adapted to the native plants and coastal conditions of Maine. Asticou Gardens is open to the public from May 1st until October 31st. We were there at the end of the blooming period for the azaleas but many summer plants such as smoke bush, Japanese iris and rosebay were stars. Fall is also a great time to visit here as autumn color combines with re-blooming azaleas. An expansion of the garden was begun in 2007 and will continue for several years.
You already know we’ve said “When we come back …”