We all drive through Seal Harbor at some point, but have you ever stopped to really look around?

As with most places on MDI, Seal Harbor was first a native American domain and then settled as a fishing village which developed into a resort area with the requisite Summer Cottages and hotel facilities of the Rusticator era.

The area didn’t see widespread destruction in the Fire of ’47, so many of the residences still remain and on Cooksey Drive (see part 2) can give you glimpses of this past. But the hotels are long gone.

Seal Harbor is now a serene and peaceful oceanside community know for some of its celebrity residents (again, for part 2 of this post).

As for Part 1, we explore the main parts of Seal Harbor, which we’ll call the ‘downtown’ area.

Seal Harbor Beach

Seal Harbor is pretty much built around this beautiful public beach. A summer destination for many locals when the yachts and lobster boats dot the harbor, it’s still off the beaten path for many tourists so is a bit less hectic when you want a beach day. It’s also place to search for seaglass and take a winter stroll when the tides can be tracked by a crisp snow line. Whilst you can see the beach and harbor on a drive by, it’s worth pulling into the parking lot and getting out since the plentiful Rosa Rugosa that separates the beach and Route 3 makes the two views completely different. You’ll definitely see more of the horseshoe harbor from the sand and you can trace the path of Stanley Brook joyfully reaching the sea.

If you’ve ever noticed that this beach always seems pristine even at the peak of the season, thank Seal Harbor Village Improvement Society for their daily raking and cleaning of the beach and maintenance of the rest rooms and parking lot. I should add that the restrooms are worth a look on their own – form and function!

“The Puking Seal”

Totally my affectionate name for the water trough and seal head fountain that sits at the intersection of Route 3, Peabody Drive and Steam Boat Wharf Road. This has always been one of my favorite things on MDI… and when we moved here I was so happy to see him gurgling away all year long! (Closed up fountains always make me sad.)The granite trough was placed here in 1909 and the seal head added the next year

We’re not heading up Steam Boat Wharf Road as that leads to Cooksey Drive until Part 2 so we’ll continue on in the other direction.

The Village Green and Wide Open Vistas

One of the remarkable things about the area is that the Village Green and its views that have escaped development – I mean wouldn’t we all want our living room window there! This is another example of Rockefeller’s  generosity and the Seal Harbor community’s vision and prioritization of their quality of life. Seal Harbor Village Improvement Society (SHVIS) was founded in 1900 by year round and summer residents. The organization played a vital role in village health by testing milk and water quality, but they also recognized the need for protecting the landscape and providing a community green space. Of course having J. D.  Rockefeller, Jr in the neighborhood helps and in 1911, he purchased the 5 acres overlooking the harbor where the Glen Cove Inn stood, cleared the land, and donated it. SHVIS, Rockefeller, and Beatrix Farrand worked to create the green spaces. This has ensured uninterrupted public oceanfront access into perpetuity.

Dunham Memorial Park

Across the street from the sweeping lawn of the village green, now surrounded and obscured by the growth of Rosa Rugosa is a small terraced park with granite walls and stone benches. Beatrix Farrand created this as a memorial to Edward K Dunham, one of the founders of SHVIS and a Rockefeller friend.

Main Street

Worth a stroll and your chance for a quick bite! Here you’ll find the Abby Chapel which holds a 10 AM service and Children’s Sunday School. The Abby Chapel is part of the Parish of Seaside United Church of Christ. The building (formerly Billings Meat Market and Candage Store) next door to the Abby Chapel was relocated onto Main Street to create space for the Farrand garden and now houses.

Heading up the hill you’ll find the Lighthouse Inn and Restaurant, currently operating seasonally. It’s a small 3 bedroom  inn with beautiful gardens hidden away out back and The Coffee Shop Cafe which seems to be open daily Monday – Friday most of the year along with the Village Post Office. In season, you’ll also find the original Naturalists Notebook here too. If you’ve never been, it’s tough to define, but it’s kind of a nature, art, and science interactive discover space with shopping. Great for kids and adults and anyone to expand their mind, understanding, and experience in a unique environment. The old gas station and convenience store next door has recently become a seasonal antique/outdoor living store.

Trails, Wildwood Stables and Acadia National Park

There’s plenty of opportunity to take a walk or hike right from the beach  parking lot. Seal Harbor and Acadia National Park intertwine around the Stanley Brook entrance and Jordan Pond Winter entrance. You can take the newly repaired Seaside path up to Jordan Pond House or ski the road in the winter. If you do, don’t forget to explore the cemetery across the street from the Stanley Brook Road/ Jordan Pond Road intersection. This graveyard is larger than you might expect reflecting the long history of the location. You can also take in Wildwood Stables and visit the horses in the summer.  The large barn that you’ll see dates from 1911 when Wildwood Farm was built by banker E.B. Dane to supply Glengariff  (the waterfront estate built by George Cooksey).

You can also walk about half a mile along Route 3 (or take a car on the windy road) to get to Bracy’s Cove and Little Long Pond. This is a great place to watch a storm – but expect to get wet and take care. Oh, you’ll find Bracy markers in the cemetery above! Little Long Pond is now part of the Land and Garden Preserve and one of the few places where dogs can run off leash as long as they are under voice control. There are numerous trails in this area, connecting to Acadia National Park trail system and Northeast Harbor trails. Little Long Pond also features a beautiful boat house once restored and used by the Rockefeller family and you should always keep your eyes and ears open for loons.

On the way towards Little Long Pond, you’ll pass a couple of attractive churches.

St. Judes is an attractive shingled building and is part of the Parish of St. Mary.  St Judes offers services  in July and August. The original Congregational Church, I believe  marked on maps as Union Church, was “abandoned” when the new church was built and eventually restored by a local (we’re assuming one of the summer community – but let us know if you do), with no use in mind – simply to save a wonderful building. We say thank you!

Since I’m writing this in the winter, I’m including a link to Jennifer Steen-Booher’s, of Quericus Design, Coast Walk Project entry on this area for some pretty summer pictures!

Stay tuned next week for Part 2 where we travel on Cooksey Drive and the other part of Seal Harbor!

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