Mount Desert Island is the home of Cadillac Mountain, the first place in the United States to receive the morning sun for much of the year. This makes Sunrise on Cadillac a check on everyone’s to do list, but what if you want somewhere a little less busy or a slightly different experience?

Anywhere that gives you a clear Southeastern exposure will  work, but don’t forget you’ll be getting there in the dark, so Beehive isn’t your best bet and of course remember that you can’t be on private property!

Ocean Drive – this is becoming more popular and being suggested by the National Park Staff as a way of reducing congestion on the mountain. It’s easy to get to, park at, and offers approximately 2 miles of roadway so people can spread out. It’s a good cold weather option as you’ll have an unobstructed view without getting out of the car. For the more adventurous venturing along Ocean path towards  Otter Cliffs and Otter Point will give you some privacy.

Hint: Park at Otter Point and walk back towards Ocean Drive. The Ocean Path is very well maintained, but you will still get some tree roots and rocks on this end of the path, so use that flashlight.
Ocean Drive Entrance Station GPS Lat. 44.338797 Long. -68.183168



Schooner Head – Schooner Head Overlook is located at the end of Schooner Head Road to the left of the Ocean Drive Entrance and has a great view of Little Egg Rock Lighthouse and some height. It works well for those preferring the warmth of their car or those with mobility needs.

Hint: To get closer to the water, follow the paved trail that leads down to the rocky shore below and get some great photos of the first rays on the rocks and surf. This pathway is steep and cuts through trees and shrubbery, so a trusty flashlight is a necessity.
GPS Lat. 44.3395413 Long. -68.1775126

Photo Credit: Tony Palumbo

Manset – On the 102A loop between Southwest harbor and Seawall on the western side of the island, Manset is  at the Southern Entrance to Some Sound and has views towards Southwest Harbor, Northeast Harbor and the mountains on eastern side of Mount Desert Island and The Cranberry Islands. Home to boat yards and boat rental companies, the docks can provide a sunrise opportunity including a working waterfront. Sunrise photography here can include visual enhancements such as wharves, boats, and boatyards. A change from the wilder rocky shores and long views from the mountaintop.

Hint: You’ll be close to civilization for a warming coffee or breakfast once the rest of the world wakes up.
Manset Town Dock GPS Lat. 44.2692827 Long. -68.31126210000002


The Shore Path
– In town Bar Harbor, the Shore Path means easy access, but  also more people. However, the mooring of the Margret Todd at the Bar Harbor Inn pier and the fishing boats coming and going, contribute to unique sunrise experience. Close to the town pier you’ll find many photographers set up to catch the sun over the Schooner masts. As you head along the path, you’ll see those that splurged on their accommodations enjoying the sunrise from their hotel balconies… you even sometimes catch a dawn yoga session. The newly renovated Grant Park (AKA Albert Meadow) has plenty of benches  and a more unobstructed view of the sun coming up over the Porcupine Islands and glinting off both moored yachts and the lobsterboats plying their trade. Towards the end of the path, you’ll have a great shot of the sun coming up between Sheep Porcupine Island and Bald Porcupine Island and out towards the Breakwater, Little Egg Rock Lighthouse and the open ocean beyond.
Bar Harbor Town Pier GPS Lat. 44.392087 Long. -68.204052



Thompson Island – Here’s one you may not have considered, but being an early morning person, I’ve witnesses many a gorgeous morning glow here. Thompson Island has a picnic area with fireplaces, picnic tables, and a large open grassy area leading to the shore, so a nice place for the  less mobile and definitely the place you could set up for a civilized dawn breakfast experience!  You are close to the water and get great views of the marshy inlets. Simply pulling over on the side of the road can garner some great shots and it’s not unusual to find herons looking for breakfast or see some locals working the tidal flats for worms or clams if the tides are in their favor.

Hint: You may need to park across the road by the Visitor Center if the Picnic area gate is closed
GPS Lat. 44.426906 Long. -68.364621

Photo Credit: Steve Cornell

So, now you’re inspired to get your butt up and greet the sun, what preparations should you make?

1) Timing. Sunrise time charts usually give you the crest time, so you probably want to be at your location and settled 20-30 mins. before that to see the whole thing. Often the light before the sun actually appears is the most dramatic.

2) You are getting there in the DARK! Scope out the location, parking, and access in the daylight. This will also allow you to assess travel time needed to get there. Bring a flashlight/headlamp or at least a darned candle if you plan on getting beyond you car headlights (Ok, so maybe not a candle,  Smokey the Bear just slapped me!)

3) It will be cold; yes even in the summer. You’ll be sitting for a while and the water is cold so those sea breezes will be nippy. Dress Warm! We’d also suggest a nice fluffy blanket and maybe a camping chair, the ground can be damp and rocks are cold. A buddy to snuggle with is always a good choice too.

4) Don’t be vain! Trust us the sunrise will be what people are looking at not you. Is going to be an early alarm, you don’t need to take extra time to put on your lipstick. Honestly, you won’t even have to brush your hair if you wear a hat!

5) Vittles! Want to make everyone jealous? How about a flask of nice hot coffee at least? Here’s where I love the idea of Thompson Island, I mean you could do the whole breakfast thing and sell to the unprepared at trail prices… though this is probably illegal so this is us officially saying in writing do NOT create an unregistered business on public land.



Sunrise is a glorious thing and seeing on MDI is a great thing for your list… and there is certainly more than one place to enjoy it. 

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