Oh, the beauty of Acadia in the winter! Or was it spring? I will call it ‘springter.’

We sure did have a grand last hurrah before the realities of COVID-19 brought the globe to a halt in March 2019. We had no idea what was around the bend and instead focused our mental energy on bagel toppings, rock scrambles, and who was going to get which bunk bed at our cool-as-heck Airbnb in Southwest Harbor.

Jordan Pond Trail on the way back from the Bubbles. Shannon Bryan photo

When the idea for a “winter weekend on MDI” first came together, I envisioned cross-country skiing on the carriage trails and marveling at snow-covered Acadia. (Kinda like the winter weekend I had there a few years back, Read more here: Acadia in the winter: Nordic skiing, snowshoeing & the perfect amount of solitude.)

Turns out, Mother Nature had other plans, which included zero snow and gusting winds. But it also included rock scrambles and stellar vistas, a sunrise hike and inflatable flamingo, birthday cake, bunk beds, summit pizzelles, the coolest cottage, and a coastline we could stare at for days.

The Ocean Path Trail – accessible, easy, and freaking gorgeous. Shannon Bryan photo

It’s a testament to the crew of humans who were there – all part of the Fit Maine Social Club – and I’d be happy to share a house in the woods with them any time of year. The lack of snow was a bummer, but we just rolled with it, and we ended up with a weekend flush with stellar one-liners, laughter, and plaid pajama pants. And we practically had Acadia to ourselves. The parking was SO EASY, you wouldn’t even believe it!

But more about that bunk-bed-filled house!

Our Southwest Harbor Hideaway, discovered via Airbnb. Shannon Bryan photo

Our base camp was this rad house on a quiet road in Southwest Harbor, another excellent discovery on Airbnb.

The house is wonderfully quirky and cool, with odd art, bright colors, twinkle lights, and a well-placed lobster trap. It’s got personality, know what I mean? But the neatest part: the bunk beds. There are multiple bunk beds built into into various nooks and crannies of the house, complete with ladders to the upper decks made from the slender trunks of birch trees.

There are two bedrooms with swell normal beds (there was only one master bedroom when we were there, but the upstairs loft has since been turned into a second large bedroom with attached bathroom), but I had no interest in those. I flung myself into a top bunk upon our arrival and claimed it as my own.

As with most Airbnbs, this one comes with all the necessary things, including a well-stocked kitchen, games, outdoor toys, linens, etc. There’s a backyard with a grill and fire pit, and there’s a comfy family room where we spent much of our time stuffing pizza and bagels into our faces while sharing harrowing stories about that time we got concussed by a falling icicle (wasn’t me, but I’ll 100% tell you who it was if we run into each other on the street and you ask).

The location is a sweet one, too. It’s still close enough to all the Bar Harbor things, but it’s nestled on a quiet road in Southwest Harbor, where it’s decidedly mellower (then again, MDI in March is kind of quiet everywhere, so maybe my perception is off). And it’s not far from some great hikes and coastal paths that offer different views and easy-access sunrise trails.

The house has changed owners since our stay, but Carra, one of the current owners, is welcoming and cool and I suspect a lovely host. Again, here’s the place: Southwest Harbor Hideaway in the Woods of Acadia.

Here’s a bit of our snowless winter weekend adventuring:

Sunrise on the Wonderland Trail

There are plenty of options for trail exploration on MDI, but my fondest trek that weekend was the morning we got up and out early to walk the short Wonderland Trail (which was just a few minute’s drive from our Airbnb) to watch the sun come up. And damn, did we luck out with one stand-out sunrise.

The sunrise from the Wonderland Trail. Shannon Bryan photo
Watching the sun come up.
Jen lit up by the early morning sun.

The Wonderland Trail is a flat walk, a smidge over a half-mile one way, and ideal for catching the sunrise. We lucked out with a low tide that allowed us to loiter on the rocks, sip our coffee, and gaze at the brightly hued horizon.

Heading back home for breakfast on the Wonderland Trail.
Daybreak on the Wonderland Trail.

Wonderland Trail:

Jordan Pond and South Bubble

A visit to Jordan Pond is obligatory. While I love the popovers and potent coffee from Jordan Pond House in the warmer months, it’s also cool spot to visit when it’s utterly deserted on account of frigid winter winds. We opted to bundle ourselves up and head out for a hike along Jordan Pond and up to the top of South Bubble. Thankfully those Bubbles blocked the wind for most of the hike up, and we enjoyed the bright sun and rock scrambling.

The Bubbles and Jordan Pond.
Walking the flat Jordan Pond Path.

South Bubble offers an elevation gain of 534 feet, although it felt steeper the morning we were there. That happens sometimes. Lots of rock scrambling up The Bubbles Trail. We went up to the South Bubble summit via the Bubbles Trail and came down the Bubbles Divide, so the mileage was a little longer than the 3-mile route I’m linking to on Alltrails.

Jordan Pond and South Bubble

Beech Mountain

Beech Mountain is a super hike near Southwest Harbor, with cool views of Long Pond on the way up, rock stairs, and a lookout tower at the top (if memory serves, we couldn’t get into the tower, but we could still climb up the stairs and take in the views. The Beech Mountain Trail is a 1.2-mile loop with an elevation gain of 347 feet.

A few patches of ice on the Beech Mountain Loop Trail.
Rock stairs on the Beech Mountain Trail.
Views of Long Pond on the way up the Beech Mountain Loop.

Shore Path + Thunder Hole
Can’t get enough of that coastline. While many roads in the park are closed in the winter, the Shore Path is accessible year-round (and the parking is a dream)!
Thunder Hole.
Bass Harbor Head Light

We sure love our lighthouses, and while Bass Harbor Head Light tends to be a busy spot in warmer months, we were the only people there during our visit.

The path down toward the rocks where there’s a view of the lighthouse.
Thar she is, tucked right in.

Bass Harbor Head Light:

Our crew leaving the Airbnb on the last morning.

Southwest Harbor + Acadia in the off seasons

Or any season, really.

Here’s a roundup of the pertinent links again:

Southwest Harbor Hideaway Airbnb www.airbnb.co.nz/rooms/47337355.

Beech Mountain www.alltrails.com/trail/us/maine/beech-mountain-loop-trail

Jordan Pond and South Bubble www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/us/maine/jordan-pond-to-south-bubble-summit

Wonderland Trail www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/us/maine/wonderland-trail

Bass Harbor Head Light www.nps.gov/acad/planyourvisit/bass-harbor-head-light-station.htm