One newspaper reporter once called Compass Harbor "One of Acadia National Park's best kept secrets," and that is exactly how the National Park Service wants to keep it. Compass Harbor has a rich history and at least one book claims the wooded area is haunted. George B. Dorr, often refereed to as the "Father of Acadia National Park," and the parks first superintendent, had his summer home at Compass Harbor, the estate named Old Farm, or Oldfarm. He spent many summers there with his mother while she was alive and Compass Harbor clearly was a summer destination favorite with the Dorr's. Back in the day, the land was well landscaped with lush gardens, stone steps and walkways and a nearby servants quarters. A well worn path leads to the top of a hillside where the remains of the Dorr estate can still be found, with much of the floors and some sections of walls still plainly visible. Exploring the woods and bushes nearby reveal hidden stone steps and sections of stone walkways.
One of George B. Dorr's favorite sites at Compass Harbor was a saltwater pool, the remains are still visible down by the harbor. Today you will often find one or two sailboats at anchor in the harbor with a few visitors exploring the shoreline. There is a rough beach along the main harbor and sometimes in the afternoon you can find someone playing an instrument or two along the shore.
Finding Compass Harbor is not easy unless you know what to look for, as the Park Service treats the area almost as if it were an abandoned site, no sign marks the tiny dirt parking area which itself can be difficult to spot. In recent years the Park Service did put up a information sign at the start of the path, but you can not see it from the roadway.
Driving along Main Street in Bar Harbor, follow Main Street and Route 3, as if headed toward Otter Creek. As your leaving town, you will pass the YMCA and the town ball fields, up ahead is a curve in the road, after that begin looking for a mailbox on the right hand side of the road, with number 399 on it, fairly easy to spot - directly across from that mailbox on the left hand side of the road is the tiny dirt parking area for Compass Harbor. A path to the far corner of the parking area is the start of the Compass Harbor path, which I refer to as a nature trail. At different times I have spotted deer, a fox, woodpeckers, ducks and wild turkeys in the woods along the path. Though the woods are over grown and the lush gardens long gone, I like to think back how it must of been in the day when Mr. Dorr walked along these same paths. At the parking lot follow the path through a short section of woods until you come to an intersection, turn left and the path continues until it comes to a high banking overlooking the calm waters of Compass Harbor. A faint path goes off to the left where it comes to a private property sign, at one time that path use to connect to the Bar Harbor Shore Path. The main path, well worn, continues to follow the harbor, with a few spots along the way where you can make your way down to the beach below. The path soon takes a hard right, but a lesser worn path at the turn continues straight ahead, and takes you out to a open area at the head of the harbor, sometimes called Dorr Point or Lookout Point. From there, if a cruise ship is approaching or departing Bar Harbor, you can get a good view of them passing.
Back at the right turn in the main trail, it continues ahead for a short ways before taking yet another hard right hand turn where you will find a very long series of stone steps leading uphill through the woods, but before you head for the stairway, look for a worn path leading out onto the rocks, and just to the right there is a lovely little cove with a second beach, this is the beach many locals seek out on a hot summer afternoon. Once you have explored the hidden cove, head up along those steps which lead straight up the hillside, and the remains of the Dorr estate will soon come into view. You can still see the tiles on some of the flooring, and in places some sections of walls are still in view. The basement windows are all filled in with dirt, and its here at the foundation of Old Farm that one can explore the nearby brush and woods to locate hidden walkways and stone steps.
Follow the path onward a short ways and you come to another intersection, go straight to return back to the parking area or turn left onto the Schooner Head Trail, where the path comes to Old Farm Road itself. You have two good options from here, follow Old Farm road to the left just a short ways and you come to a long driveway with a small white house on the hillside, thatcottage is Storm Beach Cottage, the last remaining building that belonged to George B. Dorr, all other buildings, including Old Farm, which he left to the National Park Service, was torn down by the Park Service not long after they obtained the property. After Dorr's mother passed away, Dorr would spend some summers at Storm Beach Cottage and rent out the main house at Compass Harbor. A few years before he died, Dorr retreated to the small white cottage and spent his final years there. Today the National Park Service owns that property as well, and like at Bass Harbor where the Park Service rents the lighthouse out to a private family, Storm Beach Cottage is also rented out to a private person. For this reason the Park Service asks that anyone visiting the area of the cottage to do so from some distance and respect the privacy of the people living there.
Back at where the path comes to the Old Farm Road, instead of going left, cross the road and only a few yards in, off to the right is a pond, once known as Dorr Pond. That pond once was a very popular location for locals to go to for ice skating in the winter time. As you follow the path, not very far in you will begin to see faucets and pipes sticking up out of the ground here and there along the side of the path, that is what remains of the Mount Desert Nurseries, a company Dorr owned. The nurseries stretched from Old Farm Road all the way to Schooner Head Road. Just ahead to the left is a lesser worn path which leads from the Schooner Head Path to a parking area across from Storm Beach Cottage, and it is easy to see why Mr. Dorr so loved staying at the cottage, from its windows he could look out over his nursery business and take in the view of all those lush blooming plants and shrubs.
From here you can return back to the parking lot, or if your up to a much longer hike, continue to follow the Schooner Head Path, it will come out at the Schooner Head Road where it crosses the road and continues to follow the side of the road until just before it reaches the Schooner Head Overlook parking lot, where the path crosses the road again and runs through the woods, coming out at that parking area. A paved path at the parking area leads down through the woods where it comes to some impressive high cliffs, where the path meets the cliffs, you are standing on the roof of Anemone Cave, better known as The Devil's Oven in the late 1800's and early 1900s. Anemone Cave was once one the star attractions of Acadia National park, but some years ago the Park Service abandoned the site, removed the railings that helped get people down to the sea cave, and removed all signs - they even asked the map makers to remove it from future maps, which they did. Anemone Cave can only be entered at low tide and the inside of the cave will be wet and extremely slippery - and people have become trapped in the cave by rising tide and drowned there. This is not a deep cave but it can be an extremely dangerous cave, so be sure to only enter the cave at the low tide mark and wear proper footing for slippery conditions.
Just one closing note on Compass Harbor, not many know it but the two school girls who fell from the cliffs of Champlain Mountain, Lucreatia K. Douglas and Almira Conners , they both lived at houses that where located at Compass Harbor in the 1800's, and the picnic trip they and others started out on that fateful morning began at Compass Harbor. Lucreatia K. Douglas would become the first recorded death on a mountain here, and her grave stone - located in the small cemetery along Mount Desert Street across from Jesup Memorial Library tells part of the story of how she died that day on what was than known as Newport Mountain, today named Champlain Mountain.