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Perfect Maine mix: relaxation and stimulation

Email|Print| Text size + By Doug Warren
Globe Staff / November 20, 2005

BASS HARBOR, Maine -- We had been wanting to return to Mount Desert Island after an absence of too many years, but couldn't bear the prospect of enduring the tourist hustle and cruise ship bustle of Bar Harbor in high season.

So when word reached us of a new, waterfront bed-and-breakfast on the horseshoe-shaped island's picturesque ''quietside," we jumped at the chance to experience the accommodations at Ann's Point Inn.

The former summer home at the heel of Bass Harbor has been transformed by innkeepers Phil and Lesley DiVirgilio into a luxurious, year-round destination for visitors seeking to unwind and enjoy the natural beauty of nearby Acadia National Park.

We were certainly ready to unwind, or maybe just collapse, after making the nearly six-hour drive from Boston to Bass Harbor. Ann's Point has a two-night minimum stay during high season, and we figured we were going to need every moment of that to restore our road-ravaged senses.

The DiVirgilios, however, were ready for us. They showed us around the elegant common areas of the main house, including the kitchen where Lesley produces delicious full breakfasts, and pointed out the hot tub, sauna, and indoor pool, which we quickly put to proper use.

Lesley, a midwife in her native England, and Phil, a pilot and mechanical engineer from Winchendon, previously owned and operated the Holbrook House, a large Victorian B&B in downtown Bar Harbor. They downsized considerably in opening Ann's Point, which has just four rooms, but they knew what they wanted to achieve.

''We really wanted to give our guests a place on the water with plenty of space, where they can get away from it all and enjoy the rustic setting on this side of the island," Phil said.

We found our room, called Mallards Haven, to be anything but rustic. The windows looked out across a lawn to the back cove of Bass Harbor. We found cable TV and a radio/CD player with a small collection of mostly New Agey discs. The ceiling was high and embellished with decorative beams of Douglas fir. The white walls were largely bare and the floor fully carpeted. The king bed was wonderfully comfortable and a gas fireplace stood at the ready in one corner of the large room.

The bathroom, however, really set the standard for luxury. The huge space included a Jacuzzi tub, a glassed-in double shower, and a vanity with a beautiful white vessel sink. Nice touches abounded, including monogrammed robes and slippers and an extensive array of bath products on a wooden stand.

Of course, all these offerings come at a cost. With rates ranging from $150 in winter to $345 a night during foliage season, Ann's Point is by far the priciest place to stay in the local Chamber of Commerce's listings of bed-and-breakfasts on the quietside.

Still, the DiVirgilios deliver value for the visitors' dollars. They know both sides of the island intimately and can offer insider advice on things to do, places to eat -- and what to avoid.

''The facility is important," Phil said. ''But the people come back because of you."

We were steered to two excellent, and very different, nearby places to eat. Thurston's Lobster Pound on Bass Harbor, open Memorial Day to early October, was down-home Maine at its finest. The stylish XYZ restaurant in Southwest Harbor offers excellent Mexican food.

We also explored some nearby parts of the national park, walking through the woods on the Wonderland Trail to explore the tidal pools that dot the rocky shore. We were less than impressed with the much-photographed Bass Harbor Head Light, which we found rather small and difficult to view from the shore. At the DiVirgilios' suggestion, we also stopped for a delicious lunch at the Little Notch Cafe in picturesque Southwest Harbor village.

But the highlight of our visit came in the afternoon when Phil helped us launch one of the inn's two double kayaks into Bass Harbor from the front lawn. We spent two glorious hours gliding across the glassy surface of the harbor, weaving between the working lobster boats and pausing now and then to take in the breathtaking view of the island's high peaks towering over the coastline. This was Maine vacationing at its best.

That evening, while enjoying a complimentary tasting of Italian wines and cheeses in the common dining area with our hosts and fellow guests, we toasted our time in Bass Harbor. Our senses were restored, and we vowed to be back.

With Ann's Point Inn, Phil and Lesley DiVirgilio have created a sparkling new gem of a year-round destination in a place perfect both for secluded romance and for exploring the best of what Mount Desert Island has to offer.

Contact Doug Warren at dwarren@globe.com.

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