Acadia National Park is the only national park in New England and one of the few encompassing a coastal area. From rugged seaside cliffs and sandy beaches to inland lakes and rocky mountains, Acadia’s 35,000 acres of wilderness have something for everyone. This national treasure is located on the coast of Maine – primarily on Mount Desert Island, but a few acres are located on nearby islands and a peninsula.
The park sees more than two million recreational visitors annually, making it one of the most visited national parks in the country. It is especially enticing for families, who will enjoy hiking on easy mountain and coastal trails, exploring rocky tide pools, and swimming in freshwater ponds and lakes. Although Acadia National Park is a wilderness area, there are plenty of towns and villages to explore as well.
Where to Go
Start your adventure in Bar Harbor, a bustling fishing village just outside the park. Bar Harbor makes a great home base for exploring the area, and you’ll be in close proximity to plenty of dining and shopping too. From the village of Bar Harbor, you can walk out to Bar Island during low tide. It’s just a half-mile walk across a protected part of the bay. On the island, you’ll have a fantastic view of Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island, but be sure to begin and end your excursion 1.5 hours on either side of low tide.
Bar Harbor is home to many hotels, resorts, and vacation rentals, but if you’d rather camp, there are several options right inside the park. One benefit of camping is that you will avoid the traffic heading in and out of the park each day. There are four campgrounds in Acadia National Park: Blackwoods, Seawall, Schoodic Woods, and Duck Harbor. Blackwoods is the most popular campground, and the closest to the park’s main attractions. For complete seclusion in nature, reserve a night or two at Duck Harbor campground, located on the remote Isle au Haut.
What to Do
The most visited destinations, hikes, and vistas are located along the 20-mile loop road around Mount Desert Island. Traffic is a definite concern when travelling the loop road, so plan to get an early start or take the free shuttle instead of driving.
The highest east coast mountain in North America, Cadillac Mountain is a primo spot for a sunrise picnic. You can drive the 3.5-mile road to the top, or hike the 2.2-mile North Ridge Trail to the summit. The trail is rated as moderate and is suitable for older kids.
Thunder Hole is a natural rock inlet that captures the waves and creates amplified crashing and gurgling noises as the water rushes in and out. For the best acoustics, visit Thunder Hole midway between low and high tide.
The ocean waters around Acadia rarely get above 55℉. Freshwater swimming is definitely the way to go, and kids love the life-guarded beach at Echo Lake.
Ship Harbor Trail
This easy, 1.3-mile loop trail is perfect for kids, and there’s great access to tide pools at low tide. All kinds of creatures make their home among the pink granite ledges, including barnacles, whelk, sea stars, sea urchins, mussels, and crabs.
Boston’s Logan Airport is a five-hour drive from Acadia National Park. You can also catch a direct flight from Logan Airport to Hancock County Airport, which is 10 minutes from the park. A few national airlines also serve Bangor International Airport, about an hour away. Most visitors drive around the park for convenience, but there is also a free shuttle that runs through the summer and fall.
Tara, a mother of two boys, ages 15 and 18, is a freelance writer and travel blogger with a passion for outdoor adventures. She currently blogs at backroadramblers.com where she shares travel tips, adventure destinations, and outdoor vacation ideas for the wanderer in everyone.