Acadia National Park is the crowning jewel of the Northeast. It may be a small park but it captures all the beauty Maine has to offer, from its rugged mountains to the pristine lakes, lush forests, diverse wildlife, and rocky glacier-carved coastline. Acadia has it all.
Acadia is primarily on Mount Desert Island but has some acreage at the point on Schoodic Peninsula and the Isle au Haut. Mount Desert Island has two ‘fingers’, the Northeast Harbor where you will find Bar Harbor and the Southwest Harbor where you have Bass Harbor. Both are beautiful but different. In fact, all four areas of the park are different and offer their own unique views and special features.
This is how our family spent our time in the park. The summer is a very busy time in Acadia so we planned ahead. We divided our time between driving the loop road, playing in the water – ocean, and lakes – hiking, and just exploring. On this trip, we stayed on Mount Desert Island but explored both ‘fingers’ as well as spent some time in Bar Harbor proper.
Our First Day in Acadia
We started our first day off by going to the Hulls Cover Visitors Center to get our park pass and also the girl’s Junior Ranger booklets. My kids love becoming Junior Rangers anytime they can. We decided to hike Acadia Mountain first. There are signs along the road where you can park and where the trail starts. The trail is a little steep in some places so beware. The girls had to work a bit to make it up but it was still very doable for them. The reward for our efforts was amazing views of Somes Sound and the islands at the entrance to the sound. Since the weather was warm and sunny we were really glad we hiked in the morning.
After our hike, we had lunch in Southwest Harbor. The girls were tired and enjoyed sitting down and having a cold drink while we ate lunch. It’s the simple things that mean so much. Next, we went to see the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. This light is precariously clutching to the rocks under it. This lighthouse is special as the light is red. I’d not seen that before. We weren’t able to climb the light so I couldn’t inspect it up close which was disappointing. Nor was there anyone to speak to about it. Still, it is an amazing lighthouse.
Paddle Boarding on Long Pond
We spent the rest of the afternoon paddleboarding on Long Pond. At the top of Long Pond, there is a shop you can rent paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes from. Since we had our kayaking adventure earlier in the week we opted for paddleboards. We rented 2 boards and took turns going out on the water. It was fun to be out there but necessary to rest at times. I’m really glad we only rented the two boards.
Our Second Day
We drove the loop road which always offers spectacular views. Instead of stopping at Sand Beach we drove down closer to Thunder Hole to explore the shoreline. We all loved climbing the rocks to get down to the water. I loved all the wildflowers growing in the rocks on the shore. In fact, as we continued to drive the loop road we saw more varieties of flowers and wildlife.
Carriage Roads of Acadia
Another special feature of the park are the Rockefeller bridges. There are 17 beautiful styles throughout the park for you to find. You will find some as you drive the park loop road. But for others, you will need to get out onto the carriage roads themselves to see. Taking a hike or bike ride along the carriage roads will take you away from the cars and any crowds. You can hear the wildlife as they scurry in the forest around you. We enjoyed the tranquility of being on these trails around Jordan Pond and I think you will too. The girls were able to work on a few activities in their Junior Ranger activity book as well.
John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s determination to preserve extraordinary scenery and the horse and carriage lifestyle, combined with his love of road-building, resulted in a carriage road system (45 miles long) flanked by sweeping panoramas and intimate views of Acadia.
We were hot and sticky after our short walk on the carriage roads. Flavored ice back in Bar Harbor was our afternoon treat for our ‘hard work’. After dinner, we went back to see Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse for sunset. We clambered onto the rocks below the light and were handsomely rewarded with great views. The sunset was a bit hazy from the heat of the day but still quite lovely.
Pin for Later
Our Third Day
We started our day going up Cadillac Mountain when we knew there wouldn’t be too many people there. I’m glad we waited until the morning. It was cool and a bit windy. However, with fewer people to maneuver around, we really were able to enjoy the views. Next, we stopped at Jordan Pond and again were able to have the place mostly to ourselves. I do really like the quietness of mornings in the park.
On our way to Sand Beach, we stopped by the Precipice Trailhead. The trail was closed but rangers had telescopes out to look for peregrine falcons. They had the telescopes fixed on the nests on the rock face above us. It is always fun to look through telescopes, never knowing what you might see. Unfortunately, the birds were all out flying around at that time.
We finally made it to Sand Beach and the girls were thrilled. The girls loved the cool ocean water and played for a while in the surf. Meanwhile, Clint and I relaxed on the sand. We enjoyed the picnic lunch we brought and lounged most of the day away admiring the scenery.
For the Love of Sea Glass
Evelyn loves to collect sea glass. Wherever we go she tries to add to her growing collection. Thus, Acadia was no different. After we left Sand Beach, we stopped along the road at Otter Point and don’t you know she found a few pieces. She has the best eye for finding sea glass. I’m jealous at times especially when she finds blue and turquoise pieces. We topped off the day with a dip in the hotel pool.
Our Fourth Day
Sieur de Monts is a special place within Acadia. There is the Wild Gardens of Acadia, a Nature Center and the Abbe Museum at this location. We heard there could be a special surprise for the girls if they turned in their junior ranger booklets there. Well, that was enough of an incentive for us to go and see what the surprise could be. Before going into the Nature Center, we took part in the junior botanist scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt took place in the wild gardens. This is a very special garden with lots of different plants and animals. There was a lily pond as well as a river running through the garden. Clint teamed up with Evelyn and I helped Ainsley. It wasn’t a competition but Ainsley said we won since we found everything first.
In the Nature Center, there is loads of information on the wildlife and plants of the park. We enjoyed the exhibit and asked a few questions about plants in the park. The girls then turned in the junior ranger booklet, said their pledge and signed their books as did the ranger. Then they learned why Sieur de Monts is ‘the place’ to turn in your junior ranger booklet. I won’t tell you what the surprise is but my girls were happy with the choices.
Have you been to Acadia National Park? If so, what is your favorite area?