If you want to experience some of America’s most unspoiled wilderness, you should come to Acadia National Park in Maine. This is a trip for serious nature lovers, as it’s not really close to anything else, as least as far as big cities or tourist destinations go. But this 35,000-acre park, located mostly on its own island, is a unique and incredibly beautiful destination where you can see the Northeast much as it looked centuries ago. For camping, hiking, wildlife viewing, fishing and other outdoor activities, it’s simply incomparable. Let’s look at some of the things to see and do in Maine’s only national park.
Getting to Acadia National Park
Because of its remoteness, the first question many people ask when planning their trip is, “how do we get there?” There are a few options.
If you’re going to fly, you can arrive at Maine’s largest airport, which is Portland. The closest airport , however, is Bangor, Maine, only about an hour’s drive from the park. Another popular option is Manchester, New Hampshire. The closest major airport is Boston, which is, however, about 5 hours from Acadia National Park. This is a good choice if you want a scenic drive through New England, especially during spring or fall.
It really depends on whether you want to arrive as close to the park as possible or if you want to tour some other New England areas as well. If you are driving from Boston, or anywhere south of the park, you will take I-95 North.
Acadia National Park is so vast that you can spend many days exploring it. The following are some of the attractions you might want to include in your itinerary.
- Visitor’s Center -Unless you’re already familiar with the park, it’s a good idea to make a stop at the Visitor’s Center, which has lots of useful information, including maps and audio-visual presentations. You can also ask knowledgeable rangers any questions you might have. The center is located in Bar Harbor on Break Neck Rd. (don’t let the name scare you away).
- Cadillac Mountain -This is the highest mountain on the East Coast, and one of the park’s most famous landmarks. You can drive or hike up the mountain, which offers many spots with incredible views.
- Sand Beach -One of the park’s wild beaches, this is a beautiful spot that you access via Park Loop Road. It is often chilly for swimming, but people do go in and lifeguards are on duty from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
- Jordan Pond and Jordan Pond House -Jordan Pond is a glacier that features extremely clear water with visibility as high as 50 feet. While swimming is not permitted, you can rent canoes and kayaks.
- Jordan Pond House is the only restaurant in Acadia National Park, serving lunch, dinner and afternoon tea. You can enjoy a meal or snack outdoors with spectacular views of the pond.
- Hiking -There are countless trails in Acadia National Park. Some of the most popular are Gotham Mountain Trail, Beehive Trail and Carriage Trails, which are popular for mountain biking. The nice thing about the park is that you can walk, bike or drive and still see the incredible scenery.
- Wildlife Viewing -As you might expect in such a vast, unspoiled national park, there is an incredible abundance of wildlife in Acadia National Park. Birdwatchers can have a great time identifying the many species, including a wide variety of hawks, eagles, peregrine falcons and many types of songbirds. Mammals such as fox, deer, moose, raccoons and many others are also frequently seen. In the waters you might spot dolphins, whales or seals.
Where to Stay
A popular option for visitors is, of course, camping. You may, however, prefer to stay in a comfortable inn or hotel near the park. You have a few choices for this.
Asticou Inn is an attractive historic hotel only a couple of miles from the park. Many rooms offer great views of the surroundings. Accommodations, however, are fairly basic and some structures are in need of updating. Another option very close to the park is Kimball Terrace Inn, which also offers basic, non-luxurious but adequate accommodations at a reasonable price.
If you’re looking for something a little more upscale, you have to venture a little further from the park in Bar Harbor. Here you’ll find the Hampton by Hilton Bar Harbor, a hotel that only opened in 2015. This hotel, which offers great service and amenities such as a pool, fitness center, WiFi and free breakfast, is only 5 miles from Acadia State Park and is also close to downtown Bar Harbor. Another good choice in Bar Harbor is Atlantic Eyrie Lodge, an older but well maintained hotel that offers great views of Bar Harbor.
There are also several campgrounds close to the park. Schoodic Woods Campground is on the Schoodic Peninsula, and opens in late May and closes after Columbus Day in October. Seawall Campground, open from late May till Labor Day Weekend is several miles south of Southwest Harbor. The only campground that is open year-round (weather permitting) is Blackwoods Campground, which is 5 miles south of Bar Harbor. Reservations are necessary to stay at any of these campgrounds.