Today we are scratching off........ACADIA NATIONAL PARK!
"Crown Jewel of the Atlantic Coast", Est. 1919
12th National Park
Acadia National Park is located primarily on Maine's Mount Desert Island, and is easily one of the most beautiful Parks in the system! It’s known as the former “playground” of the wealthy (including John D. Rockefeller) and for good reason. Here are our Top 10 Must Do Adventures in Acadia:
Standing at Sand Beach, look up and see a rounded granite mountain, true to it's name...The Beehive. Let me just start out by saying this hike is AMAZING. So amazing that my husband and I were planning to do it again the very next day (had the rain not ruined our plans). Though not the best fit for those with a fear of heights, children, or those unsteady on their feet, this is a MUST do for just about everyone else.
This is a 1.6-mile loop trail (hike up the Beehive Trail and return via the Bowl Trail). Now this is what makes it so much fun…the trail runs along the steep granite face of the mountain and includes granite steps, iron-rung ladders to climb up the cliffside, and handrails for exposed rock scrambling sections. It is a thrill the entire way up. Not to mention, the views at the top (and really, the whole way if you’re not too distracted watching your step) are absolutely breathtaking. You get unparalleled views of Sand Beach, Great Head, and Frenchman Bay. Let me say it again— don’t skip out on this one. I’m still daydreaming about it four years later!
Standing at 1530 feet tall, Cadillac Mountain is the tallest point along the North Atlantic coast. From about October through March, it’s also the first place to see the sunrise in the continental United States! Though you can hike to the top, we recommend driving up the mountain to watch the sunrise. Be sure to get there with plenty of time so you can stake out a good spot. You’ll be in awe as you watch the sun unveil the surrounding ocean and islands!
This 3.5-mile loop follows the shore of this picturesque lake and has views of both South and North Bubble Mountain. The greenery and constant views of the water make this a peaceful hike. About half of the trail is elevated boardwalk, and there are several places to stop for lunch or explore around a bit. We hopped across a few stones and relaxed for a while on a big boulder in the water! After your hike, don’t miss out on the Jordan Pond Houses’ famous popovers (reservations recommended).
This is a 4-mile out-and-back trail (2 miles each way) that passes many of the coolest spots in the park. It begins at Sand Beach, a perfect beach cove with stunningly blue (albeit freezing) water. Along the path, you’ll pass Thunder Hole, a small, natural inlet that makes a loud, clapping noise (resembling thunder) when the waves roll in. The waves have been known to splash as high as 40 feet into the air here!
Continue on to the Otter Cliffs, your turn-around point. As one of the highest coastal headlands north of Rio de Jeneiro, these rocky cliffs are a sight to see. Take some time to relax here before you head back down the trail! This path is chalk full of amazing viewpoints and wildlife. We recommend scheduling in some extra time for plenty of stops and photo-ops along the way!
One of the greatest champions for the preservation of this land was the Rockefeller family. John D. Rockefeller Jr. wanted a way for visitors to peacefully get around the Park without encountering motorized vehicles. So he financed, designed, and supervised the construction of more than 57 miles of these carriage roads, making sure that they didn’t alter the lay of the land, but conformed to it. These roads are still maintained today and are perfect for a bike ride through the heart of the park. We’d recommend using the free Island Explorer shuttle for easy, no hassle transportation to your starting point!
Now that you’ve seen Acadia by bike and by foot, its time to get out on the sea! This area is an archipelago, or a group of islands, and the rocky seashores are STUNNING. Not only will you be paddling around these islands, but you’ll get to see lots of wildlife: porpoises, harbor seals, ospreys, bald eagles, and more. There are plenty of kayak tours offered in the area. Pick one and get paddling!
You can't go to Maine without visiting a lighthouse, am I right? This beauty stands 56 feet tall and was built in 1858. It is still fully operational (owned by the US Coast Guard) and it includes keeper’s quarters below the light. Walk around the grounds then take the short staircase down to an oceanside observation area for one of the most iconic and photographed views in the Park.
Ok, so technically these next three aren’t in the Park’s boundaries. But they’re close enough right?! Right across the water from downtown Bar Harbor is a small island called Bar Island. Twice a day at low tide, a “land bridge” emerges allowing you to walk straight across to the island! It’s not every day you get to WALK to an island, so be sure to schedule this one in. It’s only about .35 miles each way, making this a quick yet exciting activity suitable for all ages. We had a great time hunting for sea creatures and admiring the views from the other side. You’ve got about 90 minutes on each side of the “low tide” before the water covers the sand bar again, so there is plenty of opportunity to check this one off your lists!
You can’t visit Acadia without going to Bar Harbor. Over the years, the two have almost become synonymous. This picture-perfect New England downtown is VERY walkable—everything is grouped right there together! Take some time to visit all of the cute shops, watch the boats along the harbor, and grab a treat from Mount Desert Island Ice Cream. You can even take whale watching tours from here or catch a film in the 1932 art-deco Criterion Theater!
Maine is known for it's lobster, and there is no better place to get an authentic, fresh seafood meal than at Thurston's Lobster Pound! This place sits right along the water and is enclosed in a clear "tent", allowing you to ward off the chilly winds while still watching the fishing boats passing by. They've got all sorts of seafood and sides, and you even pick your exact lobster from the tank up front. Can it get any fresher than that? This restaurant isn't super close to Bar Harbor (it's on the south side of the island), but is located near the Bass Harbor lighthouse, so we'd recommend going before/after your stop there. You won't regret it!
Local Tip: Pick up a Moxie sometime during your stay in Maine. This soda was named the official soft drink of Maine, and is definitely worth a try!