Acadia National Park, Maine
As you sit at sunrise atop Cadillac Mountain, you will understand why each year thousands of vacationers head to Acadia National Park in Maine, the “First National Park East of the Mississippi”. Located primarily on Mount Desert Island, with outcroppings on Isle au Haut and Schoodic Peninsula, in Maine’s Downeast region.
The Acadia Park covers nearly 47,000 acres, including conservation easements. With 125 miles of hiking trails, 45 miles of carriage roads, kayaking, canoeing and fishing, saltwater, and freshwater swimming beaches. Acadia Park camping at four locations, and spectacular cliff-side overlooks, the park is one of the most scenic places to vacation to, or visit in Maine.
Acadia National Park is one of the 20 most visited national parks in the United States. This park has all that you could possibly want in terms of mountains and lakes for secluded rambling, and wildlife such as seals, beavers, puffins, and bald eagles. The two main geographical features are the narrow fjord of Somes Sound, which almost splits the Mount Desert Island in two, and Cadillac Mountain. only 1530 ft high but offering tremendous views of the ocean.
The most enjoyable way to explore the park is to ride a rented bicycle around the fifty miles of gravel-surfaced roads. Two Bar Harbor companies rent mountain bikes for around $16 for the whole day. Be sure to carry water, as there are very few refreshment spots inside the park. Kayaks can be rented from the National Park Outdoor Recreation Center, which also offers guided kayaking trips and downhill bike rides from the top of Mount Cadillac.
Open all year, the park has a visitor center. The park has two official campgrounds, Blackwoods and Seawall. Both are in the woods, near the ocean, and have full facilities in summer. Only Blackwoods is open in winter, that too with minimal facilities. Several ranger-guided programs are offered from May to October, which includes walks and slide shows.
The one and only sizeable beach is a stunning sight. Simply called Sand Beach, it is a gorgeous strand bounded by twin headlands, with restrooms, a parking lot, and a few short hiking trails. The more adventurous can trek up to the summit of Mount Cadillac to witness the sunrise.
Only minutes from the waterfront of Bar Harbor, Maine, the park is easily accessible from either the Hulls Cove Entrance on Route 3, or further south from the Cadillac Mountain Entrance.
Open year-round, fall foliage in Acadia is very popular, and when winter weather conditions permit. The park offers cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Because of icing, winter hiking in Acadia can be treacherous and is often not advised.
Acadia National Park, Maine Information
Staffed by park rangers, several area visitor centers provide free Acadia information. If you visit between June and October don’t miss out on the free Beaver Log. The park newspaper with Acadia ranger-led program schedules, tide charts, sunrise and sunset times, and information on fees and safety.
Also at any visitor center, you can pay the Park Loop Road entrance fee – currently $20 per vehicle from June 23rd to early October, $10 from May 1st to June 22nd and early October to October 31, $5 for a pedestrian, motorcycle, bicycle, etc. Vehicle passes and individual passes are good for seven days, including the day of purchase. You may also buy an Acadia Annual Pass for $40.
(Please note, current Acadia Park entrance fees may be higher.)
Hulls Cover Visitor Center – Open from April 15 through October 31, the Hulls Cove Visitor Center is an excellent place to begin a visit. Located to the right of the Hulls Cove entrance, the center offers a free 15-minute audiovisual program about the park (available in English, French, and German), a bookstore, a 3-D map of Mount Desert Island, restrooms, drinking fountains, and available for purchase – an Acadia auto tour. But when visiting, beware…
The Hulls Cover Visitor Center sits at the top of a small hill, with fifty-two steps leading up to it. For people who cannot navigate the stairs or need a wheelchair accessible entrance, use the handicap parking lot which sits at the top of the hill, to the left of the visitor center.
Park Headquarters, Winter Visitor Center – Open year-round (although closed on weekends from April 15 to October 31) Park headquarters is located on Route 233, just west of Bar Harbor. The facility serves as a Winter Visitor Center when the Hulls Cove Visitor Center is closed. Free park information, restrooms, drinking fountains, and a bookstore are available.
Thompson Island Information Center – Open from mid-May to mid-October, with displays of Acadia area information, restrooms, drinking fountains, and a nearby picnic area, the Thompson Island Information Center is located on Route 3 at the head of Mount Desert Island.
Additionally, most facilities, including the Hulls Cove Visitor Center, museums, picnic areas, Duck Harbor Campground and Seawall Campground, and many roads, close during the winter months. Since the 3.5-mile summit road to Cadillac Mountain, and portions of the scenic Park Loop Road – a 27-mile paved road that winds along the rugged coastline and the park’s interior are shut down from December 1 through April 14, and at other times when inclement weather creates dangerous driving conditions. It is wise to visit an Acadia visitor center before entering the park off-season.
Lodging near Acadia
With sweeping views of Frenchman Bay, the Bluenose Inn is the perfect hotel accommodation choice for a memorable vacation on Maine’s famed Mount Desert Island, home of Acadia National Park.
ATLANTIC OAKS BY THE SEA
The Atlantic Oaks is located on Frenchman’s Bay on 14 acres of lush lawns and gardens. If you are looking for a vacation of relaxation and pampering, The Atlantic Oaks is the destination for you.
BAR HARBOR GRAND
Located in a convenient, in-town location and within 1-1/2 miles of Acadia National Park, the Bar Harbor Grand provides deluxe accommodations at reasonable rates.
BAR HARBOR INN
Situated directly on Frenchman Bay, the Inn has 8 acres of lush lawns and gardens with 3 distinctive guest room buildings – embraced by a serene 1/2 mile shore path.
The Acadia Inn has comfortable and tastefully furnished rooms with modern amenities at reasonable rates. Come experience this beautiful new facility.
CAPTAIN MERRILL INN
This Beautiful Maine Inn is located in the seacoast village of Blue Hill, on Blue Hill Bay, in the heart of Down East Maine, 45 minutes from Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.
Fee-Free Entrance Days to Acadia National Park
Over 100 National Parks offer Fee Free Days throughout the year. Acadia National Park is among them. The 2021 Fee Free Dates are:
January 19, Martin Luther King Jr. Day
February 14-16, President’s Day Weekend
April 18-19, First Weekend of National Park Week
August 25, National Park Services Birthday
September 26, National Public Lands Days
November 11, Veterans Day
Please be sure to verify dates with the National Parks that you plan to visit, including Acadia at www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm
Acadia National Park, Maine Audio Tour
Recommended by Michelin Guides, Mobile Guides, AAA, (and myself), the Acadia National Park Audio Tour is available at park visitor centers and at some motels and hotels in Bar Harbor.
The cover of the CD proclaims that it is “A Guided Tour in the Comfort of Your Car!”.
The auto tour CD is a wonderfully informative narrative of the Acadia history and what you are viewing as you travel through the park. It takes you from Hulls Cove Visitor Center parking lot to Frenchman’s Bay overlook, and on to…
- Fire of ’47 Overlook
- Sieur-de-Monts Nature Center
- Beaver Dam Pond
- Schooner Head Overlook
- Sand Beach
- Thunder Hole
- Otter Point
- Gulf of Maine and Cranberry Island Overlook
- Jordan Pond parking area
- Bubble Pond parking area
- entrance to Cadillac Summit Road
- top of Cadillac Mountain
- Sargent Drive (from the junction of Routes 233 and 198
Accompanying the CD is an Acadia National Park map, printed driving instructions, and photos of Acadia with instructions on how to use them as desktop images.
Acadia Bus, the Island Explorer, and Acadia Tours
Although having your own car will give you total flexibility, there is a wonderful way to experience Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park in Maine without driving. The propane-powered Island Explorer Bus has eight bus routes linking Bar Harbor “hotels, inns, and campgrounds, with destinations in Acadia National Park and neighboring village centers”.
The Island Explorer is operated by Downeast Transportation out of Ellsworth, Maine. In addition to offering bus service in Bar Harbor and the Acadia Park area, they also offer car-free alternatives for getting to and from Mount Desert Island. For more information…
www.exploreacadia.com, 207-667-5796, [email protected]
For Bar Harbor cruise ship passengers and tourists who would rather enjoy Acadia sightseeing without the hassle their automobile, Acadia bus tours, and open-air trolley tours are also available, through National Park Tours – www.acadiatours.com, 207-288-0300, [email protected]
www.acadiaislandtours.com, 866-9-Trolley (866-987-6553), [email protected]
Select lodging in Bar Harbor offers motorcoach tours for groups.
Operating from Wildwood Stables on the Park Loop Road, Carriages of Acadia offers the truly unique experience of horse-drawn carriage tours on the world-famous carriage roads built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. For more information visit…
Carriages of Acadia
www.carriagesofacadia.com, 877-276-3622, [email protected]
Throughout the park, ranger-led programs on the mountains, in the forests, and by boat, are a great way to be introduced to the Acadia history, it’s geology and wildlife. Ranger-led Acadia schedules are available at the park visitor centers.
Directions to Acadia National Park
A quick look at a detailed map of Maine might suggest that Coastal Route 1 is the most efficient way to reach Acadia National Park, Maine. Not so! Traffic on Route 1 can be very heavy.
My suggestion (and many Mainers’ agree), take I-95 to Bangor and then head south to Ellsworth. Continue on to Mount Desert Island. The park is around 264 miles from Boston and 50 miles from Bangor.