Acadia was the first National Park I visited and it was love at first sight. That first impression was only reinforced through repeated visits in the following two decades. If you are looking for information to help you decide or plan for your upcoming visit, you've come to the right place.
For landscape lovers, Acadia is Nirvana, there is such a variety of landscapes including: an amazing coastal line, beautiful blue lakes, clear water streams, incredible night sky and lets no forget the golden foliage in the fall and soft white snow in the winter.
But there's more, whether you are an adventure seeker or just need a place to unwind from the busy city, Acadia's got you.
I have amazing memories from the time spent there with my family and I share here a sampler of those memories as well as details on the classic must-dos in and around the park along with some of my favorite landscapes photos. Hopefully this information/gallery gives you a good flavor for what your family vacation could look like.
(hover over/click on these family photos for details)
Oh! before I forget, this is a dog friendly park! so bring your furry buddy with you!
Five of the classic must-do:
1. Sunrise at Cadillac Mountain. Cadillac Mountain is always a sight to see, but at sunrise it can be particularly beautiful plus it is known for being the first location in the USA to see the sun rising. It is so popular, the park implemented a reservation system if you want to drive up. No reservation is needed if you hike up. Note, this road is closed during the winter. There are lots of wild berries plants and they are delicious, just be mindful that wildlife counts on those for daily feed.
2. Ocean path. Located within the park loop which is a one way rd. This almost flat trail is about 2 miles long starting at Sand Beach and ending at Otter Cliffs passing by these stops:
Sand Beach: Water is a bit cold for my taste but it is still a fun spot for the kids (and dogs) and waves are usually not too big. There are dressing rooms and showers available at the parking lot.
Thunder Hole - It does make a big splash under the right conditions - unfortunately not all times yet is it very entertaining. Just be safe. It can get very slippery going down the stairs specially during cold days because of the frost. People enjoy climbing on the rocks and waiting for the big splash or simply sunbathing.
Boulder Beach: I missed this beach the first 3 visits because there are no signs or marks. Just look for a clearance where the root of a dead tree is exposed and use that to step down onto the field of boulders. There's no sand on this beach, boulders of all sizes are rolled back and forth by the waves. This is a very popular spot for photographing the milky way and also at sunrise as the soft light hits the boulders. I once run into a seal sunbathing.
3. Old Carriage Roads. Access this trail from the parking lot at Jordan Pond. Great for biking on relatively flat surface, there's some elevation gain but not too exhausting. Pay attention as you might be passing by a seasonal waterfall.
4. Bass Harbor Lighthouse. Although a bit far, it is a must see, specially for sunset. To get to it, take the trail at the end of the parking lot, walk down the stairs, follow the trail to the right and climb through the rocky coast line for a few more yards - be careful, it can be slippery; proper footwear is recommended.
5. Precipice trail. If you are not afraid of heights, this is a popular vertical trail mainly because of the beautiful panoramic views, I also think because of the "obstacles" along the way. While it is not a strenuous hike (like Angel's Landing in Zion), you still need to use your hands a lot. The park installed iron rods in certain areas to help you. If this is not your cup of tea, there are many other trails just a beautiful with amazing views.
You might also want to consider other activities in and around the park :
Bar Harbor: Such a nice peaceful and historical town with several bed and breakfast, restaurants, shops, and parks. During low tide, you can cross to Bar Island for a different type of hike.
Whale watching cruise: Not to be missed during the season. There are other nature discovery cruises and puffins that kids enjoy as well.
Rock Climbing. With a company or on your own, there are several areas around the park. As a first-timer, I loved climbing at the Otter Cliffs and at the Bubble rock, the views are incredible.
Kayaking: Rentals are available at multiple locations or you can book a group tour around the island.
Mussel Picking. At multiple locations throughout the island during low tide, bring a cooler, kids love doing this and you never know what you'll find in those tide pools. We had a pot and a bottle of white wine to cook mussels at camp, these are the second best mussels I've had.
Lobster dinner: At almost any location you'll find great fresh lobster, a popular choice is Thurston's, you can make a dinner stop after watching the sunset at the lighthouse.
(and more family photos)
To me, Acadia is the ultimate family destination for a fun vacation at almost any time. During the winter though, because of weather, some roads are closed and many businesses in Bar Harbor also go on a break. Having said that, the park still offers plenty of things to keep you engaged.
Below are a few photos I took over the last couple of years when I returned as a landscape photographer:
Acadia is a park that will appeal to everyone regardless of age or preferences.
It gets somewhat crowded June through August and then again in October (foliage season), plan in advance for camping or lodging. Also consider the less crowded but just as beautiful Schoodic Peninsula. Using the shuttle service during the peak season has its advantages too.
In the winter, it can get very cold and floor/rocks can be slippery. Dress properly; bringing crampons can prove valuable
Look beyond the boundaries of the park for there are many hidden treasures in the island
I hope by now Acadia is in your bucket list. Are you already planning a visit? When and where are you going? What's your favorite memory from a National Park visit?
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