Today we are ending our road trip in Maine (see the article here) with 3 days in Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park.
Acadia National Park is the most popular national park in New England. It is located on an island, Mount Desert Island, north of Maine and at 5h30 hours drive from Providence, Rhode Island.
I wanted to go there for a while so we decided to stay 3 days to have time to see around. I found a cottage-motel ( meaning “camping ) near Bar Harbor, the biggest town on Mount Desert Island. On the road to Bar Harbor you can find a lot of those motels and cottages.
Acadia National Park is in the middle of the island and compared to the other national parks I went, you keep entering and exiting the park and you not even know it. It’s kind of weird because you never know if you are actually inside the park except when you have to go through the entrance gate and give your pass to the rangers. But you can drive and be inside the park without going through the gate. I don’t really get it but that’s a fact.
Usually when I go to a national park I go camping and hiking. This time I didn’t do this and I play the real tourist or almost the real one ( but less annoying 🙂 ) . When you have two teenage girls you don’t even try to convince them to walk and go hiking.
And in this park there is a way to see the best spots just by driving a loop road. Indeed the Park loop goes around the park and with a map you can stop at all the most amazing places you need to see. So we drove the Park loop road. We first stopped at Sand beach (the most beautiful beach of the park) and we parked between the Thunder Hole and the beach because it was really impossible to find a place to park at the actual beach parking lot. We decided to walk to the Thunder Hole and stopped several times on the way to watch the landscape which is incredible and amazing.
At Thunder Hole, the water just smashed on the rocks and make a thunder sound. The first time we went it was at noon, the sea was really quiet and it was low tide. Not a good time to listen to the thunder. So we went back at the end of the day and it was really impressive.
We also stopped at Otter Point . We looked for the otters but we saw seals instead. The Otter Cove view is really nice.
Any place you stop in the Park Loop road gives you amazing views so don’t hesitate to stop and take your time.
We ended the loop at the Mount Cadillac which is the higher point of the island. You have an amazing panorama of the entire island. At the summit there is 2 parking lots very crowded. Try the first one you may have more luck and it is very closed to the other one anyway.
We stayed a long time on Mount Cadillac walking on the pink granite and taking pictures. Apparently the MUST DO on Mount Cadillac is to watch the sunrise or the sunset . Our neighbors at the motel decided to go at 5 am in the morning and to arrive early enough to be able to park because it seems to be a huge concern. Guess what? We did not watch the sunrise. I don’t think I’ll be ever able to wake my daughters up at 4 am to watch the sunrise. But from the pictures I saw I think it worth it.
The park loop road is 27 miles long, it doesn’t take too much time to drive. But you only see one part of the park, on the west part of the island there is not a lot of roads so you have to take trails. It must be more quiet and wild than around the loop.
The next day we went kayaking . We found a place to rent kayaks in Somesville and you can go kayaking on the Long Pond (National Park Canoe & Kayak rental – 40$ a kayak for 2 people for 3 hours) . The lake/pond is really big. We only stayed 2 hours and we stopped on an island in the middle of the lake to swim. We noticed that half of the lake is in the national park and the other half is not and it is built with really nice houses. It’s less wild than I though but still nice. We saw a loon and a baby loon.
We then drove to Southwest Harbor, a really nice harbor and then Bass Harbor and its lighthouse and ended in the really small town of Bernard which has nice houses and a restaurant on the water at the end of the road (Thruston’s lobster pound – 9 Thruston Rd – Bernard) . If you want to see the lighthouse and take pictures you will need to take a trail at the left of the parking lot and go down the stairs and walk on the rocks to try to get a picture. But you’ll have the best view of the lighthouse.
The evening we went back to the Thunder Hole and I can say that the thunder is not a urban legend. There were a lot of people but it was easy to park, the sun light was low and it was beautiful.
Then we went to Seal Harbor and Northeast Harbor. At Northeast Harbor you can take the ferry to the Little and Great Cranberry islands. Southwest Harbor is much nicer than Northeast if you have to choose between the two of them.
All those small towns and harbors are really quiet except Bar Harbor. Indeed everybody is going to Bar Harbor even cruise boats so it is really crowed. But it is a really beautiful town with nice restaurants so don’t miss it.
We spent our last night in a restaurant which could fit perfectly in Disneyland. If there will be a lobster shack theme in Disney this restaurant would be perfect. There have a two stories patio to eat outside on the water . The menu is not complicated, seafood essentilally but the place is awesome (Stewman’s lobster Pound).
The only thing I didn’t do and I wanted to do in Bar Harbor was to walk to Bar Island but you can only do it at low tide. Maybe next time!
So the only thing we did that is not something tourists would usually do is to go to a campfire in a campground. Indeed in all campgrounds inside national parks rangers organise campfires and talk about the park history or wildlife. It is really interesting. You can ask the program at the park entrance. We went to the Blackwood Campground.
Acadia is a beautiful park, the landscape is amazing but it is small and not as wild as I though. Lots of towns are built around the park. I was also surprised to find restaurant with smoked meat . It is unusual in New England but it’s interesting. You can at something else than lobster rolls.
It is really far from Providence but no mosquitos for us this time! Yeah ! Next time I’ll go hiking because it is what you have to do in a national park, no? 🙂 .
♦ Acadia National Park – park entrance price: 25$ for a car for 7 days – You can also buy an Annual pass for all the United States national parks for 80$.