Magic in Acadia National Park

Magic in Acadia National Park

Our family spent a wonderful week in Acadia National Park on Mt. Desert Island. The island is the largest off the coast of Maine and has two wings - the busier side to the east with its well-known Bar Harbor and the western side referred by locals as the quiet side. We stayed on the quiet side not far from the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse which gave us stunning views and an amazing sunset that cast the sky in a pink glow.

We were surrounded by soaring pine and spruce, rocky coastline that exposed tide pools when the tide receded, bald eagles that we sighted daily, and the stunning deep blue of the Atlantic that was mesmerizing to watch when the sun would dance off the water or the lobster boats would check their traps.

We spent a lot of time on the deck of our cabin soaking in the views, but there was plenty to explore around us.

So Many Hiking Trails

We hit the hiking trails since there were so many around us that ranged from challenging to more moderate with fantastic summits with ocean views. If you're a beginner or have smaller children, you can enjoy the Cadillac Summit Loop Trail. You drive right to the summit and it is a very short, easy hike on the top of Cadillac Mountain that offers some of the best views in the park from atop the outcropping of granite.

For those more adventurous, the hike on the Precipice or Beehive Trail gives a thrill. Both aren't advised to traverse when wet, but they are a great challenge and the views are incredible. Our family also hiked to the summit of Acadia Mountain and cooled off afterwards along the shore of Echo Lake where the trailhead is located. The trail started off almost too easily along a wide grassy path, but quickly became steep and later the descent was challenging as we climbed over boulders and squeezed through crevices. Echo Lake was  a welcome respite and fun to lounge along the smooth granite shoreline after a brief swim.

Scenic Drive

Another great way to experience the island is to drive the Park Loop Road. This very scenic 27-mile loop connects several of Acadia’s popular spots, including Cadillac Mountain, Jordan Pond, and the carriage roads. Most of it travels one-way, so we started in the north near Bar Harbor and passed the trailheads for the Precipice and Beehive Trails. Our first stop was Sand Beach where we spent some time soaking up the sun and watching others small in the distance hiking the Ocean Path. We drove further on to the area of Thunder Hole and climbed the rocky outcroppings along the shore. At this point the road continues around Otter Point and heads inland towards Jordan Pond.  We stopped at the Jordan Pond House since they are famous for their popovers. We enjoyed coffee and popovers with jam while seated on the flowering patio that overlooks Jordan Pond.

While making the loop you'll notice many places where the Carriage roads cross the Park Loop Road. They were originally constructed by John D. Rockfeller Jr. in the early 20th century to travel through the park by horse drawn carriage. These historic, narrow roads are still open to horses as well as hikers, walkers, and bikers.

Good Eats
All of the fresh air and outdoor activities made us think about food often and there were plenty of fantastic places to dine or grab a quick bite! All you had to do was drive the main highways (102 and 3) around the island and there were plenty of inlets and working harbors that included restaurants and shacks that would serve up fresh seafood. Our favorites that we enjoyed dinner at were the Seafood Ketch in Bass Harbor (make sure to visit the nearby lighthouse afterwards ), the Upper Deck in Southwest Harbor, Thurston's Lobster Pound in Bernard, and Stewman's Lobster Pound in Bar Harbor. All had great views overlooking their harbors.

There were plenty of sweet little bakeries and cafés throughout the island and we had tasty treats at 123 Main St Restaurant in Northeast Harbor (great town to shop too) and Little Notch Bakery and Café in Southwest Harbor.  Of course there were times we made room for ice cream and Mount Desert Island Ice Cream was a locally made and terrific choice!

Live lobster and fresh seafood could be purchased numerous places, even the local grocery markets, so we feasted at home a few nights as well.

Places to Shop

Bar Harbor is is largest town on the island and has the crowds to go with it. But it is a sweet little town that sits just outside of the National Park entrance. It is filled with tons of choices for places to eat and shop and we easily spent an afternoon here picking up souvenirs to remember our trip and eating more seafood and ice cream.

Southwest Harbor and Northeast Harbor each have their own cafés, restaurants and indie boutiques and shops that we throughly enjoying poking around as well.

More Places to Explore

We took a puffin boat tour out of Winter Harbor, just over an hour from where we stayed or you can take the ferry from Bar Harbor. The tour was excellent and we were thrilled to see puffins, harbor seals, dolphins and sea lions. On our return ride we could see Schoodic Point and the huge waves pounding against the shore. We drove there after our tour and lunch (which we enjoyed at the adorable J.M. Gerrish Cafe). The smooth granite shoreline feels like one continuous boulder and it's massive size is spectacular. It was no wonder we could see it from far offshore. This was a great spot to watch the surf pounding on the rocky coastline and stare out to sea.

Spending one week on this magical island was wonderful and we realized there was so much more we could have explored and enjoyed. Time to plan a return trip!

https://www.nps.gov/acad/planyourvisit/bass-harbor-head-light-station.htm

Jennifer Smelker

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