Thinking about where to vacation this summer? If you live in the Northeast, I highly recommend taking the drive to northern Maine to visit Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor.
I visited the park in September 2013, after never having any desire to go there. My sister insisted we go. She was moving across the country to Washington state a few weeks later, and this was the one thing that she wanted to do before leaving the Northeast. So, my fiancé and I agreed to take a long weekend and accompany her on this “last hurrah.” We packed a tent in the car, along with blankets, some pillows, hiking clothes, and snacks, and made the 9 hour drive to Acadia. We totally winged it, and that’s how we’ve been doing a lot of things lately.
Yes, we stayed in a tent, but there are plenty of RV parks and hotels in the area. Bar Harbor is a FABULOUS town just outside of the park with an array of luxurious hotels, cottages and inn’s. If you do decide to camp, there are nice shower facilities near the park, so don’t worry if your campground doesn’t have them. We stayed at Blackwoods campground, which is Acadia’s most popular campground, and the cost was just $20 a night.
If you love taking pictures, you’ll want to make sure your camera is good and charged. The views throughout the park are breathtaking! The only camera I had was my cell phone, and with all of the pictures I took, the battery just did not hold up and I missed out on a lot of good shots.
There are certainly a lot of things to do and see in and around Acadia National Park. We were there for only 3 days, so did not get to see nearly as much as we could have if we had an entire week.
These were the highlights of our visit to Acadia National Park:
This is an absolute MUST if you visit Acadia. It’s the tallest mountain in the park. It’s actually the highest point throughout all of the north Atlantic seaboard and the first place in the U.S. that the sun rises from October 7th through March 6th. The panoramic views from Cadillac Mountain are astonishing. And, you don’t have to be a hiker to get to the top of this mountain – you can take the 3.5 mile drive right up Summit Road. Wake up early enough to make it to the top for the sunrise. Pictures just don’t do this view justice!
Park Loop Road
If you drive through Acadia National Park, you’ll most likely end up on Park Loop Road. The 27 mile scenic road is the primary navigation through the park by car. There are many pull-over observation points, so take advantage of them, and keep an eye out for wildlife. A large portion of Park Loop Road does close during the winter months.
Nestled between mountains and a ridged shore line lies gorgeous Sand Beach. There is a large parking lot for Sand Beach with nice bathroom facilities. The water temperature rarely gets above 55 degrees Fahrenheit, so if you plan to take a swim, be prepared! Towards the end of the beach you will find a beautiful stream/marsh with a much warmer water temperature. At the very end of the beach, you will find an opening to Ocean Path – a family friendly walking trail that you will not want to miss! The views from this trail are unforgettable!
Take Park Loop Road to Jordan Pond where you will find crystal clear waters mirroring the mountains, beautiful walking paths, and the Jordan Pond House, which has the only restaurant within the park and has a quant souvenir shop. Find your way on foot from Jordan Pond to the Carriage Roads (not accessible by vehicle).
Just south of Sand Beach on Park Loop Road you will find a parking lot for Thunder Hole. You can also get to Thunder Hole by the Ocean Path trail (starting at Sand Beach). This is one of Acadia’s main attractions, so it can get very busy. We went during off season and it was still very crowded. Thunder hole is a cave formation of the rocks on the shore line, where the waves rush in and explode out with great force, causing a thunder like roar.
Okay, I’m not going to lie. I did not make it very far on the Precipice Trail. It was actually the very first stop that we made after entering the park, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into when we pulled over near this trail head to take a hike. I didn’t know that I had a fear of heights until I was standing on a cliff edge having a panic attack just 10 minutes into this journey. Big thanks to my sister who stood in front of the “WARNING: Falls on this mountain have resulted in serious injury and death” sign, blocking it from my view. If you are an avid hiker, physically fit with no fear of heights, you will probably enjoy Precipice Trail. It’s the most challenging and well known trail throughout the park.
If you are ever in the area of Northern Maine, Bar Harbor should definitely be on your itinerary! I can’t say enough good things about this town. It is simply stunning. Just a 5.5 mile drive from where we camped (Blackwoods Campground), we visited Bar Harbor every evening for dinner. If you love lobster, you will be in your glory here. There is lobster everything! It’s a great family-friendly town to walk around, have great food, shop, visit galleries, and take in the beauty of the coastal environment.
As mentioned above, we only visited the area over a 3 day period. We did fit a lot of things in, but I’m sure there is much that we did not see. If you know the Acadia National Park area, please feel free to comment and share further highlights.
http://www.acadiamagic.com is a great site that I found with a complete area guide.