Google “U.S. national parks on islands” and, after five pages on the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Channel Islands in California, you’ll find a listing about Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island in Maine.
Shhhhhhh. You may want to keep this discovery to yourself. Mount Desert Island gets only one-third the visitors to Cape Cod, for example, and half of this spectacular island, which is almost exactly the size of Martha’s Vineyard, has been preserved as a national park. Plus MDI (as it’s known) not only has sailboat-studded harbors, dramatic ocean-side cliffs, and lobster pounds, but also 24 mountain peaks.
If you’ve been thinking of visiting Maine, why not consider this island with a national park? Here are some key facts to help you plan.
What are the most popular activities for visitors to Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park?
Start with sightseeing. Cadillac Mountain, the Park Loop Road, Jordan Pond, and Thunder Hole are among the favorites of national park visitors. Active travelers love biking the car-free carriage roads, hiking Acadia’s network of 130 miles of trails, and kayaking on both the ocean and lakes. Swimming in ponds and lakes, such as Echo Lake, is popular, too. There’s a variety of boat cruises to explore nearby islands, learn what a lobsterman does, and touch creatures brought up from “the deep.” Nearby miniature golfing, water parks, and attractions such as the Great Maine Lumberjack Show are popular with families.
When is Acadia National Park open? What months? What hours?
From hiking in the summer to cross country skiing in the winter, you can enjoy Acadia National Park all year long. Ranger-led programs are featured from June through October. Certain roads within the park are restricted during winter months, as are visitors’ centers.
In addition to the summer months, popular with families, the fall is a great time to visit. Over a quarter of a million people visit in October to enjoy the foliage.
How long does it take to see Acadia National Park?
You can spend three days to three years (and beyond) exploring Acadia National Park. You can get a sense of the park’s great mountains, spectacular sights, and scenic drives in a jam-packed three-day itinerary. However, after this introduction, you can invest years exploring the hiking trails, bicycling, and generally enjoying the impact of the seasons on this amazing glacially created landscape. Around it has grown a vibrant community of restaurants, micro-breweries, and local attractions that draw back vacationers year after year.
How are the restaurants on Mount Desert Island?
Maine is a state of fishermen and farmers. So, in recent years when restaurateurs have become more committed to fresh, local ingredients, Mount Desert Island has emerged as a magnet for foodies. From traditional lobster pounds to sophisticated restaurants featuring seasonal menus, it’s an active scene that caters to a wide range of tastes and pocketbooks. Nationally recognized artisanal ice cream producers and chocolatiers have huge followings. You may also catch a popular chef like James Lindquist, who was featured in the 2010 cookbook Fresh from Maine, popping into the Bar Harbor artisan olive oil purveyor Fiore to replenish Red Sky restaurant’s stock of blueberry olive oil.
Where should we stay when we visit Acadia National Park?
The interesting thing about Acadia is that Mount Desert Island was an island of prospering villages before it became a national park in 1919. That adds to your vacation options because these different communities (Bar Harbor, Northwest Harbor, Southwest Harbor, Bass Harbor, Seal Harbor and more) are nestled among the park and offer different activities to complement the experiences of the national park – whether you’re looking for farmers’ markets, shopping, or local art fairs.
Places to stay are just as varied. Acadia has two popular campgrounds, Blackwoods and Seawall, within the park itself. In addition, the local communities offer a variety of accommodations — cottage rentals, inns, motels, and private campgrounds.
Since the island covers an area of 108 square miles and a fiord-like sound divides it in half, you should plan what you want to do and factor that into the best area to settle into as your home base. It will cut down on your driving.
Does Acadia National Park allow dogs?
Yes! Hiking trails, carriage roads, the Island Explore buses, and even some of the most popular restaurants welcome dogs. There are even some walking trails that allow your dogs to run leash-free. However, the park has restrictions and it takes some planning to find the trails best suited for a dog.
Does Acadia National Park have special facilities and programs?
If you’re visiting Acadia National Park, one resource you definitely want to know about is Hulls Cove Visitors Center. On Route 3 outside of Bar Harbor, it’s a great place to stop for questions and materials. There’s also a terrific 3D map of the park that is a fun way to plan what you want to see.
In addition, Acadia National Park offers a broad array of fascinating and professional ranger-led programs, as well as park-sponsored franchises, that include carriage drives, walks, talks, and boat cruises. Curious about birds? Photography? Geology? Stars? There’s something for everyone.
What are entrance fees for visiting Acadia National Park?
From May through October, the park entrance fee for a private vehicle is $20; it’s valid for seven days. But there are also annual passes, discounts for seniors, and free park admission for active military, as well as special free days for all national parks.
Check out these ways to save, as well as the fees for certain ranger-led programs, at the National Park Service Web site.
What are directions for getting to Acadia National Park?
Mount Desert Island is located on the mid-coast section of Maine – roughly 3-1/2 hours north of Portland, 6 hours from Boston, and 10 from New York.
You can fly from Boston’s Logan Airport directly to the Hancock County Airport, just 10 miles from Acadia. Bangor International Airport, which is about an hour from Mount Desert Island, serves national flights.
If you drive, head north on I-95 to Bangor, then drive east on Route 1A to Ellsworth. In Ellsworth take Route 3 to Mount Desert Island.