Mar 242013
 

Thinking of visiting Acadia National Park this summer?  It’s the star attraction of Mount Desert Island, an island about the same size as Martha’s Vineyard, but with 24 mountain peaks.  That alone expands the roster of great things to do there.

Acadia became a national park in 1919, but the first village on Mount Desert Island was founded in 1761.  Today Acadia’s boundaries are intermingled with the charming, postcard-perfect villages of this New England island, adding even more activities to engage park visitors.

So, what activities should you plan to include in your visit?  Here are some favorite things to do both in and around the park.

1.  Watch the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain. At some 1500 feet, Cadillac Mountain is the first place from which to witness dawn in the United States, and it is breathtaking. Make sure you wear a warm fleece even if it’s August.

Cadillac Sunrise

2.  Drive the Park Loop Road. You can get your best overview of Acadia by driving these 27 miles of unsurpassed beauty, created in part through the masterful collaboration of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. There are many lookouts so have your camera ready.

3.  Eat lobster. Whether you want a lobster roll, lobster stew, or a two-pounder steamed, you can find a wide range of topnotch restaurants, harbor side lobster pounds, and quaint cafes to serve you. Our favorite is Thurston’s in Bass Harbor.

4.  Go biking. Thanks to John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Acadia offers 45 miles of car-free carriage roads that will lead you around mountains, alongside lakes, and into serene boreal forests.  Visit Hull’s Cove Visitor Center first, just outside of downtown Bar Harbor, where there is plentiful parking and good advice about the best bike routes for you and your family. I love their 3D map.

5.  Stroll, hike, or climb. The park boasts 125 miles of well-maintained hiking trails that appeal to all levels of fitness. The most exciting trails, such as the Precipice and Jordan Cliffs, feature rungs and ladders. A beautiful, moderately challenging hike is Acadia Mountain, overlooking Somes Sound, the only fiord in North America. If you’re looking for easier strolls, consider Asticou Trail and Wonderland – they’re lovely.

Hiking The Bubbles

6.  Have popovers at Jordan Pond House. Select a biking or hiking route that stems from behind Jordan Pond House so that you can conclude your afternoon with lemonade or tea – and, most certainly, popovers — on the lawn looking towards the Bubbles, a sight that has mesmerized visitors at teatime since 1896. It’s a favorite destination for everyone, but worth the wait.  What about popovers filled with blueberry ice cream?

Jordan Pond Popovers with Blueberry Ice Cream

7.  Go to the beach.  Sand Beach is a stunning crescent of white sand, with cliffs at each side and the Beehive Trail behind it. The views won’t disappoint, even if the chilly water does. Another option for a swim is the beach at Echo Lake on the island’s “Quietside.”

Echo Lake swimming

8.  Visit a lighthouse.  Maine has over 60 lighthouses, and one of its most beautiful is on Mount Desert Island in Bass Harbor.  It’s a great spot for photographers.  Afterwards, visit the working harbor busy with lobster and sail boats.

Bass Harbor

9.  Take a horse-drawn carriage ride.  Carriages of Acadia offers a number of picturesque drives within Acadia National Park, starting at Wildwood Stables and encompassing destinations including Day Mountain and Jordan Pond.  Another option is to enjoy a tour of downtown Bar Harbor with Wild Iris Horse Farm.

Carriage Drives in Acadia

10.  Learn from a park ranger. The National Park Service offers very entertaining talks and walks on subjects ranging tidal pools to birds of prey to the stars over Sand Beach. Scan The Beaver Log to figure out how you can fit in more than one.

11.  Touch nature – literally. There are several enterprises, including Mount Desert Biological Laboratories, The Dive-In Theatre, and the Mount Desert Oceanarium, that feature touch tanks full of lobsters, crabs, and sea cucumbers. I always end up liking this stuff just as much as the kids do.

12.  Visit the local wineries and micro-breweries.  On Mount Desert Island you can enjoy free tours and tastings of two award-winning micro-breweries, Bar Harbor Brewing Company and Atlantic Brewing Company.  Venture off the island to discover the acclaimed fruit vintages of Bartlett Winery.

13.  Get out on the water. This great national park is on an island so you must see it from the vantage point of the sea. Whether you’re powering yourself in a sea kayak or the wind is propelling you on a Downeast Friendship Sloop or the Margaret Todd, being on the water is a special part of a trip to Acadia National Park.

Sailing in Acadia

14.  Experience farm to table cuisine. Maine is known not only for its great fishermen, but also its farmers.  And nowhere in Maine has the renaissance of local and organic ingredients been as great as on Mount Desert Island.  A long list of top restaurants, including Burning Tree, Fathom, Red Sky, and Town Hill Bistro, awaits the discerning diner.  Make reservations!

15.  Take an art class.  If you’ve ever pictured yourself sketching or learning watercolors in an idyllic seaside location, make that fantasy a reality.  Among the many wonderful artists on Mount Desert Island is Judy Taylor, who offers workshops that include cruises to some of the most picturesque islands surrounding Mount Desert Island.

Judy Taylor Sketch Class

16.  Relax at a spa. Bar Harbor is home to a number of spas that run the gamut from sophisticated to funky.  If your idea of a great vacation is a day of outdoor activities topped off by a soothing massage, then you’ll find a vacation to Acadia perfect from the pine-scented trails to the aromas of the spa.

17.  Experience the “Way Life Should Be.”  That Maine slogan is your personal invitation to church suppers, local parades, blueberry festivals, farmers’ markets, crafts fairs, and terrific libraries.  If you pull off the road and depart from your schedule, you’ll be amply rewarded.  After all, those practical folks who invented ear muffs in 1873 just named Whoopie Pies as their “State Treat.”

Public Suppers in MaineRelated Stories:

5 Tips If You Want to Enjoy A Glorious Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain in Maine

Where to Stay on a Trip to Acadia National Park: A Profile of Mount Desert Island’s Villages

 

 

 

 

Best Hikes in Acadia National Park: Jordan Cliffs and Penobscot South Ridge Loop

 travel  Comments Off on Best Hikes in Acadia National Park: Jordan Cliffs and Penobscot South Ridge Loop
Aug 052012
 

Jordan Pond Acadia National Park

Let me introduce you to a cliff-side hike along east face of Penobscot Mountain.  Because so much of the climb overlooks the shimmering cobalt of Jordan Pond, many hikers list it among their favorites in Acadia National Park in Maine.  We do.

The 4.3-mile loop starts and ends at Jordan Pond House, so plan your hiking time accordingly.  Do you want your “reward” to be a lunch of lobster stew or an afternoon tea featuring popovers?

Rated as difficult, this hike features stone and timber box steps, iron rungs and ladders,  railings, and a variety of bridges – all to span the ravines and manage the steep terrain.

Between there are flat sections, for sure, with wonderful views.

Moreover, Penobscot’s bald summit at 1,194 feet will give you a 360-vista of Mount Desert Island.  And the beauty continues.  The descent along Penobscot South Ridge Trail is also one of my favorites because the wide-open ridge displays views of the Atlantic Ocean and islands to the south.

Ready for your reward at Jordan Pond House?  This hike, however, is truly one of those cases when the journey is the reward.

Related Stories:

Five Favorite Hikes in Acadia National Park

If You Want to Hike Cadillac and Champlain Mountains in Acadia National Park, Go in the Fall

Best Easy Hikes in Acadia National Park

Tips for Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Bar Harbor

 travel, Uncategorized  Comments Off on Tips for Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Bar Harbor
Jun 262011
 

If you are on your way to Acadia National Park for a family vacation, you may be wondering what are the best restaurants to keep the kids happy…and let you partake in all of the lobster, blueberry pie, steamers, and chowder you want.

In my research for OUR ACADIA – which is devoted to exploring, eating, and relaxing in Maine , I’ve reviewed restaurants in all of the villages on Mount Desert Island.  Here are my votes for the top five that are both kid-friendly and serve the best Maine has to offer. 

Jordan Pond House

Enjoying tea and popovers on the lawn at Jordan Pond House has been a Mount Desert Island tradition since 1870.  Located on a hill overlooking Jordan Pond and the Bubble mountains, the restaurant serves lunch, tea, and dinner. At the cross roads of hiking, biking, and sightseeing trails, the lawn is a hub of activity, so let the kids run around while your waitress puts in your order for lobster stew, Maine crab cakes, popovers, lemonade, and homemade strawberry icecream.

Thurston’s Lobster Pound

Thurston’s Lobster Pound is the real thing, serving steamed lobster, chowder, and ales from local micro-breweries in a casual setting overlooking the working lobster boats of Bass Harbor.  The folks who own Thurston’s are smart.  They keep parents happy with steamers and lobster, kids thrilled with burgers, hot dogs, and peanut butter and jelly.  A sophisticated teen who scorns seafood?  How about a grilled chicken sandwich with Boursin cheese?  And everyone will love their special blueberry spice cake.

Pat’s Pizza

After days of seafood, some families want something different.  Pat’s may be the place because of its varied menu.  I love their deliciously crisp pizza, but it also comes in “double dough” and gluten-free styles.  Your teenager may want a chicken caesar salad, while the little kids go for a traditional Italian dinner of baked ziti or lasagna.  Nachos and burgers are options, too.  There are so many tempting options for pizza that you may end up coming back a second time to take out.

Café This Way

If it’s going to rain, schedule a day exploring Bar Harbor that starts with a special breakfast at Café This Way.  Parents can choose among six different ways to have their Eggs Benedict or create their own omelets.  Kids love the blueberry pancakes, French toast, waffles, and Big Breakfast Sandwiches.  My husband couldn’t decide between eggs or French toast so he chose the Monte Cristo, a French toast sandwich filled with a fried egg, ham, and cheddar cheese, served with home fries and maple syrup.

Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium

Summertime and candy shops just go together.  Taffy?  Lobster icecream?  From the traditional to the, well, innovative, Ben & Bill’s has it all.  You can get buttercrunch, chocolates, gummi candies, jelly beans, and homemade fudge made from a 100-year-old recipe.  If you prefer icecream, they stock 64 hard-serve flavors in summer, along with 12 flavors of gelato — all made at the shop on Main Street in Bar Harbor.  No  one leaves unhappy, including the family hound, who can get a Yellow Dog Special, a baby scoop of vanilla icecream with two dog bones.

For other ideas on what to do with kids – ranging from boat cruises to family-friendly bike routes – visit OUR ACADIA’S “Kids’ Favorites.”