Acadia National Park
Things To Do
Although Acadia is dazzling in summer, the park’s beauty flourishes throughout the year. By land and by sea there is no such thing as an off-season at Acadia.
SPRING, SUMMER AND FALL
In the evening, Acadia’s two campgrounds present free programs in their centrally located amphitheaters. Programs span a range of natural and cultural history topics (ideal for families). You do not have to stay at a campground to attend!
The only tough part about being a cyclist at Acadia National Park is trying to decide which of the many roads to explore. Although Park Loop Road is open to cyclists, most opt to ride on the carriage roads that are closed to auto traffic and offer a whole new perspective of Acadia. The roads, which wind through the eastern half of the island, are lined with broken stone and some sections are more suitable for mountain bikes than racing ones. Bikes are not allowed on hiking trails or off of designated roads. For more information, please pick up a copy of a park map. Bicycle guides are available for a fee at Hulls Cove Visitor Center. Bicycles can be rented in Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor and Southwest Harbor.
Sieur de Monts Spring, Ship Harbor and Wonderland trails are all favorite birdwatching spots, as are the summits of Cadillac and Beech mountains during the fall hawk migration. Ask at a park visitor center about ranger-led hawk-watching. Birding is at its peak from late May through September, but there is never a shortage of birds at Acadia.
Some of the best views of Acadia are to be had from the ocean. Out on the open waters of Frenchman Bay, gazing back at Acadia’s granite headlands, you’ll understand why French explorer Samuel Champlain named the island l’Isles des Monts-déserts, a reference to the fact that the mountains looked deserted or bare. A cruise is also an opportunity to learn about Acadia’s marine life, from lobsters to harbor seals to pelagic birds. Dress warmly and bring along a pair of binoculars.
Available cruises include four park ranger-led nature cruises, two of which include stops on nearby islands. Contact the cruise lines listed or check at a visitor center for details and options. Many other cruises—whale watches, deep-sea fishing and lobster fishing—are also available through local charter boat companies. Contact local chambers of commerce for more information.
Baker Island Cruise: Explore a 130-acre uninhabited island on this
4½-hour cruise. While onshore, visit the oldest lighthouse in the area, see the 200-year-old Gilley farmstead, and relax on an amazing rock formation known as “the dance floor,” while gazing out at the open ocean. For more information and to make reservations, call (207) 288 2386.
Dive-In Theater Cruise: Cruise with a ranger through Frenchman Bay in search of seals, porpoises and coastal bird life. Watch real-time video as a diver scours the ocean floor for marine life to bring aboard the boat. For reservations call (800) 979 3370.
Islesford Historical Cruise: This 2½-hour cruise includes some of Somes Sound and a stop at Little Cranberry Island’s Islesford Historical Museum, whose collection documents Mount Desert Island’s fishing and seafaring heritage. For more information, please call (207) 276-5352.
Schooner Cruise: Set sail on a four-masted schooner for a cruise along the rocky coastline of Acadia. Please call (207) 288-4585 for more information.
Fishing is allowed on all of Acadia’s ponds and lakes. Land-locked salmon and brook trout can be caught in the larger lakes. A state fishing license is required for freshwater fishing, but not for ocean fishing. Lakes and ponds are under Maine State jurisdiction.
For park visitors traveling with their own horses, Acadia’s carriage roads make ideal riding trails. Stalls and campsites are available. For more information about bringing your horse to the park, call Wildwood Stables at (877) 276-3622 or visit carriagesofacadia.com.
Whether you are a novice or a skilled paddler, you can enjoy sea kayaking in the waters around Mount Desert Island. Guided tours of varying lengths are offered, including overnight camping trips to remote island campsites. Call the chambers of commerce for more information.
Abbe Museum is located just off Park Loop Road near Sieur de Monts Spring and houses a handsome collection of American Indian artifacts. This location is open daily, late May through mid-October and fees are $3 per adult and $1 per child. The expanded Abbe Museum on Mt. Desert Street in Bar Harbor is open every day in the summer. Times vary in the winter. Fees are $6 per adult and $2 per child ages 6 through 15, and include admission to the Abbe at Sieur de Monts Spring. Please call (207) 288-3519 for more information.
The Nature Center is located near Abbe Museum. It has several natural history exhibits, guidebooks and brochures. Children (as well as adults) are encouraged to record wildlife sightings in the center’s logbook. Open weekends in May and daily from June through September.
You need to take a mail or a tour boat to Little Cranberry Island to visit Islesford Historical Museum. It has fascinating exhibits about New England’s maritime history. It is open daily from mid-June through September. Call (207) 288-3338 for more information.
Lifelike exhibits of animals native to Mount Desert Island (and the surrounding waters) are mounted at the George B. Door Museum of Natural History at College of the Atlantic, located on Route 3 in Bar Harbor. Children will enjoy the hands-on discovery room and summer field studies programs. Please call (207) 288-5395 or (207) 288-5015 for more information.
Birds of a different feather can be found at the Wendell Gilley Museum, located on Route 102 in the town of Southwest Harbor (on the west side of Mount Desert Island). This small gem of a gallery features exhibitions and demonstrations on the Down East art of bird woodcarving. Gilley, a Southwest Harbor native, gained a national reputation for his exquisite woodcarvings. It is open year-round. Please visit wendellgilleymuseum.org or call (207) 244-7555 for more information.
The Mount Desert Oceanarium, located on Route 3 in Bar Harbor, features a lobster hatchery and exhibits about Maine marine life. The oceanarium’s Thomas Bay Marsh Walk takes you over the salt marsh to a two-deck viewing tower with a telescope for observing a rich variety of birds and aquatic animals. For more information call (207) 288-5005 or (207) 244-7330 (reservations) or visit theoceanarium.com.
Perhaps the best way to appreciate the park is in the company of a park ranger while enjoying one of the many guided group tours offered during the summer and fall months. Park rangers can help you better “read” the landscape, from its natural history, to the imprint man has left upon the land. Join a park ranger for a nature walk, a bridges tour, an evening star watch or a lecture about the park’s geology. There are nature walks for children as well as ranger-led hikes up several mountains. Some programs require reservations (no earlier than three days in advance). Check at Hulls Cove Visitor Center for current programs and schedules or go online for a schedule.
You’ll find picnic areas at Bear Brook, Fabbri, Seawall and Pretty Marsh on Mount Desert Island and at Frazer Point on the Schoodic Peninsula and Thompson Island. Each has picnic tables, fire grills, water fountains and restrooms. Picnicking is permitted elsewhere in the park, provided visitors observe Acadia’s carry-in, carry-out policy.
This adventurous sport is increasing in popularity at Acadia. Mount Desert offers lofty challenges for individuals or groups. You can climb Otter Cliffs, 60-foot rocky sea cliffs overlooking the ocean, or the South Wall of Champlain Mountain, a 200-foot scaling up a granite mountain face. There are no outfitters in the park, but you can hire a guide. For more information, please call the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce at (800) 345-4617.
Eastern National has prepared an audio tour of Acadia National Park. The 56-mile driving tour (which can take between four and six hours to complete) covers the entire Park Loop Road, as well as Sargeant Drive along lovely Somes Sound. Scenic points of interest are highlighted and the park’s natural and cultural history is explained. The CD or cassette may be purchased at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center. Please call (207) 288-4988 for more information.
Fall is foliage season at Acadia and a great time to tour the park. The weather, of course, has the final say when it comes to timing and intensity—warm days and cold nights make for a quicker color change and more brilliant reds, oranges and yellows. Generally, the leaves are at their peak during the first two weeks of October. The Maine Department of Conservation issues weekly foliage reports between mid-September and mid-October, describing the amount of color and leaf fall in seven separate regions of the state. Acadia is part of Zone 2. For more information, please visit mainefoliage.com or call (800) 533-9595.
Swimming is permitted at Sand Beach (saltwater) and Echo Lake (freshwater). Ocean temperatures average an invigorating 55–60ºF. Both beaches have lifeguards on duty during the summer.
Winter at Acadia is as beautiful as summer and, for the resourceful visitor, every bit as stimulating. Hulls Cove Visitor Center closes on October 31 and reopens in mid-April. Park Loop Road is closed between December 1 and April 15. During winter, Acadia Park Headquarters, located on Route 233, serves as the park’s visitor center. Park rangers will be glad to help you plan your winter outing for maximum enjoyment and safety.
The Blackwoods Campground is available for winter camping November through April. Call (207) 288-3338 for more information. From December 1 through March 31, only primitive tent camping is available and hikers must walk in from the campground entrance. A permit from park headquarters is required. Winter visitors should be prepared for quick changes in weather. Dress in layers and bring extra clothing, a first-aid kit, water, food, a blanket and maps.
Covered with a mantle of snow, the park's carriage roads make ideal cross-country ski trails. Snow also blankets Acadia's lakes, making ice skating difficult.Ice fishermen fare well, however, and their fishing shacks are a familiar sight on the park’s lakes and ponds between January and early March. Snowmobilers can use the 27-mile Park Loop Road, but are not allowed on the carriage roads.