Acadia National Park is a place where mountains meet the ocean. Most of its territory is located on the Mount Desert Island. But a part of the Schoodic Peninsula, as well as some small surrounding islands, are also considered a part of the National Park.
Many years ago rock formations of the Mount Desert Island were a part of the mainland. Mountains were covered with a mile-thick glacier with rivers flowing along its slopes. But when the glacier melted, the sea level rose and flooded the valley and the coast, leaving a rocky island sticking out of the Atlantic Ocean.
Mount Desert Island gained some popularity among tourists in the 19th century. Cottages and hotels started growing on the shores of the island and the bays were never empty. In order to protect this natural beauty, American president Woodrow Wilson signed an act which founded the National Park in 1919. Originally the park was called Lafayette National Park but in 1929 the name was changed to Acadia National Park.
Despite the fact that Acadia National Park occupies only 49 acres, it is one of the top ten national parks in the US in terms of the number of visitors. In 2016 more than 3 million tourists came here to enjoy its beautiful rocks, lakes, forests and stunning oceanic coastline.
How to get to the Park
As it was mentioned earlier, most of the Park’s territory is located on an island, which is connected to the mainland via two short bridges. Acadia National Park is about 30 min drive from the town of Ellsworth. Another part of the Acadia National Park extends southwest of Ellsworth on the Schoodic Peninsula, which is an hour drive from Bar Harbor.
The nearest airport is Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport is situated only 10 miles from the National Park. But if you are traveling internationally you will probably be arriving at the Bangor International Airport, which is about one hour away.
You can visit Acadia National Park any time of the year. However, be aware that the tourist center operates only from mid-April until the end of October. Tourists mostly come during summer months and in the fall to enjoy colorful leaves in the forests.
Tourist adventures in the Acadia National Park
One of the main man-made attractions on the island is the Park Loop Road. This 27-mile picturesque highway rises and descends along the mountains and connects all the main lakes, forests and rocky coasts of the Park.
Unique topographical features and breathtaking landscape make Acadia National Park one of the most photographed places in the world. Every year thousands of tourists climb the 1 530 feet Cadillac Mountain to enjoy panoramic views from the highest peak on the Atlantic coast and be the first ones in the US to see the sunrise.
Acadia National Park can boast an abundance of various flora and fauna representatives. According to estimates of ornithologists, there are almost 350 bird species nesting here. Therefore bird watching is a popular activity on the island. In addition, there are almost 40 different species of mammals living in the Park’s forests. It is said that before the Park was founded visitors could even meet mountain lion or puma in local areas.
Unusual landscape of Acadia National Park prompts tourists to take long hikes, especially along the ocean coast. During the trip, you can immerse with the beauty and perfection of the local nature. And if lucky, even see a whale or a dolphin in the ocean.
There are numerous different paths in the Park as well as bicycle roads. Some trails are connected at certain points, which allows experienced travelers to hike several peaks in one day. Most of the Park’s area is covered with forests. And 10% is occupied by 24 lovely lakes. The depth of some of the lakes can reach up to 98 feet.
Another natural wonder can be found in the southern part of a Mount Desert Island. Thunder Hole is a grotto located in a fairly narrow gorge. When the ocean waves roll into the grotto, the air and the water are forced out producing a very loud roar. Some days this sound can be confused with a shot from the cannon.
Acadia National Park also has a natural fjord in the middle of the Mount Desert Island. Somes Sound is 5 miles long and almost 175 feet deep.
Bohemian town of Bar Harbor
Bar Harbor is an elegant resort town located in the north-eastern part of the Mount Desert Island. Even though Bar Harbor is technically not a part of Acadia National Park, it is still a very popular place among tourists. In fact, this city was designed to host travelers who came here to explore the Park.
The settlement was originally called Eden in honor of the first mayor Richard Eden and later renamed to Bar Harbor due to a very interesting phenomenon. During the low tide, the city quay and the Bar Island located within 650 feet are connected with a spit of gravel and sand. It allows people to walk to the Bar Island by foot. The spit cuts the strait between the Mount Desert Island and Bar Island in half forming a temporary creek like a harbor.
At the present time, Bar Harbor is a very small town with less than 5 000 local residents. However, every year it welcomes more than 5 million tourists. Ever since the 19th century Bar Harbor has been a summer holiday destination for many wealthy people in America. And nowadays celebrities like Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and Martha Stewart prefer spending their vacation time surrounded by the natural tranquility of this place.
Despite its small size, Bar Harbor has enough entertainment options for tourists. Criterion Theatre is one of the popular city attractions. It is built in the art deco style and invites all auteur film fans. You can also visit one of many local art galleries to enjoy paintings and photographs.
Those who love history can learn about the culture of local native people of the state in the Abbe Museum. People with children might want to take a short 20 min trip to the Mount Desert Oceanarium to see the seals, explore the salt pond and visit the Maine Lobster Museum.
The streets of Bar Harbor are densely covered with restaurants and cafes. Every tourist just has to try the famous New-England “clam chowder” – a soup with clams and broth.
One more advice
To explore all the sights in the Acadia National Park you need 3 to 4 full days. Take at least one day to visit all the attractions of the Mount Desert, including 27 mile Park Loop Road and Cadillac Mountain. On the next day go to the rocky coast of the Schoodic Peninsula. And if you still have some time left, take a tour of the surrounding small islands.
And most importantly, even if you are planning to visit Acadia National Park during the summer, do not forget to take warm clothes with you. Summer evenings in Maine are rather cold.