Discover Acadia National Park in Maine, USA
Artists in the 1860s first drew attention to the wild and wonderful terrain of Maine’s Mount Desert Island. Landscape painters of the Hudson River School, such as Thomas Cole and his student, Frederic Church, were drawn to rugged settings in the northeast, where they sketched and captured nature on canvas. At a time when the wilderness was quickly being tamed and wave of nationalism was sweeping across America post-Civil War, their romanticized paintings reflected a passion for discovery, exploration and settlement.
Inspired by their images of raw, unspoiled nature, members of the Gilded Elite (Rockefeller, Morgan, Ford, Astor, Vanderbilt, and Pulitzer) began to spend their summers vacationing on Mount Desert Island, building massive “cottage” mansions. By 1880, the city of Bar Harbor had acquired its national reputation as a summer playground. In 1908, philanthropists began a land trust to protect the island from development. Private citizens donated their lands for public enjoyment and Acadia National Park was established in 1916, the first national park east of the Mississippi. Today, over three million vacationers flock to the cool, mild temperatures of Mount Desert Island to explore and enjoy Acadia National Park.
Confined to mainly 42 square miles, Acadia makes up for its small size by offering visitors an unparalleled breadth of experiences for any age in near-perfect weather. We were a group of middle-age adults, two senior citizens, and two children (age 9 and 13) visiting Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor for seven days. As a group, we ran and biked on the groomed carriage roads around Eagle Lake, circumnavigated the foot path around Jordan Pond, leisurely drank in the fresh sea air and magnificent views along the pink cliffs of the Ocean Path, explored the shops and Shore Path in Bar Harbor, hiked to the top of Mount Cadillac along the north ridge for a hawk-eye view of Frenchman’s Bay and the porcupine islands, dutifully ate lobster and whoopie pies, and photographed the swift-changing fog and sunsets.
Our favorite hike in Acadia National Park was actually a string of trails crossing the eastern section of Desert Island, aptly named the Eastern Traverse. This mix of trails ranged from easy to strenuous and took about 6.5 hours. Click here for details.
When to Visit
Prime time in Acadia is the summer months (June-September). In 2018, we visited the park in early June, just before the official start of the summer tourist season. The temperature ranged from 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit, with two late-afternoon rain showers. The blueberries were still tiny white flowers, promising pops of sweetness later in the season. The buses were not yet in operation, but the crowds were relatively minimal and we had no trouble parking in either the park or in Bar Harbor.
We also stayed in Acadia National Park at the end of July in 2016. The weather was about 10-15 degrees warmer and the crowds a bit heavier. But the blueberries were everywhere and the buses made transportation throughout the park expeditious and convenient.
Where to Stay
Tip: Book your inn, B&B, house or hotel accommodations EARLY. Bar Harbor is a small town and is filled to capacity during the summer months.
During our latest visit, our party of 8 people stayed in a four-bedroom, 2.5 bath home located about 20 minutes outside of Bar Harbor, which we rented at $1800 for the week on HomeAway.com ($300/night). We rented nine months ahead of our planned vacation.
Transportation and Park Fees
We drove from Pennsylvania to Acadia National Park, but another option is to fly into Bangor International Airport, 45 miles from Bar Harbor, where you’ll need to either rent a car or hail a taxi (about $100 from the airport to Bar Harbor). There are also Greyhound buses between Boston and Bangor.
The Island Explorer bus is a convenient and environmentally-friendly way to get around the park. The shuttle buses run from June 23 through Columbus Day in October. Don’t forget to buy your park pass at the Ranger Station before entering the park! It’s $30 per vehicle for a 7-day pass. My parents had a senior citizens’ national park pass, which they purchased a few years ago for $15. The Acadia National Park ranger called it “our golden ticket” into Acadia :-) It pays to support America’s National Parks!