Acadia National Park encompasses nearly 45,000 acres of scenic parklands that includes miles of bold ocean coastline, sand and cobble beaches, pink granite mountains, pristine lakes and ponds, and pleasant woodlands. Most of the park is located on Mount Desert Island, but there are smaller sections on Schoodic Peninsula and Isle au Haut, as well a number of offshore islands. In addition to the diverse and unique natural landscape of Acadia is a wealth of human and cultural history dating back thousands of years, all waiting to be explored.
One of the best ways to enjoy the many sights and sounds of Mount Desert Island and Acadia is by taking a drive along the Park Loop Road, a 27-mile paved roadway that winds through the heart of Acadia National Park on the eastern side of Mount Desert Island, visiting many of the most spectacular points en route. There are also a host of must-see spots on the western side of Mount Desert Island, what many consider to be the “quieter side.” And a visit by charter boat to one of the evergreen-capped islands is wonderful experience.
Start your journey on the Park Loop Road from the Hulls Cove Visitor Center just off Route 3 a short distance north of Bar Harbor. Here can purchase a park pass, get information, watch a film on the park, and browse the bookstore and gift shop.
A favorite destination is the lofty, windswept summit of Cadillac Mountain, especially at sunrise and sunset. At 1,537 feet Cadillac is not only the highest point in the park, but the highest anywhere on the East Coast of the United States. Reach the top by way of a 3 1/2 mile spur road, the Cadillac Mountain Road, which makes the winding, exciting climb.
Towering over Sand Beach is the distinctive pink granite escarpment known as The Beehive, which rises more than 500 in height. The half-mile Beehive Trail to the top is one of the most popular hikes in Acadia National Park. The Ocean Path starts at Sand Beach and winds along the ocean parallel to the Park Loop Road for two magnificent miles. Walk all or part of this fun, easy path that delights with ocean surf, salty air and far-reaching views.
Make a stop at Thunder Hole, the famous narrow cleft in the pink granite cliffs along Ocean Drive. When the weather and tides are just right, the pounding surf ferociously rushes into the chasm and forces out the air from the concave space of the hole beneath the cliffs. This powerful action creates a thundering boom like no other sound in nature. Just ahead, the rugged coastal headlands known as Otter Cliffs are one of the most recognized geological features in Acadia National Park, the 110-foot cliffs rising precipitously from the from the ocean to meet the fragrant spruce forest above.
Near the center of the park is Jordan Pond, a hub of activity with many hiking trails and carriage roads for bicycling and horseback riding emanating from this scenic area. The view over the pond to The Bubbles is one of the finest in Acadia. Here also is the Jordan Pond House, the only full service restaurant in the park, and justly famous for its popovers and tea on the lawn. Closing the loop on the Park Loop Road, pass lovely Eagle Lake. Framed by steep mountain walls, it is one of the largest lakes on the island. A system of historic carriage roads circumnavigates Eagle Lake.
At the far western edge of Mount Desert Island is the hamlet of Pretty Marsh bordering on Blue Hill Bay. The Pretty Marsh Picnic Area is a nice place to relax and enjoy the view of Pretty Marsh Harbor. Bass Harbor Head Light, the only lighthouse on Mount Desert Island, stands watch over the entrance to Bass Harbor and Blue Hill Bay. A short path leads to the ocean’s edge and the lighthouse, one of the most photographed spots in all of Acadia. Echo Lake is popular for its sandy beach and warm lake waters beneath the towering cliffs of Beech Mountain.
Visitors to Acadia National Park will first arrive at Thompson Island, one of many islands along the coast of Mount Desert Island. Here you’ll find the Thompson Island Information Center and just across the road, an oceanside picnic area. Many of the other islands are more remote, requiring passage on a tour boat or paddling a sea kayak. Baker Island, the most remote of the five islands that comprise the Cranberry Islands, is crowned by an historic lighthouse dating back to 1855. Bald Porcupine Island and Sheep Porcupine Island are just east of Bar Harbor in Frenchman Bay. Both are good examples of roche moutonnées, or sheepbacks or whalebacks, which describe their profile as shaped by powerful glaciers long ago.
The Island Explorer is a fare-free bus service that makes getting around Acadia National Park easier than driving your car, especially on busy days during the peak summer season. The bus operates ten routes that link hotels, inns, and campgrounds on Mount Desert Island and the mainland at Ellsworth and Trenton to destinations throughout the park and neighboring towns and villages.