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Maine's Acadia National Park - An Overview

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Bass Harborhead Lighthouse

Bass Harborhead Lighthouse is a popular attraction at Acadia.

© JBColorado via Flickr

Contact Info:

Mail: P.O. Box 177, Bar Harbor, ME, 04609

Phone: 207-288-3338

Overview:

It may be one of the smaller national parks, but Acadia is by far one of the most scenic and picturesque parks in the U.S. Whether you come in the fall to enjoy the stunning foliage, or visit in the summer to swim in the Atlantic Ocean, Maine is a beautiful area to tour. Seaside villages offers shops for antiques, fresh lobster, and homemade fudge, while the national park houses rugged trails for hiking and biking.

History:

Over 20,000 years ago, Mount Desert Island was once continental mainland that was covered with glacial sheets of ice. As the ice melted, valleys were flooded, lakes were formed, and mountainous islands were shaped.

In 1604, Samuel de Champlain first explored the coast but it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that people began to build cottages along Mount Desert. To preserve the land, they donated the main area of the park, formerly known as Lafayette National Park. The park is one of the nation’s smallest and actually relied on donated land until Congress set official boundaries in 1986.

When to Visit:

The main visitor center is open from mid-April through October, but the park is open year-round. Crowds are most prevalent during July and August, as the park boasts some of the best fall foliage on the east coast. If you are looking for a great cross-country skiing destination, try Acadia in December.

Getting There:

From Ellsworth, ME, travel on Me. 3 South for 18 miles to Mount Desert Island—where majority of Acadia is located. The visitor center is located three miles north of Bar Harbor. Convenient airports are also located in Bar Harbor and Bangor. (Find Flights)

Fees/Permits:

An entrance fee is required from May 1 to October 31. From June 23 to October 12, the private vehicle fee is $20 for a seven-day pass. The same pass goes for $10 from May 1 to June 22. Those entering by foot, bike, or motorcycle will be charged $5 to enter. An Acadia annual pass may also be purchased for $40. Standard Park Passes, such as a senior pass, may be used at Acadia as well. Note: Camping fees are in addition to entrance fees.

Major Attractions:

Cadillac Mountain stands 1,530 feet high and is the highest mountain on the east coast north of Brazil. Grab a blanket and head up to the top, accessible by car or foot, and catch the sunrise for an amazing view of the coast.

Two worthwhile stops are the Sieur de Monts Spring Nature Center and the Wild Gardens of Acadia, both touring the habitats of Mount Desert Island.

Since pieces of the national park are located on islands, be sure to check out Isle au Haut, as well as little Cranberry Island—which houses a historical museum.

Accommodations:

Various manors, suites, and inns are located in and around Bar Harbor. (Get Rates) Try Bar Harbor Inn or Cleftstone Manor for charming rooms in the quaint seaside town. If you came to camp, sites are available at Blackwoods, Seawall, and Duck Harbor—all with reserved and first-come, first served sites.

Areas of Interest Outside the Park:

Be sure to step outside of the park walls to enjoy the quaint town of Bar Harbor, equipped with the most charming seaside folk. Whether you want to go whale watching or shop for antiques, this town is just plain delightful.

Those looking to view forest wildlife and migrating seabirds needn’t look further than Maine’s top wildlife refugees: Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge (Calais), Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge Complex (Steuben), and Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge (Wells).

Further Reading:

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