Acadia National Park
Updated: May 7
Why Acadia is great for kids
Lots of gravel biking trails that are safe for children and include Rockefeller bridges
Lots of hiking trails
Miles of shoreline to kayak and canoe
Many beaches where the kids can experience tides and explore tidal pools and the shoreline
Great fresh seafood to experience new tastes, textures, and ways to enjoy food
Great viewing areas for marine life and birds
Quaint Bar Harbor and surrounding towns
Many scenic viewpoints
Recommendation: We recommend you purchase Carriage Roads of Acadia: A Pocket Guide and the Acadia National Park Trail Map to help you navigate Acadia which you can find on Amazon linked to the titles. The Pocket Guide provides great narratives of the roads, how they link together, and of course, where to find parking lots to stage your bikes and ride. Please read our summary below and if you have questions let us know. We're happy to share our experiences to plan your next experience.
Acadia National Park was first designated a monument by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, set as a National Park in 1919, and received its current name in 1929. Acadia is the first National Park East of the Mississippi.
Acadia for us is a tale of two parks in one. We stayed in Bar Harbor the first three days of our trip at Hadley's Point campground and spent the last four at the Schoodic Woods National Park campground. We decided at the end of our trip that we would have like to have four days in Bar Harbor and three days in Schoodic.
Mt Desert Island is the main part of Acadia National Park. In the early 1900s many affluent Americans built "cottages", which were mansions, on the island and spent their Summer vacations here. Thankfully, there was a movement to create the national park and preserve the area. Rockefeller spent roughly $3.5 million to build the carriage trails and bridges and donated 10,000 acres to create the park. No cars are allowed on the carriage trails and while we biked the trails, we didn't see any horse carriages, either. The carriage trails on the island are easier to ride than on the Schoodic Peninsula. There are many more hiking trails on the island as well that have spectacular views of the bays, hills, and lakes. The bridges and history of the island is also more enriching.
From Bar Harbor we had time for three hikes. Beech Mountain South Ridge Loop has panoramic views and hikes up to a fire tower which is a great stop for rest, water, and snacks. Cadillac Mountain is a viewpoint that also has panoramic views and hiking trails to explore. Holland America had a ship in the harbor which was fun to photograph. The Bar Harbor Land Bridge to Bar Island is only accessible at low tide. So, you need to read the tide schedule and watch your time on the island. The land bridge was more entertaining for us than the island so we chose to limit our hike on the island for more time exploring the tide pools on the land bridge. Near our campground is Hadley's Point. We spent a couple hours there investigating the shells and organisms that live in and around the tide pools. There is a boat launch there and is a great location to spend a few quiet hours by the shore.
The carriage trails are so many I can't remember what we went on. Our goal was to bike over as many bridges as possible and see some of the water features of the island. The guide linked above was critical to our endeavor. We succeeded in seeing so many memorable locations as a family. We recommend, if you have little ones, use a bike trailer or bring a tow rope to attach to their bicycle. We went when my daughter was seven (too old for the trailer, too young for putting on miles), and by attaching a rope to her bike, we were able to tow her up the steeper hills. The tow method is a little dangerous and probably not recommended by the experts but, it worked well for us. She was able to control her bike well enough for us to prevent any accidents and we were able to cover many more miles.
We also came to Acadia for the seafood. Yes, we got our fill of lobster rolls. We recommend Thurston's Lobster pound and C-Ray Lobster Schack on Winter Island and the Pickled Wrinkle and Bunker's Wharf restaurant on the Schoodic Peninsula. These all have different atmosphere and menus. Therefore, if you have questions let us know. I may also build a separate post to detail the experiences at each. Hopefully, these restaurants are able to make it through the Pandemic.
The Schoodic Peninsula is for the quiet nature lovers. We spent parts of each day on the beach watching the tides, throwing rocks, and taking pictures. Additionally, the Schoodic Institute is also a great historical surprise as a former Navy Base listening station. This Institute now hosts research, conferences, classrooms, and laboratories. The Schoodic Loop Road is also a must for roadtrippers that like car rides and frequent scenic stops. Pay close attention to the water. It is difficult to find seals in the water, due to all the fishing gear. However, we saw a few seals and spent a lot of time watching seals surface, dive, and reappear elsewhere. Mark Island lighthouse is also photographed from the loop road and not to be missed.
Bicycling the Schoodic Peninsula from Schoodic Woods is enjoyable. However, the bicycle trails are new and the stone is more for mountain bike tread than gravel bike tires. You will also notice from the picture, little shade. I'm sure this will change as the trails age. There are nice trails to Buck Cove and Mosquito Harbor. The hiking was also worthwhile. We hiked the Lower Harbor Trail and Sundew Trail and were in awe of the natural beauty of Winter Harbor and the coastline.
In summary, if you lean more towards a biking and hiking adventure close to town, with more people, Mt Desert Island is for you. If you are more into quiet nature, away from civilization, your trip to Acadia isn't complete, unless you spend time on the Schoodic Peninsula. We can see hiking and biking enthusiasts coming here several times, travel their favorites and explore new trails, and never lose interest. There are so many miles to cover that you can't do it in a week and feel satisfied. The seafood is fresh and fantastic. There is something for everyone that is looking for a Atlantic Coast vacation.