Acadia National Park – 100 things

IMG_20160825_171704A lot of people ask us which national park is our favorite, and our reply is normally, “You mean besides Acadia?” Not only was it the first big national park we explored as a family back in 2015, but it is also the national park we’ve spent the most time in (10 months, to be exact, by the end of summer 2016), and the most diverse and beautiful place we’ve ever been.

So, since Acadia is turning 100 years old this year, since we’ve been here all summer again, and since everyone is all about sharing their 100 favorite things about the place, we figured we would share our 100 favorite things about Acadia National Park too.

  1. Mount Desert Campground – True, this campground isn’t technically inside the park, and it’s privately owned and operated (not run by the park service), but it tops our list of favorite things about Acadia National Park for several reasons. First of all, we wouldn’t be experiencing Acadia without this campground (working here is the reason we came to Maine in the first place for the summers of 2015 and 2016). Also, it’s the most beautiful and well-run campground on the island of Mount Desert and possibly in the world (it still tops our best campground list, even after nearly 3 years and 15,000+ miles on the road). From ocean breezes and balsam forests to kayaking, paddleboarding, crabbing, and jigging for squid on the Sound, (not to mention clean facilities, super coffee, and stellar owners, staff and work-campers), I’m really not sure we’ll ever get over this place. Also, to add to the list, this campground is literally moments away from some of the best hiking Acadia has to offer, and if those Acadia trails get too crowded in the peak season, the campground has its own little trail with all things Acadia – cliffs, ferns, stone steps and everything. (It’s called the Llewellyn Trail.) Needless to say, I think MDC will be getting its own blog post soon – there’s heaps more to say. And, we’re not the only ones saying it either… Mount Desert Campground was featured in the list of 100 great things about Acadia in Downeast Magazine last month too as having the absolute best campsites on the island!
  2. Penobscot Mountain – Our favorite hike in the park – big views for a long descent.
  3. Schoodic Peninsula – A part of the park that few visitors find. Sorry, I can’t tell you too much about it because it’s probably one of my favorite places in the world, and I know it won’t stay uncrowded if too many people learn about it. We did post a blog about it last year though, if you really are curious. (It’s gorgeous!)
  4. Sargent Mountain – A close second favorite hike.
  5. Sunsets on the water – What is it about the sun going down over the water here? It’s gorgeous.
  6. Bar Harbor – True, it’s crowded way past comfort from June 25 through August 25 or so, but outside of that, the little town of Bar Harbor is gorgeous.
  7. Harbor seals – They pop up in the Sound when you least expect them (even underneath your kayak!)
  8. Heritage – This place is full of history and heritage – so much to learn.
  9. Blueberries! – The Maine blueberries are special, it’s true, and even more tasty when you find them while hiking the trails in Acadia.
  10. Loons – These birds are majestic, and Acadia is full of them.
  11. Acadia Mountain – One of the more popular hikes, but the views and blueberries are worth the crowds.
  12. George Dorr Natural History Museum – Located on the campus of College of the Atlantic, this little museum is packed with great exhibits.
  13. Stars over Sand Beach – This Ranger Program is one definitely worth planning around. We learned all about the constellations, satellites, and space junk in the night sky of Acadia.
  14. Bar Island Hike – Only accessible at low tide, this little hike is a great place to tide pool and stretch your legs if you want to escape Bar Harbor.
  15. Cadillac South Ridge – A gorgeous 7.5 mile hike of the tallest mountain in the park – super gradual – We love it!
  16. Ocean Path – A great way to see the diverse coast line of the park.
  17. Shore Path – A fun little path along the shore around Bar Harbor.
  18. Northeast Harbor – A fun place to watch the ships come in, and the home of our favorite library in the nation!
  19. Southwest Harbor – What we call “the other side of the island” – plenty of shopping and yummy pies.
  20. Wonderland – a fun little hike popular with little kids.
  21. Ships Harbor – another fun little nature trail popular with young families.
  22. Partnership with the Community – The libraries, schools, summer camps, and even the grocery stores and restaurants here on the island all share a special relationship with Acadia National Park. I’ve never seen anything like it – the way this park enriches the local community, and the way it gets a lot of character from the local people.
  23. The trees – All types everywhere – I hope they never go away here. This park is full of gorgeous trees!
  24. The Park Rangers – So helpful and willing to take the time to teach us all about the park.
  25. Park Loop Road – To some, a scenic drive, to others, a way to get to some great hiking and sights.
  26. Kids Rock! Ranger Program – One of our favorite Ranger Programs here where we were able to learn all about the geology of the park.
  27. Sunrise on the Precipice – Breathtaking.
  28. The Gardens – While we’re not avid gardeners or even garden watchers too often, we did enjoy the Asticou Azalea Garden and all of the small gardens that keep beautiful flowers all summer long. Also, there are several others our friends love: Thuya Garden, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden, Wild Gardens of Acadia, and Garland Farm.
  29. Farmer’s Markets – There are multiple ones on the island – local honey and cheese!
  30. Local farms – A great way to each fresh here.
  31. Starfish – Live ones everywhere!
  32. Periwinkles – Not the flowers.
  33. Bald Peak – One of our favorite first of the summer hikes.
  34. Giant Slide Trail – A fun, challenging little hike full of great big boulders.
  35. North and South Bubbles – A fun hike for the kids.
  36. Norumbega – Fern gully scenery in the woods.
  37. Pemetic – Fun hike – and funny way to pronounce it.
  38. Beech Mountain – The fire tower and great views – fun hike with kids.
  39. The Triad – One for the Dads.
  40. Day Mountain – Fun family hiking.
  41. Dorr Mountain – Another one for the Dads.
  42. Gorham – A good hike with ocean views.
  43. Champlain –  One of the bigger ones.
  44. The Precipice – One of the most famous hikes of Acadia, this challenge is only open for the last part of the season due to falcon nesting. Quite the views. Completely worth the climb. (Not ready to put my kids on it just yet though.)
  45. Rockefeller’s Bridges – Scenic stone bridges throughout the park.
  46. Rockefeller’s Teeth – You’ll have to find out what these are for yourself. (They’re not really teeth.)
  47. Tide Pooling – Like no other place on earth.
  48. Anemone Cave – A hidden attraction no longer promoted for visitors, this is a fun spot to tide pool at low tide, but very dangerous if you’re not careful and are caught there when the tide comes in! (Also, it’s super slippery; just ask my soggy boots.)
  49. Sieur de Monts – The nature and heritage hub of the park.
  50. Sargent Drive – A gorgeous little drive – much shorter and perhaps a little more scenic than Park Loop Road.
  51. Windjammer Parade – Hundreds of sailboats on the Sound celebrating the summer!
  52. Diverse Beaches – While you won’t find white sandy beaches in Acadia, you will find all different kinds. There’s a couple with sand, a few with big round cobblestones, some with square rocks, and still others with small rocks as well. This island park may not be extremely large, but it sure is diverse. You could possibly find a different type of beach for every day of the week!
  53. Super Sand Sleuth Ranger Program – Want to know what the sand at Sand Beach is made of? This Ranger Program gives all the details – and yes, they are surprising.
  54. The Beehive – A super fun, super steep climb with outstanding views of the ocean and Sand Beach.
  55. Beech and Canada Cliffs – A little off the beaten path, this hike is a pretty alternative to Acadia Mountain when it’s too crowded.
  56. Headland Hike Ranger Program – Want to learn about one of the families who owned the land around Sand Beach and how they gifted the land to the NPS? Then this program is definitely for you. We loved it.
  57. Sand Beach – A day at the beach right in the middle of the mountains.
  58. Echo Lake – Swimming in the park.
  59. Long Pond – Cliff jumping, swimming and boating with gorgeous views of the peaks. (Hiking too if you like One Mile Rock.)
  60. Friends of Acadia – The volunteers at this park keep it spic and span.
  61. Free Shuttles – Thanks to L.L. Bean, anyone can escape the parking frenzy inside the park by riding the free shuttles. They even go to special events, various shopping places, and of course, all of the most popular parts of the island. Definitely saved our sanity  a couple of times!
  62. Lobster! – Maine is famous for it, and there’s a lot to be had, if you’re not allergic to it.
  63. Clams – Fresh from the mudflats.
  64. The Margaret Todd – A 5-masted sailboat with daily tours out of Bar Harbor all summer long.
  65. Whale Watching Tours – Yes, they’re pricey, but whales!
  66. The Criterion  – An old-fashioned restored theater in the heart of Bar Harbor.
  67. Isle au Haut – A super secret part of the Park!
  68. Ferry rides – If you like to island hop and have a little bit of cash, there’s plenty of opportunity here.
  69. Acadia Granite – The rocks are pink here!
  70. Native American History – There is quite the Native American heritage here, from the Abbe Museum displays to the drumming concerts at various events across the island, the Wabanaki, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, Micmac and others are a big part of this place.
  71. Bates Cairns – These little guys make sure we don’t get lost on the hiking trails.
  72. Gifford’s Ice Cream – This Maine ice cream company came up with a new flavor this summer all for Acadia’s 100th birthday, and it is pretty tasty!
  73. Junking – If you like to buy junk, you can certainly find plenty in and around Acadia to buy. We even did a little bit of antique shopping and souvenir buying ourselves!
  74. Kayaking – We love being on the water, and kayaking is a beautiful way to feed this desire and see the park from a new perspective.
  75. Bioluminescence – There’s magical creatures in the water here. They glow when you touch them at night. (Seriously)
  76. Peregrin Falcon Watching – They’re back and better than ever, and Park Rangers set up viewing stations to watch them nest, dive, and feed.
  77. Schoodic Education and Research Center – An old naval base, this education center has a few interesting facts for everyone.
  78. The ocean breeze – There are very few days here when you can’t find a breeze somewhere.
  79. The smell of the sea – I’m always amazed when the smell of the sea overtakes me. It’s such a gorgeous thing.
  80. Jordon Pond House – Some great hikes start here – also a few great meals.
  81. Popovers – Acadia is famous for them.
  82. Tiny pinecones – So cute!
  83. Round Stones Everywhere – I may not have ever known this about Acadia, but having 2 little boys who fill their pockets with all sorts of things has helped me notice there are round stones everywhere on this island. (And yes, I find myself constantly saying, “Dump out your pockets please. We can’t take anything from the Park!”
  84. Lighthouses – I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the lighthouses here since they are such a draw for most folks. They are beautiful. I do have to warn you, though; they are pretty short compared to the ones we’re used to.
  85. Low Light Pollution Ordinance – This is one of the few places in our travels where we can easily see the Milky Way nearly every night, and it’s all thanks to a low light pollution ordinance in place. It sure would be nice if this was the case all over our nation.
  86. Meteor Shower Watching – During 2015, we got up at 3am to see the Perseid Meteor Shower on the top of Cadillac Mountain – a family first for us! Also, we were surprised in 2016 to see that there are at least a few meteors every single night! (plus satellites and space junk to see too)
  87. Roadschooling Wonderland – Like most national parks, Acadia is a wonderful place to homeschool and roadschool. You’d actually have to work hard to find something not educational here!
  88. Picnicking – Eating outside is a must here!
  89. Campfires –  In designated areas only, of course.
  90. Blackwoods Campground – This is one of the national park campgrounds, so I have to mention it. It’s a great place if you can’t get in at MDC.
  91. Seawall Campground – Another national park campground – great place if you can’t get in at MDC.
  92. Schoodic Woods Campground – The new campground over on Schoodic Peninsula – enough said.
  93. Fall Foliage – I have never seen fall leaves like the ones in the northeast, and Acadia is no exception. Breathtaking from late September through October.
  94. Chilly Swims – The water stays cold here even in the heat of August – a nice surprise for us southern folks!
  95. May and June – If you’ve read this far you deserve to know the down side of the park and how to get around it. The down side is how crowded this place can be during July – September. How do you avoid it? Visit during May and early June. It’s nice and cool during those months, not too crowded to do all the things we love to do, and all of the kids in the northeast are still in school, so it’s pretty low-key. (Don’t tell anyone though.)
  96. 5am-9am & 6pm-9pm – Also a great way to avoid the crowds during July-September. Vacationers don’t tend to like early mornings or evenings.
  97. The Weather – I have heard people talk about a few summers where there was a lot of rain, but during our 2 summers here, it has been gorgeous almost every single day – even the rainy days have charm here.
  98. Map Reading – If your use of Google Maps has made you unable to read and follow a map, you can learn again here because cell service on this island is pretty spotty.
  99. Junior Ranger Fun – The Junior Ranger booklet is pretty neat here, and my little guys love it every time we do it! Also, there are so many programs and special events for Junior Rangers at Acadia!
  100. The People – This park definitely makes its mark on the people of Mount Desert Island – they’re pretty special (and a little salty too)! 🙂

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