• Photo: Peter Guttman/Peterguttman.com
  • Photo: Peter Guttman/Peterguttman.com
  • Photo: kurdistan / Shutterstock
  • Photo: Doug Lemke / Shutterstock

Acadia National Park

With about 48,000 acres of protected forests, beaches, mountains, and rocky coastline, Acadia National Park is one of the country's most visited national parks (almost 3.5 million visitors in 2019) and the only one in Maine.

Acadia holds some of the most spectacular scenery on the Eastern Seaboard: a rugged coastline of surf-pounded granite and an interior graced by sculpted mountains, quiet ponds, and lush, deciduous forests. Cadillac Mountain—the highest point of land on the East Coast—dominates the park. The park also has graceful stone bridges, miles of carriage roads (popular with walkers, runners, and bikers as well as horse-drawn carriages), and the Jordan Pond House restaurant (famous for its popovers).

Most of the park comprises the bulk of the approximately 12- by 15-mile Mount Desert Island (pronounced "dessert" by locals). The 27-mile Park Loop Road provides an excellent overview, but to truly appreciate the park you must experience it by walking, hiking, biking, sea kayaking, or taking a carriage ride—the latter on a 45-mile network of finely crafted stone roads built and later gifted by the late philanthropist and part-time resident John D. Rockefeller Jr. Trails for hikers of all skill levels lead to rounded mountaintops, providing views of Frenchman and Blue Hill bays and beyond. Ponds and lakes beckon you to swim, fish, or boat, and ferries and charter boats provide a different perspective on the island and a chance to explore the outer islands or watch for whales and puffins. There are two smaller parts of the park: on Isle au Haut, 15 miles away out in the ocean and reachable by ferry, and on the Schoodic Peninsula, on the mainland across Frenchman Bay from Mount Desert.

Mount Desert Island has four different towns, each with its own personality. The town of Bar Harbor is on the northeastern corner of the island and includes the villages of Hulls Cove, Salisbury Cove, and Town Hill. Aside from Acadia, Bar Harbor is the major tourist destination here, with plenty of lodging, dining, and shopping. The town of Mount Desert, in the middle of the island, has four main villages: Somesville, Seal Harbor, Otter Creek, and Northeast Harbor. Southwest Harbor includes the smaller village of Manset south of the village center. Tremont is at the southernmost tip of the island and stretches up the western shore. It includes the villages of Bass Harbor (with its frequently photographed lighthouse), Bernard, and Seal Cove.

Mount Desert Island was once a preserve of summer homes for the very rich (and still is for some), and, partly because of this, Acadia is the first national park in the country largely created by donations of private land (the Rockefellers alone donated over 11,000 acres). Predating white settlers by thousands of years, the Wabanaki people consider these lands their ancestral homelands. The Abbe Museum, with locations in the park and in Bar Harbor, celebrates their heritage and the heritage of Native Americans throughout Maine.

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