Maine’s Majesty for All!
Acadia National Park (1 of 3)
For the East Coast leg of our National Parks tour, we headed across the bottom of the Great Lakes and up and over New England until we reached Acadia National Park 1200 miles later. This was a first-time adventure for Carol and Laney, but a return to old stomping grounds for me.
To add to the enjoyment of our adventure, we joined Carol’s twin sister, Susie, and her husband, Kevin, who had been to Acadia twice already in recent years. We were slated to connect with them on the twins’ birthday in late September. Our dog Laddie came along for the ride for the first time on our parks adventure.
My previous bachelor attempts to enjoy the wonders of Acadia included a winter camping trip with the Colby College Outing Club, a bike race around the carriage trails without much time for sightseeing, and a climb to the top of Cadillac Mountain on a misty morning with visibility down to about 50 feet. My hopes for this trip to Acadia included:
- No snow (it was late September, but you never know)
- Enough time to enjoy the park
- Clear enough skies to see more than a few feet
On this trip to Acadia, all my hopes were realized.
Where We Stayed
We knew that the last couple of weeks of September would be busy, but we only managed to get our schedule set a about a month before we had to leave. We wanted to find an RV site and a tent site that were next to each other, so our call to www.recreation.gov led us down to Seawall Campground on the southwest end of the main island. This turned out to be the perfect spot for us — quiet, but close to the lively port town of Southwest Harbor. Everything we wanted to visit on the island was no more than 45 minutes from the campground.
Seawall has a nice variety of sunny or shady sites, but isn’t really set up for large RVs. We had one of the few travel trailers in the campground and had to unhitch and park our vehicle in Kevin and Susie’s site to fit in. This place is ideal for tent campers and all-in-one, van and pickup campers, but it looked like they had a few larger sites. The campground includes: 40 RV Non-Electric sites, 20 Standard Non-Electric sites, 39 Tent-Only Non-Electric sites, and 99 Walk-To sites. The bathrooms were clean and had a cool, old-time cabin feel with modern tiles and fixtures. No showers, though, but there are a couple of private spots nearby where you can get a shower for a couple of bucks.
What We Did
There is no shortage of awesome scenery at Acadia, but for busy kids like our kid, there was no shortage of things to do, either. Here’s our list:
- Hiked from Sand Beach on the Park Loop Rd. trail along the rocky coastline past Thunder Hole and down to the Gorham Moutain Trailhead where we climbed the rugged trail to the most amazing view of Acadia I’ve ever seen.
- Made our way back to Sand Beach and waded in the cold waters of the bay. If it was just a tad warmer outside, we might have even gotten in for a dip, but I would only recommend such a swim for Yankees, cold-water surfers, and Upper Midwesterners.
- Rode bikes on the Carriage Trail from the Visitor Center around Witch Hole Pond (about 5 miles and just about right for our 4th grader).
- Tidepooling around Ship Harbor at low tide was a lot of fun. We found lots of periwinkles, water bugs, sea kelp, and other sea weed.
- Had a great dinner at Quiet Side Cafe & Ice Cream Shop. It’s hard to please everyone in our little group of 5 (4 adults and 1 kid), but the Quiet Side had us eating out of their hands (well, not literally). Fried clam basket, fresh veggie pizza, and lobster bisque left us all feeling well-fed and happy. Then, the owner, Frances showed up with her amazing blueberry pie. It was out of this world!
- Took Take-Out from Charlotte’s Famous Lobster Pound. My girls aren’t too into shellfish, but the creamy clam chowder and the big-fat lobster roll that my brother-in-law and I shared was fantastic. If not for the Quiet Side Cafe (above) and our budget, I could have eaten here every day that we were in Acadia and the staff was friendly and efficient.
- Went for a swim at Echo Lake Beach on the south end of Echo Lake on the west side of the island. Just be sure to time your visit for when the sun is high because the steep cliff on the west side of the lake shadows the beach sooner than most spots on the island.
- Completed the Jr. Ranger Program, of course!
- Really enjoyed the Ranger Tidepool talk at the Bar Island Causeway next to Bar Harbor. We found all kinds of little critters — a little crab, wiggly bugs, a lion’s mane jellyfish, and even a round, orange fish that got stranded in one of the bigger tidepools. Bring your tall rubber boots or Tevas to really explore the bigger pools. I just let Laney get her shoes and socks wet since we were heading back to camp right afterwards.
We managed to hit the weather just right on our visit, and I hope you have great weather on your next visit. Just remember, this is the Maine Coast and it can turn into yellow slicker and fuzzy fleece weather any time, so pack for layering.
See you in the parks,
Rich, Carol, Laney (and Laddie)