Acadia National Park - the Other Coast
Ascending out of Seattle over the shimmering waters of Puget Sound on a spectacular sunny day, in an exit row window seat with a middle seat vacant, is a great way to begin our adventure to Acadia National Park, on the other coast, the northeast.
So far, we know that we’ll be eating lobster instead of crab, sea kayaking with much less current and, surprisingly, the weather will be worse. Having been to all the easy access Parks, we are finally making the 3,400-mile trek to a Park, #39 for us, that stands alone on the rocky coastline of Maine.
We are thrilled to have Vada and David, Tom’s sister and her husband, join us on this adventure! The timing is perfect as we all meet, greet and get going in our SUV at Logan International Airport in Boston.
Day One – Introduction Day
As we open the curtains in our ocean view room, we are disappointed to see that it’s so cloudy we can’t even see the Atlantic Ocean!
So, the first stop is the Visitor Center. We now fully appreciate that this Park, while beautiful, is not a geological, cultural or environmental wonder like many others. It’s a recreational mecca, settled in the early 1900’s, by the rich of Boston and New York. It’s the only Park patched together with private donations from these same folks, including the Rockefellers.
As we begin the requisite drive on the Loop Road (60 miles) we get our first glimpse of this wondrous rocky coastline where actual beaches are few and far between. We stop at the Jordan Pond Teahouse for the traditional tea and the best pop-overs ever! Afterwards, we end up walking the 3.5-mile loop around Jordan Pond. The Pond and its tranquility are majestic today but I sure wish I had worn something other than flip flops.
My first lobster comes in the form of a wonderful dinner salad at Gayln’s in Bar Harbor, an upscale tourist town just outside the Park and right on the coast.
Sadly, the day ends by canceling our kayak trip on Thursday due to lightening – bummer!
Day Two – Schoodic Penninsula
We open the curtains today and see the sun and the Atlantic!
A good breakfast at 2 Cats precedes our 11 am sailing (45 minutes) to the Schoodic Peninsula, another piece of the Park.
As we cross the Bay, we pass rocky land masses topped with greenery, navigate numerous lobster pots and are accompanied by many small fishing boats. It’s picture perfect.
Tom and I are headed out to Schoodic Head via the Anvil hike. Vada and David opt out - an excellent decision. 4.5 miles with the highest point being 440 feet just doesn’t describe this hike well. We immediately start hiking up, up over many large boulders. They don’t call Maine the Granite State for nothing. We end up lost in some other boulders but finally scramble our way back to the trail. Once we get to Anvil Peak and the Schoodic Head the views of land masses intertwined with the ocean are well worth it.
Back in Bar Harbor, I enjoy my first Lobster roll, lobster in a hot dog bun, for dinner. Good, but $24?
Day Three – Rain
Once again, we wake to clouds and now rain, with thunderstorms forecasted.
So, another car trip. First stop is the expansive Wild Gardens of Acadia showcasing all the plants of the region. Included in this stop is the historical Abbe Museum which shares the sad story of the Wabanaki native people following the arrival of the white Europeans.
We follow route #3 to Northeast Harbor and are greeted by the lovely Asticou Azalea Garden . A very pleasant walk through the garden is appreciated by this group of gardening aficionados. As we continue, views of Somes Sound are beautiful and accompanied by lots of discussion about what a fjord really is since this is the only one on the east coast.
The often photographed and only lighthouse in the Park sits above Bass Harbor. However, no visitors are allowed inside, 6 signs say not to sit on the fence, two signs talk about protecting the non-existent grass and there is even a sign that says NOT to hit the bell, on full display. Having visited many welcoming lighthouses, I lose it – my giggles won’t stop over the inhospitality of it all.
Route 102 takes us around the western side of Mt Desert (pronounced Dessert due to the early Frenchies), completing our tour of the entire Island.
Back at the Regency for dinner, it isn’t bad. We are all surprised.
Day Four – The Carriage Roads
We wake to clear blue skies and a fantastic view of the Atlantic. Today is the day!
We grab breakfast at 2 Cats again and walk across the street to rent bikes so we can ride on the famous carriage roads. John D Rockefeller built 57 miles of carriage roads, and 17 unique stone bridges, beginning in 1917. He donated the system to the National Park, founded in 1919, along with many acres of land. His vision was to ensure that people could enjoy this wonderful landscape without the disruption of the new automobile, a vision that continues to this day.
Vada and David aren’t cyclists so they rent electric bikes. Once we maneuver a few car filled streets, we see the wooden carriage road sign and head into the woods. We are immediately struck by the beauty of the area and are pleased with the well-maintained gravel roads. Spruce, pine, birch, fir, maple, oak, hemlock and aspen trees line the roads creating a lovely partial canopy. We try to follow the signs and map (with easy, moderate and difficult routes) but inevitably make a wrong turn – there are so many fantastic roads. Waterfalls, lakes, ponds and scenery galore entertains us along the way. I am sad when we need to turn back later in the day, I could cycle here forever it seems.
The Reading Room, a view infested restaurant, at the iconic Bar Harbor Inn is where we savor our 10th Anniversary dinner. What a wonderful place to celebrate a great life!
Day Five – Bar Harbor, ME to Rockport, MA
We have been waiting for a break in the weather to “summit” Cadillac Mountain, the tallest point on the North Atlantic seaboard, and we get it today, the day of our departure. Mountain feels like an exaggeration of terms given that it’s a 1,530-foot hill. However, once we drive for 15 minutes we arrive at a spectacular view of the coastline of Mt Desert Island, Schoodic Peninsula and the surrounding islands.
As we descend, we say our goodbyes to Acadia National Park, another special place, and head south along the Maine coast. Little industrial towns dot the drive. No tourist type businesses or even chain stores or restaurants seem to inhabit this area. After miles of searching for coffee we finally resort to a lone MacDonald’s. My family gets a good laugh as I meekly ask if they have almond milk. Answer is, “no”!
Two hours into a five hour drive we visit the 295 acre Coastal Maine Botanical Garden – worth the stop.
At 5:30pm we finally arrive in Rockport, MA at our friends’ long time (like everything in New England it seems) vacation home. We are treated to whole freshly cooked lobster – finally!
Day Six - Home
After a lovely walk along the coastline of historic Rockport and a fine lunch in neighboring Glouster, we head back to Boston. Following a long delay at Logan, an airport in dire need of updating, we chase the sunset across most of the continent.
We leave the northeast, the other coast, enamored with its charm, rocky coastline, lobster, deep history and with a genuine appreciation for those many who gave so generously to create lovely Acadia National Park. We are also anxious to get home knowing that we are so lucky to enjoy Puget Sound and the Washington and Oregon Coasts on a regular basis!
Check out other National Park visits on our way to reach our goal (now 61) below:
We like to give back to the National Parks through the National Park Foundation.