Carriage trails

01/24/2014

Biking in Acadia National Park


You’ll take a step back in time when you walk, hike or bike the carriage roads of Mount Desert Island. Go by horse and carriage, the way John D. Rockefeller, Jr. intended when he built the 45 miles of crushed stone roads between 1913 and 1940. Some would say a visit to Acadia isn’t complete without a visit to the trails.

Though sometimes called carriage trails, the word trail is truly a misnomer. The roads are 15 feet wide with generous crowns that keep them well drained. Considered the best example of broken stone roads in the United States, they are, indeed, an engineering wonder. They swoop up the Mountains of Acadia gradually in one direction, then swing down the hill fast in the other direction.

The well-marked roads wander through Acadia National Park, covering long, shady stretches of woodland, views of peaceful lakes and ponds, circling mountain elevations, and showcasing breathtaking views of the Atlantic and nearby islands.
It was more than 60 years ago that Rockefeller donated 11,000 acres to Acadia National Park, complete with the road system he planned, funded, and constructed. The roads are lined with large granite boulders quarried right from the island. Today both visitors and locals enjoy the quiet beauty of Acadia’s beautiful carriage roads.

You will have a choice of bringing your own bike (recommended) or renting a mountain bike at one of three island bicycle shops. There is a bike shop in Southwest Harbor and two shops in Bar Harbor itself. Bicycle rental range between $22- $30 per day. All types and sizes are available. You can even rent bike racks and other accessories. Here is a link to all the shops.

Acadia Bike 48 Cottage Street, Bar Harbor Maine. One block from the Island Explorer Bus Shuttle at the Village Green. Also rents kayaks.
800-526-8615

Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop. 141 Cottage Street, Bar Harbor, ME 04609
207-288-3886 At the far end of Cottage Street, closest to the bridge entrance to the carriage trails. Open all year, they have a variety of types of bikes to rent.

Southwest Cycle 370 Main Street, Southwest Harbor, ME 04679 Located on the west side of the Island. Open all year.
207-244-5856

Groups with small children are encouraged to consider renting either trail-a-bike or a tag-along.  Both are  attached to the back of a bicycle for those ages 4-7 or  rent an actual bike trailer that attaches behind a bike for kids from 1 year to 4 or 5. Customize your solution for your particular child.

There are a variety of routes for beginners, families, moderately fit and the most fit bikers.     The carriage road have slow and fast climbs.   Study the topography to choose the fast side of hills (best to climb on bicycles)  as  you swing around the “mountains” of Mount Desert Island.    The highest elevation you will climb is about 1,000 foot and the average is about 500 foot.  Walking up hills is always an option.  Be sure to bring water as there is only one spot on all the trails with water (Jordan Pond House).   There are rest rooms in three places, Eagle lake parking lot, Parkman mountain lower  and upper parking lots and Jordon Pond house.     This map is from SouthwestCycle’s website:

Here is a lovely video of a bike ride around the island from hipeaks2.   I really do not recommend going hands free – this fellow was a very experienced rider who has done a lot of biking.

Watch this

For beginners  (and rides with multiple ages)  the Eagle Lake Loop is a great first ride.   There are two hills to climb on this loop and a 500 foot elevation change.   Go counter clockwise around eagle lake for the fast rise uphill, and slower downhill.   Clockwise for slow climb up and fast ride down.     The Island Explorer has a special bike shuttle to take you to the small parking lot at Eagle lake.   It leaves from the village green in the center of Bar Harbor.  Do not bike the paved road from Bar Harbor to Eagle Lake.  It is much too busy and has extra hills.    Ask for an alternative internal route either from your bike shop or ask your hotel/ rental for some better routes.

For intermediate bikers, start with the Parkman Mountain trail. The parking lot for this trail is located on the road to Northeast Harbor. Go clockwise for the best experience.

For experienced bikers, the whole carriage trail system can be done in one day, a lovely and tiring day though. Plan to stop for a food/water and restroom break mid-island at the Jordan Pond House. Situated right in the middle of the park.   There is a warning for bikers to not plan on getting their bicycles on the shuttle from the Jordan Pond Bus stop.   There is limited room for bicycles, and that is often filled up at the Northeast Harbor beginning of the bus route.

The Acadia bus system Island Explorer has a bicycle shuttle on every bus, and special bike shuttles to Eagle Lake Parking lot. Transportation is free on the bus system (Thanks to LL Bean). That way, if you have larger plans than your legs can manage, you can grab one of the buses for a ride back to your car.

For bike riders wanting a unique experience, come to the park in May for this ride: Mount Desert Island Westside Ride.  Competitive bike riders can come in August for the Mount Desert Island time trial sponsored by www.bikemaine.org.

From the Mountain Bike Trails in Maine website: The Acadia National Park Carriage Roads can be accessed at the following entrances:

Eagle Lake: This is one of the most popular starting points. The parking area, located east of Bar Harbor on the north side of Rt. 233 often overflows during peak season in July and August. Start your ride early, if possible. Eagle Lake, at 425 acres, is the largest fresh water lake in Acadia National Park. From the lot, there is easy access to the carriage roads that lead toward half Moon Pond, the Breakneck Ponds and Witch Hole Pond. You can also ride the carriage roads around Eagle Lake for a challenging 6.1 mile loop ride that includes a few steep ascents and descents. Expect some rough patches. There are incredible views overlooking the lake.

Paradise Hill: Enter at the northwest end of the Hills Cove Visitor Center parking lot. The 0.5 mile trail that connects to the Paradise Hill carriage road is narrow, step and surfaced with loose gravel. Slippery. Consider walking your bike up and down.

Upper Haddock Pond: The parking area is located just north of the Brown Mountain Gatehouse on the eastern side of Rt. 198.

Lower Haddock Pond: The parking area is located on the eastern side of Rt. 198 south of Upper Haddock. We like to park here as we usually find it quiet and uncrowded. It provides access to most of the major carriage trails, however the access requires some long climbs.

Parkman Mountain: Parking is 2.3 miles south from the intersection of Rt. 198 and Rt. 233 on the eastern side of 198.

Jordan Pond: Jordan Pond parking area (not the restaurant parking lot). The carriage road crosses the Park Loop Road south of the Jordan Pond Gatehouse. Do not park in front of the gates on the carriage road. Jordan Pond is a hub for several major carriage roads and hiking trails as well as the Jordan Pond House Restaurant. The carriage road follows along Jordan Pond’s western edge. There are several rocky sections.

Make reservations at the restaurant in advance (at least the day before your ride), and plan your bike tour of the carriage trails so you end up there just in time for a traditional cup of tea and crumpets on the lawn.

Bubble Pond: Parking is on the Park Loop Road. The carriage trail that travels along the west side of Bubble Pond is easily accessed from the parking area. Nestled between North and South Bubble mountains, just northeast of Jordan Pond is an easy ride with lots of places to stop and admire the views of the “bubble like” mountains.

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08/05/2012

Finding Remote Acadia

My best guess based on the article. Google maps.

In the Sunday, August 5th Bangor Daily News there was an article about a couple from Florida who make it their pastime to find the remotest spot in every state. They worked out that a spot six miles north northwest from Mt. Katahdin is Maine’s most remote spot.

But what about here in Acadia? Is there any place in Acadia National Park where you can really find solitude? Based on some comments from guests and our distant view of the causeway leading onto the island, people seem to be everywhere. Guests have expressed appreciation for our remoteness at SeaCat’s Rest, but I don’t think they should give up so easily on the park.

Admittedly, you’re always going to have to fight traffic to get to the remote places, but there are quite a few. Most folks, when they come to the island hit the top ten spots: Cadillac Mountain, the Park Loop Road, Thunder Hole, Bar Harbor, The Jordan Pond House and so on.  So here are my suggestions for avoiding the madding crowd, in no particular order:

  1. Northeast Creek cranberry bog. Not actually in the park itself, but public land. You need a kayak or canoe. I wrote about it here and here.
  2. If you want a quiet ocean drive head to the Schoodic Peninsula for a 90% drop in traffic. This is the detached eastern portion of Acadia National Park, off the island and 19 miles east of Ellsworth on Rt. One and then six miles south on Rt. 186. You can also take the ferry from the pier at The Bar Harbor Inn for $29.50 and then rely on the free bus service to get around in Schoodic.
  3. With a little more planning, get to ANP’s Isle au Haut. You take the ferry from Stonington for $37 round trip. Stonington is worth a trip in itself, as it is a no-nonsense honest-to-gosh fishing village where more lobsters are brought in than anyplace else in Maine. It is also not on the island, requiring an almost two hour drive from Bar Harbor. The planning comes in if you wish to camp on Isle au Haut. Ferry schedule here.
  4. There are several trails within the park which are much less traveled. As a general rule, the further you get from Bar Harbor, Cadillac Mountain and the shore, the fewer people. Longer trails are also less popular for obvious reasons. This brings us to the west side of Echo Lake, where you can access the Beech Cliff Trail from Beech Mountain Rd. I wrote about it here.
  5. West of Echo Lake is Long Pond, and west of Long Pond is a network of trails circling Western Mountain. (Note: there are TWO Long Ponds, this is the big one). One of these, the Mansell Mountain Trail is said to be worth the ascent and, “not heavily used. In fact, during our afternoon hike we saw only one other couple on the trail, despite being at the height of the season.” More here.
  6. If you want an easier hike, and would prefer to walk on one of Acadia’s famous carriage trails, first of all, avoid the super popular Eagle Lake Carriage Trail. Save it for winter, or summer at sunrise. Try instead one of the private carriage trails, like the one near the other Long Pond. Bicycles are not allowed, and traffic is light. This trail network can be accessed off Rt. 3 just 1.8 miles east of the intersection where Rt 3 joins Rt 198 in Northeast Harbor. The day we went it was one of the few trails where there was lots of room in the parking lot. We encountered few people.

Finally, realize that by getting out of your car you are already leaving most of the throngs behind. Anyplace on foot is going to be more remote than getting there. The hiking and carriage trails were designed by people who loved this place many decades ago, so you won’t be disappointed, no matter how popular it is. Check out the map of Acadia to reference these places here.

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02/18/2012

Acadia’s Top Ten Things to Do

Bar Harbor from the Cadillac summit

Vacation season is almost here! The sunny weather and warm late winter temperatures remind us that Acadia adventure awaits. This is one of those posts I’ve been meaning to write for a long time since it is an attempt to answer the question I hear most often from our guests here at SeaCat’s Rest.  I will try to list the Top Ten in reverse priority (#10 first) and give alternatives when possible. Some choices are weather-related and so should be shuffled in the priority as necessary.

10.  A visit off island. It’s important to see the “real” Maine, away from the remarkable beauty of Mt. Desert Island. Two of my recommended off-island trips are to Stonington on Deer Isle (1-1/2 hours, 58 miles), a real fishing village and former granite quarry. Stonington is Maine’s most valuable lobster fishing port. The 2010 lobster landings figure released by the DMR for Stonington is 13,785,437 pounds of lobster valued at $44,259,982.  Also, see Kathleen’s post about the Settlement Quarry and the Crockett Cove Woods. The second choice is Castine (1-1/2 hours, 53 miles). Castine is great for history buffs. You can see remains of old Fort George built by the Brits. Castine is interesting because it was claimed at various time by the  French, British, Dutch and finally the Americans. There is also a lighthouse and the Mane Maritime Academy.

9.   Shopping, Brewery, Museums. I would love to claim we have perfect weather in the summer, but if you find the outdoors soggy, you should have some indoor options. Go here to see museums associated with College of the Atlantic. Try the Abbe Museum, 26 Mt. Desert, open 10 AM to 4 PM, Thursday to Saturday from late May through early November for Maine’s Native American story.  Southwest Harbor’s Oceanarium is a hit with kids.  A brewery tour is on tap at Atlantic Brewing at Town Hill while shopping is always an option in downtown Bar Harbor.

8.   Beach Time. Finding a place to stretch out in the sand or swim is not that easy on the rocky shore. There are two great options. The first is Sand Beach, the first  stop on the Park Loop Road after the pay gate  ($20 per week per vehicle). This is on the ocean so taking a dip may involve pain. For a warmer option try Echo Lake Beach on Rt. 102 just north of Southwest Harbor. This is a great place for kids. For a walk on a stony ocean shore, try Seawall, on Rt 102A just south of Southwest Harbor.

7.   Explore Anenome Cave. This is a little known place and you need me to tell  you where it is.  It is also a little dangerous; the rocks are slippery and it is possible to get trapped in the cave if the tide is on the move or the waves are high. Visit at low tide in calm seas. Drive to the Schooner Head parking lot, the last stop before the pay gate on the Park Loop Road.  The trail will lead to the shore and the cave is ten minutes or so away along the shore (follow the shore south, to the right). Inside are tide pools with pink anenomes and other interesting sea creatures and plants, some which seem to be adapted to low light conditions. Please be gentle with this fragile and rare environment. There’s a reason it is not a popular spot.

6. Dinner at a Lobster Pound. Our two favorites are at Beal’s Pier at the end of Clark Point Rd in Southwest Harbor and Abel’s Lobster Pound on Abel’s Lane off Rt. 198 on the way to Northeast Harbor at the top of Somes Sound.   Any place can boil a lobster. What you want is the real Maine experience that goes with it. Don’t expect elegance. An occasional whiff of bait may be in the air, but the views are awesome.

5.  Hike, hike, hike. You need to work off the lobster, right? What better place than Acadia National Park. There are so many to choose from and the right one can be found for all fitness levels. Try to pick one with a mountain top like Bubble Rock so you can be rewarded with a stunning view. South Bubble is pretty easy (400 feet). Read about hiking preparations here.

4.  Get out on the water! This can range a bit in expense. At the low end you can borrow our kayaks when you stay at SeaCat’s Rest. Our water is fairly protected, at the sheltered end of Frenchman Bay. There are also guided kayak trips leaving from Bar Harbor. If I were to recommend a more expensive outing I would include a whale watch trip. You will see a fair amount of open ocean and be rewarded with a close encounter with ocean leviathans! For even more options go here.

3.  Luncheon at Jordan Pond House. This is just mandatory, that’s all there is to it.  Read all about it here.

2. Bike, walk or (horseback) ride the carriage trails. This is the Rockefeller family’s  gift to America representing an ideal of pre-automobile road and stone craft set in the beauty of Acadia. Don’t miss it. More here.

1. Drive the Park Loop Road and to the top of Cadillac Mountain. This is how most people start their trip here and it is a good way. Pick a clear day for the Cadillac summit and take your camera. Don’t forget the free Island Explorer bus which can take you just about anywhere. Try to time your Thunder Hole visit to middle to high tide and good waves are a plus. This is a good time to buy your week-long park pass.

Thunder Hole on the Park Loop Road

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05/11/2011

A Frugal Vacation in Acadia National Park

The economy today makes  folks with a job begin to think of how they might save some money on this year’s vacation.   Those with downsized or part time jobs might want to think of vacations closer to home.   Either situation might make a vacation in Maine just right for you.  People in Maine are very careful with their money.     That means if you know where to look, you too can save much money.

Acadia’s bare granite, rounded and gouged by glaciers

There are lots of things to do here that are free or low cost.

Start with muscle-powered sports.   Hiking and walking have the dual benefit of exercise and enjoyment in and around Bar Harbor and Acadia.   The carriage trails were designed for horses, but that means they are smooth and excellent walking paths.   There are no automobiles, only bicycles, an occasional horse drawn carriage or rider on horseback and other people on the path.     The most popular path is around Eagle lake.   However, one of my favorite walks is closer to Northeast Harbor.   Park at the Upper Hadlock Pond Parking area and cross the road.   Here is a link to the map of the carriage trails.

Take advantage of the free ranger lead talks and walks.   From the visitor center you can get the schedule of talks.   Be sure and arrive a bit early, because there can be quite a crowd that gathers in July and August.   Here are descriptions of one such walk.

Otter Point Walk (2 hours; easy to moderate 2-mile hike) Daily, Tue in French. Discover stories of history and nature along the strikingly scenic Ocean Path. Gorham Mountain parking area – Park Loop Road south of Thunder Hole.or join the night sky program or the Acadia at night program, where you learn to see like the nighttime animals do.   This link to the website has the schedules.    Some programs like the sailing adventures have a cost associated with them, but the majority are free.

This area that we live in has the best of both the sea and the woods for you to enjoy in one package.  You can combine camping out and  staying at a vacation home  here at Sea Cat’s Rest.    Our rental comes with kayaks included!  If your looking for a bargain yet this year, look about 10 miles away from Mount Desert Island.   The rates are lower, and you only spend about 10 minutes more in the car.   The town names to search for are: Lamoine, Trenton, Hancock and Surry.

Bring your own bicycle and you now have doubled the distance you can go with just a twirl of your pedals.   Bicycling is actually the most efficient way to get from point A to point B, plus you can put your bike right on those Island Explorer buses when you don’t want to bike uphill.

Like to read?   Don’t forget our small local libraries.   Read the local paper for free, read Downeast Magazine for free at the library in Ellsworth.   Read a local book, get internet access free at the library in the middle of the day.  Libraries on the island are many, and I will feature them in a future blog.   I especially like the Southwest Harbor Library, right across from the school.    You can cool off on the occasional hot day by spending an hour or two in the comfy reading rooms – and all of our libraries have internet access free – free wifi or on their computers.   Places in Ellsworth that offer free internet include the local coffeeshop The Maine Grind on Main Street, the library and MacDonalds.   In addition our town office here in Lamoine is a free WiFi spot.   Our house of course has free internet for our guests too.

SAVE MORE ON MEALS – cook for yourself.   By staying in a house instead of hotel, you can cook your own great meals, perhaps treating yourself to one or two days of great fresh seafood from cold Maine waters.   We can’t think of anything better than watching the lobster boats out in front of our place, and then enjoying lobsters from your own pot for dinner.   At different times in the year you can  pick the fruit that is in season: blueberries, strawberries and apples.   If you are our guest, we share our garden bounty with our renters.   See our wild food blog for some other tasty treats.

Also for the frugal, coordinate your visit with music and art festivals.  Bar Harbor Brass Week offers free concerts at the park in Bar Harbor, or wander the free art fairs in the summer.     The Belfast Maine Celtic Festival on July 17-18 and the Bangor American Folk Festival August 27,28,29, (free – but donate what you can afford)  and The North Atlantic Blues  Festival July 10th, 11th in Rockland are some of those in our area.

Didn’t bring the right clothes to wear?  It’s cool here, cooler than most places   If you forgot that fact, you can pick up some bargains at the resale shops in the area.   Jalysa’s attic in Ellsworth on Water Street or our new Goodwill Store in Ellsworth both offer fleece jackets at under $10.00 for those colder than they expected.   Need more long pants?  They are there too.  You can also find Maine themed clothing there if you are lucky.   We locals often purchase Maine themed clothing when it is on sale in the fall, and we recycle the clothes when they get too small or we don’t find ourselves needing them any longer.

Go with a larger group.   Find a friend to stay with on the way.   Vacation where you can stay with relatives.    Going with a larger group, you can go in on lodgings and food.   It’s often cheaper to rent a larger house, and vacation with another family or group of friends.   Instead of having to bring along a friend for our daughter, we brought along another family, so that the kids had someone to do stuff with – and we had adults to hang around with.   Have Grandma and Grandpa take the grand kids (along with you) on vacation.   They are bound to help out with treats and special adventures (plus you get to share the childcare and get off by yourself for a while).    Borrow items you need for the trip.   Perhaps you can borrow bicycles, or some camping equipment instead of purchasing new items.

Trade adventures, if you live in a nice place for others to vacation, perhaps you can exchange visits with old friends.   Have friends living in New York while you’re out in the country, perhaps you can each visit each others’ destinations for a bargain vacation for both of you.

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01/28/2011

Why Visit Acadia National Park?

In continuation of my Top Ten series I’d like to list the top ten reasons to visit Acadia National Park this year. You may have many destinations to consider for your vacation; it’s a big world out there.

Bar Harbor from the top of Cadillac Mountain

  1. It’s beautiful. There’s not much more I can add except to suggest watching the Jack Perkins video here. Otherwise, I’d use up all the space for this post just on this one topic. This video is the real deal, it really looks like that here.
  2. Escape the heat. I put this toward the top because so many visitors come here for this reason. Even parts of the country nearby are much hotter in summer. This is because Mount Desert Island sticks out into the North Atlantic and is bathed in a cool ocean breeze throughout the summer. Imagine going to another park and not wanting to get out of your air-conditioned car. If you want to see the raw data, go here.
  3. Affordability. Travel+Leisure Magazine rated our island at #1 for best island to visit in North America, and one of their 5 criteria was value. Accommodations are reasonable (especially here in Lamoine), activities are free or nearly so and restaurants are affordable.
  4. Leave your car behind. The park is committed to reducing vehicular traffic and has a free shuttle bus service making it possible to get anywhere at almost anytime without a car. Also, the park’s 40+ miles of carriage paths are ideal for bicycling. Remember, you won’t need the car for air-conditioning, so why not give it a rest?
  5. Nice people. Ever been to a travel destination where if you lay down your camera and look away it will be gone? Maine has the fourth lowest property crime rate in the country. Our folks are pleasant and helpful and our low-stress lifestyle makes them that way.
  6. Get out on the water. Maine has a lot of shoreline, 3478 miles of it (more than California)  and you are missing out is you don’t enjoy it. Take the mail boat to Cranberry Island, rent a kayak or go out for a sail. See the seals and porpoises, puffins or blue whales. It’s all here on Mount Desert Island.
  7. Exercise. While it’s possible to have a great visit to Acadia National Park without taking a hike, it is especially suited for physical activity. Even Martha Stewart wrote an article about it. Bicycling, horseback riding and kayaking are all available. Our breezy cool climate makes exercise a joy.
  8. Culture and history. Acadia was the original vacation destination on the east coast and interesting people have been visiting and living here for centuries. Local museums cover the natural history and Native Americans, and guided walks feature the neighborhoods of wealthy summer residents. There’s a lot to learn about our history, so it’s best to read up before you come.
  9. Andrew Zimmern from discovery.com

    Seafood. How could we forget? Maine lobster is know the world over and this is the place to eat it. But there’s lots more: crab, clams, scallops, mussels, haddock, mackerel and shrimp. You can buy it fresh, have it at a restaurant or in some cases, harvest it yourself.

  10. Nearness. Most folks considering a trip to Maine know that we are close to Boston (5 hours by car) and NY City (8-1/2 hours).  If you live on the east coast you will be within one or two day’s drive. If you are in Canada you will find us right on the way to Atlantic Canada from Montreal or Toronto. The Bangor International Airport, an hour away, has  non-stop flight to Detroit, Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

So when you decide about where to go this summer, keep this list handy and use it to compare with other places. We think we stack up pretty good. If you want some ideas about what to do when you get here, visit my Top Ten Things To Do In Acadia.

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07/25/2010

Take the Presidential Tour of Acadia

Now that the Obama family has ended their brief visit to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, a good question is, “What did they do and where did they go?”  Flying for the first family is not nearly as exhausting as it is for the rest of us, so they hit the ground running as soon as their plane touched down at noon on Friday, July 16. They started with a bike ride on the Witch Hole Pond carriage trail in the park. Next, the obligatory trip to the top of Cadillac Mountain by motorcade. They got out and circled the top on foot like most visitors. The weather cooperated. Next stop was  to  Mount Desert Island Ice Cream in Bar Harbor, reputed to have the best.

After checking his family into their rooms at the Bar Harbor Regency Hotel, the president used his federal connections to secure a private boat tour of Frenchman Bay aboard a Park Service boat. The tour ended at the private dock of the Stewman’s Lobster Pound, where they had dinner (lobster, no doubt!). The pound is conveniently adjoining the Regency.

Bass Harbor Light in the fog

On Saturday the Obamas began their day at the nearby Bar Harbor Club for a swim or fitness session. Here they also walked the sand bar towards Bar Island. Low tide was at 9:52.  Next, they decided to visit the “quiet side” of the island. Their third  known appearance of the day was at the Claremont Hotel  in Southwest Harbor for lunch. From there they drove through the Seawall area towards Bass Harbor and the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. Here they were given a tour of the lighthouse and later took a walk on the rocky shore on the Ship Harbor Trail.

After arriving back at the hotel around 7 Barak and Michelle went out for a kid-free dinner at the Havana. Michelle had lobster thermidor and the president had saffron paella.

Now the big question is,  did the president follow our advice for the Top Ten Things to do in Acadia? Let’s review the list. We’ll put the presidential seal on the ones he did:

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05/27/2010

Mount Desert Island-Acadia Adventure for Teens

Sometimes it can be challenging to arrange a trip for your teen aged kids where they will have as much fun as adults on vacation.   Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor can do that for you.

A favorite,  biking Acadia’s carriage roads.    Everyone who has visited us has enjoyed this bicycle adventure.   Where else can you bicycle 100 miles on carriage roads without cars, and get scenic vistas, the breeze in your hair.   Bicycling can be tough on the roads around town, but bring your own or rent from one of four shops on the island, and you will have a care free adventure, and sleep well that night.    A physical challenge, the carriage roads climb high up the mountains of Acadia.   Because the trails loop around and inter-connect you can create an easy and a challenging loop that connect together at the end.   I remember that we just sent the young ones in the group out around the witch pond loop, while we slower riders met them at the bridge – they had managed to get 7 more miles than us in the same time, but we were all tired and happy at the end.

Kayak adventures:    Less sporty, that’s okay.   As long as you can get in and out of a kayak, you can manage the physical challenge.    Kayaks are easy for folks of various abilities to join together and get out on the water.    Got a football player in the crowd, they will be as challenged as your light weight book worm, as they have to paddle all that muscle on the water.    Kayaks are simple, and can be mastered in about 30 minutes.    The perspective and quiet-ride are not to be missed.    Want more of a wilderness experience?   Try hiring a guide to take you camping among the many island of Frenchman’s bay.   It can be as wild, or a simple as you wish.    One of the best parts of kayaking is that you choose the level of involvement.   Want a three day adventure or a two hour cruise, it’s up to you.

Arrange your own Free Island Tour.   Taking the Island Explorer bus to a hike, and making it back home all on your own.     Leaving about every 20-30 minutes, the Island Explorer Bus can make a trip from one side of the island to another an adventure in itself.    There are three loops where you can tour the scenic parts of the park, and plan to return and linger longer at a later time.    Rather than just hoping in the car and getting somewhere fast, make the journey part of the pleasure.   Everyone can be looking at the beautiful sky, waves and scenery as you tour MDI.   Did I forget to say it’s free?

Shopping with good food in between.   Wandering around the streets of the business end of Bar Harbor, it’s easy to forget that your mom and dad are about 20 steps behind you.   You’ll find the most young folks at Ben and Bill’s.  It has both chocolate and ice cream, and ca not be missed.    Everyone want to try lobster ice cream don’t they?    There is the Opera House internet cafe that has chess, coffee and good smoothies  at 27 Cottage Street.   Pizza is good at Rosalie’s  or get your pizza with a movie at the Reel Pizza place (see more below).     Epi Sub & Pizza Shop has good sandwiches and is also on Cottage Street.   The Criterion Theatre and Arts Center is now a non-profit organization with events/movies and other entertainment.   Check out their website for whats happening when you are in town.

Movies are a choice for rainy days, or when your older kids need some alone time while on a trip with the family.   I cannot say enough good things about Reel Pizza in Bar Harbor, they just do it right.   They have couches and comfy chairs to watch the movie in.    They provide just the right kind of food you want to eat while watching a movie.   They also have good choices of movies to watch  including main street and independent films.    I always approve a trip to this business establishment.   The criterion theatre mentioned above also often has movies showing.

Hang out at the Rock beach near the town pier.   At the right time you can walk out to the island.

Minature golf….at Pirates Cove.

White Water Rafting …..see our blog about that, it’s a day’s drive away.


Sailing. A Windjammer trip is desirable for any age, but can be somewhere where your teens can be all by themselves.   Especially if  you have mixed age groups or your teen feels like everyone else but them gets to do something special.    They won’t be alone, because the captain makes sure everyone is happy.    You can also charter a smaller boat for a two or three or four person friendship cruise out of Southwest Harbor.   Sailing in and around the bay and a bit on open ocean is a great adventure (and an opportunity for great photos).

Take the Mailboat to the cranberries or to Frenchboro or Swans island.    There is a wonderful thing about being isolated and away from things.    Experience life on a small Island even if only for a few hours.    The teens can walk ahead and explore.     Not much to do, just walk, sit, hang out, toss a few rocks into the water,  walk some more, eat lunch, talk and be.    Isle au Haut is a bit more distant, but also would provide the same sorts of feelings and experience.

Filed under Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Carriage trails, Hikes, Nature, Out on the water, Restaurants, Things To Do by on . Comment.

05/02/2010

Top Ten Things to do in Acadia

Bar Harbor from the Cadillac summit

Vacation season is almost upon us! An Acadia adventure awaits. This is one of those posts I’ve been meaning to write for a long time since it is an attempt to answer the question I hear most often.  I will try to list the Top Ten in reverse priority (#10 first) and give alternatives when possible. Some choices are weather-related and so should be shuffled in the priority as necessary.

10.  A visit off island. It’s important to see the “real” Maine, away from the remarkable beauty of Mt. Desert Island. Two of my recommended off-island trips are to Stonington on Deer Isle (1-1/2 hours, 58 miles), a real fishing village and former granite quarry. See Kathleen’s post about the Settlement Quarry and the Crockett Cove Woods. The second choice is Castine (1-1/2 hours, 53 miles). Castine is great for history buffs. You can see remains of old Fort George built by the Brits. Castine is interesting because it was claimed at various time by the  French, British, Dutch and finally the Americans. There is also a lighthouse and the Mane Maritime Academy.

9.   Shopping, Brewery, Museums. I would love to claim we have perfect weather in the summer, but if you find the outdoors soggy, you should have some indoor options. Go here to see museums associated with College of the Atlantic. Try the Abbe Museum, 26 Mt. Desert, open 10 AM to 4 PM, Thursday to Saturday from late May through early November for Maine’s Native American story.  Southwest Harbor’s Oceanarium is a hit with kids.  A brewery tour is on tap at Atlantic Brewing at Town Hill while shopping is always an option in downtown Bar Harbor.

8.   Beach Time. Finding a place to stretch out in the sand or swim is not that easy on the rocky shore. There are two great options. The first is Sand Beach, the first  stop on the Park Loop Road after the pay gate  ($20 per week per vehicle). This is on the ocean so taking a dip may involve pain. For a warmer option try Echo Lake Beach on Rt. 102 just north of Southwest Harbor. This is a great place for kids. For a walk on a stony ocean shore, try Seawall, on Rt 102A just south of Southwest Harbor.

7.   Explore Anenome Cave. This is a little known place and you need me to tell  you where it is.  It is also a little dangerous; the rocks are slippery and it is possible to get trapped in the cave if the tide is on the move or the waves are high. Visit at low tide in calm seas. Drive to the Schooner Head parking lot, the last stop before the pay gate on the Park Loop Road.  The trail will lead to the shore and the cave is ten minutes or so away along the shore (follow the shore south, to the right). Inside are tide pools with pink anenomes and other interesting sea creatures and plants, some which seem to be adapted to low light conditions. Please see Sarah’s comments at the bottom of this entry.

6. Dinner at a Lobster Pound. Our two favorites are at Beal’s Pier at the end of Clark Point Rd in Southwest Harbor and Abel’s Lobster Pound on Abel’s Lane off Rt. 198 on the way to Northeast Harbor at the top of Somes Sound.   Any place can boil a lobster. What you want is the real Maine experience that goes with it. Don’t expect elegance. An occasional whiff of bait may be in the air, but the views are awesome.

5.  Hike, hike, hike. You need to work off the lobster, right? What better place than Acadia National Park. There are so many to choose from and the right one can be found for all fitness levels. Try to pick one with a mountain top like Bubble Rock so you can be rewarded with a stunning view. South Bubble is pretty easy (400 feet). Read about hiking preparations here.

4.  Get out on the water! This can range a bit in expense. At the low end you can borrow our kayaks when you stay at SeaCat’s Rest. Our water is fairly protected, at the sheltered end of Frenchman Bay. There are also guided kayak trips leaving from Bar Harbor. If I were to recommend a more expensive outing I would include a whale watch trip. You will see a fair amount of open ocean and be rewarded with a close encounter with ocean leviathans! For even more options go here.

3.  Luncheon at Jordan Pond House. This is just mandatory, that’s all there is to it.  Read all about it here.

2. Bike, walk or (horseback) ride the carriage trails. This is the Rockefeller family’s  gift to America representing an ideal of pre-automobile road and stone craft set in the beauty of Acadia. Don’t miss it. More here.

1. Drive the Park Loop Road and to the top of Cadillac Mountain. This is how most people start their trip here and it is a good way. Pick a clear day for the Cadillac summit and take your camera. Don’t forget the free Island Explorer bus which can take you just about anywhere. Try to time your Thunder Hole visit to middle to high tide and good waves are a plus. This is a good time to buy your week-long park pass.

Thunder Hole on the Park Loop Road

Filed under Acadia, Carriage trails, Day trips, Good Food, Hikes, off island, on island, Restaurants, Sand Beach, Thunder Hole by on . 5 Comments.

01/28/2010

Bicycling on Mt. Desert Island & Acadia National Park

Along with hiking and kayaking, biking is one of the main outdoor activities in Acadia National Park. There are opportunities for both easy and challenging workouts, all skill and fitness levels will find a place to ride.  You will soon discover that with so much to see, why go any faster? Renting bikes on the island is easy, there are so many rental companies they are too numerous to mention.

Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor and Northeast Harbor are practically created for biking! To begin with, the 47 miles of carriage roads are car-free and are not to be missed. The surface is well packed crushed stone, so fatter tires do best but I have never had a problem. Private portions of the carriage roads as well as all hiking trails are closed to bikes, so please read the signs.  The private carriage roads start about 1/2 mile below Jordan Pond.  An easy, fairly flat first ride would be the 6 mile loop around Eagle Lake, just a few miles east of Bar Harbor on Rt. 233. Half way around the lake you could choose to take the “around the mountain” loop which has lots of climbing and mountain views.

If you prefer blacktop and don’t mind sharing the road, then consider the famous Park Loop Road. Motorists like to stop and enjoy the view, so watch for sudden stops. The nice thing about the Park Loop Road is that you can catch the free Island Explorer at any time and put your bike on the bus’s rack.  Park Loop Road is mostly one way, so that makes sharing the road easy.  The Island Explorer website has a number of bus/bike trips planned out for you.

Bicycles of any sort have to stay away – far away from Route 3 between the Eden Village and Hulls Cove.   This part of Route 3 has no bike lanes and a horrible horrible side of the road; unfit to ride.   The cars here zoom by at 50 miles per hour, and there are hills – so bikes slow down too much to be part of the traffic pattern.  If you must go towards Bar Harbor on a bike, take the by-pass – going towards Bar Harbor, take Norway Drive and turn left at the first intersection onto Crooked Road, which will take you pass the dreaded horrible part of Route 3.  You end up quite near the National Park Visitor’s entrance, and past that Route 3 is tolerable. However, if I had a choice, I would take the park roads into Bar Harbor any day. You may have a bit more hills to climb, but you have the beautiful vistas to compensate for your efforts.

Another favorite ride of mine is to leave from the Visitor’s Center on the carriage roads and go all the way the length of the island to Seal Harbor.   It’s exciting, and you get to treat yourself and stop at Jordan Pond House for a water, bathroom and perhaps lemonade/ice or hot tea or coffee plus popover break on the lawn.  If you tucker out, you can easily catch the free shuttle from Jordan Pond House too.  This route has two substantial climbs, but two great downhills each way.

Finally, Cadillac Mountain Road deserves mention for the true fanatic. It is a steep uphill climb and the downhill is too fast for me but the view at the top is amazing. At 1532 feet above sea level, it is the tallest coastal mountain in the country.

Bikes are a great way to see other areas too. You can hop on the mail boat to the Cranberry Islands at Southwest Harbor and bring your bike.  Swan’s Island also has quite a few roads; the ferry leaves from Bass Harbor. If you stay with us here in Lamoine we can tell you about our favorite local routes.

Filed under Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Carriage trails, Lamoine, Northeast Harbor, Southwest Harbor by on . Comment.

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