Sand Beach

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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09/17/2010

Big Tourism Increase for Acadia National Park Area

from http://www.nature.nps.gov/stats/viewReport.cfm

Mount Desert Island, home of Acadia National Park and the storied towns of Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor and Southwest Harbor, enjoyed a 19% increase in park visits over July of 2009. The Bar Harbor Chamber’s downtown welcome center saw a 108% increase in visits over last summer so far this year. The reasons are assumed to be weather related, the Presidential visit and the improving economy.

While the rest of the country was baking in triple digit heat and humidity, our Maine coast was mostly in the 80s during the day and 60s at night. But we weren’t socked in fog, our skies were sunny. Rain–just enough–came at night or in a quick daytime shower. No one delayed or canceled their Maine visit due to the weather this summer. In fact, they were in a hurry to get here and reluctant to return home. We did have 5 days of ninety degree weather at the end of August, but the nights cooled down into the 60s. Some store owners complained about how rainy days make for more shoppers and how this factor was in short supply, but I can’t believe those rainy day shoppers wouldn’t go somewhere else next time.

The quick visit of President Obama and his family in mid July put Mount Desert Island into everyone’s consciousness. Reports of the family eating ice cream, hiking, biking and boating made everyone want to get in on the action. Some folks grumbled about the short notice, inconvenience of rerouted traffic and restricted access, but it was over quickly and the buzz has lasted. If this visit had the effect it seems to have had, we should be paying for presidential visits!

The economy is also said to be a factor contributing to our banner year. A combination of value and nearness makes Acadia a sensible choice for those moving just a little beyond a “staycation”. While the early summer optimism about the economy seems to have hit a snag, it may be resolved just in time for next summer. I think it will be a long time before Americans feel flush enough to be flying to Paris and London for their summer vacations. Our local list of things to do does not require a big bank roll and lodgings a little off the beaten track can stretch your dollar more. We are after all, Affordable Acadia!

High tide view from Seacat's Rest shore

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07/15/2010

Acadia Park for Kids Seven and Younger

Maine is a special place for all visitors, but it can become wonderland for kids seven and younger.   A forest just is so much more wonderful when seen from small eyes.   Every tree, plant and creature becomes magical and special.  Bringing kids seven and younger on vacation can require some advance planning, but with an effort, it can become an unforgettable vacation for your family.

The woods.   Start with what’s around you: a forest of pine and oaks, maple and beech trees.   Maine’s woods present an exciting environment to explore.   We have a very good naturalist book for you to use when you explore the woods around us.   You don’t have to come with prior knowledge, just a willingness to learn and observe.

The shore: Watch the tides come and go, the waves that crash, the animals in the tidal zone.   Explored with a good book.   Searockets ,  sea pickle, sea heather and seaweed, are all interesting to identify and collect.    Eat a few seaweed products for the complete experience.     We have 11 foot tides here, so it is a wonderful thing to watch.   A lot of folks cannot believe it.

The water and the animals that live here:  Andre the Seal, the  movie, is a wonderful introduction to aquatic mammals of the area.   Just the other day when hiking on Great Head we saw two dolphins swimming about in the bay off Sand Beach.    If you know where to look, you will also see seals in our bay.   Of course, the more time you spend on the water, the more chance of seeing something.

The sky:  Study the stars at night.   A Park Ranger program is available.   Study the moon and planets, invest in a telescope, or use ours here at Seacat’s Rest.   It’s really dark around here with a big ocean without artificial lights.   In addition there is a “see like the animals” program at the park where you get to use night vision to walk through the woods.   It’s a very different place in the dark (your eyes see differently).

The birds. All around Acadia birds make a show.   Eagles, crows, gulls and cormorants, ducks and crows, thrushes and song birds.    All of these creatures are easy to find and listen to.   Loons, ducks, sea gulls and other water birds live all around the island.   They dive under the water to find food.    Others fly up overhead like  osprey, hawks and eagles.   Wading and water  birds like egrets, herons and  kingfishers prefer calm fresh or brackish waters.

The flowers and small plants.   Plants native to Maine are easy to find and can reinforce observing skills in your young ones.   Show them what a blueberry plant looks like, then try and find a whole field of blueberry plants.   In different seasons the blueberry fields in Maine have different colors.    In Spring there are the white flowers, later in July and August, the blueberries, and in the fall, the plants turn rosy red as the leaves shimmer in the sunshine.    Other places and plants to find include wintergreen– you can identify it by the smell, and don’t forget aromatic ferns, like the cinnimon fern with it’s stalk or the ostrich fern, where fiddleheads that you find in the supermarket here in Maine come from.    Seasonal flowers like lupine in late june, or wild raspberries or strawberry flowers.    Lilacs and poppies.    For very young folks, focus on just the colors in the plants.   How many red or pink flowers can we find today….how about blue ones,   white ones.

FDR's birch bark canoe

A History Tour, The Mystery Tour.   The carriage trails, history of the Native Americans and others who lived here in past times.      If we didn’t have a car, how would we get around.   Water is easy to move on, but we could also walk, or ride a horse around.   It took a long time to get from one place to another, explore just like you were here 100 or 200 years ago.   How far would you get in one day.    Would it take you two days to get from one side of the island to another?

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07/12/2010

Maine’s Big Tide; Tide Cycles and Temperature

Tides around here are big.   I mean really big at ten to eleven feet.      We have cold cold water, and it turns out that combination of clarity of water, temperature and movement of tides make a productive sea life zone.    This piece will explore the big reasons to look at tides and a future piece will discuss the plants & animals that live between the tides.

The tides pull large amounts of water in and off the shore.   This cycle helps create great places for small creatures to grow.    It also stirs up the sediments, and oxygen, making a pretty productive food supply for small  animals to feed upon.   We also have lots of marshy, muddy areas along the coast, which is also good for production of plants, animals and babies.   Here at SeaCats’ Rest our shore gets about 250 feet larger at low tide.   Because we have a gradual shoreline, the sea moves quite a bit.   Our clam flats (found in muddy zones) are exposed at low tide.   We have part rocks, part mud on our shore, so it’s not easy to dig clams, but they are there.

In addition to the tide cycle, some tides get lower and higher than normal.    They are called spring tides, and have nothing to do with the season.   They cause the flooding of coastal marshes beyond the normal boundaries: extreme high tide as well as extreme low tide.   Extreme low tide is a great time for observing sea animals you normally don’t see.

Tides are created by the moon, sun and gravity.  The semidiurnal range (twice daily cycle) varies in a two-week cycle.   Around the new and full moon when the Sun, Moon and Earth form a line, the tidal force from the Sun reinforces that of the moon and you get a maximum tide pull.   This is what causes the spring tide (not after the season, but just the word “springs” as in jump, burst forth, rise forward).     About every year and one-half there is a special tide called a Proxigean Spring tide.   It occurs when the moon is both unusually close to the earth and in the New Moon Phase.
Proxigean tide
The eccentricity of the orbit of the moon in this illustration is greatly exaggerated.

Neap tides are extremely weak tides, where the gravitational forces are at their weakest point.

Geography also plays a role in how large the tides are.     Just 2 hours up the coast they are the largest in the world in the bay of Fundy – 55 feet.   This is caused by the shape of the bay.   Here is an interesting map of larger tidal areas around the world that I found at wikipedia.

I was very surprised to find that the large tides were not unique to Maine or to northern areas.   I had assumed in my experience of going to the tropics where I saw little tides, that the tides just got bigger the further north you went.   While that is true in North America, if you look at Central America you will see an entirely different story.   Tides range and the extremes are sure mysterious and depend a lot on the particular shape of the shore/water interface.

The weather of places is tied with their geography as well as ocean currents and ocean temperature.   Places like England and Ireland, which are more northern than Maine have a different winter climate because of the warmer water that surrounds them.    We here in Maine have a unique climate too because our ocean water is cooler than most areas of the east coast.    That’s why we don’t get hurricanes up here – it’s too cold.   The cold water slows them down and they cannot spin as fast, and they die out.  On the map above purple is coldest, yellow the hottest zones.

In future articles I’ll discuss the animals and plants that live in this intertidal zone.   Stay tuned for more.

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06/30/2010

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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06/15/2010

Acadia for kids 8-13. Find a focus for fun.

Just what does your middle age child like to do?  There are so many choices, that i recommend finding a focus and sticking with the theme for your vacation adventure.

Here are 4 focus adventures that can create that favorite vacation time.

Focus 1 – photography.   Camera’s ready..  Find a theme.   Nature, from a kids perspective (everything looks big), rocks around you,  trees and people.   Who lives here.   Have fun, develop ideas and let your kid choose the shots, or take them – depending on interest.    Maybe it’s funny faces – people, animals, dogs.  Perhaps just creating a story about your trip.   Have them start out at home, getting ready, then the actual getting there – has to be documented.   Where are you staying?   What are the big things you will be doing.   Think about scrap-booking the trip for a permanent record of your treasured trip.

Focus 2 – art and nature.    It”s interesting what kind of things art is to different people.   For some, its pen and pencil, others colors with crayons or colored pencils.    Paint is easy to bring along and can be used to make all kinds of creations.    Often rocks make good canvas, but sketch books work well too.    Art can also be modeling clay, the kind you shape and bake.   Model what you see around you, whether it’s natural or man made.   Model different modern things, like cars and photograph them in natural surroundings.    Make a stop action movie, with tiny characters hanging around giant trees, or in perilous situations.   Oh no, watch again as clay annie and andy get caught in a rock slide.

Focus 3 – the animals around us.   The park has many places to view and visit and learn about the creatures that we live with on MDI,    Here’s an incredible video of two baby raccoons at Seawall campground at Acadia National Park.  You can find them in books, movies, and out in the wild.   Sometimes you have to be willing to be out in very early morning, or late evening to get a chance to see some wildlife around Acadia.   Other times you have to be willing to get out where it is a bit unusual, like a cave mouth at dawn, or a beach or on the ocean in the middle of the night for the best sights.     Places to go to – Ed’s dive in starfish enterprize, the Oceanarium, Anenome Cave, The Northeast Marsh, the Oven caves, Somes Sound, the top of the mountain.   Who lives around the ponds, how about the forests, how about the ocean.

Focus 4 – the active life outdoors.    Get out and about.   Challenge yourself to hike farther than you ever have before.   Start with a half mile hike.   Increase your distance and time out on the hike by half mile every day.    When you have mastered a 3 miles hike, start adding vertical challenges.   Have your hike climb up higher and higher.   Celebrate when you reach the top of Cadillac mountain, the highest peak on the eastern seaboard.    If you’d rather, this challenge can be on bicycle or it can be out on the water in a kayak.    Just pick some adventure, and start slow and small.   Build up to your goal and get there.   Don’t forget to write about your adventure, so that you can remember each step.

Don’t forget about the junior ranger program at the visitors center.   It’s free this year, there is a great activity book that the park provides to guide you in your adventure vacation.

Business Image
Tel: (800) 597-9500 or (207) 801-5634
Located at College of the Atlantic, , 105 Eden Street Bar Harbor, Maine 04609
Ranked among the top-five family camps in the U.S. by Good Morning America and Family Fun Magazine, College of the Atlantic’s week-long Family Nature Camp is the vacation you and your family will talk about for years to come.
Under the guidance of experienced naturalists, you will delight in the wonder and adventure of the outdoors as you sight humpbacks and seals on your whale watch and nature cruises, hold sea creatures on the Starfish Enterprise, dip your hand in warm tide pools, hike the trails of Acadia National Park, visit beaver lodges, put together the bones of a Minke Whale, and delight in the tales of the “Bug Man.” You will share all this and more with other families, who will become your life-long friends, in one of the most beautiful vacations spots in America. Suitable for adults and children 5 years and older.
Rates:  405 900

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05/18/2010

Acadia Just for Kids of All Ages

If you are coming to MAINE with children of any age  there are a few activities that you should consider including in your plans.     I will start with activities for children under 7 years old, then the 8-13 age range and finally 14 and above.   In future articles I will explore activities for each age group in more depth.

Age Seven And Under:

The Junior Ranger program only takes two simple trips to the visitor center, but can be a significant adventure for your child. The program involves a child friendly exploration of the park including animals, the forest, and geological secrets. The program also includes storytelling and meeting a real park ranger to receive a badge for a reward.

Small kids enjoy walking/biking around and exploring the carriage trails.   You can rent a trailer bike that attaches to a normal sized bike and allows your child to share the fun of biking with increased safety and decreased fatigue.  There are no cars allowed on the carriage roads.   The child needs to be able to balance, so the appropriate age for this activity is usually around 5 years old.

Beach visits.   Bring the sand pails, shovels and beach towels (we have them to borrow here at SeaCat’s Rest).   There are three sandy beaches in the area.   Adventures await at Sand Beach; the only sand beach on the ocean.   Cold water usually limits swim times, but just hanging around in the sand is relaxing for all ages.   For warmer water, Acadia park has a swimming beach at Echo Lake. Wildlife is plentiful at the lake, ducks waddle on the shore while minnows dart in the shallows.  Both beaches at Acadia have lifeguards.  Here in Lamoine we have a small town beach for residents located on Blunts’ Pond.   If you stay with us, you are welcome there.

Visit the Nature Center for a close up look at the wildlife in the park.   Children can record animals they have seen in the center’s logbook.  Consider a visit to the nature museum at the College of the Atlantic.   There they have small scenes where animals are depicted within their habitats.

The Bangor Children’s Museum (Maine Discovery Museum) is worth the hour’s drive.   You can also arrange a visit on your way in or out of town.

For activities off island, visit the Ellsworths’ Treasure Island Toystore. The store has a good selection books and educational toys  and is located on Main street.

Any age kid would love a ride on the Diver Ed’s boat.   While it’s not the cheapest way to get on the water, you get a lot of laughs,  fun, and scenery for your investment (and the kid won’t notice how much they are learning about the sea and it’s creatures).   Diver Ed goes overboard with a camera, and brings up creatures for hands on visits, then they go back into the sea.

Middle age 8-13 year old.

Childrens Programs at Acadia.   The National Park also has a set of programs geared  for the 8-13 year old age group.   Find out about these at the visitors center.   I highly recommend the night tour, where you visit Carrol homestead and walk the trails without any lights.    The night sky around here is wonderful and you’ll be amazed at how much you can really see.

Junior ranger program geared for readers. The booklet has puzzle and activities geared for this age group.

Visit the Oceanarium in Southwest Harbor and The Maine Lobster Museum and Marsh Tour with the Lobster Hatchery.    Ever wonder what baby lobsters look like or how they spend their time as youngsters?    Tumbling tubes of fun await you as you learn about the life of lobsters.   The touch tank at Southwest Harbor Oceanarium is a place my daughter wanted to spend all afternoon at this age.

Develop a kid’s eye view of Acadia.  Get your kids some cameras and let them choose and take the photos.    This gets them involved and helps them develop a sense of how this place is different from home.   I highly recommend letting this happen any way it will.    Disposable cameras were made for this option.

Go on a hike. By using the Island Explorer bus service to get to a hiking spot,  you can hike through without making a return trip.    The Island Explorer is free; you can get on and off as you choose.   I recommend ending your trip at Jordon Pond house for some ice cream or tea and popovers if your crowd is more reserved.    Gorham Mountain is only 525 feet high and offers ocean views.

Keep an animal log or a log of the trip .   Make drawings/sketches or get a coloring book, and color in the animals as you see them.    Animals are easy to find in Acadia.   Seagulls, eagles, squirrels, chipmunks, seals in the water, beavers at the ponds, white-tailed deer (which are not hunted on the island), some fish, tidepool creatures and mussels in the water.   Every day crows announce their arrival each morning around our house.   We also have gold finches, woodpeckers, chickadees, phoebes and thrushes around in the woods.    Two bald eagles nest nearby – and we see them almost every day here.    I can’t keep the deer away from my garden, and there are two fox dens nearby our house.

A Whale Tour works for this middle age group of kids and older.   You get some great photo opportunities on the way out and in too.      These tours are are best booked in the morning in my estimation, but it is a bit colder then.   Pack warm clothes with you for your visit, plan on at least three layers of clothing for the best comfort.

Take a guided tour on OLLIE’S Trollie.   If you just need to sit and relax, a guided tour is the way to go.    Learn about the history while the best scenery is right outside your window.   It will help you decide where you want to spend the rest of your time in Acadia.

Ages 14 and above. For this older group try to find activities where they are on their own for a while.   Try hiking yourself on the carriage trails while they bike up and around the challenging hill. Try kayaking, or send them on a guided kayak tour while you rest up and get some vacation reading done.

If  sailing or riding on a lobster boat is not on your own wish list, you can find tours to send them on where they will be well guided.  Letting them bike around on one of the offshore islands is also a good idea – you’ll know where they are without hovering all day.   Suntans can be had in Maine, especially if you have a lovely spot to sit out.

Letting them explore the shops in Bar Harbor is also possible – it’s only about seven blocks, and you can easily arrange to meet for dinner or lunch after giving them their hang time.    Teens like to visit the town parks, and meeting people is one of the best parts of vacation.   The Island Explorer bus system can get your teen anywhere on the island with enough planning.    There are basketball courts and day camp opportunities if you’d rather have some structure in their day.   There are also sailing clubs for young folks through the Harbor House in Southwest Harbor.

Tennis is available at all three towns on the island.   Horseback riding can be arranged on the carriage trails, but plan ahead, as these get booked up well in advance.

Have your child take pictures and create a family trip log with pictures and stories of the vacation.    For teenagers at Seacat’s Rest, we can arrange a glowing night tour of the bay for those with kayak experience.

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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

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09/11/2009

Sand Beach Acadia National Park

Ya gotta stop at Sand Beach!

Sand Beach is a must when you visit Acadia National Park.  If you don’t go for a swim you at least must stick you toes in the water.   Big waves, beautiful vistas and huge boulders make this spot a popular attraction.   There is a wonderful hiking path along the ridge next to the beach.   Stay on the path though as there is some mighty poison ivy along the north shore.    Plan to bring your pails and shovels.   This is the only sandy ocean beach for 50 miles.    Of course there are plenty of other beaches in and around the park.   Fresh water swimming is available at Echo Lake  in Acadia and right here in Lamoine we go to Blunts pond, just up the road.  Look for the gravel road just before you can see the pond through the trees.  Park and access at Bloomfield Park.

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