PA to Maine-Acadia National Park

The true destination of our August 2012 trip to Maine was Acadia National Park.  You can read about our first day of driving and where we stayed in previous posts, but I think Acadia held many of the most memorable experiences.  We could see the park across the water from our front porch in Lamoine, but had to drive 45 minutes to an hour each day to get to various parts of the park.  We explored as much as we could given the time we had and the energy/mood of the children.  Here are are some of the spots we enjoyed:

Little Hunters Beach

Little Hunters Beach was one of the the best spots in Acadia.  We could easily have missed it when driving on the Park Loop Road if we weren’t looking for it.  We parked along the right side of the road, crossed the road and walked down the steep stairs to the beach.

Little Hunters Beach stairs

Stairs from the road to Little Hunters Beach

Covered with rocks and surrounded by trees and rocky ledges, this is an ideal spot for a picnic with a view.  We picked one of the few shady spots on the beach and ate lunch.

Hunters Beach Acadia National Park

Eating lunch on Hunters Beach

After lunch, the kids spent a long time stacking rocks near a stream of water that was flowing from up by the stairs down to the ocean.

Building a rock dam at Little Hunters Beach

Building a rock dam at Little Hunters Beach

DSC09207On our way out, we snapped a few pictures.  While this photo of our 7 year old was taken, our 5 year old “cleaned” his brand new glasses on the boulder to the left.  Earlier that day, we told him not to clean them on his sandy shirt.  So he didn’t.

DSC09217Even if you aren’t planning to stay and build a rock dam or clean your glasses, the views from this beach are worth a stop on your drive through Acadia.

Little Hunters BeachLittle Hunters BeachLittle Hunters Beach

DSC09883

As a side note, we visited this beach again later in the week with my Dad.  The rocks by the water are very slippery.  If you happen to slip while rinsing your hands and knock your head against a rock and come walking up the beach covered in blood and scare the hell out of your daughter, she will eventually be able to get a 911 operator on the phone (after many, many panicked attempts from the road above) while you and your son-in-law snap photos to commemorate the special occasion down below on the beach.  Your grandchildren will talk about the incident for months to come, but will also be happy to check out the ambulance and the ranger’s special truck before heading over to meet you  at the hospital in Bar Harbor, where the friendly staff will quickly stitch you up and send you on your way in your paper pants.  So, second trip to Hunters Beach…not as relaxing as the first, but definitely memorable.

Park Loop Drive

Acadia National Park scenic loop

A photo op on the scenic loop drive in Acadia

There is a drive around the park that offers stunning views like the one pictured above.  There is a huge drop off a few feet from where the kids are sitting and for me this was a “snap the picture and strap them back in as quickly as possible” moment of panicked photography.  I was glad they got to experience the view.  The drive was a nice way  to explore more of the park than we could have walking with the kids.  Since we had my Dad along for much of the trip, we even took turns jumping out at a  few scenic spots, leaving one adult back in the car with sleeping kids.

Acadia National Park

One of the views on the scenic drive

Acadia National Park scenic loop drive

scenic loop drive Acadia National Park

On Park Loop Road

Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain Acadia National Park

Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain is the highest point on the east coast and is sometimes the place the sun can first be seen in the US.  We had to rise early to drive out and up there, but it was worth it.  We arrived to a very crowded mountain top and had some trouble finding parking.  The sunrise was a bit of a dud behind clouds, the scenery was lost on the kids and the cold was making them whiny, but I loved the experience all the same.  It was beautiful and an invigorating way to start the day.

Cadillac Mountain Acadia

Echo Lake

Echo Lake Acadia National Park

Walking toward Echo Lake

Echo Lake is a popular destination in the park.  It was perfect for kids.  There were a lot of people there, but we were able to find a spot on the beach.  The water was warm enough to swim in and the view was amazing.  It was cliff meets lake meets swamp and the kids had a blast exploring it all.  There were bathrooms and a place to rinse your feet, making it very family friendly.

Echo Lake Acadia National Park

Exploring the lily pad portion of the lake.

Echo Lake Acadia National Park

Echo Lake Acadia National Park

Swimming in Echo Lake

Ship Harbor Trail

Ship Harbor Trail Acadia National Park

Exploring a beautiful spot just off the Ship Harbor Trail

This was the most adventurous hike we took in Acadia.  We have three young children, ages 7, 5 and 2 at the time of the trip.  Our oldest has some coordination and endurance issues due to his Down syndrome diagnosis (and our 2 year old was, well, 2) so we usually stayed on easier trails.  This one was a bit rocky and had a lot of (gradual) up and down to it, so I was glad we had an adult set of hands per child when necessary.  The views and the peaceful places on this trail were spectacular.  We only came across a few other hikers on this one.  We stopped at a serene spot and explored for a long time.

Ship Harbor Trail Acadia Nationa Park

Checking out the view

DSC09312This spot was so beautiful and we were the only people there so it was equally relaxing.  We found lots of cool things to investigate.

Ship Harbor Trail Acadia National Park

kelp

DSC09337

barnacles

Further down the trail, there were more scenic views from higher up and tide pools to explore on the rocks.

DSC09359I would highly recommend this trail to families who are looking for just enough adventure on their hike with young children.

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse Acadia National Park

Bass Harbor Head Light House

A short drive from the Ship Harbor Trail is the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.  It is an active lighthouse and can be seen up close from where you park.

Close by, there are water front restaurants with relaxing views.  We tried this place which didn’t have french fries (much to the disappointment of my children), but had a really cool anchor outside.

DSC09392And this place by the water which offered traditional diner type selections.

MaineCarriage Roads

Carriage Roads Acadia National Park

Carriage Roads

The carriage roads in Acadia were built by the Rockefeller Family.  They offered us another opportunity to see parts of the park we may not have made it to on foot with the kids.  The tour guide was knowledgeable about park history and horse well being.  The horses pull tours during the summer and are off for the rest of the year.

Carriage Roads ride Acadia National Park

View from the carriage ride

Seal Tour to Islesford

The boat we took on our trip to see the seals and visit Islesford Maine

The boat we took on our trip to see the seals and visit Islesford Maine

We took a boat trip to see harbor seals and stop off at Islesford.  We saw a group of seals hanging out on and near some rocks.  I wish I had a better camera along, but if you look closely, you can see them on the rocks.

Harbor Seals Maine

Seals on the rocks

We had time to take a short walk in Islesford, a small town with few people and a charming lack of cars and commercialism.  We walked to the town market where the proprietor offered us fresh baked goods and we purchased a few snacks for the return trip.

The Market/Post Office in Islesford

The Market/Post Office in Islesford

From there, we headed back to the boat and were treated to more scenery and some fascinating history of the area.

Acadia Seal Tour

View from the boat tour

DSC09508We found so many great places to explore in Acadia and could easily have spent at least another week doing the same.  Its offer of adventure, educational opportunities and places to relax and enjoy nature and each other, make it an ideal destination for families with children.

Next up: Bar Harbor, a really cool little town with more natural education to offer than I expected!

2 thoughts on “PA to Maine-Acadia National Park

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