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.
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.
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.
On 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Further down the trail, there were more scenic views from higher up and tide pools to explore on the rocks.
Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse
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.
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.
Seal Tour to Islesford
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.
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.
From there, we headed back to the boat and were treated to more scenery and some fascinating history of the area.
We 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!
- PA to Maine-Dixmont and Lamoine plus a simple tide experiment for the kids!
- Bar Harbor, Maine