Six Things to Experience in Acadia National Park
Maine: The Way Life Should Be
1. Stargazing on Sand Beach
Just picture it: you descend on granite stairs through the woods and then come out onto one of Acadia's only sandy beaches. It's nighttime and, without light pollution, it is pitch-black. You hear the waves crashing from the ocean to your right and, straight ahead, the murmur of voices - strangers are gathered with a park ranger, their silhouettes barely visible against the night sky. No matter what time of year it is in Maine, it's chilly when the sun sets - so you lay down your towel, wrap yourself up in your sweater, and get comfortable on the endless bed of sand. That's when you finally look up - and you gasp. The night sky has never been so brilliant. Thousands and thousands of stars scatter across a sky so alive, hugged by the Milky Way, swarming with satellites and meteors.
It sounds as magical as it is. When planning a trip to Acadia National Park during the summertime, make sure you plan on joining in on their "Night Sky Scoping" programs. The park ranger will point out constellations, teach you about the science of astronomy, and even highlight the time when you can see the International Space Station glide across the sky! You will never look at the night sky the same way again.
2. Watching the Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain
From October through March, Cadillac Mountain is the first place the sun touches in the United States. Dress warmly and allow yourself plenty of time (parking lots fill up), but make sure that 'watch the sunrise from Cadillac' is on your to-do list! At 1,530 feet, Cadillac's granite face is at the highest elevation in the North-Atlantic Seaboard. Though dozens of people will show up to watch the sunrise, it's not hard to find a private spot on its vast summit. Bring a blanket to wrap yourself in, some hot chocolate in thermoses to keep warm, and prepare to be impressed. First, the sky is showered in brilliant colors - blue, orange, pink - then the red sun peaks from behind the horizon to greet you. Nature's finest performance art, paired brilliantly with some fluffy blueberry pancakes in Bar Harbor afterward.
3. Blueberry Picking
On Cadillac Mountain, and all across Acadia, wild blueberries grow in droves. Consider bringing along a pail (we use Tupperware) and going on a treasure hunt! Nothing is more satisfying - and oddly stress-relieving - than hunting across Cadillac Mountain's sparse face in hopes of filling your Tupperware with wild-picked blueberries. Get out of the loop to find even more blueberries; we often have luck when wandering away from the roads that snake by Blue Hill Overpass.
4. The Rocky Coast
Nothing will make you feel like more of an adventurer than climbing, skipping across and jumping off of the giant rocks that line Maine's shore. It isn't called 'The Rocky Coast' for nothing! Consider setting aside a day to hike Schoodic Point, or walk away from Thunder Hole and get lost among the jutting cliffs. The waves thundering against the fissures in the coast is both therepuetic and energetic; be prepared to get sprayed! And keep an eye open for the tide pools that teem with life between the imposing boulders.
5. The Hiking
Acadia National Park has some of the best hiking trails. When you want to get your energy out, enjoy the outdoors, and take in the scerenity of Maine, consider a few of these trails:
Personally, we have enjoyed the hike around Jordan Pond, the hike up Bubble Rock Mountain, and the hike to Bar Island.
The photogenic hike around Jordan Pond, aside from a few stretches on rocky paths, and some narrow bridges built over mud, is ranked as 'moderate.' It's 3.3 miles long, but do be prepared to fight for parking before you set out. The lot where you leave your car before hopping onto the trail is also the parking lot for the ever-popular Jordan Pond gift shop and restaurant. Another moderate hike is found on Bubble Rock trail; though only 1.4 miles, it travels uphill to a stunning overpass with views of mountainous Acadia, and of Bubble Rock itself! Pose like the typical tourist, and pretend to push Bubble Rock off the cliff. My personal favorite is Bar Island - the hike is only open for 1-1/2 hours a day, because it is a sand bar that is exposed during low tide. The reason this is such an experience is not only for the added thrill ("better hurry up and finish exploring the island, so we can get back before the sand bar disappears!") but also for the wildlife that you can find during the trek. Once the waters part, starfish, snails, clams and barnacles remain behind. Walk carefully and enjoy the wildlife, but make sure you keep track of the time - we ended up wading back across knee-high water!
Other wonderful scenic, beginner trails to consider: Ocean Trail and Bar Harbor Shore Trail.
6. The Food
Daniel and I aren't huge fans of seafood. Of course, we gave the Maine lobster a try, and I couldn't refuse a famous lobster roll - but really, the food that we'd go back for were the Jordan Pond House's pop-overs. If you've never had pop-overs, they are head-sized, hollow, egg-y bread. Fill them with butter and jam, and chow down on the delectable treat you can't get anywhere else. Maine's other famous treat is its ice cream - you can't find better ice cream in all of America. We've visited many ice cream shops during our frequent trips to Acadia, and we haven't found a favorite. Every single ice cream shop seems to have discovered the secret of producing America's greatest. Try blueberry, or chocolate moose tracks - Maine favorites!
While in Acadia, take time to soak in the Maine-pride. Lobsters and lobstermen, moose, buoyes, fishermen, wildlife - every place in Acadia embraces all of these unique parts of Maine's culture. No matter what you end up doing, you can't go wrong. On top of these experiences, consider hunting for souvenirs in Bar Harbor, taking a wildlife boat tour, island hopping, a whale watching, driving through 'The Loop', or simply searching for solitude and quiet. Maine will give you what you are looking for.