Posts tagged ‘hiking’

June 5, 2011

The Best Hiking Trails in Maine’s Acadia National Park Are the Gifts of Historic Pathmakers

This is my ninth summer of hiking on Mount Desert Island, and every year increases my indebtedness to the trailmakers who made it possible to access so many places where the mountains greet the sea. 

The first pathmakers on Mount Desert Island were the Wabenaki Indians who, prior to the European explorers and the settlers from Massachusetts in the 1760s, forged carry trails to transport their canoes between bodies of water. 

One such trail today is the Jordan Pond Carry Trail between Jordan Pond and Eagle Lake.  As with all carry trails, it is the shortest, flattest route between ponds.  We’ve found it to be a great way to end a circuit that begins at Bubble Rock parking area, ascends up to North Bubble past Bubble Rock, heads north to Conners Nubble, and runs along Eagle Lake.  Here’s what the view is like of Eagle Lake from Conners Nubble.

 By the 1890s extensive trail building was sponsored by village improvement societies, and people who financed a trail could name it after whomever they chose. 

We were thinking of that the time we hiked Kurt Diederich’s Climb.  Hundreds of stone steps enable a 1,223-foot gross vertical gain to the top of Dorr Mountain.  Contemporary guide maker Tom St. Germain calls this path, constructed in 1913, “historically important.”  The view from the top of Dorr, shown here, presents the Porcupine Islands in Frenchman Bay.  

 From stone steps to iron rungs and ladders, innovative trail construction continued with Waldron Bates, who chaired the Roads and Paths Committee of the Bar Harbor Village Improvement Association from 1900 to 1909. 

One of my favorite places for using iron rung ladders is the Beehive Trail.  In fact, if the Precipice is closed because of peregrine nesting, it’s a great alternative hike.  At only 2 miles, it is a short, but difficult climb that utilizes rungs and ladders to help you maneuver the steep face of Champlain Mountain.  As you do, you have beautiful views of Sand Beach, as shown at the right above.

And at the top, one of the rewards is to see The Bowl, below, which is a glacial cirque formed in the depression of the sides of mountains. 

My final acknowledgement goes to the individuals who participated in trail building as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  In 1933 they had a camp on the west side of the island, today known as “the quietside.” 

The CCC expansion of the trail system included such great trails as The Perpendicular, which also features hundreds of granite stairs.  At the height of the summer season these trails offer a solitude not possible on the most popular trails around Jordan Pond or Ocean Drive.  In addition, the deep boreal forests and rich moss floor of the western mountains are in marked contrast to the woods of the eastern part of Mount Desert Island, which have re-grown since the Great Fire of 1947.

If you use Tom St. Germain’s highly acclaimed  hiking guide A Walk in the Park, you’ll also be treated to some historical perspective of Acadia’s trails.  The Olmsted Center has also published a detailed report on the historic hiking trail system of Mount Desert Island called Pathmakers, the photos and maps in which I particularly enjoy.

For more ideas on the best trails in Acadia National Park, just click here. 

Happy hiking.


Five Favorite Hikes in Acadia National Park

Best Easy Hikes in Acadia National Park

Four Hikes in Acadia National Park You and Your Kids Will Love — Easy Terrain and Big Payoffs

June 5, 2010

Five Favorite Hikes in Acadia National Park

Imagine: 24 mountains on an island the size of Martha’s Vineyard.  That’s Mount Desert Island in Maine, and it should be your destination if you want to hike where the mountains meet the sea.

I’m now on my seventh summer of hiking Acadia National Park’s trails, marveling at each experience and recording it in my copy of A Walk in the Park  by Tom St. Germain.  This small volume has been my indispensable guide and should be yours.

When I started hiking in Acadia, I’d always ask locals and people I’d meet on the trails, “What’s your favorite hike?”  Now that I’ve covered 32 of the 59 Tom St. Germain lists, I’ll share my favorites.

Jordan Cliffs & Bluffs to Penobscot Mountain

This 4.3 mile loop, sections of which were constructed before 1900, makes me feel like a kid.  Stone steps, iron rungs and railings, ladders, and bridges over ravines combine with great views of Jordan Pond on the ascent.  That alone would make this a spectacular hike, but the 360-degree views atop Penobscot deliver sheer bliss.

Giant Slide Trail & Grandgent to Sargent Mountain

Also in the Jordan Pond area, I like the Giant Slide Trail along Sargent Brook and the steep Grandgent climb.  You get two peaks for the price of one: first, spectacular views from Gilmore Peak and then from Sargent Mountain.  I make the 5.4 mile loop by descending on the North Ridge Trail, which Tom St. Germain recommends for its excellent views of Somes Sound.

The Precipice to Champlain Mountain

This short, but exhilarating hike deserves its notoriety.  It’s a 1,160 vertical gain or loss, depending on how you look at it, but I don’t recommend you look down.  After all, this trail takes you up the sheer east face of Champlain Mountain.  Rungs and ladders help, but some ledges have no protection.  At the top the views of the Atlantic and Frenchman Bay are equally breaktaking.

Acadia Mountain

I’ve done this hike again and again, not only because it is my favorite way to introduce new people to Acadia hiking, but I just love it.  Both on the trail and at the peaks (two of them), there are superior vistas.  In fact, the steep descent down the eastern side of Acadia Mountain offers some of our most-photographed views of Somes Sound.

Beech Mountain

Atop this 849’ mountain is a fire tower that boosts your viewing pleasure.  And at its base is wonderful Long Pond that affords the opportunity to combine this hike with a little kayaking.  My preferred route for this hike is to go up the West Ridge and descend on Valley Trail, which is thickly wooded and covered in moss and lichen.  Another option is to descend to Echo Lake Beach, where you can leave your bikes for the trip back to Long Pond, making this a hiking/biking/kayaking triathalon.

Next to water and great hiking boots, the necessity I also recommend for hiking in Acadia is the trail map of Mount Desert Island published by Map Adventures.  It clearly shows the 110 miles of hiking trails, as well as 57 miles of carriage roads, signpost numbers included.  Believe me, though Acadia’s trails are well marked, you can take wrong routes and end up well out of your way, exhausted.  Last weekend I was stopped twice by people with less detailed maps who were quite confused.

The five hikes I’ve recommended here are all moderate to challenging.  You’ll definitely get some exercise as well as spectaculars views of Acadia National Park’s mountains, lakes, islands, bays, and, of course, the Atlantic Ocean.  The good news is that you’ll be guilt-free when you indulge later in lobster and blueberry pie!  So, after you’ve planned your hike, find the best restaurants and lobster pounds on Mount Desert Island.


Best Easy Hikes in Acadia National Park

Best Carriage Roads for Biking with Kids in Acadia National Park

Four Hikes You and Your Kids Will Love in Acadia National Park

October 27, 2009

How Long It Takes to Climb the Precipice and Other Notes from an October Trip to Acadia

Maine Fall 2009 044I recommend visiting Acadia when the blueberry bushes have turned red.  The air is crisp, most places are still open, and everyone is so much more relaxed than in summertime. 

And so it was on a recent October morning when my companion and I decided to hike the Precipice.  My Somesville neighbor Bill leaned against the picket fence separating our houses and stated in a Maine monotone, “It’s the only trail in Acadia where people have died.” 

Maine Fall 2009 020The Precipice Trail climbs 930 feet in 0.8 mile to the top of Champlain Mountain.  With Dorr and Cadillac to the west, Champlain is the closest mountain in Acadia to Frenchman Bay.  Thus, the foghorn provided musical accompaniment as we scrambled boulders and quickly came to the first rock face that required climbing iron rungs.  That initial reach was particularly strenuous, reinforcing the message that the Precipice is maintained as a non-technical climbing route, not a hiking trail. 

Maine Fall 2009 005It should have taken us an hour and fifteen minutes to get to the top.  But each switchback and set of boulders seemed to be another photo opp.  Then there were all of those relaxed visitors.  The couple from Atlanta.  The serious climber who hikes Sargent in the winter and knew exactly where the peregrines nest.  The Mid-Coast couple who told us lobstermen were making four times the average Maine income before the recession hit.  And the guy from Boston who got so involved recommending restaurants to the couple from Atlanta that his girlfriend took off without him. 

Needless to say, to get to the top it took us, well, it took a while. 

All of this camaraderie added to the exhilaration of the height, the iron ladders, and the ledges with no protective railings, including the one I crawled across because the rock was wet.  

We came down North Face Trail (formerly known as Bear Brook Trail) which, after the stunning views we’d had of the Porcupine Islands from the top, continued to thrill us with its covering of fiery blueberry bushes.  Our only complaint, which also applies to Kurt Diederich’s Climb which we did in August, is that the Jackson Laboratory buildings are a hideous blight on the landscape.  We connected to East Face Trail (now called Orange and Black) to descend to the Park Loop Road and walk back to the car.  Next time, we will consider hiking South Face Trail to Sand Beach, the longer route taken by our Mid-Coast compatriots. 

Maine Fall 2009 045I was so high (pardon me) from this climb that we decided to fit one more excursion into our day: Hunters Brook Trail.  The path ran for 0.3 mile along a lovely brook, over wooden walkways, across a bridge, and through balsam firs that immediately transformed October into December.  The trail itself would have sufficed, but the ultimate prize was Hunters Beach.   This crescent of pink granite cobblestones offers iconic Maine coast views. 

Little Hunters BeachFor the purposes of my photograph below, I’d like to say that we then went home for tea and cranberry bread, which was the “welcome” gift from a friend and neighbor.  However, we didn’t have time.  We drove directly from Hunters Beach to Thurston’s Lobster Pound in Bernard, the day before their season ended, and guess who was there – Maine Fall 2009 066the couple from Atlanta.

For specific recommendations and contact information for guides, tours, restaurants, and inns, visit OUR ACADIA.  You can find special tips for when to visit, what to do on a rainy day, and how to pack.  It also features tips for fall trips and sample itineraries.

July 18, 2009

Maine Locals Share Tips to Help You Get the Most Out of Your Vacation to Acadia National Park

Where the locals eat, shop, and relax is a constant source of fascination for travelers.  And why not?  What could be a better guide for where to get off the beaten track to find value? 

That’s why I was delighted recently to see the proprietor of Sip’s and Sawyer’s Specialties in Southwest Harbor eating dinner at the bar of Red Sky.  Red Sky, with its creative cuisine and emphasis on local ingredients, has always been a personal favorite.  I felt validated by the local endorsement. 

Interesting enough, earlier that day I had visited Sawyer’s Specialties to ask Scott Worcester if he’d be willing to share some “insider secrets” about Mount Desert Island.  Here’s what he and two other Southwest Harbor locals-in-the-know told me. 

Scott Winchester

Scott Worcester

As I chatted with Scott, I eyed the delicacies in the counter at Sawyer’s Specialties.  There were “banana shooters” stuffed with provolone and prosciutto, smoked shrimp and scallops, and roasted red peppers.  He told me Sawyer’s Specialties features over 100 cheeses.  What a picnic!  All of a sudden I saw an intriguing alternative to my turkey sandwiches atop Pemetic Mountain.  My Nalgene of water morphed into a bottle of Pinot Noir as Scott talked about his philosophy: “I like to find out what customers like and then introduce them to something new in the genre they enjoy.”  So, what site would I choose for my elegant picnic?  

Scott’s Tip:  Go to Wonderland, the trail at the southern point of Mount Desert Island’s “Quietside.”  A spruce-scented gravel path, 1.4 miles out and back, leads you to the ocean where Maine’s rocky coastline offers ample seating – as well as tabletops – for you to relax and enjoy your feast from Sawyer’s Specialties.  Breathe in the salt air to complement the bouquet of the wine you’ve chosen.  Scott talked about the “stone chairs” at Wonderland.  Find the most regal for this feast.

Don Jalbert

Don Jalbert

When I was looking for a house to buy on Mount Desert Island, I stayed at the Harbour Cottage InnI still think it has one of the most appealing living rooms I’ve seen anywhere.  On my most recent visit, while I was waiting for one of the innkeepers, Don Jalbert, I mused how nice it would be to curl up on the chintz sofa  in front of the fireplace with a volume from the well-stocked bookshelves.  Instead, I maintained my decorum and enjoyed the lovely Southwest Harbor view over their rolling lawn.  When Don arrived, my first question was whether or not they were still serving their pesto eggs for breakfast, my all-time favorite egg preparation.  Having answered me in the affirmative, he surprised me with a recommendation I fully intend to pursue for myself. 

Don’s Tip:  “Not many people know about this,” he said, “Somehow it is kept very quiet. If you are on the island in June, July and August, be sure to call for a ticket to see The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden. It sits atop a bluff in the village of Seal Harbor.” The garden has both a Spirit Path and English-style flowers so it is an unusual blend of Western and Eastern elements. Reservations are required and available from 9 AM to 11 AM Thursdays only. Tickets are free, but reservations are limited so you must call well in advance: 207-267-5525.  

Heather Brown

Heather Brown

If there’s a rainy day during my vacation to Acadia, I love buying baby gifts at Hatched on MDI.  For friends who have become entranced with Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, I always buy little cotton sweaters emblazoned with lobsters, which I then bestow with a lecture on why I like Mount Desert Island much better.  This year the owner, Northeast Harbor born-and-bred Heather Brown, attracted my attention with a table of marked-down “values” outside the shop.  I felt apologetic as she rung up the $10 item that my daughter had chosen strictly because of its incomparable snuggliness.  

Heather’s Tip:  I asked Heather for a suggestion for a thoughtful gift to bring home to a little one after a trip to Acadia.  She showed me a biblet (that covers not only the baby’s chest, but lap) in blue with a fiery-red lobster.  As we were talking, another great tip emerged.  If you (or your spouse) need a break from perusing the local gift shops, the Southwest Harbor Library offers a comfortable setting, variety of newspapers, and even free Wi-Fi.  And you don’t need to be a library cardholder to access the library’s three computers.  I can’t imagine abdicating on a visit to Southwest Harbor’s expanded hardware store, but I must admit that the library is an appealing alternative, especially on a rainy day.

 I’d like to thank my contributors Scott, Don, and Heather for this post.  If you have tips you’d like to share, you can contact me at  In the meantime, you can check out more of my favorite ways to explore, eat, and relax when visiting Acadia National Park at  Stay tuned for more tips from Bar Harbor!

April 7, 2009

Put away your Blackberries and turn off the video games. It’s time for family nature camp in Maine.

Why do kids have all the fun?  Surely, in this economy parents need a real break, too.  Now College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, has the perfect solution – a sensibly priced vacation of nature programs, boat trips, hiking, and biking.  It all takes place on Mount Desert Island, one of the world’s most beautiful islands.


whale-watch4The first big difference about this camp is that all activities are intended for the whole family.   The program is best-suited for children who are at least 5, but there doesn’t seem to be an upper-age limit.  Even the most skeptical adolescents, who dread the experience will be “lame,” seem to leave bestowing accolades. 


In fact, so many people end up loving Family Nature Camp that COA has designed special field trips designated for returning families.


Experienced staff helps plan activities for each family.  Most days are spent participating in two or three programs, including field trips with naturalists and local experts.  Activities are conducted at the college, which occupies 35 oceanfront acres, and in adjacent Acadia National Park.  What kind of activities?  Well…


  • Go on a whale watch 25 miles off the coast; if you’re lucky, you’ll see not only whales, but also harbor seals, gray seals, pods of harbor porpoises and North Atlantic puffins. 
  • Learn about the business and politics of the Maine fishermen.  Check out farming pens where Atlantic salmon are raised and watch your captain haul lobster traps. 
  • Go on a boat trip where the divers bring back a bag of underwater creatures such as lobsters, sea stars, scallops, sea cucumbers and other surprises – which you get to hold. 
  • Visit “active” beaver sites and get a close look at beaver lodges. 
  • Discover incredible facts about bats (some eat fish; other make tents!) and hear their ultrasound echolocation with the aid of a bat detector. 

star-fish1In addition, there’s free time for self-guided hikes, walks, and other activities.  (Sea kayaking is available for an additional fee.) Transportation is provided for most field trips, but families can be pretty independent as well.  For example, you can walk or take the free bus to the village of Bar Harbor to enjoy the shops, restaurants, art shows, and evening concerts.


Everyone stays in the College of Atlantic student housing on a campus that’s one of the “greenest” in America and eats in the college cafeteria.  Although the rooms and shared bathrooms are Spartan, meals include bountiful New England fare such as homemade fish chowder, chicken pot pie, and blueberry cobbler.  (If your kids have had past vacations staying in plush hotels with room service, there might be a lesson in these accommodations, too.)



Family Nature Camp rates are: Full Week – $900 for participants 16-years-old and older; $450 for children 15-years-old and under; Half Week – $500 for participants 16-years-old and older; $250 for children 15-years-old and under. These fees include housing, all meals, activities, field trips, and three boat trips! 


Now that’s an “eco-tourist’s all-inclusive.”

Summer 2009 Sessions: July 5-11, July 19-25, July 26-August 1, August 2-8.  For more information, visit College of the Atlantic Family Nature Camp.

For more information about Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park, visit OUR ACADIA.




August 17, 2008

Four Hikes in Maine’s Acadia National Park You and Your Kids Will Love

kids hiking acadia national park

“How much longer?” is not what you want to hear as you take in your first refreshing breaths of spruce-scented air.  “Can we do this again tomorrow?” is more like it.

However, that’s a sentiment that, frankly, takes some planning.  In addition to your kids’ safety and fortitude, you also have to take into account how to keep them interested for sustained periods of walking.

Choosing the right hike for your family is often the most challenging part of the experience.

I have surveyed online postings and hiking guidebooks to get recommendations for the most kid-friendly treks, then I hiked all of these trails myself.  In addition, I have the experience of a daughter who thought hiking was “boring” unless a hike offered special features or rewards.

If hiking with your kids is one of the things you want to do when you visit Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, I’m happy to offer up these four alternatives.

Ship Harbor

Roundtrip Distance: 1.3 miles

Draw a map of a figure 8, tell your kids that’s the shape of this trail, and then ask them if they want to do the woods or harbor shoreline loop first.  Whatever the course, your outermost point is a scenic picnic spot where you can contemplate the wreck of a schooner that ran aground there in the early 1600s.  We loved the shoreline along Ship Harbor where we collected some beautiful sun-bleached shells. 

Bonus:  Nearby is Bass Harbor Lighthouse.  The kids will enjoy climbing on the rocks at its base with the headlight above and the pounding surf below.  Great photo opps.


South Bubble

Roundtrip Distance: Approximately 1.2 miles

You’ll encounter many families taking advantage of the terrain of this hike: it has some exciting elevation, yet the trail’s series of crib box surfaces make it much easier than hiking over rocks or roots.  The summit of South Bubble, at 768 feet, provides a dramatic vista southward over Jordan Pond.  Many families will be there with willing hands to take a great family shot for you.

Bonus:  Tell the kids they’ll have a chance to try and push over the famous Bubble Rock glacially transported to the top of South Bubble.


Jordan Pond

Total Distance:  3.2 miles

This longer hike will let you and your family walk all the way around scenic Jordan Pond.  Just about all of the circuit is close to the water, which can be 100 feet deep near the shoreline.  Although the terrain is flat, this hike engages my imagination because there are a bridge of flat stones, rock-to-rock hiking, a birch suspension foot-bridge, a section to tiptoe over extensive root systems, and bogwalks. 

Bonus:  At the end of your hike, pick blueberries below the tea lawn in front of Jordan Pond House.  Then have lemonade, popovers, and strawberry ice cream at the restaurant.  There’s a gift shop, too.


Flying Mountain

Total Loop:  1.5 miles

hiking acadia national parkOf all of the hikes listed here, this one probably feels the most like a “real hike.”  It’s relatively short, but there is a bit of climbing and elevation at the beginning that’s fun for energetic kids.  The views of Somes Sound, Sargent Drive, and Norumbega and Sargent Mountains are stunning.  (And mom may be intrigued by the spacious homes and lawns across the sound in Northeast Harbor.)  The return back to the car is easy along a fire road, where you can collect some dried cedar branches for the kids to make into cedar pillows. 

Bonus:The hike’s midpoint is at Valley Cove. The rock beach there is a great spot for the kids to skip rocks and play.  You may even see a peregrine soaring above Valley Cove.



It’s smart to hike with a map.  I highly recommend you pick up one of the good topographic maps published by Map Adventures  in one of the local shops.  While you’re there, look for Tom St. Germain’s A Walk in the Park, now the most dog-eared volume on my Maine bookshelf.  It provides detailed route descriptions and maps of 59 different hikes and was the source for the walking distances here.  A pair of inexpensive binoculars from WalMart or Amazon is also a great investment. Don’t forget plenty of water and some snacks, and these walks may become a mainstay of your family vacations. 


After expending all of that energy, where are you going to eat?  Mount Desert Island offers everything from ice cream shops with delicious blueberry pie to casual wine bars that will welcome your kids.  There’s even a lobster pound that serves PB&J.  So, rest assured, there are lots of restaurants to eat with kids when visiting Acadia National Park.  If you’re renting, you can also tap local markets on Mount Desert Island for superb local crabmeat, local goat cheese, organic vegetables — and lobster.  Many of the local markets also have very good wine selections. 


What’s on the agenda for tomorrow?  A ride on a lobster boat?  What if it rains?  How about an oceanarium?  Click here for 22 great things to do with your kids in Acadia – one of which is to plan another hike!


Tips for Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Bar Harbor

Which Carriage Roads Are the Best Bike Routes for Kids in Maine’s Acadia National Park?

The Best Ice Cream in Bar Harbor Tops Lists of the Best Ice Cream in America

Best Easy Hikes in Acadia National Park

July 20, 2008

22 Great Things To Do with Your Kids in Maine’s Acadia National Park

Last year friends of mine from New York took their two boys, 8 and 11, out of school for a year to travel the world. Since their dad was formerly the publisher of National Geographic Kids, they had a pretty wonderful itinerary. Acadia National Park was their second stop, and after two days younger son Stefan asked if they could just stay there for the rest of the year.


Stefan may have a future himself in travel publishing. Even at his age, he concurs with the editors of Travel and Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler who consistently rank Mount Desert Island as one of the most beautiful islands in the world. Its rocky coastline, boreal forests, spectacular fiord, and multitude of mountains apparently hold appeal for every age.


My daughter started visiting Acadia National Park regularly at the age of 14. She liked kayaking and the hikes with rock scrambling a lot. But what she loved was the rock climbing. Having grown up on New York City’s rock climbing walls, she felt comfortable with a 60-foot cliff and loved the fact that at its base was the pounding surf. Booking in advance for a climb or two with Acadia Mountain Guides became a standard part of our vacation planning.


Here are 22 great things to do with your kids if you visit Acadia National Park this summer:


1. Attend a ranger-led program – Offered free by the National Park Service, these are fun, interactive programs on subjects ranging from the constellations to birds of prey. (Did you know that owls and peregrines eat their prey whole and then regurgitate what’s not digestible in pellets?) Ranger-led programs include hikes, cruises, and simple drop-ins at interesting places. Find out more

2. Go hiking – Acadia National Park is unique in how its mountains rise out of the sea, so hiking should be high on your “must see” list. Considering that there are over 130 miles of trail, select a hike that’s right for your family by check out a guidebook, Web site (, or the Park Service’s hiking difficulty sheet. You might consider Wonderland and Ship Harbor because of their flatter terrain. The Bubbles (South Trail) and Bubble Rock are also very popular with kids.

3. Learn about lobsters – On the Lulu Lobster Boat tour, kids can learn about lobstering from Captain John and look for harbor seals in Frenchman Bay off of Bar Harbor. Or, for a rainy day activity, visit the lobster hatchery and museum at the Mount Desert Oceanarium.

4. Sail on a Friendship Sloop – These graceful sloops were actually the hard-working lobstering boats of the late 1800s. Today there is no lovelier way to experience Mount Desert Island and the many islands surrounding it than from the water on one of the charters offered by Downeast Friendship Sloop.

5. Go sea kayaking – For the more athletic, get out on the water in a kayak. Maine State Kayak offers breathtakingly beautiful tours, which are also educational, on “the quiet side” of Acadia National Park. There’s only one wrinkle: each child is required to paddle in tandem with an adult and must be at least 8-years-old (and 4 feet, 8 inches).

6. Take a horse-drawn carriage drive – Another unique feature of Acadia National Park is the carriage road system, conceived of and built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. These picturesque car-free roads wind up mountains, along brooks, and through spruce forests. One great way to explore them is to take a horse-drawn carriage trip from Wildwood Stables in the park.  Try to book early enough to get spots on the sunset drive to Day Mountain, which is a favorite. Call 877-276-3622 for more information. 

7. Bike on a carriage road – Get some exercise and do some peddling! Eagle Lake is very popular and thus more crowded. I actually prefer exploring around Witch Hole Pond and Aunt Betty’s Pond, and the hills aren’t bad.

8. Go to a lumber jack show – This sounds tacky, but it gets great recommendations. The show is a demonstration of what a logging camp competition would have been in the Maine woods over 100 years ago…except the host of the show is Timber Tina (

9. Go miniature golfing – No family vacation would be complete without a couple of hours of mini-golfing. Bar Harbor’s “award-winning” adventure golf has a pirates theme (

10. Pick blueberries – Next to lobster, this is Maine’s best edible. They grow everywhere. Pick some, have them over ice cream, and read Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, well-known for Make Way for Ducklings, who chose the Maine coast as the settings for many of his children’s books.

11. Go rock climbing – The competent team at Acadia Mountain Guides  can customize a special, affordable climb for your family. After meeting you and learning about everyone’s goals, your guide will select an area – from a lower angled climb to a cliff rising out of Frenchman’s Bay. For me this was an exhilarating experience, and my daughter loved it.

12. Visit a lighthouse – If you don’t want to do a technical climb, the kids will love rock scrambling on the huge granite boulders on the harbor side of the Bass Harbor Head Light. Constructed in 1876, the tower itself is off-limits, but the views here are wonderful – a perfect setting for the photo of this year’s holiday card.

13. Touch a starfish…and more. The Dive-In Theatre gets rave reviews (“educational,” “fantastic,” “extremely fun”). After a cruise in Frenchmen’s Bay, Diver Ed takes the plunge, explores the bay while on view on a topside LCD screen, and surfaces to provide a hands-on experience of what he has found. If the price is too steep for a larger family, Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory provides free touch tank demonstrations.  

14. Explore the tidepools – Sea stars, barnacles, mussels, anemones, crabs, and young lobsters live in the intertidal zone and are exposed twice each day by the withdrawing tide. Focused, quiet observation will open up a whole new world for your kids and provide a special kind of experience that’s an interesting alternative to some of the more commercialized options. Acadia National Park provides more information at

15. Have lemonade at Jordan Pond House – Ask for a table on the lawn and order popovers and strawberry ice cream, too. If there’s a wait (which is likely in July and August), go to the gift shop and buy blueberry jam to take home. Better still, skip rocks in Jordan Pond and explore the trail around its shoreline. (There’s more about Jordan Pond House at

16. Swim in Echo Lake – After a hike on Beech Mountain or Acadia Mountain, take a refreshing plunge. You can relax in the sun on a beach at the lake’s southern end or on wide granite cliffs on the eastern shoreline.

17. Build sand castles at Sand Beach – You may find it a little too chilly to swim, but the kids probably won’t. The setting itself is stunning with cliffs arching around the beach and Beehive Mountain as a backdrop. Hey, after all of that hiking and biking, pull out a paperback and take a quick doze if someone else is supervising the castle construction.

18. Let teenagers explore the island alone – If your teenagers are itching for some independence, suggest they take the Island Explorer Bus and meet the rest of the family at a given destination. Eight routes link hotels, inns, and campgrounds with destinations in Acadia National Park and neighboring village centers (for details see Since the buses are propane-powered, this is nice not only for parents’ nerves, but also for the environment.

19. Take in a show Acadia Repertory Theatre in picturesque Somesville offers a children’s program in the summertime. Every Wednesday and Saturday at 10:30am they are performing “Snow White and Rose Red,” a new adaptation of the children’s classic. Another option: see a movie at Reel Pizza in Bar Harbor where, in addition to theatre seats, there are couches and recliners and, in addition to popcorn and soda, there is delicious fresh-dough gourmet pizza.

20. Go to Seawall for an evening cookout – Seawall in Acadia National Park is a natural granite and rock seawall on the southwestern side of Mount Desert Island. Nearby on the ocean is a beautiful, spruce-studded picnic area where you can make a fire and grill. Check out the National Park program at the nearby campground that evening. Or just watch the night sky overtake the sea.

21. Enjoy Bar Harbor at night – It’s a great seaside resort town that attracts crowds for ice cream, fudge, T-shirts, and maybe even a quick reading by the local psychic. There are also excellent shops for guidebooks and outfitters if you forgot your fleece or want new hiking boots.

22. Reward the parents with a lobster dinner – Having arranged and managed such a wonderful family vacation, you deserve a special night out. How about lobster? For reviews of two of my favorite lobster pounds, Thurston’s and Abel’s, see (By the way, Thurston’s even has PB&J for fussier eaters.)


Writing this reminds me why I love Mount Desert Island so much. You don’t need kids to enjoy these New England summertime delights. Acadia National Park is also summer camp for adults.  When’s the best time to visit Acadia?  Should you rent a cottage or stay at a B&B?  What should you do if it rains?  Get answers to these questions and more at OUR ACADIA.


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May 18, 2008

Acadia on My Mind

It’s lonely. People are talking about Kim Kardashian, The Hills, and whether Santana is really worth what the Mets are paying. I’m thinking about the peregrines in Acadia National Park. I’ve noticed that when I’m around, people avoid any topics remotely related to New England, lobster, beautiful islands, kayaking, hiking, or biking — because the mere suggestion of any of these is enough to set me off and trap them for at least a half hour. Having my Maine Web site isn’t enough. So, I’ve decided to do what every other obsessed American is doing. I’ll blog. And I’ll talk to myself about Maine, Mount Desert Island, and Acadia National Park.