Acadia National Park is the only United States national park in New England and the most Eastern national park on the mainland. It is on the coast of the Down East region of Maine, near the town of Bar Harbor.
Acadia NP encompasses more than 47,000 acres (19,000 hectares), 30,300 of which are on Mount Desert Island. 2,728 acres of the park lie on Isle au Haut and 2,266 more on the Schoodic Peninsula in Winter Harbor.
Acadia is one of the smaller national parks in the country, yet it attracts around 4 million visitors per year.
It was designated as Sieur de Monts National Monument in 1916 by a presidential proclamation by Woodrow Wilson. Congress renamed the park Lafayette National Park in 1919. Congress again enacted a name change in 1929 to the name we now use, Acadia National Park. It was the first NP established east of the Mississippi River.
In October 1947, Acadia and some adjacent lands were ravaged by fire.
A quick look at any topographical map of Mount Desert Island will indicate the powerful and lasting effects of the last ice age on the island and the current landscape of Acadia. As the last glacier receded over 18,000 years ago it left behind the elongated mountains and lakes we see today. The moving ice was also the culprit behind the "bald" summits of most of the park's hilltops, scraping off vegetation and leaving the beautiful pink granite underneath.
Flora and fauna
More than 273 bird species have been identified in the park, including bald eagles, peregrine falcons, blue jays, finches, and chickadees (the Maine state bird). Mammal species include deer, squirrels, foxes, rabbits, porcupines and bats. Other species include garter snakes, the American bullfrog, and the North American red-bellied salamander.
|Acadia National Park|
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Acadia's weather is largely a product of latitude and marine influences. On a daily and annual basis, Mount Desert Island temperatures are more moderate than those of inland Maine. The Maine coastal climate has been ranked second only to the Pacific Northwest in annual precipitation. This moisture occurs in every form at Acadia. Ice storms are regular in winter and early spring, and rain is frequent in every month. Fog is common during June, July, and August.
Spring can be foggy with temperatures ranging between 30 °F (−1 °C) and 70 °F (21 °C). Wear light-colored clothing, long sleeve shirts, and long pants for protection. Annual rainfall is 48 in (1,200 mm).
Summer daytime temperatures range from 45 °F (7 °C) to 90 °F (32 °C). Evenings are cooler. Dressing in layers is advisable for any boating or hiking activities. Ocean water temperatures range from 50 °F (10 °C) to 60 °F (16 °C). Lake water temperatures range from 55 °F (13 °C) to 70 °F (21 °C).
Fall temperatures can range from low 70s during the day to freezing during the night. Come prepared for all types of weather, from sun to fog, from downpours to flurries. Fall foliage often peaks during the first couple of weeks in October. Weather conditions over the summer, such as drought, may alter the time that the leaves peak.
In the winter, due to Acadia's coastal location, snow and weather conditions change rapidly. Temperatures vary from mid-30s to below zero. The park averages 61 in (1,500 mm) of snow annually. For the latest in weather information, call the local weather phone line at +1 207-667-8910 or call the park at +1 207-288-3338.
Visitor information center
Acadia National Park is along the rugged, rocky coast of "Downeast" Maine. Most of the park is on Mount Desert Island, which is accessible by vehicle. The park is approximately six hours north of Boston.
From Boston take I-95 north to Augusta, Maine, then Route 3 east to Ellsworth and on to Mount Desert Island. For an alternate route, continue on I-95 north to Bangor, Maine, then take Route 1A east to Ellsworth. In Ellsworth, take Route 3 to Mount Desert Island. By car to the Schoodic section of Acadia National Park in Winter Harbor: Follow Rt. 1 North/East from Ellsworth to Rt. 186.
Distances from other cities
- Bangor, ME 50 miles, 1 hour
- Portland, ME 161 miles, 3.5 hours
- Kittery, ME 211 miles, 4.5 hours
- Boston, MA 264 miles, 6 hours
- New York, NY 492 miles, 10 hours
- Saint John, New Brunswick 227 miles, 5 hours
- Montreal, Quebec 424 miles, 8 hours
- Halifax, Nova Scotia 500 miles, 10 hours
Direct flights from Boston's Logan Airport land at the Hancock County Airport, 10 mi (16 km) from Acadia National Park. National airlines serve the Bangor International Airport, about one hour from the park. Car rentals are available at both airports.
There is no longer ferry service from Bar Harbor to Yarmouth Nova Scotia. "The Cat" is no longer in service.
Fees and permits
Entrance fees as of 2020 are:
- $15 Acadia Entrance Fee - Per Person
- $25 Acadia Entrance Fee - Motorcycle
- $30 Acadia Entrance Fee - Private Vehicle
- $55 Acadia Annual Pass
There are several passes for groups traveling together in a private vehicle or individuals on foot/bike that provide free entry to Acadia National Park and all national parks, as well as some national monuments, national wildlife refuges, and national forests:
- The $80 Annual Pass (valid for twelve months from date of issue) can be purchased by anyone. Military personnel can obtain a free pass by showing a Common Access Card (CAC) or Military ID.
- The $80 Senior Pass (valid for the life of the holder) is available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over. Applicants must provide documentation of citizenship and age. This pass also provides a 50% discount on some park amenities. Seniors can also obtain a $20 annual pass.
- The free Access Pass (valid for the life of the holder) is available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities. Applicants must provide documentation of citizenship and permanent disability. This pass also provides a fifty percent discount on some park amenities.
- The free Volunteer Pass is available to individuals who have volunteered 250 or more hours with federal agencies that participate in the Interagency Pass Program.
- The free Annual 4th Grade Pass (valid for September to August of the 4th grade school year) allows entry to the bearer and any accompanying passengers in a private non-commercial vehicle. Registration at the Every Kid Outdoors website is required.
The National Park Service offers free admission to all national parks on five days every year:
- Martin Luther King Jr. Day (third Monday in January); next observance is January 15, 2024
- The first day of National Park Week (third Saturday in April); next observance is April 20, 2024
- The National Park Service Birthday (August 25)
- National Public Lands Day (fourth Saturday in September); next observance is September 28, 2024
- Veterans Day (November 11)
The free Island Explorer bus system, Phone: +1 207-667-5796, can take you through the park, stopping at points of interest. There are bicycle racks on the front and back of each bus if you'd like to combine transport methods as you explore. Island Explorer buses are propane-powered.
- 1 Egg Rock Light (Acadia Loop Road, south of Bar Harbor.). This 1875 lighthouse is on a barren ledge in the middle of Frenchman Bay, east of Mount Desert Island. It can be viewed from the Acadia NP Loop Road.
- 2 Wild Gardens of Acadia. This garden showcases all the different ecosystems one can see on the Island. Located at Sieur De Mont, the mini-exhibits range from bogs to seashores to alpine forests.
- 3 Bubble Rock outlook (located at the summit of the South Bubble Mountain). This giant glacial erratic was left on top of Bubble Mountain during the last ice age. Small chatter marks and dykes are also viewable. A moraine is located within Jordan pond, and is visible from the summit. A great spot for the novice Geologist. Accessible via the Park Loop Road.
There is an extensive network of carriage roads throughout Acadia National Park, which are closed to automobiles and are excellent places to ride your bicycle. The carriage roads are mostly paved with crushed stone and, therefore, are best navigated on a mountain or hybrid bicycle. Another option for cyclists is the ~20 mile (32 km) long Park Loop Road, which encircles much of the eastern portion of the park. The road is open to automobiles, but is a one-way, two-lane road for much of its length. The Park Loop Road appears to have been re-paved in 2008, making for a very smooth, pleasant ride. Bikes can be rented in Bar Harbor.
Acadia has the best day hiking in the Eastern U.S. Walking the miles of trails is one of the best ways to experience the park. Immerse yourself in the flora and fauna of the island on a number of different hikes of various environment, length, and difficulty. These trails are stunning, with high ocean views, accessible tree lines, steep precipices, stone bridges, etc.
Acadia is a great place to birdwatch, with many species calling the park home including bald eagles, peregrine falcons, great blue herons, cranes, ducks, geese, chickadees, woodpeckers, owls, orioles and blue jays can be seen in the park. For an extensive checklist and more info on birdwatching opportunities in Acadia, see the NPS's birdwatching page.
The park is one of the darkest spots on the East Coast and on a clear night stargazers can see the Milky Way in all of its glory. Drive into the park after dark, find a safe place to stop along one of the park roads or parking lots where you're not crowded in by trees or lights, get out and look up. You will not be disappointed.
The last glacier of 18,000 years ago carved out the incredible and beautiful terrain of the park, leaving behind some of the cleanest lakes and ponds in the country. Sea kayaking tours and boat rental services are offered from numerous establishments in Bar Harbor and allow access to Mount Desert Island and other destinations.
Fishing is allowed in the park in accordance with the park regulations. While ocean fishing is open to all, fishing in freshwater lakes and ponds requires a Maine state fishing license. Licenses are required for residents aged 16 and up and non-residents 12 and up, and can be purchased at town offices and a few local shops.
Some ponds and lakes are used for drinking water and do not allow swimming; check park office for list of approved swimming locations.
- Sand Beach. Watch out for a strong undertow at this ocean beach accessible from Park Loop Road
- Echo Lake beach.
Those who prefer a guided experience can choose between free park tours or commercial options.
- Ranger-led Walks, ☏ , fax: . Various park locations. Ranger-guided walks and cruises.
- Carriages in the Park, Inc.. The authorized carriage concession at Wildwood Stables in the National Park. With a number of regularly scheduled tours and the option of private tours, Carriages in the Park offers guests a chance to see John D. Rockefeller's carriage roads and some of the park's most stunning views. For the guests of the park with horses Carriages in the Park also offers overnight stabling on site.
- 1 Jordan Pond House. Operated by the company which holds the franchise for food and shops within Acadia National Park, the Jordan Pond House, offers acceptable but overpriced food for lunch and dinner, but is essential for afternoon "tea and popovers". The setting, with a view of The Bubbles up the pond, is delicious, the popovers hot and eggy. Reservations are a must for tea (and even then you'll probably wait 10 or 15 minutes). (2005)
There are no hotels within the park borders, but the nearby town of Bar Harbor has numerous options.
The park has three campgrounds:
- 1 Blackwoods Campground, toll-free: . Open year-round. Reservations are suggested from may through October. 306 sites. No hook-ups or utilities. Restrooms with running water. Showers available nearby (fee). May - Oct: $20, Apr & Nov: $10, Dec - Mar: free (primitive camping only).
- 2 Seawall Campground (on Route 102A, four miles south of Southwest Harbor), toll-free: . Open mid May - Sept. Approximately half of the campsites are non-reservable and will be sold on a first come, first served basis at the campground. Reservations. 214 sites. No hook-ups or utilities. Showers available nearby (fee). $20 drive in, $14 walk-in tent.
- 3 Duck Harbor Campground, ☏ (reservations). Duck Harbor Campground is on Isle au Haut, a rugged island off the coast of Stonington, Maine. Remote and inaccessible to automobiles, Isle au Haut is linked to the mainland by mailboat. Five primitive sites are available at Duck Harbor from May 15 to October 15 by advance reservation, and stays are limited to 3-5 days depending on the season. You must have a reservation to camp. Camping is permitted in designated sites only, and party size is limited to six persons per site. Facilities include five lean-to shelters, three-sided with roof and floor. Dimensions are 8' tall, 8' deep, and 12.5' wide. Use of tents is limited to what can fit inside the shelters. There is also a composting toilet and hand pump for water that is 1,600 feet from shelters. Reservations are recommended well in advance, but are not accepted before April 1st. Access to Isle au Haut is via limited passenger ferry service; Confirm boat schedule with Isle au Haut Ferry Company (207) 367-6516, before reserving a campsite. Campers should be prepared to hike five miles to reach camp from Town Landing, if the ferry is not scheduled to continue on to Duck Harbor on date of arrival. A $25 special use permit fee must accompany each reservation request form regardless of how many nights you wish to camp. There is no additional camping fee.
Backcountry camping is not permitted (and strongly discouraged due to the fragile ecosystem) in Acadia National Park.
- It is unsafe to venture out onto Maine's coastal waters without having the necessary equipment and experience. This is true of kayaking, canoeing, sailing or any other kind of boating. The water is cold and hypothermia can set in in a short amount of time. Dense fog often rolls in very quickly as well as the occasional storm.
If you are determined to go out on your own, it would be foolish and could result in serious fines from the Coast Guard or a Marine Patrol officer to do so without every single passenger:
- wearing a PFD and/or
- having a compass and knowing how to use it and/or
- understanding how to navigate safely around other boats and water hazards
There are numerous companies on Mount Desert Island and elsewhere that offer guided sea kayak, sailing, and power boat tours.