Recommended: This is another of the most-visited spots in Acadia and the only sand beach on the ocean sides of the park. But that's not all sand between your toes: it's pulvarized shells and tiny, mashed-up sea creatures too. We were here both on both a stormy day and a sunny one and both were wonderful for taking pictures and chasing the tide. You're allowed to swim here but the water is COLD so see what your feet tell you before committing the rest of you?
The Island Explorer Shuttle (Rt 3 - Sand Beach) makes regular stops here and there's a parking lot. Restrooms and changing facilities for swimmers are just off the lot, and accessing the beach involves descending a stone stairway. There is a lifeguard during the summer months.
This is where you can catch trailheads for Ocean Path (see my tip), Beehive and Great Head trails (see park website).
Hulls Cove Visitor Center is the best place to start your visit to Acadia. It's right off Rt. 3 about 8 miles southeast of Trenton and is the largest of the park's information centers. Here you can buy your passes, talk to the rangers and gather all of the information you'll need to explore Acadia however you choose to. Do pick up free copies of the "Beaver Log" and Island Explorer timetables, a good driving map of the park, the Carriage Road User's Map, and purchase the "Motorist Guide: Park Loop Road."
Also get a good hiking map here if planning to explore more than the park's roads, and a tidetable for planning your walk to Bar Island. You can also sign up for ranger-led programs, browse the bookstore or grab a seat on the Island Explorer (this is one of its stops).
The center is open from 8:00-4:30 mid April - October, 8:00-6:00 in July/August, and is closed from Nov 1 - April 14th. To get to the front entrance involves climbing a 52-step flight of stairs but for those who need it there is supposed to be a more easily accessed entrance from a different parking area to the south of the main lot.
To really appreciate Acadia's wonders, you need to get out of the car. There are opportunties for almost everyone, of every ability to see some glorious corner of this national treasure without a windshield involved. There are easy walks for the very young and not-so-agile-anymore, long hikes for endurance-lovers, heart-stopping scrambles for thrill seekers, and everything in between.
You can fish or swim in some of the ponds, bike carriage roads, nap on the lawn at Jordan Pond, picnic in view of the ocean, explore an island....the list goes on and on. Please give yourself the gift of roaring, storm-tossed tides, delicate, tiny flowers, the smell of salt air, the touch of morning fog on your face, and the wind across the top of a mountain. These are the moments that can't go home in the camera!
Recommended: We did this in dense fog, drizzle and 25-30 MPH windgusts and it was still one of our favorites. This hike was probably just over 3.4 miles (the routes we took) and the park book rates it difficult to strenuous. There are no ladders or open faces to deal with, it's just very steep and scrambling over large boulders, roots and dead vegetation is par for the course.
This hike starts as a stair trail just off the Sieur de Monts Spring parking area: look for signs to the Dorr Mt. East Face Trail. The stair trail climbs almost vertically for some distance and then becomes dirt/rock combo to the top of the mountian. Look for cairns and blue-painted trail markings. At the top you can choose several ways back down, or take a trail over to the summit of Cadillac Mt.
We took Dorr North Ridge trail down to a section of Hemlock, and then a section of easy Jesup path back to Sieur de Monts Spring. We did this in late September and saw 3 other people, tops (but might have been the nasty weather). You can also combine Homan's Path with the East Face for your climb up: it's supposed to be really beautiful!
The Bar Harbor Whale Museum is sponsored by nearby College of the Atlantic and has a number of exhibits that dinosaur-loving kids might find interesting. What eight-year-old wouldn't find a skeleton of a prehistoric walking whale just the coolest, right? There's also a pilot whale skeleton, a minke porpoise, and other (deceased) marine animals. A video of whales in their habitats, a gift shop and free admission make this a no-brainer when needing to fill a little time on a stormy day. You can also, for $30-$40, adopt a whale here: you get a book, a picture and history of your whale, a certificate, and proceeds go to research support. Hours are 10-9:00 during July/August (see website for for off-season hours), and contributions are appreciated.
Recommended: St. Saviour's Episcopal Parish Church in Bar Harbor has 42 stained glass windows crafted over the span of a century, and ten of them are rare Tiffany creations. This is the oldest public building on the island and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The windows were either donated in memory of someone's loved ones or by others with connections to the church so they hold special meaning to the congregation and clergy.
Free tours are given here during summer season, and the church is open for self-guided tours most days from 8:00AM - 8:00 PM. Brochures describing the church's history and each of the windows are available at the back of the sanctuary, or can be downloaded from the link below. As continual care of these historic windows is expensive, contributions are very welcome and appreciated. There's also a lovely old cemetery next to this church. Rainy day or not, this is a "must see"!
Here is the online brochure that can be downloaded:
Interesting note: Look for the window given in memorial to Clarence Cook Little - Biologist, Founding Director of nearby Jackson Laboratory, and descendent of Paul Revere. In the background of this unusual piece are found symbols of the lab, DNA, mice and research slides.
At Seal Harbor the one-way of the Park Loop Road ends, now its two way traffic.
Going further into the island we soon come to Jordan Pond.
On this Pond you can find a wonderful Tea House (See Restaurant tip). Have a tea or coffee here, before you move on.
Here you also have the Jordan Pond Nature Trail (a self guiding brochure is available at the info center). It is a very easy round walk of 1.6 km through the forest by the pond.
On the picture one can see the "Bubbles" in the background.
I've always wanted to go to Acadia NP, and now, after I have my mom's slides digitized, I found that I have actually been there back in 1956. I don't remember much about that trip. I was attending language school at Colby College and when my parents drove up to pick me up, we visited some other places in Maine such as Bar Harbor. And - obviously - Thunder Hole in Acadia NP. I thought it might be that the park did not exist as a part at that time, but no - the park was established in 1919 (well before my time) and the name was changed to Acadia ten years later. A
According to Wikipedia On August 23, 2009, several park visitors were swept out to sea at Thunder Hole by high surf attributed to the remnants of Hurricane Bill. All were rescued but one of the tourists, a 7-year-old girl, who later died.
Thunder Hole is on the scenic 27-mile Park Loop Road which begins at Hulls Cove Visitor Center and also offers access to Sand Beach, Otter Cliffs, Jordan Pond, and Cadillac Mountain (photos 2 3 and 4).
At the time we visited, the railings and steps had not yet been built. According to the Park Service, if you have accessibility issues, you park in right-hand lane of Park Loop Road or in the upper parking lot near the restrooms and gift shop. The ramp across from the restrooms leads to the road and viewing area of Thunder Hole.
Our 4th stop along the Park Loop Road was Jordan Pond. If you have a little more time than we did you can walk the 3.3 mile trail that loops around the pond. We just got out and took a few photos before hopping back into the car. Off in the distance you can see the Bubble Mountains. We happened upon a few serious photographers and asked them why they were running in order to get a shot set up, they just shrugged and said they were taking pictures, we thought something miraculous happened when the sun went down...
You can't swim in Jordan Pond as it's a public water supply but I read that you can use non-motorized boats such as canoes and kayaks although we didn't see any on this particular day.
Also close by is the Jordan Pond House where you can have lunch, dinner or afternoon tea, open mid May-late October. Several people recommended this to me but I just couldn't wait that long to eat.
Upon entering the park we followed the signs for Cadillac Mountain, the drive up was scenic and you can pull over at several spots on the way up to admire the view or take photos. Once up at the top you have a splendid view over the park and even of Bar Harbor which seems to be a tiny speck off in the distance.
Cadillac Mountain, at 1,530 feet, is the highest peak in the park and the tallest mountain on the Atlantic coast north of Brazil. Cadillac Mountain was called Green Mountain before being renamed in 1918, after French explorer Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac.
It's claimed that the top of the mountain is the 1st place in the US to be hit by the sun every morning from October 7 through March 6 of each year although others claim that it's actually Lubec Maine that gets that honor, in any event it's a popular place to be at sunrise or so I hear since I was sleeping soundly at the time and it wasn't after October 7.
After coming down off Cadillac Mountain, we followed the signs for the Park Loop Road, a 27 mile one way road through the eastern half of Acadia National Park. It was near the beginning of this road that we paid the $20 for a 7 day pass, assessed by car, not by person. We spent about 2 hours on this road, stopping at various points of interest but you could easily spend a 1/2 day or more if you get out and walk along some of the paths or spend a bit more time at each place.
Some points of interest along the way include Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Cliffs, Jordan Pond and Bubble Pond.
Our 5th and final stop along the Park Loop Road was at Bubble Pond where our photographer "friend" from Jordan Pond had followed us to. It was a very peaceful spot, nestled between the mountains and as the sun was starting to go down the mirror image of the multicolored leaves on the surface of the water was interesting to try and photograph.
The pond has depths of up to 39 feet but you can't swim there as it's a public water supply. I believe you can use nonmotorized watercraft such as canoes and kayaks.
Our 2nd stop along the Park Loop Road was Thunder Hole, whether Thunder Hole will impress you will depend on when you visit Acadia National Park. On a calm day like when we visited, you will wonder if you've found the right place even though the parking lot sign says Thunder Hole and there's a viewing platform.
But should you go on a day when the waves have kicked up, the waves pour into a small inlet and the water and air are forced up, as high as 80 feet, with a roar like thunder. At least that's what I've read...
I assume it's a lot like the blowholes that I recently saw in Hawaii, it's pretty cool to see if it is.
The next time we pulled off the Park Road was to try and find Otter Cliffs, a 110 foot high cliff and one of the highest Atlantic coastal headlands north of Rio de Janeiro. We should have stopped when we saw a bunch of cars parked along the side of the road but we continued on until we saw a parking lot that said Otter Cliffs. We parked and then headed to the oceanfront path, I saw a sign that said .8 miles to Otter Cliffs, walked awhile and saw another sign that said .8 miles to Otter Cliffs, how was it that I wasn't making any progress? At some point when the flies starting adhering to Robert like he was dripping in maple syrup (hey, he's Canadian, maybe he wears it for cologne!), we turned around not having reached Otter Cliffs.
I think the best vantage point for taking photos of Otter Cliffs is near Thunder Hole, it's about .7 miles away at that point and it seems the best pictures are taken before you get there. Click on the website below to see some pictures, I apparently didn't take any.
Our 1st stop along the Park Loop Road was Sand Beach, the only sand beach on the ocean inside the park. I didn't even test the water but I read that the temperatures here seldom get above 55F, a little too chilly for me!
The beach cove was created by the melting glaciers and rising sea water, a headland and rock shelf dimish the power of the ocean, allowing fine particles to settle here. The "sand" is mostly made up of crushed shells which have settled here.