Carved by glaciers and pounded by ocean waves, Acadia National Park's rugged seashore and hilly interior offer a wide range of activities. Over 2.5 million people per year take advantage of Acadia's 47,000 acres, making it one of the most popular national parks. Swooping ospreys, bobbing boats, and silent stands of trees welcome visitors to this group of islands and peninsulas located two-thirds of the way up the Maine coastline. When the glaciers retreated from Maine, they scoured mountains, fjords, and lakes out of an ancient granite ridge. Mussels and crabs found homes in the tidal pools, while many colorful species of ducks paddled on porpoise playgrounds. Wabanaki Indians made their homes on the Maine coast, where the French explorer Samuel de Champlain found them in 1604. until the United States claimed possession of these islands in the late 18th century, they were a bone of contention between France and Britain. In the late 19th century, East Coast society families shared the islands' resources with local fishermen and boat builders. In order to preserve their quiet retreat away from the hubbub of city life, many summer residents purchased land and donated it to the Park Service. Acadia became a national park in 1919, but land was acquired long after that. Today visitors enjoy not only the magnificent Maine coastline but also the unspoiled, forested interior of Mount Desert Island and Isle au Haut. Hiking trails thread the trees and skirt the shore, while John D. Rockefeller, Jr.'s carriage roads through Mount Desert Island welcome walkers, bikers, and horseback riders. Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak on the eastern seaboard, rises over an island home to thriving villages coexisting with Acadia's outdoor preserves. What to see and do: Your visit to Acadia could be divided into two parts: a day on the main island, then days spent on excursions to outlying islands and peninsulas. Split roughly in half by Maine's Somes Sound, Mount Desert Island has two "lobes." If you have only a day for Acadia, focus your time on the eastern lobe. When crossing the causeway from Acadia's mainland, stop at the Thompson Island Information Center. You'll receive good directions to the Hulls Cove Visitor Center (open April 15 to October 31), where a film, exhibits, and rangers introduce you to the park. Consider making a tour around the Park Loop Road. Along its 27 miles, you'll have plenty of opportunity to sample the island's riches. Bird-watchers will want to spend time at Sieur de Monts Spring and along the coast, especially at Otter Point. After following Acadia's coastline, the road turns inland through tranquil forest, eventually bringing you to Jordan Pond House. A bite to eat and a constitutional along the nature trail will leave you ready for the second half of the road, which includes a spur up to the summit of Cadillac Mountain. At 1,530 feet Acadia's highest point, Cadillac is a splendid place from which to witness a rising or setting sun. In order to best appreciate Acadia's quiet interior spaces, most visitors take advantage of 125 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads. Hikes are relatively brief but range from strenuous to easygoing. The carriage roads are unique to Acadia. Don't miss the granite bridges built especially for these roadways. Bikers are welcome to ride carriage roads within the park, though mountain bikes are recommended for all but two roads in Acadia. Biking is prohibited on hiking trails and on private-land carriage roads (south of Jordan Pond). Naturalists can enjoy Acadia in many ways. You'll find self-guided nature trails at the Jordan Pond House, at the Carroll Homestead in Southwest Harbor, and at Ship Harbor, located on the far southern tip of the western lobe. Canoeing and kayaking are increasingly popular ways to see Acadia's wildlife.
My husband and I spent our honeymoon in Acadia over 10 years ago. The hiking is spectacular but a little harder than I expected because the trails we did were mostly across large boulders. The rocks have paint marks on them to keep you on the trail. The people in Bar Harbor and the surrounding towns were so friendly.