Yes, we could have included Acadia in our last post on Northern New England, but it deserves a post all to itself. While we had another rainy day driving across the state of Maine, the sun came out in the early evening, and we explored the “quietside of Acadia” in and around Southwest Harbor.
Acadia National Park is located mostly on Mount Desert Island, with a little piece on the mainland as well. Conservationists and wealthy individuals who summered in the area were concerned that these beautiful views were only available to those who owned private land in these coastal areas. The park came about because land was either donated directly to the national park, or bought with the express purpose of being donated. So, there are private lands interspersed among the national park lands (similar to Shenandoah), but a good chunk of contiguous land forms the core of the national park.
Our visit to Acadia began by celebrating Hank’s birthday at Coda (in Southwest Harbor) with lobster and grits, crab cakes, and local farm-to-table fare.
After dinner, we drove to the Seawall and visited the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, which has been in operation since the late 1800s.
We knew that the next day would be our best chance at sun, so we geared up to bike the carriage roads of Acadia National Park. We didn’t really understand what carriage roads were until we saw them, but they were paid for and commissioned by John D. Rockefeller between 1913 and 1940, in order to provide a place where cars could NOT travel, but hikers, cyclists and horses could. He also paid for most of the 17 stone bridges that you cross, plus other cool structures like this house.
We biked around Eagle Lake and Jordan Pond (for those of you who know Acadia) and it was lovely—not crowded, just enough of a workout to make you feel like you really had exercised, surrounded by trees, water, and (at last!) the sun.
Once we arrived at Jordan Pond, of course we had to visit Jordan Pond House, and of course we had to partake of their tradition of Tea and Popovers (or, in Hank’s case, draft beer and Popovers). Here we are, enjoying our popovers after a relaxing game of croquet on the lawn (not really, but it WAS after a rigorous bike ride on the carriage roads).
After our ride, we joined the throngs of tourists (Acadia is the 7th most-visited national park in the U.S. with 3.5 million people annually) driving along the Park Loop Road. We encountered striking views of the ocean, but seldom found a place to pull off and take pictures with so many other cars doing just that.
We did manage to snag a parking space at the top of Cadillac Mountain, and it was a beautiful 360-degree view of Acadia, surrounding islands and the mainland. We can see why the early visitors wanted to be sure it was preserved for future generations. Good for them!
On the next day, we waited for the rain to stop, checked the tide tables, and headed out to walk from Bar Harbor (the town adjacent to Acadia) to Bar Island across a sand bar.
This was not a solitary expedition, as hundreds of tourists were doing just what we did, but there was plenty of room for everyone.
We realized that we are sand bar snobs because we didn’t think this sand bar was as pretty as the bar that connects Harstine and McMicken Islands in Puget Sound, Washington. (We’ll let you compare and decide.)
There wasn’t a ton of wildlife here (another reason we prefer the McMicken sand bar), but we saw a few periwinkle snails and lots of spiral wrack (which we thought was kelp, but apparently is a little different).
After our little jaunt across the sand bar, we drove through some of the other parts of Mount Desert Island, but the fog was too thick to get many good photos.
We’re glad that East Coasters have a place like Acadia to visit. We realize how spoiled we are on the West Coast to have many public lands (national, state and county parks) where these kinds of coastlines have been preserved for the public. Acadia is one of the few coastlines on the East Coast that is available for all.