Margaret Todd cruise. Photo courtesy of downeastwindjammer.com
Baker Island Cruise. Photo by Carey Kish
On the Dive-In Theater Boat Cruise, Diver Ed brings up sea creatures from the ocean floor for passengers to see and handle. Photo courtesy Dive-In
Girls get to handle live lobsters on the Dive-In Theater Boat Cruise. Photo courtesy of Dive-In
Baker Island Cruise. Photo by Carey Kish
Aboard Cranberry Island Ferry looking at Southwest Harbor and Acadia. Carey Kish photo
Beal and Bunker Mailboat. Photo courtesy of mdislander.com
Cranberry Cove Ferry. Photo by Carey Kish
Sea Princess and Bear Island Light on the Isleford Scenic Cruise. Photo courtesy barharborcruises.com
Margaret Todd cruise. Photo courtesy of doeneastwindjammer.com
Swans Island Ferry. Photo by paolinipix.
Acadia National Park is celebrating the centennial year of its founding in 1916, a bold move that forever protected the grand landscape of rocky ocean coastline and pink-granite mountains on Mount Desert Island, a special place on the Maine coast and one of the most beloved and visited parks in the United States.
For a great adventure this summer, take any of the myriad guided cruises amid the wildlife-rich bays and islands and out to the open sea, for a unique perspective of the park’s natural beauty.
All tours feature a trained naturalist on board, and some commercial outfits offer interpretive tours narrated by an Acadia National Park ranger, complete with the classic flat-brimmed hat and green and gray uniform. Either way you’ll be regaled with wonderful stories of the park and its colorful history.
Reservations are a must on all boat tours. Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before departure and have your tickets ready. Tour boats are equipped with heated cabins and restrooms, and some provide a galley with food and beverage service. Warm clothing is essential as a hedge against the variable ocean weather, so be prepared with several layers and a windproof/waterproof shell, comfortable walking shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen, hat, water and snacks. Pack the binoculars and camera, too.
BAKER ISLAND CRUISE
Board the Miss Samantha for a cruise through Frenchman Bay to remote Baker Island, part of Acadia National Park, just southeast of the Cranberry Islands. Onshore you’ll enjoy a two-hour interpretive tour of the island’s history, including the 200-year-old Gilley family farmstead, the large flat expanse of granite at the ocean’s edge known as the “dance floor,” Baker Island Cemetery and Baker Island Lighthouse.
Ranger-narrated Baker Island tours are 4½ to 5 hours long. Tours depart from the town pier at 1 West St. in downtown Bar Harbor at 8 a.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from June 17 to July 25, and at 8 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday from July 26 to Sept 3. Reservations and more info: www.barharborwhales.com, 288-2386
FRENCHMAN BAY CRUISE
Set sail on the beautiful Margaret Todd – a 151-foot, 4-masted schooner and the brainchild of owner and captain Steven Pagels – for an exhilarating cruise on the afternoon sea breezes amid the islands of Frenchman Bay. Enjoy scenes of lighthouses, lobster boats, shoreline cottages and Acadia’s pink-granite mountain peaks while looking out for seals and porpoises, eagles and ospreys.
Ranger-narrated windjammer tours aboard the Margaret Todd range from 1½ to 2 hours. Tours depart from the Bar Harbor Inn pier at 1 Newport Drive in downtown Bar Harbor every afternoon at 2 p.m. in July and August. From mid-May through the end of June, and Sept. 1 through Columbus Day, rangers are on board on select days. Reservations and more info: downeastwindjammer.com, 288-4585
ISLESFORD SCENIC AND HISTORIC CRUISE
Enjoy a look at ospreys and seals as you cruise past Bear Island Lighthouse to Islesford, one of the five Cranberry Islands. In the 200-year-old lobster fishing village, visit the Islesford Historical Museum and the exhibits and collection of artifacts illuminating the lives of inhabitants of the Cranberry Islands in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Return via Somes Sound for a sweeping view of Eagle Cliffs, the highest on Mount Desert Island.
Ranger-narrated Islesford tours – about three hours long – depart from the town pier in Northeast Harbor at 20 Sea St. Tours depart at 10 a.m. most days from May 22 to June 17; daily at 10 a.m. from June 19 to Sept 2; and Sunday through Friday from Sept. 4 to Oct. 23. Reservations and more info: www.barharborcruises.com, 276-5352
DIVE-IN THEATER BOAT CRUISE
Board the Starfish Enterprise for an adventurous look at the underwater world of Frenchman Bay in the company of diver Ed Monet, who plunges to the ocean floor with specialized video and audio equipment. Passengers can hear and watch what’s happening in the waters below in real time on digital displays in the boat’s cabin. Diver Ed always returns to the surface with a handful of sea creatures for observation and handling in the touch tank.
Dive-In Theater tours (2 to 2½ hours) run Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day: at 9:30 a.m., 1 and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday; and 9:30 a.m. Sunday. Tours depart from the College of the Atlantic pier, 105 Eden St., Bar Harbor. Reservations and more info: divered.com, 288-3483
MAILBOATS AND FERRIES
Take a boat ride to the Cranberry Islands for a pleasant look at bucolic island scenery and the unique mix of fishermen, artists and summer residents. You’ll be just a few miles off Mount Desert Island but it seems like a world away from the busy mainland traffic and tourist crowds.
The Beal & Bunker Mail Boat operates between the town pier in Northeast Harbor and Great Cranberry and Little Cranberry islands. Purchase tickets at the booth or on the boat, no reservations required. More info: cranberryisles.com, 244-3575
The Cranberry Cove Ferry runs from Southwest Harbor and Manset to Great Cranberry and Little Cranberry islands. Trips depart seven days a week from May through September from the Southwest Harbor upper town dock and the town of Cranberry Isles’ parking lot in Manset. Purchase tickets on board; credit cards are accepted. More info: cranberryisles.com, 460-1981
The Maine State Ferry Service operates service aboard the M/V Captain Henry Lee to Swan’s Island and Frenchboro on Long Island. Enjoy the classic scenery and rich history of Swan’s Island and its pretty harbor, and the isolated hamlet of Frenchboro, where lobstering is a mainstay of island living. There are a variety of scheduled daily departures from the Bass Harbor Ferry Terminal. The summer schedule extends from now through Oct. 16. Reservations and more info: maine.gov/mdot/ferry/swansisland, 244-3254
MORE TOUR OPERATORS
Many other Acadia/Mount Desert Island boat trip options are available, from the operators mentioned above and others listed below, including whale and puffin watches, lobster boat and lighthouse tours, sunset and happy hour sails, schooner and ferry rides, deep sea fishing, nature and history tours and more.