I never expected to live in Maine. Fortunately for me, 22 years ago I took a job in Bangor and found myself living a short distance from one of the most visited national parks. I took full advantage.
In 45 minutes, I could be at Eagle Lake in Bar Harbor and biking Acadia National Park’s 55 miles of carriage roads for hours on end. And I did often.
The park felt almost like my neighbor — a well-loved neighbor. Here are five of my favorite places in the park.
As someone who avoids crowds, I migrate to lesser traveled areas. On Mount Desert Island, especially in the summer, that’s the southwest side of the island. While the northeast side, between Northeast Harbor and Bar Harbor, contains the well-known, stunning tourist stops of Acadia, I favor the more remote feel of the western side. Here, even the popular Ship Harbor Trail can offer a solitary walk and those stunning views of Acadia’s rocky pink granite coast. Likewise, the hike up the Flying Mountain Trail gives views of the mountains on the island.
Located a good hour from Mount Desert Island further up the coast off Route 1, this little gem doesn’t get as much traffic as Acadia National Park’s main campus near Bar Harbor. Yet, many consider Schoodic the most beautiful part of Acadia. The 2,050-acre parcel offers views of Mount Desert Island’s peaks, including Cadillac and Dorr mountains, from a six-mile, one-way coastal road. And Schoodic Point, a sizable outcrop of granite falling gradually into the sea, allows everyone to enjoy the ocean’s force in a quiet setting.
I’ll admit, there are some wildly popular tourists spots in this remote national park that can’t be missed. I would put Ocean Drive at the top of the list. What I love most about the drive is not so much the stunning vistas and natural features – like Sand Beach, Thunder Hole or Otter Cliffs – it is the easy access to those amazing pink granite slabs fashioned into nature’s patio. One of my all-time favorite scenes in Acadia was an elderly couple with their lawn chairs, cooler and glasses of wine sitting on one of these rock decks, watching the sun go down after the crowds had dispersed.
A hike, bike or cross-country ski on the carriage roads of Acadia is not to be missed. The 17 stone bridges are the stuff of castles. It’s a remarkable experience to be biking through a rich forest and happen upon one. Many of the access points to the carriage roads are jam-packed come summer. I like the entry point near Northeast Harbor that takes you up and overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, then down and on toward Jordan Pond. And who doesn’t love the popovers at the famous tea house?
Some hikes and views are special because of the friends you’ve shared them with. This is the case for me with Connor’s Nubble. One of my favorite trips to the park was for a paddle across Eagle Lake and a short hike up Connor’s Nubble with my Uncle John and dog, Bingo. A perfect view, with a perfect hiking team, on a perfect Maine spring day.