THINGS FOR CHILDREN TO DO IN ACADIA NATIONAL PARK
THINGS FOR CHILDREN TO DO IN ACADIA NATIONAL PARK
EASY FAMILY HIKES
1. THE JESUP TRAIL
I placed this easy child friendly walk at number one for a very good reason, I have yet to see a kid not get excited when they reached the start of the path, which is for the most part one long boardwalk through the woods. At different places along the way there are benches to sit down on and relax, and owls, woodpeckers and other birds can often be heard along the walk. The boardwalk finally ends at a well worn dirt path which runs through the heart of wetlands and field, a great area for bird watching.
From the sieur de Monts Spring - Wild gardens parking lot, go to the far end of the parking lot, away from the Nature Center. Follow the path there a short ways until it comes to the well marked jesus Path.
2. THE BAR HARBOR SHORE PATH
This relaxing path begins just below the two cannons by the Bar Harbor town pier. The path passes by the Bar Harbor Inn and its long pier where you have a good chance to see a four mast schooner at anchor. The Schooner departs several times a day taking paying guests out on a sea cruise. The path than comes to Grant park, currently being rebuilt, and the famous Balance Rock. Children of all ages like to go down by the massive boulder and try and push it over.
From here the path passes wealthy summer homes on the right and sweeping ocean views on the left. If you follow the path all the way along the shore it comes to a small bridge beofre making a turn away from the ocean and heading for a side street. The path offers many places along the way for children to go down on the rocks and explore.
3. COMPASS HARBOR NATURE TRAIL
Children love Compass Harbor for its nature Trail and for its two beaches, but you will have to search it out to locate it because Acadia national Park treats Compass harbor as an abandoned area of the park. Compass Harbor was where the George B. dorr estate was located, named Old Farm. The remains of that estate can still be viewed today, with some sections of walls and its brick floors. There are also a number of hidden stone stairways and foundations in the nearby woods, but the big draw of compass harbor is clearly its beaches. One beach is found along one side of compass Harbor, where you can often see sail boats at anchor in the calm water. The other beach, the popular beach where the locals go to on hot summer days, is at the bottom of a high cliff. a worn path leads toward the ocean where you can access the beach from level ground. Don't be surprised if you go here and hear a violin or guitar or two playing, as musicians are also drawn to this secret area in the park.
One newspaper recently stated the "Compass harbor is one of the best kept secrets in all of acadia national park," and I would have to agree. The nature path does a complete loop so by following the path you won't miss a thing. At one point there is another trail, which is the Schooner Head Trail. if you follow this to a narrow road, and cross the road and re-enter the woods, right there on the right you will see a duck pond, on some old maps marked Dorr Pond. I have taken some of my best duck photos there, as well as woodpeckers and wild turkeys.
Since Acadia National Park treats the area as an abandoned area, there are no signs, not even at the parking lot. So from Main Street in Bar Harbor, drive out of town along route 3, heading toward Otter Creek. You will pass the Grand motel, the YMCA and the skate park and ballfields on the roght. The road comes to a corner where it passes the Cromwell harbor road, and continues straight ahead until it begins to go uphill. as the road begins to go uphill, you will see the tiny unmarked Compass Harbor parking lot on the left. If you drive past the Schooner Head Road or Jackson Labs, you went too far.
I have listed Wonderland ahead of the Ship Harbor Nature Trail because there is a lot more for children to do at wonderland. There is a beach where you can run sand through your hands and find nice pieces of colored smooth sea glass. There are two coves, one on either side of Wonderland. And there are many places to get down by the water and explore. Driftwood also washes ashore here, which it does not do at Ship Harbor.
You can reach Wonderland by driving through Southwest harbor, as you come out of southwest Harbor along route 102, turn off onto route 102A which takes you toward Manset and Seawall. Follow 102A until you come to Wonderland. The trail leading to the ocean is actually an old fire road, and there are a few places where if your pushing a stroller, you will have to carry the stroller over a couple of small rough spots.
5. SHIP HARBOR NATURE TRAIL
The nature trail does a figure eight, coming close to the water in one spot, and passing a worn path that leads down to the water in another spot, but unlike Wonderland, there is not a lot of places to get close to the water. There is also no beach or driftwood to speak of, but it is a nice walk. and there is a non-flush toilet at the parking lot. From the parking lot, looking straight out toward the harbor, there is a rough path down to the harbor and the clam flats, claming is illegal there, but the locals clam there in the late evenings.
To locate the Ship Harbor nature Trail in Acadia national Park, follow the directions for the Wonderland trail, but when you come to Wonderland, continue on up around the corner you come to the ship Harbor parking lot. Two trails very close together but with very different views.
6. A HIKE TO WITCH HOLE POND
This is not a path or trail, but a section of carriage road filled with things children will find interesting along the way. First, there is the much photographed Duck Brook Bridge at the start of the walk. As you begin to cross the large triple arched stone bridge, there is a stone stairway on the right which leads to the brook below the bridge. And as you cross the bridge there are several places that stick outward where you can stand and get super views from.
Once you have crossed the bridge, look for a worn path on the right and go down it to get your best photos of the bridge.
back at the bridge, take the carriage road to the right, that is the Witch Hole carriage road. Follow it a ways and it comes to a nice wetland area, in the evening deer can be spotted in this area. Continue along the carriage road and it goes uphill and than downhill to the waters of witch hole Pond on the left, and Witch hole marsh on the right. It is common to see wild ducks at both locations, and the pond is a good place to catch trout in. If your with young children you will want to turn around here and head back for the bridge.
To find the Duck Brook Bridge, from Mount Desert street in Bar Harbor, follow the road and continue straight through the traffic lights, onto route 233 - the eagle lake Road. You will pass by Parsons Lobster pound on the left as well as Kebo Valley Golf Course where President Obama played golf at while on vacation here. ?Soon you will pass under a beautiful arched stone bridge, continue along route 233 until you come to a narrow road on the right, the Duck Brook road - turn on it and follow it to the Duck Brook Bridge. There are places to park just before the bridge.
7. THE PARK LOOP ROAD SHORE PATH
This path begins at the Sand Beach parking lot, by the changing rooms. It is a nice easy path to walk offering breath taking views along the way. There are also smaller side paths leading to look out spots as well. The path leads to Thunder Hole, with its gift shop at one corner of the parking lot across the road from Thunder Hole. There also is a non-flush toilet in one corner of the parking lot. This is a bit of a longer walk, but there are rocks all along the way to set on and rest and if the kids are not too young than the walk is not bad at all. If you want to hear thunder from Thunder Hole, go there when the tide is coming in, and during a storm is even better.
PLACES TO EAT
1. LITTLE A's
Little A's offers up a wide menu with something for everyone. Pizza, subs, fish and chips baskets, fries, burgers, and more. For the childre
n there is a game room with old fashion pinball games, as well as an outdoor shuffle board court. They also have shess and checkers for the kids to play, and they offer outside dining. And or the older children and adults they have an air hockey game and a pool table. its just a great spot to set back and relax while the kids enjoy the game room. They also have large screen TV's for sporting events, along with cold beer, wines and mixed drinks. On Tuesdays locals gather here in the evenings and play their instruments at open mic, on Wed. and Friday evenings its karaokee night. there is always something happening at Little A's.
Little A's is located near the far end of Cottage Street, on the Eden street end.
2. WEST END DRUGS OLD FASHION LUNCH COUNTER
It may very well be the best kept secret in Bar Harbor, but if you were to enter the West End Drug store you would find an old fashion lunch counter to the left hand side of the store with those old fashion diner stools you can sit on and spin round and round. There is also an old fashion soda fountain as well, and they serve up great old time rootbeer floats. You won't find fancy tables or high end meals here, but they do offer a soup of the day along with light sandwiches that come with pickles and chips on the side, at low prices. They also have fresh brewed coffee and soft serve icecream as well. The West End Drug store is located along Main Street.
3. ROUTE 66
It is hard to describe Route 66 other than to say eating there is like taking a step back in time. They have on display a large selection of antique toys, a toy train, old traffic lights, old gas pumps, if its from the 1950's and 1960's you will most likely find it here. Route 66 is located along Cottage Street, tucked into a alleyway, but you can't miss it, it is the only shop in town with a yellow checked taxi cab sticking out of its side above the entrance way.
4. ROSALIE'S PIZZA
To begin with, Rosalie's is not like the other pizza joints in town, it is the only place where you will often see lines of people waiting outside for seating. And there is a good reason for this, the food can't be beat. They open their doors at 4pm tuesdays
through Sundays, with both downstairs and upstairs booths and tables. The attraction for children is the old fashion jukebox, which works, and a sandwich known as the Rosalie's nightmare, kids see it on the menu and want to have one.
They also serve up several different salards as well. They are located on Cottage street at the corner of cottage and rodick street.
5. JORDANS RESTAURANT
Jordans is much like an old fashion diner and known for their large servings of food. They are also well known for their famous blueberry muffins and blueberry pies, something the kids will really enjoy after a meal.
Jordans is located on Cottage street next to the Hannaford Food store.
6. REEL PIZZA
Where else can you go and order up a meal, than set back and relax and take in a movie while enjoying your food. That experience is what Reel Pizza is all about, and they have two movie screens, so if you don't like one movie, chances are you will like the second movie. And its not just pizza, they offer up a wide range of foods to be enjoyed on couches or chairs.
Reel Pizza is located across from the Village Green, across from the fire station.
7. THE CHARTROOM
Located just down the road from Bar harbor along route 3 in Hulls Cove is a place called the Chartroom. They got put on the map one year when Laura Bush took a tour of acadia National park. She decided to have lunch at the Chartroom and the rest is history, as they say. they are best known for their Maine lobster Dinners and they offer dining out on the deck with great ocean views. And the children will love the Chartroom because there is a long section of sandy shoreline where the kids can search for crabs and starfish, all within view of the outside deck.
PLACES TO SWIM
1. SAND BEACH
Yeah, it goes without saying that the most popular spot on Mount Desert Island to go swimming at is Sand Beach in Acadia National Park. But be warned, this is ocean water and that means the water is going to be on the cold side, for many who go there it ends up being too cold so they simply set back on the beach and relax. Sand Beach is located along the One Way section of the Park Loop road in Acadia National park.
2. THE BAR HARBOR TOWN BEACH
Located by the Bar Harbor town pier, the beach is open to the public, but like sand Beach, it is ocean water and the water will be on the cold side.
3. THE SAND BAR AT LOW TIDE
Many go to the Sand Bar at the bottom of Bridge Street, off of West street, at low tide there are endless places to go into the water. but it is also ocean water and the water will be on the cold side.
4. THE BAR HARBOR WADING POOL
Great for younger kids, it is open to the public and located on Spring street. It is not ocean water and local kids often go there on hot days to cool off.
5. THE BAR HARBOR YMCA
There warm pool is a great way to cool off - if you are a member, or you could purchase a guest pass. It is located on the far end of Main Street, by Park street, directly across from the skate park and town ballfields.
6. ECHO LAKE
Echo Lake, in my opinion, is by far the best beach on Mount Desert island. The water is shallow for some ways, which means kids can go way out in the water without the water getting any deeper. And Echo Beach is part of Acadia national park. They use to have a lifeguard on duty, but I believe they did away with the lifeguard. and its a lake, which means the water is much warmer than the ocean. But it is also a very popular beach and on hot summer days the beach can get over crowded, so go early and stake out your spot on the beach.
Each Lake is located along route 105 just before you get to southwest harbor.
7. LAKE WOOD
Lake Wood is one of Acadia national Parks best kept secrets as far as secret beaches go. Hardly no one knows of it other than locals, and its lake water, which means it is great for swimming in.
To locate Lake wood, from route 3 in Hulls cove, turn onto the Crooked road and follow it until you see a sign on the left by a narrow dirt road leading uphill into the woods, that is the Lake wood road. It ends by a parking lot over looking Lake wood. many of the locals that go there do not swim at the head of the lake, they instead follow paths along the edge of the lake until they reach their favorite swimming area along the lake.
As an option, many of the campgrounds offer guest passes where for a small fee you get to use their pool for the day. you would have to check with the different campgrounds to see which ones offer this option.
BEST ADVENTURES FOR CHILDREN
These adventures all cost money but i thought I would include my top picks that i feel children will get the most out of for the buck.
1. DIVER ED
Diver Ed promises to take you to the bottom of the sea without you ever getting wet. He does this by taking you out on his boat, and suited in diving gear and with a cvamera, kids are encouraged to push him overboard as part of the show. he goed down below exploring the ocean bottom and sea life up close. You get to see it all on Large screen TV's. As he explores the sea bottom he gathers up sea life, which is brought aborad and everyone gets to examine his finds up close. On one dive, diver Ed put on a bit more of a show than was intended, because as he was searching the sea bottom a large shark passed close by him, visible to all watching aboard the boat.
For info and tickets call 207-288-3483
2. WINDJAMMER CRUISE
The Margarett Todd is a four mast windjammer which departs several times a day for 1 1/2 to 2 hour wind jammer cruises. This is a fairly large vessel which docks at the end of the Bar harbor Inn pier. All aboard are encouraged to help out and lend a hand on raising the huge sails at the start of the trip, and on helping lowing them at the end of the trip, which the young ones really get into. On many of the trips to sea live enterainment is provided by a guitar, banjor or fiddle player. They also offer a sunset cruise as well. For infor call 207-288-4585
3. LOBSTER FISHING AND SEA WATCH TOUR
The Miss Samantha is the only lobster tour with an onboard aquarium touch tank so you can hold a sea star, lobster, and a variety of interesting sea life. Ffor this reason this boat tour should be high on your list. They also get you so close to seals can count their whiskers!
They also offer a lighthouse run as well as well as a lobster and seal run as above, but followed with an old fashion Maine Lobster Bake with corn on the cob and all the fixings. So there is a tour package to fix everyone's budget.
You can reach them at 207-288-2386
4. OLI'S TROLLEY
Oli’s Trolley offers an unforgettable way to explore Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park aboard an old fashion trolley. They have several different tours listed at different prices, with the Acadia national Park Tour being the longest at about 4 hours with stops at popular places in the park along the way.
The tour packages are The Acadia National Park Tpour, the Cadillac Mountain Tour, and the village of Bar Harbor tour. Pick a package to suit your budget and set back and relax aboard an old fashion trolley.
You can reach them at 1-866-987-6553
5. HORSE CARRIAGE RIDES IN ACADIA NATIONAL PARK
The carriage rides are operated by Wildwood Stables and offer several packages. One is the Day Mountain sightseeing carriage ride, another is the Mr. Rockefeller's Bridge Tour, and another is the Day Mountain Summit carriage ride. They also offer horse rentals as well as Private Carriage Charters.
You can reach them at 207-288-3338
6. RENT A BIKE
There are currently three bike rental shops along Cottage, two of which also rent mopeds. When my family needs bikes we usually go to the Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop located at the far end of Cottage street at the corner of Cottage and Eden Street. They have been in business since 1978 and have just about anything you would need for a day of biking in Acadia national Park or exploring the villages of the island.
And the choice of bikes they offer is huge, including Basic Rental (Comfort, Hybrid, Mountain), High Pro Mountain Bicycle, Fat Bicycle (with huge tires) Basic Road Bicycle, Carbon Road Bicycle, and Electric Bicycle's. They also have tag-a-longs and child trailers for pulling behind a bike, as well as different size kids bikes. Need a roof rack for a day, they have those too. They also rent bicycles built for two as well.
Acadia national Park offers endless miles of carriage roads for bike riding along with a number of starting points, like Duck Brook Bridge, Eagle Lake, The Bubbles, and Jordan Pond. a great way for a family to explore the many small villages on the island is to rent your bikes and than go down to the Bar Harbor Village Green and hop on a free Island Explorer bus, each bus can carry a number of bikes on their bike racks. This way you can village hop, getting off at different villages and towns and exploring their streets with your bikes. This is also the bike shop President Obama and his family used to rent bikes from while on Vacation here.
To contact them call 207-288-3886 or visit them at 141 Cottage street in Bar Harbor, Maine