A Family Affair: Vacationing in Acadia National Park
|Biking on carriage roads in Acadia National Park, Maine (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)|
Stop at the visitor center on Route 3 to pay for a car pass and talk to a ranger about hikes and bike rides that are best suited to your children’s ages and skills. A nice introductory walk is on the Ocean Path, which leaves from the parking lot at Sand Beach (on the 27-mile Park Loop) and heads south to Thunder Hole. If you want altitude, try the warm-up at Acadia Mountain, on the western side of Somes Sound. Or, if you have older kids, bag the tallest peak in the park, 1,530-foot Cadillac Mountain. Experienced climbers may want to ascend the iron rungs attached to the sheer rock walls of The Precipice and Beehive trails, but this is not for the faint of heart or tiny trekkers.
Exchange two legs for two wheels and try the 43-mile network of carriage-path trails. The 5.3-mile round-trip ride around Eagle Lake, Acadia’s second-largest body of water, is a perennial family favorite. The Amphitheater Loop is far more remote, used primarily by local dog walkers, not bikers. Park your car at the Brown Mountain Gate House off Route 198 and begin to pedal uphill, quickly getting glimpses of the ever-present Atlantic. The 4.4-mile loop soon becomes an exhilarating up-and-down ride through the dense woods and across the Amphitheater Bridge, the longest stone bridge in the park.
If you want to get out on the water, rent canoes on Long Pond and paddle to a pine-studded island for lunch. Younger children will savor the opportunity to spend an afternoon on the boat of Diver Ed. Ol’ Ed goes scuba diving with a camera attached to his head. See him onscreen as he swims the shallow water with his G.I. Joe-like doll, Mini Ed, all narrated back on the boat by his wife, Captain Evil. Then watch him return with such goodies as sea cucumbers, starfish, crab, and lobster, a petting zoo for the kids to touch.
Like many national parks in America, Acadia has a junior ranger program where kids can complete the activities found in a workbook and, once looked over by a park employee, receive an official Acadia National Park junior ranger patch. Head to the Hulls Cove Visitor Center on Route 3, just north of Bar Harbor, to find two separate workbooks (for ages eight and over or ages seven and younger).
While at the Visitor Center, check out the long list of Children’s Programs led by rangers throughout Acadia. For example, at Animal Tales, children six and younger get to meet some of the furry critters they might run into at Acadia. If you prefer sea creatures, down the road at the College of the Atlantic, children can learn all about the sea life found in a Maine tidal pool at the touch tank.
As you would expect, there’s also a slew of ranger-led activities for the whole family, including guided hikes, bike rides, peregrine falcon watches, ocean strolls, and nighttime activity at the campgrounds where rangers lead talks on the night sky and tell intriguing anecdotes about the history of the park and the importance of preservation. For more information, visit the park website.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication