Exploring Mt. Desert Island: Beyond Acadia National Park
Nov 21, 2023 at 7:00 AM in Things to Do
While some mistakenly believe that Acadia National Park encompasses all of Mt. Desert Island, this renowned Maine island offers much more. Acadia, covering about half of the island, is just the beginning of the extraordinary beauty found across its 100-square-mile expanse throughout the year.
Acadia National Park
Established in 1919, Acadia National Park ranks second in popularity to Yellowstone National Park, a remarkable feat considering its remote location in the northeast United States.
The island's name, given by French explorer Samuel de Champlain as "Ile de Monts Deserts," translates to the island of desert mountains, referring to the barren, desert-like peaks. The French influence persisted until 1713 when it was part of French Acadia.
Mt. Desert Island boasts eighteen summits, with Cadillac Mountain standing at 1,532 feet—the highest peak along the North Atlantic seaboard. Visitors can reach the summit via a 3.5-mile narrow access road or by hiking the Cadillac Summit Loop Trail. The mountain also claims the title of being the first place to witness the sunrise in the U.S. from October through March. Exploring the island is made convenient with narrated bus tours offered by Acadia National Park Tours.
Beyond Acadia National Park, Mt. Desert Island offers dramatic scenery. Old carriage roads provide opportunities for hiking and biking, presenting numerous Instagram-worthy moments. In winter, these paths transform into skiing and snowshoeing havens, surrounded by a glittering blanket of white. Ice climbing is also popular, and climbing enthusiasts can explore the island's rock faces. Notable locations along the craggy coast include Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, and Otter Cliffs.
For convenient travel around the island, the Island Explorer, with ten different routes, provides free transportation during the fair-weather season.
Responsible visitors can use bikes as their main mode of transportation on the island. Acadia Bike in Bar Harbor or Island Bike Rental in Northwest Harbor can provide rentals, allowing visitors to enjoy the island's beauty while reducing their ecological footprint.
Mt. Desert Island offers various water activities, including canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and sailing. National Park Canoe, Kayak, and Stand Up Paddle Board Rentals, Coastal Kayaking Tours, and Acadia Stand Up Paddle Boarding cater to those seeking aquatic adventures. Sea Princess conducts scenic nature tours, including Acadia National Park cruises and Somes Sound Fjord Cruises, with the fjord being the only one on the east coast of the United States.
Lovers of the open sea can explore lobstering with Lulu Lobster Boat Rides and Acadia Lobster Cruise. Acadian Boat Tours organizes fishing trips and nature cruises, while Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. provides thrilling whale-watching excursions.
Mt. Desert Island's allure extends far beyond Acadia National Park, offering a diverse range of activities and landscapes for visitors to explore. Whether by land, sea, or air, the island promises an unforgettable experience, making it a must-visit destination on the east coast of the United States.