Sunday, July 17, 2016

3 Family Friendly Nights in Acadia National Park

Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park.  Photo by Leanne De Craene
This time our little ones joined the trip!
Photo by Leanne De Craene.
It's that time of year again...Girl's Trip!  For the ninth year in a row, my best girl-friends and I planned an adventure trip together.  Years past have included everything from far off Newfoundland and Iceland to stateside Michigan and Colorado.  Not only have the trips changed through the years, but we have as well.  While we started off this tradition as carefree 20-somethings, we now have husbands, families, careers, and mortgages.  Still, we have found a way to continue our tradition of enjoying an adventure every summer together.  This summer, we honed in on the Northeast.  I had a two month old baby, and Courtney a toddler (and pregnant with number two). Acadia National Park in Maine seemed like the perfect destination - great views, lots of hiking, and relatively "close" to home.  It was the perfect destination for our crew.  Read on to recreate this adventure...

Adventure:  3 nights, 4 days on Mt. Desert Island - Acadia, Bar Harbor, and more!

Hadley's Point Cabins
Lodging:  We wanted an affordable housing option near Bar Harbor (VERY HARD TO FIND!)  Having a baby, I wasn't ready to camp (especially since I booked before I had even had the baby).  We were lucky to find Hadley's Point Campground where we were able to book rustic cabins for $80 a night.

 The cabins included a bathroom, queen bed, twin bunk bed, porch with picnic table, and fire pit.  It was only 10 minutes north of Bar Harbor and 5 minutes from the Acadia Visitor Center.  We loved our stay there.
** Important note - book your stay early!  We booked our July stay in January and Friday and Saturday was already sold out so we stayed Sunday-Wednesday.
View of interior cabin. 
Outside the cabin porch
Trying out the new Baby Bjorn One Outdoors!
Photo by Leanne De Craene
Gear: There's a saying in Maine - "If you don't like the weather...wait 5 minutes".  This is important to keep in mind when packing.  Besides food, camp gear, linens, and beach gear, we also were glad we packed rain gear, warm weather gear, and hiking gear.  I used this trip to gear test a new hiking baby carrier on the market - Baby Bjorn's One Outdoors.  It was crucial as a hiking-mom and allowed me to hike tens of miles each day without pain.  See my gear review HERE.

I also purchased the Appalachian Mountain Club's Acadia National Park Hiking and Biking Map.  This map provided detailed trail information including carriage road and bike trails.

Itinerary: Below is the itinerary for our trip.  I like how we were able to spend time hitting some of the main highlights of the park/island as well as some more offbeat adventures.

Day 1 - Bar Harbor Afternoon

Our first day we arrived by car to a damp and cool Maine day.  We decided to spend the afternoon walking around Bar Harbor, grabbing a bite, and setting up/snuggling in our cabin.  We enjoyed such a great lunch at Side Street Cafe that we ended up going there for dinner again on our last night!  That night we made a camp dinner and enjoyed each other's company at the campground.

Cool and rainy first day in Bar Harbor.

Day 2 - The "Right" Side

View from Gorham Mountain Summit of Beehive.
Mount Desert Island is divided into two sides - almost like two large peninsulas.  The "right" side (north-
east) is more populated and contains the popular tourist town of Bar Harbor as well as the more visited Acadia park destinations like Sand Beach, Jordan Pond, Otter Cliffs, and Cadillac Mountain.  A park loop road takes visitors to the various destinations (note- part of this loop is one-way).  Although there is a free park bus, we decided to drive ourselves around this portion - knowing there was risk of not finding parking at various spots.  Our first stop was the Visitor Center where we purchased our $25 week parking pass.

Our main stop of the day was Sand Beach.  Parking here provides access to the beach as well as popular hiking trails.  We split ways here - some spent 2 hours on the beach, some hiked the challenging Beehive Trail, but I chose to take baby Lucien up Gorham Mountain. It is an easy to moderate trail that provides amazing views of ocean, mountains, and forest at a relatively short distance.  It took me about an hour and a half to hike the out-and-back trail and return to Sand Beach.  We all met up for a little beach time before moving on.
Sand Beach
Courtney decided to stay with her toddler at the beach while Leanne and I meandered on.  We walked the Ocean Path the 1.6 miles from Sand Beach down to Thunder Hole. I enjoyed cliff and ocean views on this easy, flat path.

Ocean Path Views
Back at Sand Beach, Leanne and I hopped back in the car and drove the Ocean Drive around Otter Point.  We stopped for a beach stroll and more scenic views at Otter Cove before making way to our next big stop - Jordan Pond.

Jordan Pond is a heavily trafficked stop.  It took a while to find a parking spot here.  Besides great
Jordan Pond
hiking and views, there is the famous Jordan Pond House where guests can enjoy lunch or tea on the lawn or restaurant.  I've tried this before- it was nice enjoying gorgeous views and their famous popover rolls.  Be prepared for a long wait if you decide to dine!  We decided to pass this time and opted for another hike instead.  The 3.3 mile Jordan Pond Shore trail is an easy trail that takes you around the entire lake.  The trail is flat but involves a mile stretch of "bog bridges" which can be hard for small children and slippery when wet.  Leanne and I decided to add some challenge to our hike by climbing up the South Bubble Trail.  From the south, we climbed the rocky and steep trail to the gorgeous views of the summit.  Near the summit, the trail was very challenging.  The decent on the north side of the mountain was more moderate although involved lots of boulders with some tricky footing.  Hikers can also take a look at Bubble Rock - a precariously perched boulder on the summit of South Bubble.

**Note - Jordan Pond is the water-source for the area.  As a result - swimming and motorized vehicles are not allowed in the water.
Hike up the Bubbles was more challenging.
After our Jordan Pond hike, we returned to our car and headed north back to Hadley Point Campground for a home-made dinner at our cabin.  It was a wonderful day!

Day 3 - The "Left" Side

Hike up to Acadia Mountain.
Day 3 was designed to explore a little bit of the left (or south-west) peninsula.  After a delicious home-made breakfast in our campground, we drove south to Echo Lake.  This spot is a great place to swim, sunbathe, and relax at the freshwater beach.  After setting up Kendra and Sarah with little Cedar, Courtney, Leanne, Baby Lucien, and I headed up Acadia Mountain Trail (a short drive up the road) for a morning hike.  The trail was a moderately challenging.  Although it can be made into a loop with Valley Peak and St Sauveur Trail, we decided to just go out-and-back so we could fit in more adventures.  The peak had gorgeous ocean and mountain views and was a perfect morning hike.

After dropping Courtney back off at Echo Lake for the day, Leanne, Lucien, and I continued south on 102/102A.  We saw quaint views of Southwest Harbor and made stops to take nature walks at Wonderland and Ship Harbor.  Both trails were very easy and provided cliff, beach, and woodland views.  Ship Harbor was my favorite for the pink/red cliff views in the harbor.
Views along Ship Harbor Trail
Ship Harbor Trail
Bass Harbor Light
Our next stop was at Bass Harbor Headlight.  This picturesque light sits at the southern most point of Mt. Desert Island.  A short walk down some steep stairs and you can get the post-card shot of the lighthouse sitting above the seashore cliff.

After the lighthouse, we continued our scenic driving tour up 102.  We returned to Bar Harbor for a delicious dinner at Side Street Cafe followed by ice cream at Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream.  After watching the sunset in the harbor, we returned to our cozy cabins.

Sunset in Bar Harbor

Day 4 - Sunrise on Cadillac and Delicious Breakfast

On our last day, Leanne and Sarah got up at 4 am to drive the auto road up to the summit of Cadillac Mountain.  This popular activity gives viewers an opportunity to be the first in the US to see the sunrise for the day.  I'd experienced the sunrise view on past trips so I decided to sleep in on this occasion.  After a little more shut eye, Leanne and I packed up and went to Bar Harbor's 2 cats for breakfast.  After a yummy breakfast, we spent time gift shopping in town and lounging in the grassy knoll in the town center before leaving the island.
Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain. Photo by Leanne De Craene.

Final Thoughts 

Acadia was the perfect place to spend sometime with kids and girlfriends.  We enjoyed gorgeous views, endless choices in hiking, and a wonderful seaside town.  It would be easy to spend more time there finding more hikes and getting adventurous on the carriage trails.  It was great to realize that even with our busy lives, we could still escape for a wonderful friend and adventure filled vacation.
Me and my girls (and boy)

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