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Mount Desert Island

Acadia National Park

Mileage66 miles (107 km)
DurationThe duration is an estimate of a one-way drive and does not include any stops or side-trips.2 hours, 5 minutes
SeasonsThe seasons listed are the best seasons for this scenic drive. If Winter is not mentioned, the road may be closed during the winter.Spring, Summer, and Fall
RoadwaysMaine Highways 102, 198, and 3, Millbrooke Road, Otter Cliff Road, Park Loop, and Sargent Drive
Forest PassesSome of the adventures on this scenic drive require an admission fee that these passes cover. Please read the drive description for more information.America the Beautiful Annual Pass
ServicesThe cities or towns listed have either Food or Services such as gas, hotels, pharmacies, etc.Bar Harbor, ME
Rating
4.0 average from 2 votes
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Elevation Graph for Mount Desert Island

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Natural areas along this route require an entrance fee used to protect and maintain our most scenic treasures. Save time by purchasing your forest passes before you go.

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Description

Dramatic rocky cliffs, majestic water views both serene and thunderous and the graceful stream of whales, seals or migratory birds await on Mount Desert Island. The highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard was created by the push of tectonic plates millions of years ago. They would be higher if not for glaciers that sheared off the tops. And it is these glaciers and their melting that we have to thank for the stunning vistas and rich environment almost entirely encompassed by Acadia National Park.

Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park

This scenic drive on Bar Harbor, is a figure-eight loop around Mount Desert Island which begins on ME-3 after crossing the bridge from Trenton. To get there, head north on US-1 from Ellsworth and south on ME-3. This is a great side trip from our Maine’s Big Sur scenic drive.

Prepare your journey with a stop at one of the Visitor Centers. As you reach the island, and open from mid-May to mid-October, the Thompson Island Visitor Center (I1) offers interpretive displays and information about the park, maps, books and ranger-led activities. Open from April 15 through October 31, the Hulls Cove Visitor Center (I2) is the best place to get touring information and learn about the island from the free 15-minute audiovisual presentation. The Acadia Park Headquarters (I3) in Bar Harbor is open year-round. Note that most facilities, campgrounds and roads are closed in winter.

Heading south on ME-3, stop at the Mount Desert Oceanarium (M1), where you can discover the ocean’s marine life up-close. Kids and adults alike will enjoy the Lobster Hatchery, touch-tanks, marsh trail and learning about the endangered North Atlantic right whales and steps to protect them. There is a fee to enter.

A few miles ahead, Acadia National Park and the Hulls Cove Visitor Center (I2) will be on your right. An entrance fee to the park is charged which is covered by the America the Beautiful Annual Pass. Acadia National Park is a natural wonder with no end to the breathtaking views. It also offers a seemingly limitless array of recreation including hiking, biking, canoeing and kayaking, rock climbing, camping, a stroll along untouched wilderness, wildflower meadows, and the rugged rocky coast.

After the Visitor Center, turn right to take the 27-mile Park Loop Road which winds its way through some of the most spectacular scenery in Maine. If you’re spending only one day in the park, this drive encompasses the major scenic places and if you plan on spending more time in the park, this drive is a great way to orient yourself and plan activities for later. Portions of the road are one-way and be prepared as this is a popular drive in peak season. Get an early morning start when roads will be less crowded. RV’s or other tall vehicles should take note that there are four low bridges — the lowest being 10 feet 4 inches.

Follow the signs for Sieur De Monts to explore the native plants of the Maine Coast at Wild Gardens of Acadia (H1). Visit the nearby Nature Center and walk the interpretive trail along the Sieur De Monts Springs. Learn about the Wabanaki tribes of Maine, both past and present at the Robert Abbe Museum (M2). The Wabanakis are the collective name for Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Indians who lived here for over 10,000 years. Exhibits include over 50,000 objects — stone tools, bone objects, photographs and dioramas to contemporary basketry and art. There is an admission fee which includes access to Abbe at Sieur de Monts Spring.

Take advantage of the many pullouts to take in stellar views of rugged cliffs, coves, inlets and islands. The Acadia National Park Vista (V1) displays gorgeous views of the Schoodic Peninsula and the Atlantic Ocean.

Continuing along Park Loop Road, stopping at Sand Beach (W1) is a must. Nestled at the foot of the Beehive Mountain, Sand Beach offers a chance for brave souls to dip their toes in the chilly ocean. The sand is mostly crushed seashells and sea urchin skeletons and the water rarely rises above 55 degrees. Other activities include sunbathing, beach-combing, kite-flying or hiking. The moderate 1.5-mile Great Head Loop Trail traverses evergreen forest along the sea cliffs or stroll all or just a portion of the 3-mile Ocean Trail which travels from Sand Beach to Otter Cliff.

The ocean waves crashing onto the coast carve awesome rock formations, and at Thunder Hole (A1), they also make a thundering noise. The water churns within the cove and depending on the weather or at high tide, the concrete observation pathway can be engulfed in waves. Continuing on, you arrive at Otter Point (A2) where you can explore the boulder-strewn beach and tidepools. Otter Point highlights the postcard-perfect 110-foot pink granite cliffs and the chance to spot wildlife such as seals, fox, and great horned owls — or the adventurous rock climbers.

The road winds it way north, passing Blackwoods Campground to Wildwood Stables (A3). Between 1913-1940, John D. Rockefeller had 56-miles of gravel Carriage Roads constructed. Today you can enjoy daily horse-drawn carriage tours from mid-June to early-October. There is a charge and a variety of tours are available. Reservations are highly recommended. Along with horses, these historic carriage roads are also open to hikers, bikers, and in winter, cross-country skiers.

Park Loop Road merges with Jordan Pond Loop and here our drive continues south along Jordan Pond. But don’t miss a detour to continue north on Park Loop Road to the top of 1,530-foot Cadillac Mountain (T1). Panoramic views of the countless islands, rocky shores and expansive skies await and there are trails to explore the sub alpine plants and find the perfect picnic spot. The adventurous can hike up — exceptionally beautiful at sunrise.

Heading south on Jordan Pond Loop, you soon arrive at the junction with ME-3, where you should continue straight to the town of Seal Harbor. Stop at the Seal Harbor Beach (W2) for more stunning views. Martha Stewart has a 35,000 square foot summer here once owned by Edsel Ford called Skylands. Other famous people live on the island — please respect their privacy.

When ME-3 merges with ME-198, turn left to follow ME-198 into Northeast Harbor and then turn right a few miles later on Sargent Ave. to travel along Somes Sound, the only fjord on the east coast of the U.S. Somes Sound is a haven for sailboats and kayakers taking advantage of the calm, protected water. Outfitters nearby feature kayak rentals and tours. Camp overnight in a beautiful shore-side sites. En route, take advantage of the overlooks, especially to gaze upon Mount Cadillac to the east.

Sargent Ave. will join ME-3 again, and at the intersection with ME-102, head south. The small towns along this route feature classic New England architecture, such as picturesque Somesville, the oldest settlement on Mount Desert Island, founded in 1761. Don’t miss the scenic arched footbridge.

As you continue south on ME-102, consider a side-trip to Echo Lake Beach (W3), a popular swimming destination that is much warmer than the Atlantic Ocean due to shallow waters. This makes a refreshing stop after hiking the Beech Mountain trails that lead to the summit and incredible views.

Continuing south, ME-102 splits into Seawall Road and Bass Harbor Road. For this scenic drive, stay to the left and continue on Seawall Road. As you loop around this peninsula, stop at the Bass Harbor Lighthouse (A4) which has been guiding ships since 1858. The lighthouse is closed to the public but the grounds are open offering a premier spot to watch the sunset. The cliff-hugging lighthouse will be featured on a U.S. quarter — part of the U.S. Mint’s “America the Beautiful Quarters Program.”

As the end of Seawall Road, turn right onto Harbor Drive which leads back to ME-102 towards Tremont. Continue north on ME-102 to Pretty Marsh (H2), which features a picnic area and trails that explore the Acadia’s forests and shores. The area is an ideal spot for nature lovers and picnics.

Back on ME-102 north, our scenic drive ends as you approach the location where we began. From here, consider continuing north on ME-3 towards US-1 and enjoying our Maine’s Big Sur scenic drive.

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