Since this is National Park Week, it’s an appropriate time to plan a summer cruise to Acadia National Park on Mt. Desert Island, way Down East in Maine. Surrounded by some of the best cruising grounds on the East Coast, Acadia offers a land-and-sea experience that will provide memories for many years to come.
If you go in the summer (as opposed to the late-spring/early-fall shoulder seasons), you won’t get lonely. About 3.5 million people visit the park each year, at least in pre-Covid years. A lot of them use the bustling waterfront resort town of Bar Harbor as a base; it also has an active boating scene.
The park itself occupies 47,000 acres on Mt. Desert Island, where the numbers are impressive: Opened in 1929, it has 27 miles of historic roads, 158 miles of hiking trails, and 45 miles of carriage roads, largely underwritten by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
But far more impressive are the views of the park’s woodlands, rocky beaches, granite peaks and Cadillac Mountain, at 1,530 feet the highest mountain on the east coast. The wildlife ranges from moose and bears to whales and seabirds.
Then there’s Somes Sound, a five-mile-long fjard (a drowned glacial bay) that was formed 14,000 years ago and that almost divides Mt. Desert Island in half. Most of it is 130 feet deep, and cruising up the sound is simply awe-inspiring; there are few signs of human life, since it’s largely surrounded by the park.
To get there, you have to cruise Down East past most of Maine’s major boating communities, from Portland, Rockland and Stonington until you reach Southwest Harbor at the entrance to Somes Sound. It has one main street, a working lobster fleet, and it’s the home of such iconic Maine builders as Hinckley, Wilbur, Ellis and (earlier) Jarvis Newman; the John Williams Boat Company is just up the sound.
On the north side of the harbor, Beal’s Lobster Pier offers a fuel dock; it’s also the home of a seafood restaurant with picnic tables. Tie up at the dock, and they‘ll deliver fresh seafood to your boat.
Two miles away, across the entrance to the sound, Northeast Harbor is even smaller, with fewer tourists, and a protected marina just a few minutes’ walk to town. At the top of the harbor you might want to stop at the Asticou Inn; it’s been there since 1882, and it offers a spectacular view of the harbor. Read more: