Top 5: Things to do in Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is the only United States national park in New England and a go-to destination for everyone from young thrill-seekers to families looking to go camping to older couples hoping to chow down on some lobster and enjoy the sights.  I have been leading adventure tours through this amazing park, located near Bar Harbor, ME, since 2008 and have been visiting Acadia since the early 90's with my family.  Although tiny in size when compared to the behemoth parks out west, this protected enclave on the Maine coast is one of the coolest places on the planet to explore.  Below are five of my picks for activities to enjoy on a trip to Acadia. Top 5:

  1. The Beehive - Harrowing yet manageable cliffs, limitless views of the Atlantic coast, getting up close and personal with some native creatures, and juicy wild blueberries are some of the highlights of this classic New England hike.  The parking lot is overflowing by about 9AM in the peak season so I always get an early start and beat the midday crowds.  While not recommended for those of you who are afraid of heights, I have seen the Beehive (so named because the rocky peak resembles the cone shape of a beehive) convert even the staunchest city lover to a full blown granola eating tree-hugger.

  2. Ocean Kayaking -No trip to Acadia would be complete without checking out the rocky coast and surrounding islands and by far the best way to do that is to strap on a skirt - kayak skirt, to keep the 39 degree water out of your lap - and hop in a kayak.  While you could rent a 'yak and bring out your inner Magellan, navigating the coast is best done by a local professional as they not only know the best spots to visit but know how to deal with inclement weather, distracted lobster boats, and vicious, killer seals.  I recommend a full-day excursion so that there is time to get out on an island for lunch and get to see some of the coast.

  3. Thunder Hole and the Coastal Park Loop - A short walk from the base of the Beehive will get you to Thunder Hole, a naturally occurring phenomenon where waves crash into the cliffs and are directed up through a chimney in the rock to create a massive sound and huge spray.  Keep exploring the coastal road for tremendous views, little hiking paths, and other fun stuff, like the millions of snails crawling along the endless coast.  The best way to do this is on bike but if you are a bit tired from your other adventures a ride in a car with the windows rolled down is a close alternative.
  4. Pop over to the Jordan Pond House for Pop-overs - This upscale restaurant, nestled between some mountains and the aptly named Jordan Pond, serves seriously gourmet meals while still allowing patrons who have not showered or changed their grimy camping clothes in days to sit inside or out in the amazing and scenic back lawn.  Every meal comes with a pop-over and fresh jam; there is really nothing better after days of campsite cooking.  Before or after your meal it is mandatory (not really, but really on my trips) to walk the two mile or so loop of the Jordan Pond.  It is relaxing, filled with wildlife, and a great way to burn off those pop-overs.

  5. Take a dip at Echo Lake - It is mid July, 90 degrees in the sun, you are sweaty and disgusting from camping, hiking, biking, and not showering.  The ocean is too cold to jump in.  Echo Lake is calling.  While there are numerous bodies of fresh water that you could go to in Acadia, I have always been partial to the shores of Echo Lake.  The water is clean and refreshingly cool, there is a sandy beach as well as some grass, and friendly people from all walks of life come here to lazily unwind.

Those are my top five, which may not necessarily be yours so do some exploring, leave the beaten path, discover new things, and have some fun in the outdoors this summer!  Oh, and do not forget to enjoy a lobster or two, fresh from the Maine coast.

Top 5: Reasons why Merrymeeting Lake is the ultimate camp location

There is a tendency for summers at Merrymeeting Lake to drift by in a blur of sun, sand, water, boats, and BBQ.  You fall in to a routine like nowhere else on the planet.  Early morning, purple sunrises with the fog lifting off the water and floating over the mountains.  Sunny days spent out on the boat with friends.  Evenings eating outside on the deck.  Night cruises around the coves and inlets blanketed by a million shining stars.  There are some unique aspects to Merrymeeting that make it the ultimate spot to host a summer camp.

  1. So clean you could drink it - The depth and flow of the lake keep it so clean that you could literally bottle the water and sell it at the store.  Merrymeeting is consistently ranked as one of the top cleanest lakes in the country and that is a stat the local residents are proud of and try hard to maintain.  Everyone takes the health of the lake seriously so you rarely, if ever, see floating debris, foreign invasive plants, or oil/gas in the water.
  2. Uncrowded/undeveloped - Merrymeeting has a total of one marina on its shores and one public boat ramp yet is miles in length and big enough to cruise around and have fun.  Larger lakes in the area tend to draw the crowds and thus it is common on Merrymeeting to be out on the water mid-week and never have another boat in sight.  Few boats mean less traffic-produced waves which equals glassy conditions most days for boarding/skiing.  Decreased boating also yields an unparalleled playground for sailing, kayaking, and swimming without the risk of getting chopped up by a passing propeller.
  3. Perfect temperature/weather - The depth of the lake (125 feet at its deepest point) comes in to play again in maintaining an ideal water temperature.  We have gorgeous summers in New Hampshire with the air temp hovering around 80 most days and the water getting into the 70's by the end of July and staying that way into September.  Not too hot, not too cold, but juuuuust right.
  4. Friendly people - There is a camaraderie between the people who share their time out on Merrymeeting.  Everyone is a little more chilled out, happier, and thus friendlier than elsewhere in the real world.  You'll always get a salutation from any passing kayak, canoe, or motorboat and the only road traffic is caused by people stopping in the middle of the road to chat.  While wakeboarding or skiing on the lake you will hear hoots and see fist pumps as you pass people on shore or in other boats...everyone gets stoked to see people having fun on the water.
  5. Wildlife - In my years at Merrymeeting I have seen some amazing wildlife.  The lake is home to a few pairs of loons, whose calls you can hear most evenings, and at night you cannot escape the croaking of giant bullfrogs.  There are turtles that lounge on docks, moose and deer that creep to the shores to drink, and bald eagles that circle around and swoop in for their fishy feasts.  I have also see a mountain lion, a few bear, and lots of foxes.  The animals mostly have a complete indifference to us and are happy to just go about their business and leave us to enjoy the perfect lake.

All of these reasons why Merrymeeting is great also remind us to share the lake, keep it clean, and preserve it for years to come.  Everyone surely has their favorite spot to spend the summer but for me it is Merrymeeting Lake so that is where Water Monkey Camp calls home.