Acadia National Park, ME
Drive the Loop
Jordan Pond House, copyright
National Park Service
Many of the natural attractions at Acadia can be easily accessed via the 20-mile Park Loop Road. In fact, the entire drive takes only about 1 1/2 hours, though you'll want to stretch it out with scenery stops along the way. The two-lane road is open to motor vehicles all year except winter.
Start at the visitor center in Hull's Cove off Route 3 on the east end of the island, and follow the signs. Driving from the northeast, you'll first hit Sieur de Monts spring. While there, check out the new Native American cultural exhibit at the Robert Abbe Museum. The Nature Center and Acadia Wild Gardens are also worth a look.
Continue southward along Park Loop Road to Sand Beach, Acadia's only sand beach. But don't count on an extended swim; the water never gets warmer than 55 degrees!
A few feet from the beach is The Beehive, a 520-foot-high mountain whose honeycombed eastern face was sculpted by glaciers. Permanent handholds, ladders, and rails have been installed to help hikers scale this scenic peak. In summer, the shadeless trek can be strenuous, so pack a hat, sunblock, and plenty of water.
Otter Point, one of the most beautiful spots on the island, is your next stop. The peninsula is lined with huge boulders that are perfect for climbing and scrambling. Take extra precaution with small children and pets; there are several tidal pools hidden around the boulders.
Northwest of Otter Point lie Jordan Pond and The Bubbles. Jordan Pond is a great place to stop for lunch. The kids will love homemade ice cream from the Jordan Pond House. To the north of Jordan Pond, point out to your clan the pair of rounded mountains named The Bubbles, for obvious reasons.
Continue driving on Loop Road to the top of Cadillac Mountain. Not only is this the park's highest peak (elevation 1,530 feet), it's also the tallest mountain on the Atlantic north of Brazil! On clear days, Cadillac offers a panoramic view, including Frenchman Bay, the entire park, and much of Maine itself.
About half an hour before sunset, drive back down to the Blue Hill parking lot, just below the summit. A few yards beyond the lot is a gentle, rocky lawn where you can watch a spectacular sunset.