Acadia National Park, ME
West Side Story
Exit Loop Road and head for the western side of the island. You'll pass the Somes Sound, which divides the eastern and western portions of Mount Desert Island. Explain to the kids that this is a fjord -- a long, narrow, glacially eroded arm of the sea, usually hundreds of meters deep, with steep rock cliffs. What's more, it's the only fjord on the Atlantic Coast.
From there, take Route 102 to Echo Lake. This is the only beach on the island where you can swim without freezing mid-stroke! Parents will be relieved to find lifeguards on duty, restrooms, and changing rooms.
Beech Cliffs Trail is a short, steep hike from the north end of the Echo Lake parking lot. This trail is not recommended for children or those afraid of heights; part of it involves climbing four vertical ladders. But it's worth the effort -- the view is unparalleled.
Continue southwest along Route 102 to the Seawall. Though not frequently visited, the Seawall offers a wonderful view of Somes Sound, and a great opportunity to watch seabirds.
While there, stop at the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. Located on the southernmost tip of the Island, Bass Harbor is a must-see; in fact it is one of the most photographed lighthouses on the East Coast. The lighthouse was originally built in 1858, and today it is fully automated and managed by the U.S. Coast Guard.
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