NATIONAL PARK SERVICE CAMPGROUNDS
The National Park Service maintains four campgrounds within Acadia National Park—two on MDI; another, quite new campground on the Schoodic Peninsula, to the north; and one on Isle au Haut.
Both of the campgrounds on Mount Desert Island are extremely popular; during July and August, expect both of them to fill up by early to midmorning. The more popular of the two is Blackwoods (tel. 207/288-3274), on the island’s eastern side, with about 300 sites. To get there, follow Route 3 about 5 miles south out of Bar Harbor; the Island Explorer bus stops here as well. Bikers and pedestrians have easy access to the loop road from the campground via a short trail. This campground has no public showers or electrical hookups, but an enterprising business just outside the campground entrance provides clean showers for a modest fee. Camping fees at Blackwoods are $30 per night from May through October, $15 per site in April and November.
The Seawall (tel. 207/244-3600) campground is located over on the quieter, western half of the island, near the tiny fishing village of Bass Harbor (one of the Island Explorer shuttle bus lines also stops here). Seawall has about 215 sites, and it’s a good base for cyclists or those wishing to explore several short coastal hikes within easy striking distance. However, it’s quite a ways from Bar Harbor and Sand Beach on the other side of the island. Also, many of the sites involve a walk of a few dozen to a few hundred yards from where your car’s parked; wheelbarrows are available to tote your stuff, but for families, it might not be the best choice. The campground is open mid-May through September. Camping fees at Seawall are $22 to $30 per night, depending on whether you want to drive directly to your site, or can pack a tent in for a distance of up to 300 yards. There are also no electrical or water hookups here.
Advance reservations can be made for either campground by calling tel. 877/444-6777 between 10am and midnight (only until 10pm in winter), or by using the reservations system online at www.recreation.gov. An Acadia pass is also required for campground entry.
So what if the Park Service campgrounds are full? Private campgrounds handle the overflow. The region from Ellsworth south boasts a dozen-plus private campgrounds with more than 1,200 campsites, and each offer varying amenities. The Thompson Island Information Center (tel. 207/288-3411), open 8:30am to 5:30pm daily from mid-May through mid-October, posts up-to-the-minute information on which campgrounds still have vacancies; it’s a good first stop for those arriving without camping reservations.
Two private campgrounds stand above the rest. Bar Harbor Campground, Route 3, Salisbury Cove (www.thebarharborcampground.com; tel. 207/288-5185), on the main route between the causeway and Bar Harbor, does not take advance reservations. Still, you can often find a good selection of sites if you walk in before noon, even during peak season. Some of its 300 sites are set in piney woods; others are on an open hillside edged with blueberry barrens. The wooded sites are quite private. There’s a pool for campers and uncommonly clean bathhouses, and campers always get to pick their own sites rather than be arbitrarily assigned one. Rates range from around $30 for a basic, no-services site to around $45 for those with hookups. Open Memorial Day through Columbus Day weekend—no credit cards accepted, but there’s an ATM onsite.
Then, at the head of Somes Sound is Mount Desert Campground, Route 198 (tel. 207/244-3710), which is my favorite private facility on the island and is one that’s especially well suited for campers—only those RVs 20 feet long or shorter are allowed. This heavily wooded campground has many lovely sites, including some walk-in sites right at the water’s edge. The rate ranges from $43 to $69 per night in high season, $33 to $45 per site in the off season. It’s open from mid-June to about mid-September. (Do not confuse with the similar-named Mount Desert Narrows Campground, a bigger, more commercial campground that’s much more RV-oriented. That one is located right at the end of the bridge after you arrive on the island.)
Another option is Lamoine State Park (tel. 207/667-4778), which faces Mount Desert from the mainland across the cold waters of northernmost Frenchman Bay. This is an exceptionally pleasant, quiet park with private sites, a shower house, and a small beach about a half-hour’s drive from the action at Bar Harbor. The campground has been belatedly discovered by travelers in recent years, but you can still get a site without a reservation if you arrive early. It’s open from mid-May to mid-October, and sites cost $30 per night for nonresidents of Maine.
Still desperate? Head off-island to Trenton (a clutch of motels along Route 3) and then Ellsworth.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.