Acadia National Park is near Ellsworth, reached via Route 3. Normally travelers take U.S. Route 1 to Ellsworth from southern Maine, but you can avoid coastal congestion by taking the Maine Turnpike to Bangor, then picking up I-395 to Route 1A and continuing south into Ellsworth. Though this is longer in terms of miles, it’s a quicker route in summer.
From Ellsworth, bear right onto Route 3 (U.S. Route 1 doesn’t go onto the island) and continue about 15 minutes to the island causeway in Trenton. Cross the bridge and you’re on the island. Consult a map carefully to determine which route to take from here; there are three possible choices, all leading to very different destinations: routes 3 and 233 go to Bar Harbor, Route 198 goes to Northeast Harbor, and Route 102 leads to Southwest harbor.
Year-round, there are several flights daily from Boston (and, seasonally, Newark) on small planes to the Hancock County-Bar Harbor airport (airport code BHB) in Trenton, just across the causeway from Mount Desert Island. Contact Cape Air (tel. 800/227-3247) for Boston flights, or book with that regional airline’s partner, JetBlue ( tel. 800/538-2583).
From the airport, call a taxi, rent a car, or—best of all—ride the free shuttle bus to downtown Bar Harbor from late June through mid-October.
A free summer shuttle bus service known as the Island Explorer has been in place since 1999 as part of an effort to reduce the number of cars on the island’s roads. It’s working; the propane-powered buses—equipped with racks for bikes—serve multiple routes covering nearly the entire island, and will stop anywhere you request outside the village centers, including trailheads, ferries, small villages, and campgrounds. (Bring a book, though; there are lots of stops, some of which you must request with the driver.)
All routes—except the one on the neighboring Schoodic Peninsula—begin or end at the central Village Green in Bar Harbor, but you can hop onto the bus almost anywhere else—a handy way to avoid parking hassles in town. Route no. 3, which runs from Bar Harbor along much of the Park Loop, offers easy free access to some of the park’s best hiking trails.
The buses operate from late June through mid-October; ask for a schedule at island information centers, in shops, or at any hotel or campground.
For the Eastern half of the island is best navigated using Route 3, which forms a rough loop from Bar Harbor through Seal Harbor and past Northeast Harbor, both villages in the town of Mount Desert, then runs up along the eastern shore of Somes Sound. Route 102 and Route 102A provide access to the island’s western half, known as "the quiet side" and comprising the towns of Southwest Harbor, a lovely harbor town, and Tremont, mostly a fishing and boatbuilding community, still light on vacaction homes and tourist infrastructure.
Acadia National Park staffs two visitor centers. The Thompson Island Information Center (tel. 207/288-3411) on Route 3 is the first you’ll pass as you enter Mount Desert Island. This center is maintained by the local chambers of commerce, but park personnel are often on hand to answer inquiries. Open daily, 8:30am to 4:30pm, mid-May through mid-October, it’s a good first stop for general lodging and restaurant information.
If you’re interested primarily in information about the park itself, continue on Route 3 to the National Park Service’s Hulls Cove Visitor Center, about 7.5 miles beyond Thompson Island. This attractive, stone-walled center has professionally prepared park-service displays, such as a large relief map of the island, natural history exhibits, and a short introductory film. You can also request free brochures about hiking trails and the carriage roads, or purchase postcards and detailed trailbooks. The center is open daily from mid-April through the end of October.
Information is also available year-round, by phone or in person, at the park headquarters (tel. 207/288-3338), on Route 233 between Bar Harbor and Somesville, open daily (except closed weekends in summer). You can also make inquiries and find information online at www.nps.gov/acad.
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.