Escape to the quiet side of Acadia. From hiking to painting on the beach, here are the top things to do on Schoodic Peninsula in Maine.
Much like a gale of wind, Acadia National Park blew me away with its rugged, natural beauty along Maine’s Atlantic Coast. The deep blue waves crest into a frothy foam as each crash against the granite coastline where evergreen forests touch the ocean. Visitors share rock outcroppings with seagulls and seals while letting the rhythmic sounds of the ocean erode the worries in the back of their minds. Each finds a way to enjoy the idyllic landscape from hiking to sailing to creating art—though most first-time visitors never find the quiet corner of Acadia named Schoodic Peninsula. Just up the road from Mount Desert Island, Schoodic Peninsula offers all the beauty with far fewer visitors. Here are the top things to do on Schoodic Peninsula.
Acadia National Park in Maine
As the oldest national park on the East Coast, Acadia National Park is a popular destination from late spring through the fall color season. Along with its ruggedly beautiful coastline, Acadia National Park features 27 miles of roads, 158 miles of hiking trails, and 45 miles of carriage roads (closed to auto traffic). With all it has to offer, Acadia’s Mount Desert Island (the most visited area) is quite congested during the summer season. Though there’s more to see in Acadia National Park, so head to the lesser-known, Schoodic Peninsula for all the scenery with fewer people.
Record visitation in all national parks is a good thing in theory. Until you can’t find a parking spot and spend more time looking at a traffic jam instead of a beaver dam. To ease that trend, search out areas that are less popular within the parks.
The Junior Ranger Program is the go-to program for families to learn more about a National Park Service site. It’s free and takes about two hours to complete. My kids love the badges that the Rangers present them after completing their booklet.
Acadia at a Glance
|Year Established: 1929|
|Location: Maine Coast|
|Size: 47,000 acres|
|Top Features: Cadillac Mountain, Jordan Pond, and Rocky Beaches|
As the only section of Acadia National Park on the mainland, Schoodic Peninsula is about an hour’s drive east of the Hulls Cove Visitor Center on Mount Desert Island. With less development (and fewer visitors), it’s a favorite for those wanting to experience the scenic beauty of Acadia.
Top Things to Do on Schoodic Peninsula
You will find much to do on Schoodic Peninsula. Some of my favorites, which I’ll delve deeper into in the article, are:
- Take a Scenic Drive
- Stop by the Ranger Station
- Visit Rockefeller Hall
- Hike Schoodic Head
- Pack a Picnic
- Enjoy Atlantic Ocean Views
Enjoy each of these and more as you discover unique things to do on Schoodic Peninsula.
Scenic Drives on Schoodic Peninsula
The main road on Acadia’s Schoodic Peninsula is a 6-mile, scenic drive. Just off Route 186, the main road is one-way for the majority of the route. It passes all the must-dos on the Schoodic Peninsula as it hugs the coastline (and it’s easy to circle around if you miss your turn-off). With cyclists on the road, slow driving is encouraged.
As a peninsula, the views along the scenic road are magnificent. Marrying evergreen trees with granite outcroppings along the deep blue of the Atlantic paints a landscape masterpiece. Pull off and enjoy the view at any (or all) of the many pullouts.
The first turnout is Frazer Point, located where the Schoodic Scenic Road turns to one-way only. Located right next to Mosquito Harbor (I didn’t see an abundance of mosquitos), Ned Island, Mark Island, and its light, along with Grindstone Neck are all offshore. Also, keep a lookout for the summertime ferry that sails between Winter Harbor and Bar Harbor. This area offers a parking area with picnic tables and a restroom.
At the tip of the Schoodic Point is the turnoff for Schoodic Loop Road, a favorite. It offers views of Little Moose Island, and Rockefeller Hall Welcome Center is located in the area. The Sundew Trail, a .7-mile hike offers views of Pond Island. Many people bring chairs and enjoy the view, as there are several restrooms in the area and a good place for a picnic. Though no tables are located in the area.
About a mile from Schoodic Point, Blueberry Hill offers a small parking lot. For its rocky shore, see Little Moose Island and Schoodic Island. Behind the parking lot and across Schoodic Peninsula Scenic Loop Road, a rock face called The Anvil rises up 180 feet. The Anvil Trail is a 1.1-mile trail that heads up the southeast section of Schoodic Head. The Adler Trail also originates in the area.
Artists and photographers are frequently found at Blueberry Hill. No restrooms in the area.
As the highpoint of the peninsula, a hike up to Schoodic Head is rewarding for the wow views in all directions at its elevation of 448 feet (143m). In contrast to Cadillac Mountain on Mount Desert Island, Schoodic Head doesn’t require special vehicle passes. Visitors can hike up the entire trail, or they can drive up to a small parking area and hike the rest of the way to the top. I opted for the drive and walk method to get to the top of Schoodic Head.
Visitor Centers on Schoodic Peninsula
The Schoodic Peninsula doesn’t feature an official visitor center. Though there are two locations to get maps and park brochures as well as talk to a park ranger or park volunteer.
Schoodic Woods Ranger Station
With an amphitheater, it’s one of the nicest ranger stations in the National Park Service (NPS) system. It is also home to the newest campground at Acadia National Park. Since it is a campground, find NPS staff at this location later than other sites. Consult the Acadia Calendar for amphitheater talks during the summer season.
Located 1.5 miles southeast of Winter Harbor. Open from late May until mid-October. Buy your NPS pass at the Schoodic Woods Ranger Station.
Named after John D. Rockefeller, a major benefactor to the National Parks, Rockefeller Hall offers an interpretive area on the first floor. Originally built as a naval center, Rockefeller Hall is part of a complex that was strategic for communications with Europe.
Completely renovated, it is used as a welcome center and base for the Schoodic Institute, an educational and research facility. Built in 1934, Rockefeller Hall is an example of the French Eclectic style with a mix of rock, brick, and masonry.
Well worth a visit, learn about the naval history of Schoodic Peninsula, including displays of the equipment used. In addition, there’s a seasonal bookstore with books covering the region.
Located at Schoodic Point. Open seasonally from late May until mid-October.
Hiking on Schoodic Peninsula
Enjoy the rugged beauty of Acadia’s Schoodic Peninsula with a hike. The hiking trails are less busy than the Mount Desert portion of the park.
From sea level to the high point of 448 feet on Schoodic Head, hiking is a top activity on Acadia’s Schoodic Peninsula.
- Alder Trail is a .6-mile (1 km) trail that travels through some of the best birding areas in the park. It leaves from the Blueberry Hill area.
- Lower Harbor Trail is a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) trail that hugs the coastline, close to the Schoodic Woods Campground.
- Sundrew Trail is a .7-mile (1.1 km) trail on Schoodic Point near the Welcome Center with views of Mount Desert Island.
- Schoodic Head Trail is a .6-mile (1.0 km) trail to reach the high point of the Schoodic Peninsula. Alternatively, you can drive up the one-mile, unpaved one-way road to a small parking area and then walk to the top for amazing views.
Biking on Schoodic Peninsula
The Schoodic Peninsula portion of Acadia National Park offers 8.3 miles (13.4 km) of bike paths. Class 1 e-bikes are allowed in Acadia, other classes are prohibited. The Schoodic Loop Road is open to cyclists.
Bikes are available for rent in Winter Harbor, just outside of Acadia National Park’s Schoodic Peninsula boundaries. Grab a map at the Schoodic Woods Ranger Station, and Acadia National Park’s free shuttle, Island Explorer, features a bike rack.
Arts in the Park
With an epic seascape, artists flock to Acadia National Park to capture its beauty. With quieter shores, Schoodic Peninsula is a favorite among artists and photographers. For the most dramatic views, the Schoodic Point’s waves crash over the rocky cliffs along with conifers hugging the shoreline. The sea birds are friendly enough to pose for a quick photo.
Acadia National Park even offers an artist-in-residence program each year. It hosts eight artists in various media that live in the park capturing the nuances of Acadia.
Headquartered out of Rockefeller Hall, the Schoodic Institute is a year-round educational and research facility that works in partnership with the National Park Service. With lodging and dining facilities on campus, it offers seminars and retreats throughout the year. For the latest events, consult its calendar.
Tidepools in Acadia
With tides flowing in and out twice a day, visitors can enjoy tide-pooling while exploring the Schoodic Peninsula. To plan your excursion, check the tides for the day and plan on tide-pooling an hour before or after low tide.
Several areas on Schoodic Peninsula offer tidepools, including Frazer Point, Cobble Beach on Sundrew Trail, and Blueberry Hill. To protect the small marine creatures, stay out of the tide pools and observe from the edge.
Water shoes add extra traction when walking on the algae-covered rocks.
Animals of Acadia
Although rare, bears and moose are known to live in Acadia National Park, so spotting one is a treat. Though Schoodic Peninsula offers a better chance to see one than Mount Desert Island.
Acadia is home to a variety of mammals and about 300 varieties of birds, including:
- Red Fox
- Snowshoe Hare
- Peregrine Falcon
- Bald Eagle
The Seasons of Acadia
Acadia National Park enjoys four distinct seasons and offers something to see in all of them.
Fall Color Season
For leaf-peeping trips to Acadia National Park, October is the best month. The peak of color is the second to the third week of October. The overall visitation is down after the first couple of weeks of September, although Bar Harbor is a port-of-call for fall color cruises.
Interspersed between the evergreens, the leaves of oak, maple, ash, birch, sycamore, and beech all change colors. Contrasting with the gray of the granite, this wow landscape often reflects its colors off the water. Fall is a favorite time to experience the DownEast portion of Maine.
Winter in Acadia
Winter comes early to the Maine coast and you can expect winter-like weather from early November through mid-April. Seasonal road closures start around Dec 1. Acadia offers winter sports like cross country skiing with about 60 inches of snow over the season. Temperatures range from zero to 30s Fahrenheit, so expect freezing weather.
Acadia National Park is open and offers lots of winter recreation options. For up-to-date information, consult the NPS winter page.
Spring in Acadia
March is still winter in Maine and April is chilly with days in the 50s Fahrenheit. The visibility is limited with numerous foggy days. May warms up with highs in the 60s. With the weather on the cool side, visitors can explore the park with far fewer visitors, until the summer sun starts to shine.
Summer in Acadia
Summer is the high season in Acadia. The days are glorious during the summer. High temperatures can reach the 90s Fahrenheit though the next day can be foggy as the weather is affected by the Atlantic. Dressing in layers is essential, especially on the water. Overnight temperatures can reach the mid-40s F. Water temperatures range between 50 and 60 degrees F all summer.
Ferries and Boat Tours at Schoodic Peninsula
Operating in between Bar Harbor and Winter Harbor, ferries run from the end of May until mid-October. With four departures (and five during the high summer season), visitors can skip the traffic and take the ferry to Bar Harbor instead.
One-way rates start at $15 for adults, $11 for children (babies-12) and bikes ride for $8. For more information and schedules, check out the DownEast Acadia ferries website.
For a scenic cruise, find several operators originating out of Winter Harbor. From whale watching tours to lighthouse tours, along with specialized boat tours dedicated to the puffins, getting out on the water is easy. Lobster tours where you eat your catch operate out of nearby harbors, as well as guided kayak tours.
Kayaks are available for rent in Winter Harbor as well.
Lodging and Dining Near Acadia’s Schoodic Peninsula
Unlike some national parks, civilization (and top dining and lodging) is right outside the boundaries of Acadia National Park.
Located on the eastern side of the Schoodic Peninsula, Winter Harbor is a quaint seaside village protected by Winter Harbor. On the quieter side, Winter Harbor offers small inns, and cabins along with camping, and RV parks. For dining, the area specializes in seafood, especially lobster, so find fish markets to cook at your place and casual lobster pounds for a lobster roll out.
Winter Harbor also features galleries and antique stores. For those looking for a snack, keep a lookout for a seasonal dairy bar. Most businesses catering to the tourists operate from late spring until the last leaves fall in Autumn.
On the western side of the Schoodic Peninsula, Birch Harbor is a smaller community with a few seasonal dining options. The Schoodic Loop Road Ride is a favorite with cyclists that runs between Winter Harbor and Birch Harbor and into Acadia National Park.
For those visitors who want to be in the center of it all, Bar Harbor has been a favorite for generations. It’s the closest gateway town to Acadia National Park’s Mount Desert Island and offers dining, shopping, and lodging. It is a destination on its own.
As a popular summer gateway, Bar Harbor can be a bit spendy for some travelers. To save money, some visitors stay in Bangor, Maine. It’s 45 miles from Bangor to the Hulls Cove Visitors Center on Acadia’s Mount Desert Island.
There are flights into Bangor International Airport on American, Delta, United, and Allegiant Air. You can get connections from Philadelphia, Boston, JFK, La Guardia, Newark, Chicago, St. Petersburgh, FL, Washington, DC, and Charlotte, NC. There are several great hotels you can book for your arrival or departure in Bangor.
A Brief History of Acadia
The Mi’kmaq people of the Wabanaki Confederation settled in this area and called it Acadie. The French explored the area in the 1600s and the name was adopted.
In 1604 Samuel de Champlain sailed by the area and named it Isles des Monts Desert. The largest area of the park is still called Mount Desert Island.
The US government named the area Sieur de Monts National Monument in 1916, then later renamed the monument Lafayette National Park in 1919. A final name change happened in 1929 when Acadia National Park was born. It’s the oldest national park east of the Mississippi River.
Getting To and Around Acadia
Like the Desert Mount Island portion of Acadia National Park, Schoodic Peninsula offers a free shuttle bus during the summer months—the Island Explorer. You can wave down the bus or wait for it at one of its designated stops, Schoodic Woods Campground and Schoodic Point.
Acadia National Park is located in the Downeast section of Maine, about 150 miles from Portland, Maine, and 270 miles from Boston, MA. Acadia National Park is open year-round but there are seasonal road closures from November through March. Admission is $30 per car for a 7-day pass or you can use an America the Beautiful pass.
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Save Time for More Fun When You Visit Acadia National Park
With a little planning, enjoy your time in Acadia National Park, especially if you choose to explore the quiet escape of the Schoodic Peninsula. Here are some time-saving tips to make the most of your experience.
- Purchase entrance passes before your trip and print them out at home.
- Make reservations for camping as early as possible.
- Get an early start in the day.
- Use a shuttle if offered.
No matter which season you visit Acadia National Park, there are plenty of sights to capture your attention and create memories to last a lifetime. Whether it’s camping on the coast or hiking the mountains, be sure to check out Wander to help you plan your next family vacation. We also have more ideas for things to do when you visit Maine and other parts of New England.