Acadia National Park is located, for the most part, on Mount Desert Island off the coast of Maine. It’s a fantastic destination for anyone interested in coastal landscape photography, with a many photo opportunities mountains, rocky shores, sandy coves, fishing harbors, lakes and woods. There are parts of Acadia on the Maine mainland and on Isle au Haut, but for this report I will be focusing on Mt. Desert Island.
I drive up from the Boston area where I live. It’s about a five hour drive from Boston. For anyone traveling from another part of the country, Portland or Bangor airports in Maine will get you a good deal closer. The biggest and liveliest town on Mt Desert Island is Bar Harbor, but I prefer the quieter side of the Island and on this trip I stayed in the Fishing village of Southwest Harbor. Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor and the other villages offer a wide range of accommodation. There is a bus service on the Island in the summer months that covers much of the island. Your entry pass to the national park allows you to ride the bus for free. Although outside the peak of the summer season, driving isn’t typically a problem. There are plenty of pull outs on the scenic roads.
The visit described in this report was four days over the Columbus day weekend (first weekend in October) 2011. It’s not possible to predict exactly when the leaves will change color in the fall, but I was fortunate to arrive just as the leaves were turning color. There are many great shooting locations in Acadia, but in this report I will only cover the locations I visited on this trip.
At 1,500 feet, Mount Cadillac is the highest point on the New England coast and has fine views back to the mainland in the west and over Frenchmen’s bay and the Porcupine islands to the East. The summit itself has plenty of rocky outcrops and stunted trees for foreground interest. With good views to east and west, it’s a great spot for both sunrise and sunset. There is an auto road to the summit, which means it can get busy in the summer months. Sunrise generally has a few less visitors and a better chance of framing shots without the omnipresent tourists. If you have the time, the ridge trail to top of mount Cadillac provides some alternate view points once you get above the tree line. The hike is about 4 miles in one way.
Mt. Cadillac at sunset
The Ocean Drive is part of a one-way loop road on the eastern side of the island. It provides multiple access points to the shore. For this visit I went down to the pebble beach area for the sunrise. This is usually an excellent sunrise location with views across the large cobbles of the beach towards Otter cliffs. Unfortunately the morning I visited, the place was alive with photographers - I am guessing that someone was conducting a photographic workshop. I grabbed a few shots of the cliffs and then walked back up the shore towards Monument cove. This is secluded little inlet provides some interesting rock formations and lit up nicely in the golden hour light.
Monument Cove, early morning light
Southwest Harbor was the village we stayed at. There are a couple of good access points to the harbor. One is on Town Wharf Road, where I got some good early evening light and the other just off Main Street (route 102) where I got an excellent sunrise. Both locations offer the usual dockside interest of lobster pots, fishing tackle etc. and a mixture of fishing boats and pleasure craft. A little further south on route 102 you can find the Ships Harbor and Wonderland trails. I have done both in the past, but on this trip I just did the Wonderland trail. It’s about a half mile of fairly easy walking to the shore. There are some nice views of the rocky shore up and down the coast. At low tide these is some added interest from rock pools. I haven’t tried this spot for a sunrise yet, but I think it has some promise. Driving north out of Southwest Harbor on route 102 will get you to Somesville where is a pretty little arched bridge over a pond. The bridge gets its best light in the early morning.
Southwest Harbor sunrise
Jordan Pond is an inland glacial lake. There is an easy three mile trail that circuits the pond. My favorite views of the pond are from Jordan Pond house at the south end of the pond and then heading counter clockwise about a quarter way around the pond. This will give a number of photographic opportunities with foreground rocks in the pond and the twin Bubble mountains in the background. I haven’t tried other times in the day, but the late afternoon light was pretty good, providing some nice side lighting on the mountainside.
We took a hike up Gorham mountain, it’s a moderate mile and a half hike to the top. At the top you will be rewarded with spectacular views over Great Head in one direction and Otter cove in the other. Nature Cruises are a good way to see more of the coastline. We took one out of Bar Harbor. With the foliage starting the change, the hillsides coming down to ocean provide some very nice color. As an added bonus, on our nature cruise we saw atlantic and harbor seals, eider ducks and bald eagles.