Big and beautiful, multi-faceted America is sightseeing paradise. A nation blessed with many natural wonders and always on the move, it has plenty to offer to visitors.
In the ever-evolving mega-cities, you can spend days looking up the historic homes, the excellent museums and enjoy yourself at the various amusement and entertainment arcades. In the national forests and parks, you can loose yourself in the beauty of your natural surroundings. Wild-life watching can fill your days in the National Park -the thrill of sighting the animals in their habitat is exciting, to say the least!
Driving around the countryside affords the opportunity to enjoy the wide-open spaces, the rolling fields and the charming small towns spread along the expressways. Enjoy the magnificent mountain sceneries from the various ski-resorts and mountain towns. In beach-front towns, succumb to the beauty of pristine beaches, calm and turbulent seas, dramatic cliffs and rocky outcrops.
Lose yourself in the gambling cities and theme parks that set out deliberately and very successfully to make you see magic, even for a day or night, as the case may be!!!
ACADIA NATIONAL PARK
Situated in the far north-eastern corner of the USA, Maine’s Acadia National Park is New England’s only national park. Spread over about 142 sq km, Acadia encompasses wooded mountains, granite cliffs, islands and lakes, all centred around the bare summit of Mount Desert Island. Once the abode of wealthy robber barons who made it their private playground, Acadia is one of the few parks which was set up not under state initiative, but as a result of community enterprise. And it’s definitely amongst the most beautiful and rewarding of the USA’s protected areas- and also one of the country’s 20 top visited national parks.
Acadia’s vegetation is amazingly diverse- by the seashore are scrubby grasses; dense green stands of spruce and fir cloak the mountains, and above the treeline are wild strawberries, violets, white star flowers and a multitude of other wildflowers which make these slopes a riot of colour through the spring.
Inhabiting the park is an impressive assortment of wildlife- minke whales, sea urchins, seals, starfish and fish in the waters which lap the shores of Maine, and mammals such as red fox, coyote, white-tailed deer, moose, black bear and bobcat on the land. Acadia is also home to almost 350 species of birds; among the park’s prominent avian species are the bald eagle, osprey, American kestrel, golden eagle, warblers and peregrine falcons- the latter now re-introduced after having been nearly exterminated in the 1960s.
Opportunities for a wide range of outdoor activities exist in Acadia. Hiking and biking are amongst the best ways of getting to know the park, while avid anglers can try their luck at landing salmon, trout or mackerel in the park’s lakes or coastal waters. Cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are possible in some areas too.
To get a deeper insight into Acadia’s habitat and its resident wildlife, you could go along on a ranger-guided nature walk through the park, or attend a rather more sedate talk or slide programme. Pay a visit to the Sier De Monts Nature Centre or wander through the Islesford Historical Museum. Either way, it’s bound to help you get to know Acadia better.
Entry permits costing US$3 must be purchased by all visitors to the park, and entitle you to a four-day stay in Acadia; an annual pass can be obtained for US$20. Entering vehicles are charged US$10 each. Additional charges are levied for fishing licenses, for tours and walks, and for the use of facilities within Acadia.
American citizens are eligible for lifetime passes, which allow entry to all the national parks in the country. These passes are free for those with permanent disabilities, and cost a nominal amount- between US$10 and 50- for everybody else.
The airport closest to Acadia is Bangor International Airport, approximately 80 km from Acadia. Bangor has excellent connections to destinations across the US, as well as flights to and from the Caribbean, Mexico, Canada and Helsinki (Finland). From Bangor, there’s a daily bus service connecting to Acadia, although this is operational only during the summer months. Cars or taxis can be hired to do the trip during off-season.
There is, in addition, an airstrip at Bar Harbor, linked to Boston by daily commuter flights. Bar Harbor is about 16 km from Acadia, and cars or taxis can be rented in the town to get to the park.
Bar Harbor is about six hours’ drive north of Boston and is connected to the rest of Maine by a seasonal bus service. Visitors driving on their own should take I-95 from Boston to Bangor, then switch to 1A to Ellsworth and finally take Route 3 to Mount Desert Island.
Within the park are about 195 km of hiking trails, some easy, some difficult, and covering everything from gentle seaside strolls to strenuous climbing trails which require a fair bit of stamina. Besides these, there are carriage roads throughout the park which allow you to admire the beauty of Acadia from the comfort of your car.
Best time to visit
Acadia is open throughout the year, and can be visited anytime, although you should avoid late May and early June, when pesky blackflies can be a real nuisance. Summer temperatures range between 7 and 30°C, while winter temperatures hover between -1 to -18°C: avoidable if you don’t like being cold. Also note that some facilities in the park are closed between November and April.
Precipitation is fairly constant through the year, so whenever you’re going, go prepared for fog, rain or snow. Winter and early spring are, especially, marked by frequent ice storms.
The weather in this part of the States is frightfully unpredictable at the best of times, so don’t let yourself be caught unawares- go well-clad, preferably dressed in layered clothing.
Acadia National Park has no `built’ accommodation; all that exists are two campgrounds, Seawall and Blackwoods, both equipped with basic amenities such as toilets, showers and fire rings. Blackwoods is open throughout the year and is operated on a reservation basis, while Seawall is open only between late May and late September and operates on a first come-first served basis. No back country camping is allowed within Acadia.
Besides these, there are hotels, motels, inns and other accommodation options available in nearby towns such as Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor, Somesville, Ellsworth and Trenton. Bar Harbor, in particular, has plenty of choices, ranging from B&Bs to seaside cottages, motels and inns.
Further information on Acadia National Park is available from the National Park Service (Tel: 1- 800-365-2267). Alternatively, you could contact the park administration directly at Acadia National Park, PO Box 177, Eagle Lake Road, Bar Harbor, Maine (Tel: 207-288-3338). For reservations at Blackwoods campground, call 1-800-365-2267 in the USA or 301-722-1257 if you’re calling from overseas.