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Maine

New England's Gem: Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park

Program No. 16429RJ
Get to know Mt. Desert Island and Acadia National Park as you learn about the East Coast’s only fjord, explore a compound area of the Rockefellers and enjoy a lobster feast.

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At a Glance

Enjoy an insider’s look at the jewel of coastal New England — Acadia National Park on Maine’s Mount Desert Island — as those who know the area best share their knowledge and insights. Hear the story of the park’s creation by America’s wealthy elite, including philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and visit Northeast Harbor and Seal Harbor, the last two bastions of old-money wealth on Mount Desert Island. Trace the relationship between the park and the island, exploring the island’s history of ice harvesting and ship building. Year-round residents introduce the island’s seasonal rhythms and best-kept secrets.
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Walking up to two miles on mostly even terrain, boardwalks and trails.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

What You'll Learn

  • Journey through the park over carriage roads and bridges to discover landmarks like Cadillac Mountain and out-of-the-way treasures such as Compass and Southwest Harbors.
  • Learn about Somes Sound, the only fjord on the east coast.
  • See how crustaceans are captured after you enjoy a real Down East lobster dinner.
Featured Expert
All trip experts
Profile Image
Earl Brechlin
Earl D. Brechlin is a Bar Harbor resident who brings the history, magic and beauty of Maine’s North Woods alive in his new book of evocative essays “Return to Moose River.” He was the founding editor of the Mount Desert Islander and the holder of more than 100 awards for news and featured writing, and photography. Brechlin is a registered group leader in Maine, a former Maine Journalist of the year and the author of seven books on Maine and Acadia National Park.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Steve Haynes
Steve Haynes View biography
Steve Haynes is an expert on granite quarrying; Maine is renowned for the quality of its granite, which is featured in many buildings and memorials throughout the United States, including the gravestone of John. F. Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery. He not only discusses granite quarrying on Mount Desert Island but performs a spellbinding demonstration of granite cutting.
Profile Image of Linda Shingleton
Linda J. Shingleton View biography
Linda Shingleton is passionate about conveying her extensive knowledge of Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park to Road Scholars. Like many of the participants who attend Road Scholar programs, she is a retired educator, having spent 30 years in that field, and her ability to relate to others is a major reasons she’s such a well-liked group leader. Linda’s eager to help immerse participants in the diverse history and lore of Acadia and to brighten Road Scholars’ days with her unfailing optimism and good cheer.
Profile Image of Earl Brechlin
Earl Brechlin View biography
Earl D. Brechlin is a Bar Harbor resident who brings the history, magic and beauty of Maine’s North Woods alive in his new book of evocative essays “Return to Moose River.” He was the founding editor of the Mount Desert Islander and the holder of more than 100 awards for news and featured writing, and photography. Brechlin is a registered group leader in Maine, a former Maine Journalist of the year and the author of seven books on Maine and Acadia National Park.
Profile Image of Rich MacDonald
Rich MacDonald View biography
Rich MacDonald is a field biologist, ornithologist, naturalist, group leader, writer, photographer, husband, and father who lives in Bar Harbor, Maine. As a field biologist, Rich has studied the natural world, focusing on issues relating to climate change, forest ecology and birds. Rich is the director of The Natural History Center, an organization teaching and leading educational programs and trips throughout the natural world of Acadia National Park, Down East Maine and beyond (including leading Road Scholar trips around Norway, Cuba and the Great Lakes).
Profile Image of Lauren Tucker
Lauren Tucker View biography
Lauren Tucker spent years as a marketing executive before returning to her first love, Mount Desert Island. She has extensive knowledge of the island, its wonders and its hidden charms. She enjoys sharing her affinity for the island with Road Scholars.
Profile Image of Raney Bench
Raney Bench View biography
Raney Bench is Curator of Education at Bar Harbor's Abbe Museum, which spotlights Native American culture and history on Mount Desert Island. Her presentation on Wabanaki practices is always well received, and is followed by time for participants to browse the many exhibits of the museum.
Profile Image of Lisa Murray
Lisa Murray View biography
Lisa Murray, a passionate promoter of community connection, has worked on Mount Desert Island for over twenty years, including at the Abbe Museum, Pemetic Elementary School, Southwest Harbor Public Library, and as library director at Bass Harbor Memorial Library. She is an avid hiker and kayaker, and often heads over to Gotts Island to spend time at her family’s camp. She lives with her husband and two sons in Bass Harbor.
Profile Image of Sheila Bressler
Sheila Bressler View biography
Sheila Bressler first visited Mount Desert Island (MDI) over a decade ago with family and friends and has been captivated by its picturesque landscape ever since. She and her husband, Michael, live and travel across the country in their camper full time, and their love of the granite mountains and the rocky ocean shoreline keep them coming back to Acadia National Park for more adventures. Sheila loves to hike, bike, and kayak, and to share the beauty and history of MDI with Road Scholars.
Profile Image of Bryan Paxton
Bryan Paxton View biography
Bryan Paxton came to Maine in 2017 from North Carolina to work at ABCKT and fell in love with Mount Desert Island on his first visit. After graduating from NC State, he pursued his interest in helping others recreate outdoors. He loves every season on MDI for its unique qualities and is passionate about the island’s history, often searching for lost trails and forgotten treasures. He's also regularly found hiking, biking, beach combing, rock climbing, or cruising around in one of his old Jeeps.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of our published materials, programs are typically advertised more than a year prior to their start date. As a result, some program activities, schedules, accommodations, personnel, and other logistics occasionally change due to local conditions or circumstances. Should a major change occur, we will make every effort to alert you. For less significant changes, we will update you during orientation. Thank you for your understanding.
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5 days
4 nights
9 meals
4 B 3 L 2 D
DAY
1
Check-In, Registration, Overview of MDI, Welcome Dinner
Bar Harbor, Maine
D
Bar Harbor Villager Motel

Activity note: We’ll give you a capsule look at Mount Desert Island, “the jewel of New England.” Walking up to 1 mile, 1.5 hours city streets and sidewalks.

Afternoon: Check in with your Road Scholar group leader in the breakfast room across from the motel lobby between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. The Bar Harbor Villager is located in downtown Bar Harbor and is within short walking distance to downtown shops and attractions. We'll have our first gathering at 4:15 to get to know each other and to receive an introduction to Acadia National Park. We’ll give you a capsule look at Mount Desert Island, “the jewel of New England,” and show you the possible routes we’ll be hiking this week in Acadia National Park. Mount Desert, known for its dramatic scenery and universal appeal, is the second largest island on the east coast. Please be at the motel's cafe (across the lot from the office) by 3:45 so we can walk to our destination and begin promptly.

Dinner: At a restaurant in downtown Bar Harbor, we’ll have a plated meal with beverage choices of coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Walking back to the motel, the remainder of the evening is at leisure. (The minibus will take those who prefer not to walk.) Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Oldfarm, Acadia National Park's Ocean Drive, Cadillac Mtn.
Bar Harbor, Maine
B,L
Bar Harbor Villager Motel

Activity note: Getting on/off a mini-bus. Walking 2 miles throughout the day; paved and uneven terrain; steps at several sites, use walking sticks/canes as needed.

Breakfast: A continental breakfast will be available at the motel.

Morning: We'll head out to Oldfarm, the ruins of the home of George B. Dorr, considered the “father” of Acadia National Park. We'll learn the fascinating story of how the park was founded and how it came to be the only park in the entire national system in which the land was donated rather than purchased by the government. We'll also be able to see nearby Compass Harbor, a delightful shoreside area offering spectacular views. This small harbor is off the beaten path in Acadia and known primarily to locals. Next, we’ll ride the YWCA for a presentation on topics of interest to the program by a local expert from the Mount Desert Island Historical Society.

Lunch: At a scenic spot, we’ll have bagged lunches with the selections we made previously.

Afternoon: We’ll get back aboard our minibus as we prepare to encounter stunning scenery along Acadia’s Park Loop Road, including the famed Ocean Drive section. We’ll stop at Thunder Hole, where — under the right conditions — the sea sends flumes of spray skyward and produces a booming sound. We’ll also visit the glacially carved Jordan Pond nestled between mountains that features a gorgeous panorama looking towards the Bubbles, twin peaks rising out of the water on the north end of the pond. We’ll end the afternoon with a scenic drive up Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the eastern seaboard of the United States. When the serpentine road was built in the 1930s, it was considered the best-engineered mountain road in the world. From the summit, we’ll marvel at the 360-degree views and look west towards Blue Hill as the day comes to an end.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: Free time.

DAY
3
Lobster Class, Victorian Walking Tour, Granite Cutting
Bar Harbor, Maine
B,L
Bar Harbor Villager Motel

Activity note: Getting on/off a mini-bus. Walking 2 miles throughout the day; paved and uneven terrain; steps at several sites, use walking sticks/canes as needed.

Breakfast: A continental breakfast will be available at the motel.

Morning: Using authentic gear and live lobsters, a local lobster expert will show us how Maine’s most famous sea creatures are caught and what the future of the industry looks like. We’ll then meet a “Vanderbilt maid,” who will take us on a delightful stroll through Bar Harbor, highlighted by tales from the Victorian “cottage era,” when Bar Harbor was among the world’s most exclusive and illustrious resorts.

Lunch: At a scenic spot, we’ll have our bagged lunches.

Afternoon: We’ll ride through picturesque Somesville, the oldest settlement on Mount Desert Island. From there, we’ll take in the sights of the western side of Mount Desert Island — the “back side” or “quiet side” as many natives call it. At the Maine Granite Industry Museum, we'll participate in a fascinating session on granite cutting by a local granite quarrying expert. We’ll have a chance to lend our hands in prepping and cutting. The museum houses tools used by the quarrymen, blacksmiths, stone cutters, and stone carvers, as well as many historic photos and related documents. Moving on, we’ll visit Southwest Harbor and stop at Seawall, a natural rock formation that offers some of the loveliest ocean views on the island. We’ll then meander in and out of Acadia National Park and areas that many tourists never see. Returning to Somesville, we’ll visit sites that will reveal more about local history and culture including the so-called Monet Bridge, one of the most photographed spots in the state of Maine.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
4
Nature Walk, Cranberry Islands Boat Ride, Free Time
Bar Harbor, Maine
B,D
Bar Harbor Villager Motel

Activity note: Getting on/off a mini-bus; on/off a research vessel. Walking up to 3 miles; paved and uneven terrain.

Breakfast: A continental breakfast will be available at the motel.

Morning: After an early breakfast, we'll be treated to a morning bonus: a field trip to Sieur de Monts Springs, one of Acadia's little-known secrets. There, accompanied by a well-versed naturalist, we'll traverse the mile-long nature walk, a wonderful way to begin our day. Then we'll head to Northeast Harbor for our boating adventure. We'll board the “Sea Princess” a sightseeing/nature cruise vessel in Northeast Harbor. We'll tour explore the Great Harbor of Mount Desert and make a stop on Little Cranberry Island, one of 14 offshore Maine islands that maintain a year-round population. Then we'll cruise into Somes Sound, the only fjord on the east coast of North America, where we'll view dramatic cliffs rising out of the sea.

Lunch: Lunch on your own.

Afternoon: The afternoon is free to explore Mount Desert Island or any of the other nearby coastal areas which catch your fancy. We’ll be happy to point you in the right direction for the activities you choose.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we'll enjoy an old-fashioned Down East shore feast, featuring the state’s most well-known crustacean — Homarus americanus — the North American cold-water lobster (alternatives available).

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and departure after our lunch and graduation tomorrow.

DAY
5
Winter Habitat & Local Fauna, Program Concludes
Bar Harbor, Maine
B,L

Activity note: Motel check-out 11:00 a.m..

Breakfast: A continental breakfast will be available at the motel.

Morning: We'll wrap up our program’s educational activities with two presentations at the YWCA. A professor from Bar Harbor's College of the Atlantic will talk about winter habitat and how animals on Mount Desert Island adapt to harsh conditions. Another local expert will share his collection of antique postcards and share stories of Victorian era Bar Harbor.

Lunch: At Grant Park, overlooking Frenchman Bay and the Porcupine Islands, we’ll take part in a brief “graduation” ceremony and savor our memories of a learning adventure on the magnificent Maine coast. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time.






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