WHILE GETTING TO Acadia National Park without a car can be a challenge, moving around once you’ve arrived is a bit more intuitive. Considering that over two million visitors descend upon the park annually, some may argue that minimizing the use of a car is really the only way to go. For the truly environmentally friendly individual (or the city-dweller who might not have access to a car), a completely car-free trip to Acadia is possible — it just takes a little motivation and extra effort. And with the park’s accessibility, trading in the car doesn’t mean you have to trade in a memorable experience.
Get to Acadia without a car
A number of airlines, including Silver Airways and Cape Air, operate between Boston and the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport, which is just 20 minutes from Bar Harbor. During the summer and fall, the free Island Explorer Shuttle provides service between the airport and Bar Harbor every half hour while the sun is up and every hour in the evenings.
While it is slightly farther, major airlines including American, United, and Delta operate in and out of Bangor International Airport, with service to and from major airports around the country. Downeast Transportation offers bus service between the airport and Bar Harbor from Monday through Friday.
Either option puts you near hotels and dining as well as within easy access to the park itself.
Utilize the Island Explorer and Village Connector Trails
The Island Explorer is a free shuttle service with ten routes across Mount Desert Island and the Schoodic Peninsula. From Bar Harbor, it is possible to get to almost all of the area’s attractions and trailheads, including Jordan Pond, the Precipice Trailhead, Sand Beach, and Thunder Hole, to name a few. If you’d like to experience some of the surrounding harbor towns like Southwest Harbor, the Island Explorer offers service there as well. Since not all of these routes are in operation year-round (and some have limited schedules during off-seasons), make sure to check their schedules in advance.
You might not be able to cover as much ground by foot, but being able to walk from your hotel room directly into the forest can be invigorating. And thanks to the membership-supported organization Friends of Acadia, a group busy developing Village Connector Trails for over 20 years, it’s not difficult to make that a reality. Village Connector Trails are walkable trails connecting the park’s trail system to Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor, and Northeast Harbor. Using the Island Explorer and Connector Trails in conjunction with one another is a great way to leave town by foot while still seeing parts of the park that might not be within walking distance in a single day.
Rent a bike
Acadia Bike, centrally located in Bar Harbor, offers a variety of bicycle rental options depending on what type of terrain you plan on riding. From their shop, it’s possible to head straight into the park via Main Street and Park Loop Road or catch the Bicycle Express Shuttle which is operated by the Island Express. The park’s 45 miles of historic carriage roads offer a quiet way to get away from the crowds of Park Loop Road, exploring the park as it was when they were built a century ago. Ride back to town on the West Street Extension and Duck Brook Bridge or take the shuttle — keep in mind that bike space is limited and, during busy times, tends to fill up quickly.
Note: A map of the carriage roads can be found online or picked up at the park’s entry stations.