Where to Stay When Every Bar Harbor Campground is Booked

January 8, 2019by Thomas Tash
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Want to know a little secret about visiting Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park? It’s NOT a little secret anymore! Sure, if you’re not from Maine, then you’ve probably Googled Bar Harbor or Acadia National Park and seen some iconic photo of a crowd-less wonderland. In reality, the area is being loved to death. Each year more and more visitors cram onto Mount Desert Island during the three summer months; 3.5 million of them to be exact. And each year, hotels, campgrounds, tour guides, residents, construction workers, and even the National Park Service have to hold on for dear life. If you’ve ever tried to book a campsite last minute, you’ve probably been laughed at. Campgrounds fill up months in advance, and charge premium rates during the peak season. So, if you’re wondering where to stay when every Bar Harbor campground is booked, look no further.

Where to Stay When Every Bar Harbor Campground is Booked

Here’s a map of the greater Acadia National Park region. You’ll see three distinct regions of the park.

  • The first is Mount Desert Island (MDI), this island is home to a large portion of Acadia National Park, as well as the vacation destinations of Bar Harbor and Southwest Harbor.
  • The second section included here is the Schoodic Peninsula, also accessible by car, which lies about 40 minutes to the east.
  • The third section is Isle au Haut. This remote island is accessible by mailboat from the town of Stonington.

If you’re planning a camping trip to Acadia National Park, here’s what you’ll want to consider:

Q: Have you visited the Mount Desert Island section of Acadia before?

  • If no, then you should plan to book your Bar Harbor campground in the first 2-3 months of the calendar year to ensure you get what you’re looking for. If you’re looking to stay at one of the campgrounds inside the park, plan to book 6+ months in advance. As of this posting (January 7th, 2019) about half of July is booked for Blackwoods Campground inside the park.
  • If yes, then look to expand your adventure beyond the most popular areas. Act like a local and go where the locals go to enjoy peace and quiet in the park. Schoodic is the perfect solution for this and is a quick side trek from MDI.

Q: Are you planning to hike more or shop more?

  • If you’re looking to explore the many shops in Downtown Bar Harbor, then again, you’ll want to book early.
  • If you’re visiting Acadia to take in some quality time in the great outdoors, we’d invite you to get off the island and discover the lesser-known parts of the park. If you’re really adventurous, the Duck Harbor Campground is a seriously remote campground on Isle au Haut. You have to take the mailboat from Stonington, and once you’re on the island, you’re traveling on foot. It’s a popular escape, but with only a few sites, they go really fast. On the Schoodic side, our Acadia East Campground provides a similar backcountry-style feel, while only having to hike a short ways from your car to your site. Since we’re a self-serve commercial tent campground, you have privacy from the time you arrive until the time you leave.

Q: Are you seeking solitude, dark night skies, and just the sounds of nature around you?

  • If yes, then we suggest you check out Acadia East. We have fewer than 10 campsites, with more than a 10,000 square feet of privacy each! You’ll have starry skies and quiet campfires, all while being just 2 miles from the nearest convenience store/gas station.

Q: Are you traveling with kids and family that are expecting a pool, arcade, playground, and other such amenities?

  • If yes, then a Bar Harbor campground is likely your best bet. We’ve personally stayed at many of them and would recommend Mt. Desert Narrows Campground, Bass Harbor Campground, Smuggler’s Den Campground, or either of the KOA Campgrounds on the island.
  • If your group wants to skip to the nature part of camping. We’ve got the place for you!

Bonus:

Camping on the Schoodic Peninsula doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the fun on MDI, in fact, you can take the Ferry! Go back and forth between Bar Harbor and Winter Harbor by boat and get an experience few visitors have had.

Starting to rethink the Bar Harbor campground for a more backcountry-style camping experience? Book your camping stay at Acadia East Campground near Acadia National Park and the Schoodic Peninsula.

Thomas Tash

Tom Tash is the Founder and Co-Owner of Acadia East Campground and Pocket Parks Campgrounds. Tom began his career in Outdoor Recreation at the University of Maine at Machias before joining the City of Portland Recreation Department and becoming the Recreation Director for the Town of Bridgton. Tom became deeply invested in the national parks as the Marketing Director for a national park travel guide company. He co-founded Acadia East Campground in 2017/18.

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