QUESTION: WHAT IS THE BEST CAMPGROUND IN ACADIA NATIONAL PARK: BLACKWOODS, SEAWALL OR DUCK HARBOR CAMPGROUND?**
ANSWER: | Believe it or not, this is the number one question people ask me — on Twitter, on this blog, on IG, on Flickr so I figured I would do a more in-depth look at the campgrounds we visited in Acadia National Park: Blackwoods Campground vs. Seawall Campground vs. Duck Harbor Campground. In terms of which is “better” really boils down to your style of camping and what you plan on doing while visiting Acadia National Park. We are more (way) off-the-beaten track sort of people and while I love a good gift shop my preference when camping is to be as remote and as far away from people as possible. The corollary to this is that if I wanted to get up and see something like a sunrise on Cadillac Mountain, there’s no way I’d stay somewhere remote, no matter how beautiful. In that instance, convenience is much more important to me.
Please note that information regarding pricing and reservation policies may have changed since I visited/this post, so please consult the national park pages for accurate info.
For more posts on what we did/where we hiked/what we ate while in Acadia, click here
These photos are somewhat deceiving because they were taken in the late afternoon when nobody else was around. Directly behind us we could see someone’s tent. To the right of us, on the other side of the picnic table was another tent site. On the left hand side of the tent, where I was standing in the road to take the tent photos, was a line of trees that blocked us from the next campsite. We also had full view of the sites across the road from us.
COST: $30/night, reservable online (peak season) though actual spaces are assigned when checking in
LOCATION: Mount Desert Island. This campsite is the closest to Bar Harbor and to Park Loop Road– where the majority of the park’s featured sights are located. If you plan on spending most of your time exploring popular sites like Sand Beach, Cadillac Mountain, Thunder Hole, Beehive or Precipice Trail, Jordan Pond House, etc., then camp here.
AMENITIES: Flush toilets (very clean), potable water pump, no showers but there is a place just outside the boundaries of the campground that offers coin-operated showers. Picnic tables, parking, and fire pits at each site.
CAMPSITE DESCRIPTION: Forest setting, gravel tent site. The drive-in tent only non-electric sites were large (could easily fit multiple tents) and nestled in the trees. You can only pitch your tent in the designated gravelled site area so bring sleeping pads of some sort. Note: outside firewood is not allowed. Our site was in Loop B — B72 or 74 (can’t quite recall which).
GOOD FOR: Families, groups, people who enjoy ranger programs and other campsite-related activities, people who like being in the mix of things, those exploring Bar Harbor and Park Loop Road
VERDICT: If you are like us and prefer a more remote campground with fewer people, then this would not be it. Many of the sites are very close together and so interaction — whether wanted or not — with neighbors is more than likely to occur. It is a somewhat noisy campground due to the popularity/location/amount of people. Luckily for us the site directly to the right of ours remained unoccupied for the time we were at Blackwoods so we had a bit more privacy. Quite a few trails can be reached from the campgrounds, as well as the park’s free bus shuttle. It’s definitely not a campsite to “get away from it all” but it’s still a beautiful place in a great, convenient location.
For more photos and to read my original post, click here.
COST: $30/night (drive up tent sites – peak season), reservable online. Unlike Blackwoods, where sites were assigned upon check-in, we were able to choose and reserve the exact site we wanted at Seawall.
LOCATION: Mount Desert Island, 18 miles from Bar Harbor and 4 miles south of Southwest Harbor. This site is on the WESTERN side of the MDI. Just outside the campgrounds and across the street is a coastal access point with picnic tables and parking — great for watching the sunset, having a bite to eat, or wandering along the coast
AMENITIES: Flush toilets, potable water, picnic tables, parking, and fire pits at each site. General store about 5 minutes up the road sells supplies, coin-operated showers and some food.
CAMPSITE DESCRIPTION: Forest setting, gravel tent site. We camped at site B8 which we were told was one of their most popular sites, and I can see why. Unlike D-loop, B-loop, the smallest of the loops, was more laid back (read: quiet) with long private driveways (we couldn’t see the road or other campers from our site) and plenty of space between sites. Our site felt completely enclosed by trees and shielded us from any neighboring noise. In fact, if we didn’t have to walk to the bathroom and pass other campsites we would have felt completely alone in the woods. We paid a bit more for a drive-in site as the drive-in sites seemed more secluded, spaced out, and quieter than the walk-in sites. TIP: Bring bug spray. The marshy areas around the camp are a haven for mosquitoes.
GOOD FOR: Off-the-beaten-track sort of people who still want to enjoy the convenience of shops, restaurants, and running water. This is definitely the ‘quieter side” of the island and is closer to less-traveled hiking trails and sites such as Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.
VERDICT: If my only options were to pick between Seawall or Blackwoods, I would pick Seawall simply because I don’t like noisy campgrounds with people fluttering everywhere at all hours. I also don’t enjoy seeing other people’s tents every where I turn my head when I camp. On the other hand, Seawall does feel more isolated from the rest of the park. Driving to and from Seawall (about 45 min or so drive from Bar Harbor) would be annoying if most of your activities were planned around Park Loop Road and Bar Harbor. Blackwoods is definitely more convenient to all the main park attractions whereas Seawall is more secluded and quiet. If I didn’t have to pick between Blackwoods and Seawall, my favorite campsite was without a doubt Duck Harbor Campground
UPDATE: According to the NPS website, Seawall campground will be closed for renovations as of September 2016.
For more photos and to read my original post, click here
DUCK HARBOR CAMPGROUND
DUCK HARBOR CAMPGROUND
COST: $25 special use permit good for up to 3 nights/4 days PLUS an additional $40/pp round trip ticket to get to/from Isle au Haut via the Mailboat. The reservation process is somewhat laborious and involves snail mail. Please refer to this site for more detailed information.
LOCATION: Isle au Haut – which is about 1.5 hours from Seawall campground and another hour boat ride from Stonington.
AMENITIES: All sites are equipped with a wooden shelter, picnic tables, and a camp ring. Water is also available via a hand pumped well located approximately .8 miles from camp (though I recommend bringing a huge jug of water on the boat with you). No showers but near the water pump along the coast are a few shallow and calm pools for swimming or rinsing off. Chopped wood is available for free by the water pump, and in the event there is no chopped wood, there is even an antique looking automatic (!!) wood chopper. The 5 shelters share 2 solar composting bathrooms which are extremely clean and well-maintained. Attached to the back of each shelter is a metal trunk for storing food to keep away from the pesky little squirrels and chipmunks
CAMPSITE DESCRIPTION: There are only 5 primitive sites that are first come, first serve, and In my opinion, sites 4 + 5 are the best ones, with a biased preference for site 4 (where we stayed). These sites have a great view of the water and are a little more open whereas the other sites are higher on the hill and surrounded by trees. While it is considered to be ‘back country’ camping it really is somewhat of a hybrid: you get the remoteness of back country camping but have the convenience of being able to bring as much gear/food/water as you want on the boat to the campground. If you want to camp as minimally as possible you really only need to bring sleeping bags and food since a shelter already exists. TIP: Bring bug spray. the mosquitoes were relentless.
GOOD FOR: Backpackers, minimalist campers, people who like to get away from it all. We saw several families with younger children here which was awesome.
VERDICT: Without a doubt, my favorite campground in Acadia National Park though I would be curious to know what the new Schodic Peninsula campgrounds will be like. Regardless, I doubt anything could compare to the rugged, remote beauty of Duck Harbor. It definitely takes an effort to reserve and get there, but it’s so worth it.
NOTE: Because Acadia park land mingles with privately owned land you can also find additional non park owned options for camping and cabin rentals close to or on Mount Desert Island. I don’t recall exact names of the privately owned campsites but I do recall driving by a few when exploring Acadia. If the NPS sites are all booked, or if you’re looking for a cabin or campground with more amenities, these may be worthwhile alternatives.
** Since visiting Acadia, I read that a new campground will open Fall 2015 on Schoodic Peninisula. though it doesn’t seem as if those sites are reservable online until/for the 2016 season. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to Acadia one of these days to camp there!