The ULTIMATE Guide to Exploring the Schoodic Peninsula in Acadia National Park
You’d think that, with nearly 50,000 acres to explore, Acadia National Park would have plenty of space for 4 million annual tourists. If you’re trying to figure out how to avoid crowds at the park, the Schoodic Peninsula is a great option.
In fact, the Schoodic (“SKOO-dick”) Peninsula’s surrounding area plays a much bigger role than park visitors might realize. Were it not for an untimely death, a family feud, and the “Father of Acadia” being an excellent negotiator, this experience would be very different than it is now.
About the Schoodic Peninsula
The Schoodic Peninsula is anything but “more of the same” from Acadia National Park’s Mount Desert Island. But first, it helps to know the lay of the land of Acadia National Park:
- Schoodic Peninsula — The only part of the park on the Mainland, the Schoodic Peninsula in Winter Harbor is just 5 miles to the east of Mount Desert Island.
- Mount Desert Island — The main and busiest section of the park, Mount Desert Island is anchored by the town of Bar Harbor Maine and offers the most amenities to guests outside and inside the park.
- Cranberry Isles — Directly south of the tip of Mount Desert Isle, this group of islands includes Islesford and Baker Island.
- Isla au Haut — This island is 20 miles southeast of the nearest dock to Acadia National Park’s Mount Desert Island.
Winter Harbor is to the Schoodic Peninsula as Bar Harbor is to Mount Desert Island — only on a smaller scale. There’s a ranger station at the entrance to Schoodic Woods Campground where you can buy a park pass, or you can purchase the ticket ahead of time through the NPS Acadia app.
Becoming Part of Acadia National Park
A big chunk of Schoodic was owned by an up-and-coming Wall Street financier named John G. Moore. He had big plans to turn this peninsula into a destination resort, a more upscale and elaborate attraction compared to the then Lafayette National Park and Bar Harbor, just across the water.
NOTE: Bar Harbor Maine was a playground for the rich before a devastating fire in 1947.
When Moore died suddenly at 51 years old, his family couldn’t keep up with the taxing burden. They agreed to give the land to the national park through tough negotiations with George Dorr, the “founding father” of the park.
There was one caveat — as Moore’s descendants were English supporters, they couldn’t bear to have their father’s legacy part of the French-inspired name of Lafayette National Park.
An agreement was made to rename the park Acadia National Park in 1929, assuming the Greek meaning “a place of rural peace in pastoral poetry.” Acadia is also a French word meaning “place of plenty,” but somehow, Door managed to sidestep that concern.
Unique Features of Schoodic Peninsula
The name “Schoodic” is believed to come from a Native American word for the “end,” given the prestige of Schoodic Point’s dramatic shoreline. What you’ll find now is that “the end” is just the beginning of this Acadia National Park extension.
This peninsula differs from Mount Desert Island on several accounts. First, it is intentionally kept more preserved and secluded from large tourist crowds. Second, it has a different pink granite dynamic that is constantly being unearthed by the pounding waves of this open coastline.
Things to Do on the Schoodic Peninsula
Schoodic Loop Road is open year-round and runs one way from the campground for about 6.5 miles. If you take the loop from Winter Harbor to Schoodic Point and then up to Birch Harbor, the route is about 10 miles. You’ll come across several scenic and shoreline stops along the way.
On the other hand, you could opt for the Schoodic National Scenic Byway, which attracts only 10% of the visitors that go to the popular sites of Jordan Pond, Thunder Hole, and Cadillac Mountain.
Schoodic Trail System
You’ll find trailheads throughout and jutting off the Schoodic Loop Road. The trail options range from easy to challenging scrambling and steep inclines. Bicyclists have more than 8 miles of trails too, and hikers are also welcome.
Experienced hikers shouldn’t miss any trail that leads to Schoodic Head for the best views on the peninsula. On a clear day, you can see Cadillac Mountain in the main section of the park.
NOTE: Fog is quite common on the Schoodic Peninsula, and the waves can cause imminent risks. Keep up with the weather forecast daily.
Schoodic Point is at the tip of the peninsula with a generous parking area and stunning views of the Fiery Foundation that stands out from the Mount Desert side of the island. Use caution near these rocks because the waves can be dangerous and deadly. Don’t try to swim or kayak in these waters either.
NOTE: Blueberry Hill is a dramatic shoreline stopping point with parking just east of the point.
Birding on the Schoodic Peninsula
Whether you’re new or experienced in the art of bird-watching, you’ll see unique and majestic birds if you know what to look for. If you want an expert experience with the birds, check out the schedule at the Schoodic Institute near Schoodic Point.
Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park
The Schoodic Institute is housed in the former Winter Harbor Navy Base, and it’s yet another treasure on the Schoodic Peninsula that you can’t experience on Mount Desert Island. While this is an educational and research facility, public programs and activities are offered throughout the year:
- Acadia National Park Welcome Center
- Summer public programs
- Special events with researchers
More Things to Do Near the Schoodic Peninsula
Several small towns on the Schoodic Peninsula are worth exploring. The best part is that each offers a special slice of the Maine lifestyle outside the park.
Just 15 minutes from Winter Harbor, you can go on a “Catch Your Dinner” lobster boat tour or visit Mrs. JC’s Wildlife Ecology Center to explore several habitats among just 9 acres.
Schedule a private tour of the Old Town House Museum, which is located in the second home ever built (the first one burned down).
Hikers can explore properties managed by the Frenchman Bay Conservatory in Gouldsboro, such as the shoreline views of the Taft Point Preserve or the wood trails and pond options at Day Ridges Preserve.
Get a history lesson paired with awesome views of Mount Desert Island in Hancock. You can explore the unpredictably dangerous current (from the shore) of Tidal Falls, or arrange a kayak tour in warm weather or a snowshoe adventure in the winter through Hancock Point Tours.
Dining Near the Schoodic Peninsula
There aren’t a lot of restaurants near the Schoodic Peninsula or in Winter Harbor. However, there are enough dining options to cater to the small crowds that come through the area.
Since a lot of people camp and rent homes here, it’s helpful to know where the grocery stores are. Starting in Dunbar, which is 30 minutes from just about any location on the peninsula, here are the grocery options:
- Dunbar’s Fresh Market & Deli
- Young’s Market in Gouldsboro
- Winter Harbor Provisions
- MCs Marketplace in Birch Harbor
For organic foods right from the farm, visit Darthia Farm in Gouldsboro.
Winter Harbor Restaurants
You’ll get that mom-and-pop restaurant feel in Winter Harbor Maine. Downeaster is one of the newest coffee shops to start your day or get an afternoon smoothie. Get a hearty breakfast or lunch at Chase’s Restaurant, which is also expanding to offer artisan pizza.
The Fisherman’s Galley serves everything from award-winning lobster rolls to “towers” of beer to blueberry pie. The man behind the “catch your own” lobster tours is expanding to the Treehouse Seaside Grill.
Birch Harbor Eateries
Almost as legendary as the Schoodic Peninsula itself is The Pickled Wrinkle in Birch Harbor, which is a name and a menu item.
“Pickled Wrinkles are an old Downeast Maine Delicacy. They are large carnivorous sea snails, or whelks, which are pickled and marketed locally as Pickled Wrinkles. Unlike herbivorous periwinkles, which inhabit tidal zones, wrinkles are larger and inhabit areas below the tide line.”The Pickled Wrinkle
You can also get a snack or shake at Me & Ben’s Dairy Creme.
Lodging Near the Schoodic Peninsula
From backcountry camping to rustic cabins to historic mansions and so many niche options in between, there’s lodging for everyone on the Schoodic Peninsula without long drags of chain hotels.
Flanders Bay Cabins
Choose from a cabin, chalet, or shorefront house at Flanders Bay in Sullivan Maine. From summer barbecue scents filling the air to a Christmas tree farm for holiday guests, Flanders Bay has been attracting guests since the 1930s.
Acadia Oceanside Meadows Inn
From the second the piano music starts playing on the Acadia Oceanside website, you know you’re in for an elegant and sophisticated experience in the historic homes from the 1800s set on 200 acres with woods and exclusive oceanfront views on Prospect Harbor.
Schoodic Camping Under the Stars
The quieter side of Acadia National Park means more space at campgrounds and some of the most dynamic night skies on the Eastern Seaboard. Schoodic Woods Campground is one of these camping options and is the only NPS camping area on this side of the park.
Acadia Seashore Camping & Cabins is tucked between the Schoodic National Scenic Byway and Flanders Bay — about 20 minutes north of the park’s campground. Split the difference in distances while tapping into primal instincts with backcountry camping at Acadia East Campground.
West Bay Acadia RV Campground has a firm “lights out” policy at night to let the dark skies light the way. Then there’s MainStay Cottages & RV Park in Winter Harbor, which provides the rustic allure of camping while still being close to modern amenities and four walls.
For truly the best of both Acadia sides and an extra dose of Maine beauty, consider camping on Stave Island Preserve, which is just offshore of the peninsula with Bar Harbor on the other side of the bay.
Live the RV life without paying for the upkeep. This trio of vacation rental options is available for those who love Acadia and Maine but can’t stand the summer crowds.
Long Cove Hideaway, Cemetery Hill, and Quarry Cove offer coastal views, RVs with detailed amenities, and a greater chance of seeing a moose than another human.
FAQs About the Schoodic Peninsula
How do guests get around the Schoodic Peninsula without a car?
The Island Explorer bus system that runs through the entire park has a special route for the Schoodic Peninsula that departs from Winter Harbor, stops at the campground, and then heads to Schoodic Point before taking the loop up to Birch Harbor and Prospect Harbor.
Routes are available from late May through early October. Also, passengers can wave down the bus at any point along the route.
Is there a ferry from Bar Harbor to Winter Harbor and the Schoodic Peninsula?
The drive between Bar Harbor and Winter Harbor is about one hour, but there’s a ferry for those who prefer to use it. Downeast Windjammer Cruise Lines offers transport that takes 45 minutes. Keep in mind that winter routes are not available.
Will my mobile phone work on the Schoodic Peninsula?
Mobile service is limited on the Schoodic Peninsula, and you don’t want to drain a phone battery trying to get a bar.
With the NPS app, you can use GPS, which doesn’t require mobile service to navigate the provided trail and road maps. Just change the app settings to “Save this park for offline use.”
Discover the Beauty of the Schoodic Peninsula
Whether the Schoodic Peninsula is part of your trip to Acadia or a means to get away from Acadia National Park’s crowds, this is definitely one side of Downeast Maine that is worth visiting. Start planning your visit!
The name of the town is Corea, not Cornea. There are several takeout sites on Rte 1 coming from Ellsworth that are open during the Summer. The Schoodic Arts Festival has a wide variety of programs and performances for all ages.
It’s Corea. Not Cornea. I’m guessing the author’s laptop auto-corrected the word.