Are you looking for unique beauty in Maine? Head to the Wild Gardens of Acadia!
Maine is home to stunning stretches of natural beauty, from sandy beaches, miles of coastline, and rocky headlands to dense woodlands and stunning peaks. It’s hard to find an area in the state that isn’t picturesque.
It only makes sense that Maine is also home to the uniquely beautiful Acadia National Park, which welcome’s about 4 million visitors each year. Among the nearly 160 miles of hiking trails, the Wild Gardens of Acadia celebrate native flora — over 400 species, in fact.
This not-to-be-missed gem displays the beauty and diversity of Maine plant life. It’s well worth a visit as you wander through Acadia National Park.
All About the Wild Gardens of Acadia
The name Wild Gardens of Acadia was first coined in 1909 when George B. Dorr bought the land around Sieur de Monts Spring and re-named the area Wild Gardens of Acadia. Dorr realized the importance of preserving the beautiful, natural habitat of Maine’s Mount Desert Island and quickly went to work.
By 1916, Sieur de Monts National Monument had been established, and the process of acquiring further land for educational, scientific, and public use was completed.
Sieur de Monts National Monument was the origin of Acadia National Park — the monument’s name changed in 1919 to Lafayette National Park and again in 1929 to what we know today as Acadia National Park.
Over the years, beginning with Dorr’s efforts, plans were made to design wild gardens and paths in the Sieur de Monts area. These plans were finally fulfilled in 1961 after the Bar Harbor Garden Club created an exhibition garden with the purpose of displaying and propagating the island’s native flora.
Present-Day Wild Gardens
Today, the Sieur de Monts area, including the Wild Gardens of Acadia, is still known as the “heart of Acadia.”
Visitors can walk the gardens’ winding paths to take in the beautiful scenery and discover more than 400 native plant species — all labeled and organized into 13 habitats, which represent plant communities found naturally in the park (such as seaside, mountain, and heath).
The Wild Gardens of Acadia are an idyllic way to learn about native vegetation, but they’re also located in a wonderful region of the park that has so much to explore — all steps away from the gardens.
Things to Do at the Wild Gardens of Acadia
There are quite a few things to do in and around the Wild Gardens of Acadia. Read on to discover some of the best ways to explore this gorgeous area of Mount Desert Island.
Wander the Gardens
The number one thing to do at the Wild Gardens of Acadia is to enjoy the gardens, of course!
As you enter, you’ll be greeted with a saying by renowned poet John Keats, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” The Wild Gardens of Acadia make it possible for thousands of visitors to experience this each year.
Winding, accessible gravel trails run through the gardens and have benches along the way to sit back, relax, and take in the view. You’ll be able to learn about many of the island’s native plants via posted information and more too.
Also, the Wild Gardens of Acadia includes a photo area with a scenic backdrop. It’s the perfect place to reconnect with nature and enjoy its serenity.
Explore the Nature Center
Next to the Wild Gardens of Acadia is the Sieur de Monts Nature Center, where visitors can learn more about how Acadia National Park researchers and biologists conserve park resources and maintain the natural scenery.
The exhibits and activities are great for families, and if you have a national park passport book, you can collect your stamp. This is one of Acadia National Park’s visitor centers, so you can orient yourself in front of the large park map, discover nearby hiking trails, and learn about the area’s culture.
Tip: The Nature Center has a public restroom.
Enjoy Bird Watching
The Sieur de Monts Spring area is one of the best in the park for birding. There is a diverse range of birds here, including warblers, marsh birds, flycatchers, and other songbirds.
The best time to bird-watch here is from the end of April to the start of June, during spring migration.
This is partially thanks to the variety of habitats found within just 2.5 miles of the area, which encompasses the Wild Gardens of Acadia, woodland, a hemlock forest, a marsh, a wetland meadow, and a pond.
Visit the Abbe Musuem
The Abbe Museum is a privately-operated museum and Smithsonian Affiliate that honors Wabanaki Nations’ culture through education, exhibits, and activities.
The museum has two locations — one in the national park and one in downtown Bar Harbor. The scenic, trailside museum in Acadia National Park displays Maine Native American archaeology from the early 20th century.
The Abbe Museum is also a stop on the Maine Art Museum Trail.
See Sieur de Monts Spring
This spring can be found underneath the Spring Canopy, an octagonal structure built over a water supply. Dorr built the springhouse in the early 1900s and piped fresh water to it so that people could access springwater.
Near the springhouse, you’ll find a carved rock with the inscription “The Sweet Waters of Acadia.”
Hike Acadia National Park
There are seven historic memorial paths by the Wild Gardens of Acadia — Jesup Path, Emery Path, Kane Path, Kurt Diederich’s Climb, Homans Path, Beachcroft Path, and Schiff Path.
Jesup Path is one of the most popular, offering views of Dorr Mountain and a path that winds through the Great Meadow, hemlock, and white birch forest.
Want to summit nearby mountains? You can reach them through various connector trails in the area!
Check Out the Wild Gardens of Acadia Annual Plant Sale
Every summer (usually in June), the Wild Gardens of Acadia hosts an annual plant sale. Visitors can take home a variety of native plants, vegetables, perennials, annuals, and houseplants — and all proceeds benefit the gardens.
Stay up to date for the next plant sale and other events via the Friends of Acadia site.
Wild Gardens of Acadia FAQs
What is the cost to visit the Wild Gardens of Acadia?
There is no additional cost to visit the Wild Gardens of Acadia. You do, however, need to purchase an entry pass to Acadia National Park. There is special pricing for groups.
Do I have to purchase an Acadia National Park entry pass if I already have a federal lands pass?
No, you will not need to purchase a separate entry pass. Access to Acadia National Park and the Wild Gardens of Acadia is included in the interagency pass!
How can I get to the Wild Gardens of Acadia?
The Wild Gardens of Acadia are found within Acadia National Park, which is located on Maine’s Mount Desert Island.
The island is accessible by vehicle via Bar Harbor Road, which you can take from Trenton Maine to cross over Thompson Island and then arrive on the northwestern edge of Mount Desert Island. It’s only about a 35-minute car ride southeast of Trenton.
Also, you can hop on the Island Explorer bus, which offers fare-free transportation (bus rides are free, but you still need to have a park entry pass if you’re visiting Acadia National Park) between the Bar Harbor-Hancock County Regional Airport, local towns, and national park destinations.
Are the Wild Gardens of Acadia open year-round?
The Wild Gardens of Acadia are open seasonally, daily from dawn until dusk. It’s best to visit from late May through early October. If you plan to visit during winter, check the current conditions and potential closures beforehand.
Are the Wild Gardens of Acadia wheelchair accessible and stroller friendly?
Yes, the Wild Gardens of Acadia are accessible and stroller friendly. You can learn more about the park’s accessible areas before you go.
Can I bring my well-behaved dog with me to the Wild Gardens of Acadia?
No pets are allowed inside the Wild Gardens of Acadia. This helps protect the area’s flora and fauna.
Can I picnic at the Wild Gardens of Acadia?
No, picnicking is not allowed within the Wild Gardens of Acadia. However, you can discover other areas of Acadia National Park to have a picnic.
Discovering the Wild Gardens of Acadia & More
The Wild Gardens of Acadia and the surrounding Sieur de Monts area are beautiful places to explore and are rich in history too. They’re fantastic spots to visit as you enjoy your adventure through Acadia National Park!
Want to explore more of the scenic Pine Tree State? Visit a beautiful hidden gem, the Schoodic Peninsula— it’s the only portion of Acadia National Park that’s located on the mainland.