Acadia: The Complete Guide

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Dreaming of summer in Maine, eating lobster, drawing the natural beauty, trying not to get wet at Thunder Hole? Me, too. What's inspired me even MORE this year is an extraordinary guidebook from one of my very favorite authors, James Kaiser - Acadia: The Complete Guide. What I didn't expect, upon delving into his well-written guidebooks, was to be completely entranced. James covers natural history, geologic history, the history and culture of an area, hikes, adventures, maps, wildlife, and more. James' guidebooks are truly Ultimate Guides to an area. What they accomplish is to get you interested, and then help you plan your trip. James excels at sharing the essence of a place with his readers - distilling the best of an area and getting you excited to be there.

Hands down, these are the best travel guidebooks I've ever read.

But I digress - back to Acadia: The Complete Guide. If you've never longed to go to Maine, pick up this book. If you head to Maine occasionally, pick up this book. If you LIVE in Maine, pick up this book. It's that good. Did you know that Acadia National Park is located on Mount Desert Island? And that the island, full of stunning beauty, is 40% protected AS Acadia National Park? It's a good thing  - full of opportunities for hiking, biking, driving, boating, and more. Let's dig in, shall we?

As with all of Kaiser's books, this one is filled with spectacular photos and engaging information. And, according to Kaiser, "Physically beautiful, ecologically impressive, and culturally unique, Mount Desert Island is one of the most fascinating islands in the world."

Acadia - Islesford and Mount Desert Island

Acadia - Islesford and Mount Desert Island

In this guide, Kaiser explores adventures, basics, geology, ecology and wildlife, history, Acadia National Park, island towns, and offshore islands. Let's dig in! If you're a hiker, then you'll love the eight amazing hikes laid out here in detail, with guidelines and helpful hints. Other adventure activities (and details) include sea kayaking, bicycling, rock climbing, and (of course, on an island) sailing and boat trips - five of the best are listed.

If you've not yet been to Mout Desert Island, the Basics section of the book is a fantastic resource. From getting there to at-a-glance information (did you know that Mount Desert Island is 108 square miles, and has 28 lakes and ponds?) to getting around, from hotels and lodging to dining options, and most pertinent, Maine weather (and a great list of rainy day options). You'll also learn about glaciers, and how they shaped Mount Desert Island, as well as the ecology of the intertidal zone. You'll read of lobsters (naturally), whales, seals, birds and mammals. Read on for the history of place, including the Native Americans, French Jesuits, Settlements, and the changes (and tourism) wrought by the Hudson School Painters.

From there, the book delves into the special places of Acadia National Park. What I love about this book is that I now have an intense desire to GET there, after reading it. From the beautiful photos to the vast amount of information, this is a book for travelers interested in the details of a place, as Kaiser explores the vast riches of Mount Desert Island.

We had a chance to catch up with James Kaiser, to chat about his book...

What was it like, growing up near Mt. Desert/Acadia? 

I was so fortunate to grow up near Acadia National Park. Mount Desert Island (where Acadia is located) is one of the most beautiful islands in the world, and my summers were filled with hiking, biking, and boat rides.

Acadia - Bass Harbor Light

Sunset at Bass Harbor Lighthouse, Bass Harbor, Maine. Bass Harbor Lighthouse, located at the southern tip of Mount Desert Island, marks the southeast entrance to Blue Hill Bay. Originally built in 1858, the lighthouse has been fully automated since 1974.

What are your favorite things to do at Mt Desert/Acadia? Is it too cold to swim?

Hiking is by far my favorite outdoor activity in Acadia. Mount Desert Island is home to over a dozen mountain peaks, and the tallest, Cadillac Mountain (1,528 feet), is the highest point on the east coast north of Rio de Janiero! The views of the surrounding coastline are spectacular—islands, lighthouses, sailboats. It's magnificent. As for swimming, the ocean barely cracks 60°F in August, so not many people jump in. But there are several lakes on Mount Desert Island that are perfect for swimming in the summer.

Why are boat trips so popular? What can visitors expect?

The coast of Maine is one of the best boating destinations in America, and the waters around Mount Desert Island/Acadia are among the most beautiful in Maine. There are dozens of offshore islands, and the water is teeming with wildlife, including harbor seals and humpback whales. There are boat trips that specialize in whale watching, lighthouse tours, and undersea exploration. Of course, some boat trips specialize in simply relaxing and taking in the scenery!

Desert, or dessert?

That's a classic trickster. People in Maine say both. I say "dessert," which I learned that from my mom (a fifth generation Mainer).

How can visitors best care for the island and park?

In the summer, the Island Explorer shuttle system offers free rides throughout Mount Desert Island. Since its inception in 1999, the Island Explorer has prevented emissions of more than 10,250 tons of greenhouse gases. So ditch your car, help the environment, and save money at the same time!

Acadia - Precipice Trail

Acadia - Precipice Trail

How has living by the sea influenced generations of families?

Boating and fishing have been an important part of life on Mount Desert Island for thousands of years, ever since the Wabanakis Indians called the island home. When European settlers first arrived in the 1800s, there were attracted to the island's beautiful harbors and close proximity to rich fishing grounds. Even today, fishing and boatbuilding are two of the most important drivers of the local economy. 

Artists have long found inspiration here - what's so attractive about the area?

Mount Desert Island is one of the few places on the East Coast where the mountains literally meet the sea. It's incredibly bold and dramatic. The natural scenery is what originally drew the first artists in the mid-1800s, and it's what continues to lure artists today.

What are your top photo tips for Thunder Hole?

Thunder Hole is small, narrow cave along the shore, and if you visit at just the right time incoming waves create a booming sound when water rushes into the cave. The best time to visit is on an incoming tide about halfway between high and low tide. Thunder Hole is also a remarkable place to visit during storms. Unlike most of Mount Desert Island, which is sheltered from the open ocean by offshore islands, the shoreline near Thunder Hole lies fully exposed. So when big swells kick up, the waves here are often dramatic.



Thanks so very much, James. As always, we highly recommend your books to our readers!

Meet Author and Photographer James Kaiser

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All photos courtesy and copyright James Kaiser


Note: Big thanks to James Kaiser for the review copy of this book!





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