Maine’s Acadia National Park is a favorite of photographers for its combination of accessible mountain views and quintessential coastal scenery. For Jerry Monkman, author of The Photographer’s Guide to Acadia National Park (Countryman Press, 2010), the park has been a go-to location for photography and family vacations for more than 20 years. Here’s his list of the 5 best photo ops in Acadia National Park.
Every trip I’ve ever made to Acadia has included a photo stop along the two-mile section of Park Loop Road known as Ocean Drive. Stretching from the beauty of Sand Beach to the dramatic cliffs at Otter Point, Ocean Drive sports pink and tan granite ledges perched above the crashing surf of the Gulf of Maine. A pair of secluded cobblestone coves provide some compositional variety. Best of all, this entire stretch of coastline faces the rising sun, making it a great place to start your day with a camera.
Watching sunrise from the 1,528-foot-high summit of Cadillac Mountain (the high point in Acadia) is a popular rite of passage for park visitors for good reason. The view from the summit is one of the best in all of New England: 360 degrees, taking in Frenchman Bay, the Porcupine Islands, and the surrounding peaks of Mount Desert Island. Best to arrive at least 30 minutes early to secure a photo spot, as you’ll most likely be sharing the sunrise with a couple of hundred other folks who have made the drive up the auto road to the summit.
The clearing at the south end of this two-mile-long pond affords perhaps the most iconic view in all of Acadia: Adirondack chairs set above the water, which in clear weather reflects “The Bubbles,” a pair of perfectly matched bald peaks at the northern edge of the pond. My favorite spots are among the boulders at the southern end of the pond.
Isle au Haut
When I want to experience a quieter Acadia, I take the six-mile ferry ride from Stonington to Isle au Haut. The southern half of “High Island” is part of the national park and features alternating coves and headlands accessible only by kayak or on foot (via the Goat, Cliff, and Western Head trails.) Few places on the Maine coast feel or look as wild and untrammeled. It’s possible to visit Isle au Haut as a daytrip, but I get the most out of a visit there by camping in a lean-to at the park’s Duck Harbor campground.
Great Head is a rocky cliff rising 145 feet above the cold waters of Frenchman Bay. Among the ruins of an early-20th-century teahouse (Great Head was once owned by J. P. Morgan and his heirs) I shoot summer wildflowers clinging to the rocks, as well as the dramatic cliff views to the east and south. Accessible via the Great Head Trail, which wends its way up the rocks for about a mile from Sand Beach, the cliffs are a popular hiking and rock-climbing destination. My preference is to hike in before dawn and photograph sunrise or the early-morning light on the cliffs.