From winter festival to summer camping, Schoodic offers lots to do

Schoodic Peninsula has long been the quieter side of Acadia National Park, across Frenchman Bay and a world away from the summer hubbub of Bar Harbor.

Schoodic institute winter festival at acadia national park

The Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park hosts part of the Acada Winter Festival, beginning Feb. 26. (Schoodic Institute photo)

But increasingly, the only section of the park on the mainland is becoming a four-season draw for educators, students, citizen scientists, researchers, birders, families with young children, artists and others.

Among the reasons for the growth of activity:

  • A full calendar of events by the Schoodic Institute, a non-profit that partners with Acadia National Park to run the Schoodic Education and Research Center (SERC), including the Acadia Winter Festival beginning Feb. 26; regular birding tours; scientific conferences; and continuing education courses. Events are already filling the 2016 calendar up through September.

    schoodic woods

    While the Schoodic Woods ranger station and campground are closed this time of year, trails are available for hiking, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.

  • A conference center with dining facilities and overnight lodging for more than 100, available for scientific, educational or corporate gatherings on the SERC campus
  • An in-season transportation network that lets visitors take a ferry from Bar Harbor, and then the fare-free Island Explorer around the Schoodic section of the park, and to Winter Harbor, Birch Harbor and Prospect Harbor.
  • New Schoodic Woods campground that’s open late May through Columbus Day, along with hiking trails and bike paths that can be snowshoed or cross-country skiied in the winter, conditions permitting.

Acadia Winter Festival on Schoodic runs from Feb. 26 – March 1

As part of Acadia Centennial celebrations, Schoodic Institute will host more than two dozen events during the first portion of the Acadia Winter Festival. (The second half runs from March 2 – March 6 on Mount Desert Island, with Camp Beech Cliff serving as the base of activities.)

Among the Schoodic Acadia Winter Festival highlights:

sunset seen from schoodic peninsula in Acadia National Park

The sun sets over Acadia National Park, as seen from Schoodic Peninsula. That’s the hulk of Cadillac to the right. (NPS photo)

  • Snowshoe or cross-country ski with the new Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider, as well as Schoodic Institute President Mark Berry (free)
  • All-day winter birding trip on Schoodic with Rich MacDonald, field biologist and co-owner of The Natural History Center (free)
  • Kids workshop on wildlife winter survival with Hannah Webber of the Schoodic Institute ($5)
  • Artist’s reception and presentation, photographer Bob Thayer (free)
  • Winter photography workshop with Nate Levesque ($30)
  • Learn how to woodcarve a feather pin, with award-winning bird carver Ed Hawkes ($40)
  • Lecture by author Carl Little on “The Art of Maine in Winter” (free)

Schoodic Peninsula the quieter side of Acadia National Park

Several years ago, during the July weekend that President Barack Obama and his family visited Acadia, we stayed in Winter Harbor to avoid the crowds, doing the reverse commute on the Schoodic-to-Bar-Harbor ferry, and taking the Island Explorer to the hiking trails at Sieur de Monts.

schoodic peninsula in acadia national park

The “other” Acadia National Park loop road is along the dramatic coast of Schoodic Peninsula (NPS photo)

It’s a route that few others have travelled, and a quieter side of Acadia that the crowds don’t know about.

From our room at the MainStay, we had a view of the harbor and lobster boats at work, and were just steps away from the ferry to Bar Harbor and the Island Explorer. Down the street was fresh seafood at Chase’s Restaurant. And a short ride away was the Schoodic section of the park.

That same Schoodic small-town feel is what Arthur Frommer – yes, that Frommer, of Frommer’s travel guides – appreciated when he and his wife rented the Captain Bickford House for 9 days in Winter Harbor during the summer of 2014, according to the Schoodic Chamber’s Web site.

Summer, winter, spring or fall, Schoodic is a special place. May it always be far from the madding crowd, even as more visitors discover it with the Acadia Winter Festival, the new Schoodic Woods campground, and other year-round happenings.

Free listing of year-round Schoodic businesses

In appreciation of Schoodic, and as a public service to visitors and local businesses, we’ve compiled a page of area businesses open some or all of the off-season, including links to TripAdvisor(R) reviews where available.

So take a trip to the quieter side of Acadia!

(NOTE: Original version of this post published in

Dolores Kong & Dan Ring

About Dolores Kong & Dan Ring

Dolores Kong and Dan Ring are co-authors of the Falcon guides Hiking Acadia National Park and Best Easy Day Hikes Acadia National Park, and also blog at They’ve backpacked the 270-plus miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maine, and are members of the Northeast 111 Club, having hiked all major peaks of the Northeast. Dolores is a former staff reporter at The Boston Globe. Dan is a journalist and former Statehouse bureau chief in Boston for the old Ottaway News Service and for The Republican, the daily newspaper for Springfield, Mass. They are married and live in New England.