We see how two of the most well-known national parks on the East Coast stack up against each other.
Lay of the Land
Acadia National Park
Spread out over two islands and a mainland peninsula on the coast of Maine, the 45,000 acres that make up Acadia National Park include rugged coastline, granite mountains, forests, and more than a few spectacular views. The summit of Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak on the eastern coastline of the Americas, is the first place to see the sunrise between October and March.
Everglades National Park
The 100-mile-long Everglades ecosystem situated at the southern end of Florida is the largest tropical wilderness in the US and is visited by a million guests each year. The landscape is comprised of freshwater and coastal prairie, mangroves, marshland, and pine and cypress woods. Though it’s only an hour and a half from Miami and a short jaunt from the gulf beaches of Naples, the Everglades has one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems.
Acadia is celebrating its anniversary this year, alongside the National Park Service. Established on July 8, 1916, as Sieur de Monts National Monument, Acadia is the oldest eastern national park and the first national park created from donated private land.
The attempts of early colonial settlers to transform Florida’s mosaic of ponds, marshes, and forested uplands into farm land and communities severely damaged the delicate ecosystem and species that dwelled within. In 1947, the efforts of scientists, conservationists and advocates came together with the establishment of Everglades National Park, which protects 1.5 million acres of Florida’s southern tip.
Hike to Your Heart’s Content
With 115 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage trails, it’s hard to choose just one. The park has so many options that almost every visitor will have a few solid options to choose from, regardless of their hiking expertise. An easy 1.4-mile round-trip, the Wonderland Trail takes hikers from evergreen forest to rocky coastline and back. For those comfortable with some moderate to strenuous terrain and exposed ridges, the 2.4-mile Cadillac South Ridge Trail is superb.
Many former trails are no longer being maintained due to the presence of endangers species, but there are still several trails ideal for hiking or biking. For panoramic “river of grass” views, bike the 15-mile Shark Valley Tram Road loop and head up the 65-foot observation tower. Come prepared for insects year-round and to bring plenty of water, especially in the hot summer months.
When it comes to seeing Acadia by car, The Park Loop Road is the best way to go. This 27-mile road winds its way through the beautiful and rugged landscapes of the park, some of the most beautiful features and views on the Eastern seaboard. A few highlights worthy of note, aside from the summit of Cadillac Mountain, are Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Otter Cliffs, and Sieur de Monts.
From Naples, hop over to Everglades City, where you’ll find plenty of options for airboat tours. Everglades City is also where the 99-mile-long Wilderness Waterway Trail begins – an adventure reserved for experienced boaters only.
Best Instagram Shot
Without a doubt, the summit of Cadillac Mountain offers the most highly sought panoramic views.
Take a jaunt down the Mahogany Hammock Trail for a shot of the oldest living mahogany tree in the country.
Acadia sees average temperatures that vary from the 20s and 30s in the winter to the upper 70s in the summer. Visitors are recommended to bring a sweater, even in August, as Canadian Arctic winds bring a chill to summer nights. The park averages a respectable 61 inches of snow per winter.
During the wet season, which stretches from mid-May to November, average temperatures hover in the low 90s. The high temperatures are tempered by frequent thunderstorms, which can drop several inches of rain. In the dry season, temperatures range from the low 50s to upper 70s, but breezes can make it seem considerably cooler.
Where to Stay
Acadia National Park
Bar Harbor is a quick hop from Acadia National Park, and Opal Collection has two waterfront properties in downtown Bar Harbor that offer easy access to the park. The boutique 85-room West Street Hotel caters to guests with a rooftop infinity pool, balcony rooms that overlook Frenchman Bay, and two intimate restaurants. The luxe Harborside Hotel Resort, Spa & Marina directly overlooks Frenchman Bay and boasts amenities, such as the massive oceanside pool and easy access to tennis and spa at the posh Bar Harbor Club, which is adjacent to the hotel.
Just 36 miles away from the Everglades National Park’s Gulf Coast Visitor Center is a luxury Naples hotel that offers a Florida experience a world away from the wilderness of the Everglades. Located on a seven-mile stretch of gorgeous white sand beach, the all-suite Edgewater Beach Hotel offers guests the ease of direct beach access, breathtaking views, and Naples’s famous boutique shops and restaurants just moments away.