Sand Beach in Acadia
Sand Beach is a gorgeous little beach (290 yards long) nestled between mountains and rocky shores on the east side of Mount Desert Island in Acadia National Park. Access is provided via the Park Loop Road just south of the entrance fee station in Bar Harbor, Maine. The beach is largely comprised of unique sand of shell fragments created by the pounding surf. The waterline can vary quite a bit because of the difference between high and low tide. The photo above shows this range by the wet area on the beach sand. Note: No pets are allowed on the beach from May 15 through September 15.
Sand Beach Parking GPS: Latitude 44.330198; Longitude -68.183998
Accessibility: Restrooms, changing rooms, and parking is wheelchair accessible. Beach is not.
Be ready to tighten up if you venture into the water. The ocean temperature rarely exceeds 55 degrees in the summer. Children don't seem to mind much when they're at play but there is a lot of spontaneous squealing when the water hits them! Adults, will do the same but it is often followed by laughter and exhilaration. There is approximately one half a cup of salt per gallon of water. Although, this is a family beach, no pets are allowed from May 15 - September 15. Changing rooms and restrooms are located next to the parking area. The Island Explorer Shuttle Bus stops there about every half hour during normal seasonal daytime hours.
A Commanding View
There is a popular hiking trail that begins next to the beach then follows a loop around the perimeter of a headland called Great Head. Essentially, it is the wall of land you will see in the distance on the further side of Sand Beach. If you walk to the end of the beach (towards the East or opposite side from the parking area) you will see ascending granite steps at the base of the cliffs to the left of the shoreline. This leads to the moderately ranked Great Head Trail and is well worth the hike. The trail meanders up the side of the granite with several spots that offer unique and spectacular views of Sand Beach with “The Beehive” in the background like the image here with the ocean on the left and The Beehive on the right.
Start of Ocean Path
At the far end of the upper parking lot is the beginning of a beautiful Ocean Path that follows along the coast approximately 1.5 miles (about 3 miles round-trip) all the way to Otter Cliff and Otter Point to the south. Part way in between is the famous Thunder Hole where, when the tide and waves are just right, you may be able to hear a sound like thunder as the waves crash into a small underwater cave. If you would like a leisurely stroll in a spectacular rocky Maine coast setting, it does not get any better than this. The Park Loop Road follows in this same direction but it is one-way.
Much to Explore
One of my earliest memories about Acadia National Park takes place at Sand Beach. Our family would gather with relatives who had children closely matched to my siblings and my ages. We did all the usual things of the day, played in the sand, tossed a frisbee, made sand castles, and ventured in the cold ocean water. Our bodies were small enough so the waves would easily thrash us about. The day was about the sun, the ocean, the salty air, the sounds of seagulls, and most of all, shared laughter in the family. Some years passed before I explored the further end of the beach and a whole new dimension was added to the experience. It was like discovering a hidden treasure. The view that is revealed of The Beehive is truly classic. But the big pay-off is when we made the easy climb up the side of the cliffs to get to the top of Great Head and then looked back at Sand Beach from that elevation. What a great view this is! If you can physically handle the climb, I highly recommend it. Make sure to wear the right kind of shoes and bring your camera.