WINTER HARBOR — Ed Barden and his wife drove from Massachusetts to visit Schoodic Woods Campground on Memorial Day weekend. They liked it so much that they canceled their annual August reservation in upstate New York and instead plan to return to Acadia National Park’s new campground.

“We usually go to Plattsburgh, New York, every August to camp. But this is so relaxing, to just sit by the ocean. It’s all untouched. On the Bar Harbor side, it’s not,” said Barden of Chelmsford, Massachusetts.

And so the story went on Memorial Day weekend during the inaugural spring season at the campground on Acadia’s Schoodic Peninsula.

While the main portions of the park lie on Mount Desert Island near Bar Harbor, the Schoodic section lies an hour’s drive away, farther north on Route 1 and seven miles off it. It is often considered the quieter section of the park.

The coastline of the Schoodic Peninsula in Acadia National Park is now more accessible to campers who prefer a more rustic experience.

The coastline of the Schoodic Peninsula in Acadia National Park is now more accessible to campers who prefer a more rustic experience. Photo by Deirdre Fleming Photos by Deirdre Fleming

“Schoodic is a lesser-used part of the park and managed to be maintained that way,” said Acadia spokesman John Kelly. “We still have a desire, even with the new campground, to not promote it. We are trying to manage it in a way that it does not lose that quieter aspect of (Acadia National Park). It’s hard to have the campground and these new places to explore, and try to keep it quiet in terms of visitation.”

Acadia is consistently one of the 10 most-visited national parks, with an average of 2.5 million annual visitors, Kelly said.

An anonymous donation in 2013 of 1,600 acres abutting the Schoodic section of the park made the new campground possible. The donated land came with 8.5 miles of bike paths and four miles of hiking trails, Kelly said.

Schoodic Woods Campground opened last fall for the first time and reopened in mid-May. Currently, only half the campground is open while tree and shrub plantings take root. The entire campground will open in July and is not yet sold out, Kelly said.

The campsites at Schoodic Woods Campground are considered by many campers to be spacious and well hidden by trees. But the sounds of lobster boats plying their trade are not far away.

The campsites at Schoodic Woods Campground are considered by many campers to be spacious and well hidden by trees. But the sounds of lobster boats plying their trade are not far away. Photo by Deirdre Fleming

All told, there are 33 camping spots for trailers, 50 tent spaces and nine walk-in sites, as well as two group camping areas located a quarter-mile from the rest of the campground.

Schoodic Woods sits near the start of the Schoodic Peninsula, close enough to the water for a view from its main road of Frenchman’s Bay and Cadillac Mountain.

There are restrooms with dishwashing stations, but no showers – the one amenity some campers missed.

But what the campground lacks, the park makes up for in remote wooded and coastal paths, plus promises of solitary ocean views from dozens of rocky beaches.

The interior forest trails transport hikers far from the roaring sea, including along a one-mile hike up 440-foot Schoodic Head, with panoramic views to the ocean.

Schoodic Point, which spreads out in all directions, offers natural pink, granite walkways and unique dark geological strips created from magma that rose up 20,000 years ago.

So far crowds are not an issue here. In fact, the 40 parking spaces at the Schoodic Point are rarely full, according to the Park Service.

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These ravine walls at Schoodic Head are typical of the unadorned beauty of the Schoodic Peninsula, where a new campground features a quiet, relaxed, respectful atmosphere. Photo by Deirdre Fleming

Barden said he and his wife, Sharon, made a reservation right away after driving to the peninsula last fall.

“I won’t go back over to Bar Harbor. There’s too much traffic. This is nice, it’s completely natural. And there are not a lot of people here. The sites are nice and large. And at night everything gets quiet,” Barden said. “We just sat at different little pull-outs and enjoyed the ocean sound during the day.”

Kristen Mowry felt exactly the same, and Mowry lives in Hancock County – just 15 minutes away in the small town of Steuben. Mowry, 36, has lived near the Downeast coast for 28 years but still calls it the most beautiful and unusual part of Maine.

She had not camped at one of Acadia’s other campgrounds in more than 10 years. But after camping at Schoodic Woods with friends, she plans to return soon with her three sons.

Mowry’s group was tenting on the section of the campground near the main road, where people came out in the evening – to stroll down the stone-dust bike paths and look at the view of Cadillac Mountain.

Mowry said the Schoodic campground community was quiet, relaxed and respectful.

“It’s beautiful. It’s nicely kept. And I like the scenery at Schoodic. I prefer Schoodic over the park on Mount Desert Island. It’s more serene,” Mowry said. “It’s just not busy. And no matter where you go on Schoodic you end up with a beautiful view.

“I would tell people who come here, just pack hiking shoes. There are so many different hiking trails.”

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