Best family-friendly swimming spots in Acadia National Park

Summer is here, folks. The sun is out, the temperature has us all working up a good sweat, and the lake waters have warmed up enough for the less hardy of us (that would be me) to dip in. If you are looking for swimming spots in Acadia, especially with kids, it might take you a bit. There is good swimming on Mount Desert Island–and even within the park itself–but it requires some looking.

Some folks will try to tell you that people swim at Sand Beach and other ocean-front locations. While I don’t deny the joy of jumping in ocean waves, I prefer to swim where hypothermia isn’t imminent. I like lakes for my swimming, nice, quiet, warm lakes where we can settle in for a few hours with snacks and let our fingers and toes wrinkle.

Here are three of my favorite spots.

Echo Lake

Probably the best known and therefore the busiest swimming spot, Echo Lake has a broad expanse of sandy beach with a long, gradual descent into the water. On a hot day, it is likely to be jammed with families swimming, digging in the sand, and playing. If you are looking for a serene beach experience, this will probably not be it. That said, there are compensations. Echo Lake has real bathrooms, changing rooms, faucets to rinse off your sandy feet, a life guard during busy times, and lots and lots of kids for your children to play with. It is the only accessible swimming spot that I know of, with a paved path down to the beach and a boardwalk right to the water’s edge. Echo is our choice when we are looking for a rollicking time or when we really want to spend a whole day swimming and playing.

Probably because of all the kids, wildlife spottings are rare here with the exception of some brave and opportunistic ducks. There also isn’t a lot of shade, so make sure to apply your sunscreen. But the views are great and, if your group is feeling energetic and wants to earn their swim, there are several hiking trails nearby (use caution on Beech Cliff Trail, however, which is a ladder trail and should not be attempted without proper footwear). If you are looking for a quieter experience, try going either early (before 10) or late (after 4). We’ve had post-dinner swims at Echo where we were the only souls in sight, even in August.

(Echo Lake has its own well-marked entrance and parking area off of Route 102, just slightly north of the town of Southwest Harbor. Echo also has its own Island Explorer bus stop, and as parking can get tight in the high season, I recommend taking the bus if you can.)

Echo Lake in Acadia

Echo Lake in Acadia National Park, clearly at a quieter time.

Lakewood

Lakewood is the usual choice in our house for a quick dip, with or without picnic. Off the beaten path–but not far from the Hulls Cove Visitors Center–Lakewood has almost no amenities and is rarely crowded. Because if its isolation, Lakewood used to attract a more raucous crowd. However, rangers stepped up patrols a few years ago and it is now solidly family-friendly.

Lakewood offers a smaller beach area, more shade, and a more unspoiled experience than Echo Lake.¬†Other than a single pit toilet at the top of the (rather rough) fire road leading to the water’s edge, there are no amenities. There’s also no sand; just packed sandy soil. You are likely to see more wildlife here, however. At the very least, there are frogs for catching–bring a net and bucket if you have one–but if you are lucky you might see some birds of prey circling over head or a muskrat swimming.

(Lakewood is located about a mile down the Crooked Road, which is off Route 3 just north of the Hulls Cove Visitors Center. Keep a sharp lookout for Lakewood Pond Road on your left. It is easy to miss.)

Swimming at Lakewood

The girl knows that snacking is a critical part of an afternoon at Lakewood.

Long Pond

Tucked over on the quieter side of Mount Desert Island, Long Pond is partially contained within Acadia National Park and partly within the town of Mount Desert. Swimming is allowed at the northern tip of Long Pond in the Mount Desert portion, but not at the southern tip in the Acadia portion. There isn’t much beach to speak of, but there is a pretty good grassy, shaded area to spread out in. Long Pond also boasts a float anchored a little way off shore which is great fun for older and stronger swimmers. They can swim out and spend hours jumping off and climbing back on (or throwing each other off and climbing back on).

Be aware that Long Pond is an active boat launch, with a rental outfitter across the street providing canoes, kayaks, and stand up paddle boards. While this can offer a great opportunity to make your trip more exciting without hauling your own gear along, be careful of renters coming in and out–especially the ones that might not have their paddling down. Despite the boats, we find Long Pond to be a great place for a high energy swim time. It’s generally pretty busy with families, so if the yells and splashing of happy children says summer to you, this is your spot.

(To get to Long Pond, take Route 102 through the town of Somesville and turn right on Pretty Marsh Road. You’ll see parking and canoe rentals right on the road.)

What’s your favorite swimming spot? Are you willing to share it?

In celebration of Acadia’s Centennial, I’m running a series of posts about making sure your trip to Acadia is the best yet.This is part three.
Part one, planning your trip, is right here.
Part two, kid-friendly hikes, is here.
Part four, great camping spots, is here.
Part five, rainy day fun, is here.

Cherie Galyean

About Cherie Galyean

In a perfect world, Cherie Galyean would spend hours every day chasing her kids up hiking trails, pretending to garden, and baking things. Instead, she works full-time in the non-profit sector and fits those other things in-between loads of laundry in her free time. A Maine native with multiple hometowns, she currently lives on Mount Desert Island with her husband, seven-year-old daughter, five-year-old son, and the best shelter mutt in the world.