The very best campground on Mount Desert Island

A few days ago, a friend posted on Facebook asking about the best campground on Mount Desert Island for her family. She tagged me for an answer because I guess I seem like someone who would know. I like the outdoors, I camp, I live on MDI. But here’s the thing: I don’t know. Although I like camping, I don’t love it, so we don’t go very often. Also I live on Mount Desert Island. Since my camping experiences are so rare–maybe two or three times a season, tops–I tend to want to go somewhere else. I have definite opinions about campgrounds in other areas of the state, but Mount Desert Island? That’s harder.

So I watched the answers she got. And then, inspired, I put up my own inquiry. The results were interesting because they were almost unanimous. I thought there would be more variety. Some people like a more rustic camping experience where there isn’t much to do besides stare at your fire and listen to loons, some people like game rooms, playgrounds, and a pool.

But the favorite couldn’t be more clear.

And the winner is?

Mount Desert Island Campground

Located on Somes Sound right smack in the middle of the island, Mount Desert Island Campground won by a landslide. This campground caters to tenters and small trailers–no luxury RVs here. There’s no pool, no playground, and no scheduled activities. So why is it so popular?


My friend Kelley, mom to a teen and a middle schooler, gave her reasons in a countdown: “#5. These people keep it real. Simple camping no frills. #4. Central to everything! #3. It’s on Somes Sound and has kayaks and canoes to rent. #2. Blueberries that are free to pick on the property. #1. It’s clean! Bath houses, camp sites and everything in between.”

Dory, who has two elementary-aged kids, says, “Not only does it have platforms to put your tent up on–no damp sleeping bag–but some of them are built on the rocks right out over Somes Sound. Our kids love to crab fish for hours along their docks. Up at the office, with those all-important crab nets, they also offer canoe and kayak rentals for a little spin around the Sound.”

And, finally, Hope, who camped here every year for 15 years as a kid and who credits the campground as her introduction to the island where she now lives says, “The sites are about as private as you can get at a campground, as a kid at least it felt like our site was our own little world, but even when I’ve camped there since I’ve had the same feeling. It’s just a nice atmosphere overall. It’s just camp sites and simple clean bathrooms and a small camp store – no rec room and swimming pools. Finally, there are many families who’ve been on the same site to the same time of year for 20, 30, or even 50 years!”

There you have it, folks. A peaceful, straightforward, quality camping experience.

There were a few runner ups for those who prefer either more or less fancy in their camping options:

On the more rustic side, Seawall Campground in Acadia National Park got a mention for its quiet location on western MDI as well as the nearby hiking trails. Another Acadia campground, Blackwoods, gained points for being very kid-friendly, with regular ranger programs in the amphitheater and great woods to explore.

And on the fancier side, Hadley’s Point Campground got a nod for lots of fun kid activities, including a few themed weekends a season, like a fall harvest festival. They also run an island-wide Amazing Race each year that looks extremely fun. And, yes, they have a pool.

If you want to explore the broader range of Acadia’s geography, don’t forget the brand-new Schoodic Woods Campground in Winter Harbor, which has gotten great reviews, or–for the truly adventurous–the remote, rustic Duck Harbor Campground located on Isle au Haut and accessible only by mailboat.

As for me and my family? I’m pretty tempted to try camping close to home for a night or two. Then again, I was hoping to head to the western mountains this summer. And of course, Baxter State Park is calling again, too.

I think I need more weekends.

Happy camping!

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 four.

Part one, planning your trip, is right here.
Part two, kid-friendly hikes, is here.
Part three, great swimming 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.