Notes about things regarding scuba diving that I have come to know.
2007 Acadia National Park Scuba Diving
Trip Report

Backgound:

In late August 2004 Lorna (my wife) and I spent a week skin-diving in and around Acadia National Park. This was the year before we took up scuba diving. At that time our frame of reference was what we had seen skin-diving in southern Maine from Wells to Cape Elizabeth. The marine life we saw on that trip has head and shoulders above what we had been seeing locally.

After becoming a certified scuba diver with over 200 local dives it became clear that we had seen more on many of those down-east skin-dives than we typically see in an hour of local scuba diving. With many nice accessible sites a dive trip to the Acadia region would be a nice way to spend a week. That week came to be July 27 through August 3 2007. The week was selected for itís late AM to early PM high tides as well as when we were likely to enjoy the seasons warmest water.

General Observations:

  • While our southern Maine tidal swing is generally 8-10 feet the Acadia region sees 10-12 swings with each tide. We were surprised to see how fast a site can change just in the time it takes to gear up, let alone make a dive. Since the difference in water level and bottom topography can change a dive from novice to treacherous this is not to be taken lightly.
  • Our shore dives reached maximum depths from 15-42 feet so in general a nice long dive can be made without consuming lots of air. The shallow depths also let things stay well lit and let wet-suits retain decent insulation properties. An exception could be diving in Somes Sound, the only fjord on the East Coast of the United States where depth to 175 feet can be found. We hope to dive the sound on our next trip.
  • Minimum temperatures ranged from 51-56 F. In general it was like diving in southern Maine 1 month earlier in the season. A drysuit would be nice especially for day after day repetitive diving or to extend the season but Lorna and I were fine diving wet. We did make use of sodium-acetate heat packs but I made many dives without them and was comfortable enough wearing 7mm with 2X on my core. While making my 9th and final dive of the trip I did realize that my energy was falling off and the day after day thermal drain was surely a contributor. We were making 1 or 2 dives each day except for one day allotted to attending the WERU Full Circle Fair.
  • Air fills were obtained from Hamilton Marine in Southwest Harbor. Go down route 102 watching for Clark Point Road. The Trustworthy hardware store is on the corner. Hamilton is at the end of Clark Point Road. They have a nice 6 whip fill station and had no problem delivering slow high pressure fills for $5.00 each. The fill station entrance is the overhead door on the right hand side of the facade. They also stock a smattering of scuba supplies if you are in a bind.

    This is a working boats marine store and while getting fills it interesting to browse all of the merchandise including all of the components to build lobster traps in mass quantity. Go to hamiltonmarine.com for current hours and contact information.

  • There is a new dive shop just up Route 1A towards Brewer. Some friends that we were diving with use the shop but logistics kept us from ever seeing the place. Itís a small upstart but could make sense for some dive schedules. They do have a fill station. Down East Dive Shop, 73 Rowe Brook Road, Dedham, Maine, 04429, (207) 843-7711.
  • Underwater visibility was generally in the 20 foot range. Water had nice clarity but there was a siphonaphore bloom taking place at most sites.
  • Lobster boat activity may occur at any time during your dive. In Maine Lobster can only be taken by trap so leave them alone. If you hear boat activity above take special care to keep your bubbles way from any traps.
  • The staff of the Hulls Cove visitor center of Acadia National Park had no suggestions or information on file regarding scuba diving. Fortunately we came armed with many more site ideas than we could hope to hit in a week. The upside is that there were no restrictions regarding when and where we could dive within common sense. The usual caveat of not taking ANYTHING does apply. On our 2004 skin-diving trip we were questioned by a ranger as we exited the water.

    There are restrictions regarding diving in the lakes and ponds of the island as outlined here: http://www.nps.gov/archive/acad/fastfacts.htm. We did not get to any freshwater sites on this trip.

The Dives:

We made a dive from Lamoine Beach in the evening of our arrival day. This site is at the end of state route 184. From routes 1 and 3 you will see state signs directing you to Lamoine State park. Follow any of these signs but drive right past the state park. At the end of the road you will find a site that is in many ways like Kettle Cove in Cape Elizabeth. It is obviously a former state land property that in this case has been turned over to the town. There is a nice state style pit toilet, picnic tables and a paved parking lot. The beach entry is across a moved grass swath where the picnic tables are. This is an outstanding skin-diving site and also makes an easy scuba dive. Up at the top of Frenchmanís Bay it is quite sheltered and some warmth builds in the shallows.

As a skin-dive head out to the ledge that is directly in front of the parking lot. Low to ĺ tide is suggested for this.

Our scuba dive was started mid tide rising and our 79 minute loop took us to a depth of 15 feet. We saw some BIG Lobster, many Oyster Drill snails, starfish including some greater than 6 inch in size including bright red and deep blue, assorted crabs, sea urchins, sea cucumbers. solitary hydroids. The bottom is fairly flat unless you reach the ledge which the current caused us to miss this time. The algae covered bottom stones and occasional outcropping keep it plenty interesting. All in all it was a great way to start the trip.

I would definitely return to this site in the future and make it a point not to miss the ledge. The facility also includes a boat launch. We did not fly a flag (on any dives) however we did carry a DSMB and finger spool in case we needed to go up amidst boat sounds. The area is also frequented by kayakers so watch out for those silent boats too!

There is no admission or ranger on duty.


This dive was made from the roadside seawall just north of the Seawall Picnic area. Parking was on the gravel shoulder across the road from the ocean. The entry was a little more treacherous than it first appeared. At full high tide it would have been easy.

The dive went out to a depth of 20 feet and then ran parallel to shore, against the current at the time and turned back from the next cove. Heavy brown kelp dominated the bottom of the site. We spotted most of the usual suspects and noted a heavy concentration of snails on the bottom.

There were plenty of rocks and boulders to make the swim interesting but I didnít come across any majestic ledges.


Lorna and I visited Little Hunters Beach for 2 great dives and latter returned on the last day to share it with another couple, itís that nice! The site is reached using the Park Loop Road. A 1 week car pass will cost you $20 at the gate or in advance at the Hulls Cove visitors center.

On both days we were blessed with mild seas. The site is located at the southern tip of the east half of MDI with direct ocean exposure so watch the marine/wind forecast.

Like Nubble Light, St Annís Beach or Ships Cove this site offers 2 distinct and interesting dives from the same beach head, making it a real nice way to spend a day diving.

To reach the site get onto the Park Loop Road. The Fabbri Memorial is your last restroom stop, there are none at Little Hunter Beach. After Fabrri continue along around Otter Cove. Little Hunter Beach is not marked so you need to pay attention. As the road passes the beach there is a stone wall on each side of the road. You will see that it is actually a magnificent culvert for a stream that runs down into the cobble beach. On the approach end of the stone wall there is paved turnout with space for about 4 cars. There is a gravel turnout after the wall. There is a wooden 48 step staircase down to the beach located at the approach end of the wall on the ocean side. Remember, this is a 1 way road so donít miss it!

After surveying the site my suggestion is to assemble your rigs and walk them down to the cobble beach while still wearing street shoes. The beach stones tend to be loose and just round enough to be uncomfortable under dive booties while carrying a heavy load. We just shuttled cylinders to and from the beach for the 2nd dive and reversed the process at the end of the day. Entry and exit remained easy enough though tide shifts on both days. Remember that the cobbles are loose and may shift underfoot at any time.

On both days we dove the left side first. With that experience I might give the edge to the right side if you were only to make 1 dive here but itís a close call. The drop off to divable depth is fairly quick and with no more than a minute of surface swimming you can drop into at least 10 feet of water. Be sure to have an outbound heading since the ledges can offer a tortuous path if you wish to stay away from the surface. Just keep making headway to the left and out as able and enjoy the sights along the way. As you leave the cove you will begin to find your self swimming along stone ledge walls that often rise 10-15 feet above you. Many have undercuts where anemones, sea cumbers, sponges and tunicates can be spotted. This is one site where we spotted what I believe to be a lumpfish. It was about 6 inches long, triangular body, pectoral fins that kept going like crazy and a pale turquoise color. In both cases these were sighted near the tops of stands of heavy brown kelp. There should be ample lobster and crab activity to keep you amused as well. This site really stood out as having a much more rugged north Atlantic feel than what I enjoy diving on near home.

When itís time to return just knit your way back along the coast and as you favor the shoreward direction the bright green lettuce leaf kelp will be a sign that you have wandered into the mouth of the cove. When in doubt surface for a bearings check.

The right hand side has a different feel to it in a number of ways. Upon leaving the cove proper but essentially following the coast you will find yourself entering a high walled fissure in the rocks, The bottom is likely to be white sand & crushed shells. As you swim into this fissure you will begin to encounter some surge from the wave action above. It is in this space that we have encountered moon jellyfish.

A word of caution is in order on these sites. A story I read some time ago tells of a diver dying while diving in a sight such as this. As the story went the diver was in a confined space between rocks when a big wave rolled in and swept the diver to the surface. The surprised victim did not or could not exhale quickly enough and suffered an air embolism. If seas are heavy or you do not feel in control dive elsewhere that day. Otherwise stay low and enjoy some magnificent diving.

After visiting the potential moon jelly fish area we tended to wander out from shore just a bit to depths approaching 40 feet where the terrain was sensational. Schools of fish were frequent on both sides of little hunter and varied in size and species. Other notable sightings included northern white crust tunicates, frilled anemones, and huge sea cucumbers. Like any new site much or our attention was consumed with awe, I have no doubt that what we observed only scratched the surface of what was in front of us. Iíd return to both of these sites in a heartbeat.


Our next dives took us out to the Park Loop Road of the Schoodic Peninsula section of Acadia National Park. This area can be found about 15 miles north of Ellsworth off of US route 1.

Just before entering the 1 way loop road you may want to stop at the Fraizer Point rest area. Aside from Schoodic Head these are the only rest room facilities. The park loop does not return to the origin however you can go full circle using local roadways. We did not dive at Fraizer point however it is a known dive site of moderate interest. You can dive from the dock and itís well suited to night dives.

The approach to the first schhodic site
The approach to the first schhodic site
Our first stop
was not far into the park loop road. Unfortunately I did not capture odometer readings but see the picture. It is a paved turnout on the water side. The land between the road and shore features a single pine tree flanked by several smaller ones. A significant white home can be seen across the water. A trail leads down to the water where itís cobbles and rocks with only minor seaweed growth. At the right tide the waters edge ledges offer dive boat like tank rests. Here again we walked the rigs down while in street shoes.

The rising tide suggested a current to the right so we swam against it to the left. After a very short surface swim we dropped down to see bright orange starfish. Before long the bottom broke into a downward slope that was reminiscent of Bonaireís fringing reef. The plant covered ledge slope continued down to about 33 feet where the bottom was loaded with sand dollars, dead and alive. Along with the usual Lobsters and crabs there were a good number of fish including a big school of juvenile fish that swarmed us like a bait ball, I kept looking for a predator but I guess they were just playing.

When a diver reached turn pressure in true reef dive form we went from following the bottom boundary up to 15-20 feet where the bright light played off of the colorful bottom growth as we explored our way back to the entry. I would seriously entertain revisiting this site for a pair of left and right hand dives. While it did not have the majestic ledges and kelp of Little Hunter it was a darned nice place to be.


We followed that with a picnic lunch on Schoodic Head. This massive stone point sits there on the open ocean and is a popular mid-day stop with the parking lot usually at or near capacity. Just find a level change in the rock, sit down and enjoy lunch. This location is said to be diveble on high tide and with the right wind and seas. In these conditions the masive broad ledge would offer a walk in and out bottom. A trail from the parking lot leads to a new restroom facility.


Our second dive of the day found us at the Blueberry Hill parking lot. We made our (treacherous) entry down from the right side of the lot. This was a prime case of getting caught by the changing tide. The exit was an adventure too but it was worth it.

After setting up on the paved parking lot and mowed lawn we got into the water. Again we carried the rigs down first in street shoes. We entered the water planning to swim out to a ledge that was not too far from shore. It soon became apparent that the heavy current would make that way too much work. Instead we meandered our way up the shore to the left feeling the current only as we transitioned between major shoreline projections.

The convoluted shoreline kept us mainly in the 15 foot range where we spotted another lumpish in the kelp. Overhangs included many sea cucumbers including a lot with tassels intact. The vertical walls with plateaus and towering kelp were simply a joy to navigate amongst.


Our next dive took us to Back Beach in the village of Bernard down on the southwest corner of Mount Desert Island. This site is mentioned in every listing MDI area dive sites I have seen. Itís a nice town beach with a porta-potty in season. If you get there early you may land a waterfront parking spot that will let you set-up on the cobble stone seawall and enjoy direct access to the beach.

There is nothing majestic about this site but the place is alive! The usual lobsters and are there for sure along with sand dollars, giant starfish, moon nails, sand shrimp, tiny juvenile crabs and johna crabs and there were dozens on moon snail egg formations present.

For a spell the 3 divers went berserk in a hunting frenzy as we collectively harvested 23 golf balls, knowing dozens must remain for another day. We made it one cove over to the left where we explored a crib stone marker that included some nice fields of red beard sponge.


Our final 2 dives as mentioned were a return to Little Hunter Beach. With that a magnificent week of diving was behind us. We are already looking forward to returning next summer. For every site we visited there are several more known sites we are looking forward too. I find it in some ways amazing that not more has been done to promote the area as a dive destination. Unfortunately the period where the diving can be enjoyed without a dry-suit is probably far to short to support much investment.

We had enough air cylinders to dive for 2 days. We planned the dives so we were away on one day and the next day we ended not far from Southwest Harbor so we could end the day at Hamiltonís getting air for the next 2 days. Any traffic issues encountered were trivial.

Conclusion:

We really enjoyed the diversity of the sites. From the flats of Lamoine and Bernard to the cliffs of Little Hunter and back to the sloping wall of the first site we explored on Schoodic peninsula. I went on this trip with visons of "Bonaire of the North" and my expectations were met, that is drive, park and dive. While the drive time to sites can be significant you can easily spend a day at one site or 2 in close proximity. The sites were new to us but there was also a sense of adventure knowing that many fewer dives had enjoyed these sites. We did not encounter any other divers at sites (except our local friends) over the course of the trip. We shall return!

Other Notes:

  • Southwest Harbor has lotís of free public parking up back, watch for the signs. Eat-A Pita was a very nice lunch stop.
  • The MEX on route 1 in Ellsworth has been consistently good over 2 trips.
  • Jordanís on route 1 on the northern most end of Ellsworth is a fun place with a cruise night, great burgers, nice seafood and ice cream. Simply a fun wholesome place to visit.
  • Head of the Harbor in Southwest Harbor is closed. I understand it has had its ups and downs. Hopefully it will return. I still drool when I think of the full length, head to tail fried hadock fillet they served me after a day of biking on Swan Island.
  • WERU (89.9 FM) community radio is a gem. We look foward to this eclectic station on every trip to the region. Twice we have also managed to attend their Full Circle Fair. If they get into a genre that bothers you come back in an hour!
  • The Chicken Barn and Superís Junkin Company are both worthwhile free museum stops, just browse the antiques, trash and treasure.
  • China Hill was a pretty good Chinese buffet
  • Geddyís in Bar Harbor was a fun meal stop.
  • Patten Pond Campground once again was a quiet affordable place to rinse gear, rest and rinse more gear.
  • If you're in Bucksport enjoy dinner at MacLeod's on Main street, along the water front. Afterwards ice cream from the Dairy Port and a walk along the waterfront park wraps it all up nicely. It's all just a stones throw from route 1 beyond the traffic signal.
  • A special thanks to Terry & Lindsay, our local friends. All they shared about this magic region, the people, the places and of course where to eat as well as their company added immeasurably to our trip.


This page created August 6, 2007 **** Edited August 7, 2007