Schoodic Institute & Sundew Trail
Acadia National Park
Sadly, our time on Mt. Desert Island had come to an end. We’d explored, hiked, eaten, and enjoyed ourselves immensely on the island. But we weren’t finished with Acadia yet. There are three districts in the park, and we had visited two of them. The last one, Schoodic Peninsula, awaited us. Schoodic is the only part of Acadia located on the US mainland. From the eastern coast of Mt. Desert Island, you can actually see Schoodic.
One way to get to Schoodic Peninsula is to take a seasonal ferry between Bar Harbor and Winter Harbor (the closest town to Schoodic). There are two companies that run them, Downeast Windjammer and Frenchman Bay Research Boating. The Island Explorer shuttle, which travels throughout Schoodic, stops in Winter Harbor to pick up ferry passengers. Due to limited time, we decided to drive instead. We checked out from Seawall Campground and drove about an hour and a half to Schoodic. We wanted to see as much as we could in a day.
Our first stop was the Schoodic Information Center. It’s not quite a “visitor center,” but it seems to serve that purpose. There is also a tiny ranger station as you approach Schoodic Institute. We talked to volunteers and rangers about what to do with our limited time. We also bought a Schoodic trail map for 50 cents, because it was larger and more detailed than the one we already had.
From the information center, we drove down to our first stop: The Schoodic Institute. The institute is a research and education center that supports science and education throughout Acadia and the region. Its campus is a former U.S. Navy Base, which was closed in 2002. The land was given to the park, and now comprises multiple facilities supporting the institute. We drove in, not quite knowing what to expect.
Our first stop was Rockefeller Hall, the welcome center for the institute. The building itself is historic, built in 1933 to house Navy personnel. Designed in a unique style, it houses multiple exhibits related to Acadia NP. We had a lot of fun with them, because most were hands-on activities about nature or about the previous military use of the land…that were designed for kids. Naturally, we figured we’d give them a try!
One station made a game of decoding Morse Code messages. Even though it was designed with children in mind, we had fun transcribing messages and learning about the history of the park. One person could send out numbers in Morse code, while the other would try to interpret.
Another station had a wheel that you could turn to view the moon phases and wildlife activity during each season in that part of Maine. You could also collect stamps of various animal tracks, hypothesize what animal created them, then check your answer. This seemed like a fun and educational activity for kids of all ages. Yes, we collected these too!
When looking at the map for Schoodic Institute, I couldn’t help but zero in on a nearby hike called the Sundew Trail. It piqued my curiosity since we had found sundews, a small carnivorous plant, on other trails in Acadia like Duck Harbor Trail. So after visiting Rockefeller Hall, we took a short drive and parked near the baseball diamonds where the trail begins (the campus has a lot of facilities). You can start from either side of the trail, and then walk the paths that go around the institute to make a loop.
At only 0.7 miles, Sundew Trail is easy and quick. It’s a nice walk through the woods, with the highlights being some boardwalks and viewpoints. There are at least three small spurs that lead to the coast. We stopped for lunch at the first one, which was a cozy spot with a view of the ocean. Sadly, the trail’s name is misleading. Maybe at one time there were sundews here, but we certainly didn’t see any along the trail. We did see a couple people on the trail, but otherwise it was quiet. After finishing the trail we walked the extra 0.2 miles or so back to the car. While walking on the paths back to our car we did spot the largest rabbit we’ve ever seen.
Fun games, an easy trail with coastal views, a giant rabbit, but no sundews. You decide.
Distance: 0.7 miles / 1.1 kilometers roundtrip
Type: Out and back (Can make a loop with paved trails around the Institute)
Elevation Gain: Negligible
Crowds: Hardly anyone. We saw one other couple.
Water: Oceans, but we didn’t see any type of fresh water.
Directions to Parking: Google Maps Directions
- Mile 0.0 – From the parking lot, next to the baseball field, the trail is across the street. Head there and you’ll see a trailhead sign. Continue onto the trail.
- Mile 0.7 – You’re finished. Either turn around to get back to the car, or take the paved paths to make a loop of sorts.
Highlights: Boardwalks and views
Notes: With walking on the paved path back to your car for the loop, the total trip is about 0.9 miles
Schoodic Information Center | 44.380219, -68.066400
The Schoodic Institute | 9 Atterbury Cir, Winter Harbor, ME 04693
Rockefeller Hall | 44.3379743, -68.0622867
Sundew Trailhead | 44.340250, -68.060667
NPS Website – Acadia Camping
Recreation.gov – Schoodic Campground Reservations
Frenchman Bay Research Boating (Schoodic Ferry)
Downeast Windjammer Cruise Lines (Schoodic Ferry)
Island Explorer Acadia Shuttle (Schoodic Route)