Kid-Friendly Acadia

National parks on their face are often kid friendly, but there are some special spots that seem to be designed with kids in mind. Here are some in Acadia.

Kids love water, and sand, and you'll find ample amounts of both at Sand Beach. Not only is this a great spot to get wet on the hottest of summer days, but the beach will keep kids enthralled with its shells, bits of crab skeletons, pieces of sea urchin shells, and other odds and ends of marinelife guaranteed to delight the budding naturalist in your family. Island Explorer Route 3 takes you to Sand Beach from Bar Harbor, as does Route 4, the Loop Road bus circuit.

If it's too early in the season for hot temperatures that make the cold Atlantic tolerable, head over to Echo Lake Beach along Route 102 north of Southwest Harbor, where the inland waters likely will be a bit warmer.

Just down the road from Sand Beach is Thunder Hole, a geologic rift in the park's granitic foundation that rumbles loudy and tosses massive spray when incoming waves hit it just right. Caution is necessary here. While there are handrails to help you reach a viewing point, storms can toss massive waves here, and back in August 2009 some visitors were washed into the ocean and a 7-year-old died.

The historic Carriage Roads also are great for letting kids burn off their energy. These are perfect for cycling trips with the family, and there are occasional ponds perfect for perfecting stone skipping skills. The roads do rise and fall with the terrain, so judge your kids' stamina accordingly when planning an outing here.

Of course, Acadia also has a Junior Ranger program where kids can learn more about this great park and earn a Junior Ranger badge in the process.

Check into available boat cruises with rangers during your stay. This is a great way to gain a different persective on Acadia, and to learn a little about the marinelife that is part of this great park.

On rainy days, visit the Wendell Gilley Bird Carving Museum in Southwest Harbor. While your youngsters might not be old enough to whittle just yet, they'll likely be delighted by the many miniature bird carvings found here.