National Parks (Minus the Crowds)

Our most protected lands—and the dramatic drives that give access to them—are all too often conga lines of taillights and tourists. These four itineraries revive the majesty.

DAY 3From October to early March, the sunrise hits 1,530-foot Cadillac Mountain before anywhere else in the continental U.S., so it's worth the three-and-a-half-mile predawn drive to its summit. That leaves the rest of the morning open for exploring the park's 45 miles of carriage roads—on a bike (, rentals from $20) or in a horse-drawn carriage (Carriages of Acadia, 877/276-3622, from $18). In the afternoon, get a whale's perspective of Acadia on a two-hour ranger-led cruise of Frenchman Bay on a 151-foot-long schooner (book at the park's visitors center, 207/288-4585, $32).

DAY 4Taking the quick route back to Boston doesn't mean bypassing the sights and tastes of New England. Interstate 295 cuts through Portland, Maine's largest city, where an endless string of fishing boats unload their catches at the Harbor Fish Marketon the ancient Custom House Wharf, to be shipped around the world or sold in the retail store alongside hundreds of lobsters swimming in massive saltwater tanks (

Stick Around
Acadia extends six miles off the coast to tiny Isle au Haut, home to about 50 residents and accessible by mail boat. A stay at four-room Inn at Isle au Haut is a worthy off-the-grid splurge (, from $300 with meals).


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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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