Camping on in the Duck Harbor Campground is nearly the stuff of legends. This remote island off the coast of Maine only has 5 campsites in this part of Acadia National Park, and reservations are required. The Park’s website describes this in classic Park Service understatement, “Duck Harbor Campground is very popular. Please plan your trip in advance.” What they mean is if you don’t go online within 10 minutes of opening day, April 1st, at 10 am EST, you will miss your chance to stay here for the whole year. You won’t be the first to get denied and certainly not the last. You might however, get lucky if you’re in the area for long enough and there is a sudden cancellation.
I believe I’m right in saying that the hype is worth it here, more than just because it’s difficult to get here and difficult to get a reservation. This is a beautiful place to camp and an amazing island to explore by bike, by kayak, and on foot.
Each of the 5 sites offers a classic lean-to structure with a campfire ring and a picnic table. But it’s not the site which makes this place so special. Sticking out into the Gulf of Maine, this is one of the most remote islands with established camping and recreational trails on the coast. It feels like another world entirely than Mount Dessert Island, where the rest of Acadia National Park is located. By comparison, MDI feels like Central Park.
There is fresh water a short walk away from the campground, and a bear proof food storage locker at each lean-to. Mosquitoes can be bad during the summer, so I would recommend bringing a bug net or small backpacking tent which you could set up in the lean-to for more protection and privacy.
Getting to the island is possible through the daily mailboat which goes directly to Duck Harbor from Stonington, but the best way to get there is to paddle up in a sea kayak as we did!
I describe this as "backpacking light". You need to bring everything with you (except water) on the mailboat and then walk on a short distance to one of 5 campsites. It is a great place to just get away. There are several miles of moderate hikes. Starting in 2018 reservations will be online starting April1. The campground is open mid May to mid October but the mailboat only goes to the campground from late June to late September; otherwise a 5 mile walk from town.