How To Photograph Wildlife In Acadia National Park

Last Updated on April 12, 2021

A wildlife photographer will feel right at home at Acadia National Park. Lobster fisherman, hikers, and kayakers will also enjoy a visit to this special park. Every day at Acadia offers something new. The ocean’s tides push and pull the water in this area and you can spot a variety of wildlife including whales, dolphins, eagles, seals, ospreys, and seabirds. Acadia National Park has many different sections which span along the coast of Maine. It is the oldest national park east of the Mississippi River.

Wildlife Photography Guide For Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park Jordan Pond

What Animals Live In and Around Acadia National Park?

Acadia National Park has a variety of wildlife along its shoreline. Mudflats and marshes that are home to a variety of tide life. The park has 715 acres of saltwater which supports 6 species of seabirds-the Atlantic puffin, the razorbill, the common tern, the black guillemot, the common murre and the eider duck. The eider is also called sea duck because it lays eggs on top of nests built into coastal sand dunes. The eider duck lays eggs in June and July. These dunes are located in the Schoodic Peninsula section of the park.

The park has a significant species population of seals and sea lions which are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. These seals rest on the rocky ledges that jut out into the ocean at Acadia National Park. You can see seals basking in the sun, playing together, or hunting for food which includes fish, crustaceans and squid. Seals can also be seen on beaches where they haul out to rest and protect their bodies from the sun.

Within Acadia National Park you can see a variety of birds including osprey, eagles, terns, gulls and other warblers. The wildlife that lives in this region includes larger mammals such as red foxes, raccoons, striped skunks and beavers. Smaller animals that inhabit the park include white-footed mice, salamanders and shrews. The park also supports a variety of reptiles and amphibians such as turtles, lizards and frogs.

How To Photograph Wildlife At Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is located on Mount Desert Island. It is accessible by car or by ferry from Bar Harbor. Over two million people visit Acadia National Park every year. People come from all over the world to view the beauty of this national treasure. If you want to photograph wildlife in Acadia, timing is everything. Wildlife photographers should schedule their visit for the early morning hours to catch the sunrise. The low light from the sun allows you to capture animals in natural poses without causing them to flee.

Wildlife in Acadia National Park are most active at dawn and dusk. You have a greater chance of spotting wildlife in Acadia early in the morning when it is cool and they are coming out of their dens or lairs to feed or just waking up. Animals that are nocturnal like bobcats, deer, raccoons and coyotes come out to feed at dusk. The best time to photograph wildlife is right at sunrise prior to tourists entering the park.

There are many places throughout Acadia National Park where you can go to see wildlife. You might see seals or whales in the ocean, osprey nesting on cliffs above the water, seals basking on ledges along ocean shorelines or coastal marshes overflowing with tide life. You can photograph wildlife along the ocean shoreline at a variety of locations.

Some of the best places to see wildlife in Acadia National Park during early morning hours include Cadillac Mountain, Echo Lake, Jordan Pond and Sand Beach. You might spot bald eagles on rocky ledges at Jordan Pond and Sand Beach. Seals like to rest on rocks near Echo Lake. At Cadillac Mountain you might encounter osprey or even a bear in this area which is known as the Precipice Trail. The Precipice Trail leads to a variety of habitats from the ocean and forest. You might even see bald eagles and osprey in these habitats.

Safety Considerations

Humans should always be aware that they are in a wildlife park. The safety of all visitors is important as well as outdoor ethics. Always stay on designated trails, only go beyond your posted limits and leave no trace by disposing of trash in proper receptacles or pack it out with you when you move on to another location.

Recommendation: Observe from a distance and use your zoom lens to get close ups of wildlife. When photographing marine mammals be respectful of the distance from which they are located. Marine mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Be especially careful when taking photographs of baby animals because they can easily get confused or frightened by sudden human presence.

Recommended Camera Settings

Lens Type: Telephoto

Shutter Speed: 1/500th of a second when the shutter speed is long enough to freeze action.

Aperture: f/22 for wildlife that is on land, or f/22 for marine mammals or sea creatures in the water. Avoid using your wide angle lens to photograph wildlife in Acadia National Park. Wide angle lenses tend to distort the photographic image making it difficult to identify which animal is being photographed.

Here are some additional photography tips to help you get the best wildlife photos of your trip to Acadia National Park.

Camera Settings: Use Manual Focus Mode.

ISO: 400-800 for wildlife in the open, and in low light. For wildlife in more open settings use ISO 100-200 to create a longer exposure and blur the background.

Focal Length: Depending on the species of wildlife you want to photograph, use a lens between a 200mm to 400mm.

White Balance: Daylight or Cloudy.

Settings Recommendations: Use Aperture Priority Mode and set your camera’s aperture at f/22. This will ensure that you get an in focus image when shooting wildlife because your chosen lens is already set for macro focus.

Tips for Wildlife Photography in Acadia National Park

If you want to get the best wildlife shots of your trip to Acadia National Park, be sure to go out with a camera that has a fast enough shutter speed. A fast shutter speed is required because wildlife is moving and you need to photograph it when it freezes in place.

You may want to purchase a sturdy tripod or monopod prior to your trip. A good tripod or monopod will help you to get sharp wildlife photographs at sunrise.

Another piece of equipment that is helpful for wildlife photography is a remote shutter release, or wireless trigger. This will help you to avoid any camera shake caused by pressing the shutter button on your camera.

There are numerous wildlife photo opportunities at Acadia National Park including:

• Harbor seals along the rocky coast of Acadia National Park. They are most active in the morning and late afternoon hours. Harbor seals are easy to photograph near Bar Island, Winter Harbor, and Bar Harbor’s West End.

• Osprey (Buteo ocularis) are a common sight at Acadia National Park. They frequent the lakes and ponds of the park during the summer months. The osprey is a large black hawk that is easily recognizable for its large yellow eyes and black mask around its eyes.

• Puffins (Fratercula arctica) are a common sight in Acadia National Park, as well as other places around Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia Canada. Puffins are easily recognized for the bright white circles around their eyes.

• Deer are another common sight at Acadia National Park. They can be found in the park’s mountainous regions.

• Backed by historic ocean cliffs, tiny islands, and rugged coastal terrain, the park has a wide range of habitats and niches. Acadia National Park is home to numerous species of birds in addition to harbor seals, osprey, puffins and other seabirds. These areas are renowned for birding.

• Maine Audubon Society maintains a “birding trail” within the park that highlights some of the best locations for bird watching in Acadia.

• The Maine National Park Service has several loop trails in Acadia that are wheelchair accessible.


The unique combination of natural, historic, cultural, and recreational resources found nowhere else on the planet make Acadia National Park a place unlike any other. Its many habitats are home to an incredible diversity of wildlife including around 50 species of rare plants, a wide range of birds and more than 500 species of marine life. It is no wonder that Acadia has been recognized as a national treasure for wildlife photographers.