This guide to Acadia National Park will provide you with everything you need to know for your visit. It just so happens that Acadia National Park is the only national park in New England. It’s a popular getaway in the summer, but (in my opinion) is even more beautiful in the fall. I actually timed my visit just for the fall foliage, and trust me, it did not disappoint.
Acadia National Park is actually located on an island, Mount Desert Island. It’s comprised of rugged seaside cliffs, dense woods and forests, and over 125 miles of trails. Here you can do a little bit of everything. Whether you want to go on scenic drives, long hikes, or romantic carriage rides, Acadia National Park has it all. Or my personal favorite, just spend a day wandering around Bar Harbor trying all the yummy cafés. So, now that you’re convinced to go, let’s dive on in, shall we? 🙂
The Ultimate Guide to Acadia National Park
Getting to Acadia National Park
The Portland International Jetport is Maine’s primary airport. Although there is a second airport in Bangor, most likely you will be flying into Portland.
Whether flying into Maine or driving, having a car is crucial. Public transport is limited, and you’ll really want a car to drive through Acadia National Park. From Portland, Acadia National Park is roughly a 3-hour drive.
As far as accommodation goes, Bar Harbor is where you want to be. It’s important to book in advance, especially in the summer months. Accommodation in Acadia National Park goes fast! Even in the fall months, you’ll want to book in advance. During my trip in October, Bar Harbor was booked out, but I found great accommodation at a Comfort Inn outside of Acadia National Park. My stay was nice, but a charming B&B would have been preferred.
Acadia National Park has a full price range to choose from:
- Budget: Bar Harbor Youth Hostel
- Mid-Range: 2 Cats Bar Harbor (even if not staying, come for breakfast!)
- Luxury: The Bluenose Inn
Camping in Acadia National Park
There are two campgrounds in Acadia National Park. Although they are both located in the woods, they are only a few minutes’ walk to the ocean.
The two campgrounds are:
- Seawall – Has both reservations and walk-up sites
- Blackwoods – Open year-round, however requires reservations in the summer
Mount Desert Island consists of four towns, but Bar Harbor is the largest and where you’ll (most likely) be staying. Bar Harbor has the most adorable downtown and Main Street! The main drag is Main Street, however there are a few intersecting roads to explore.
The downtown is built up of everything from ice cream shops, boutiques, cafés, and even specialty pet stores. I would definitely recommend making Bar Harbor your home if staying in Acadia National Park. But even if you don’t stay in Bar Harbor, at least stop by for a bite to eat.
Bar Harbor Food
Bar Harbor is the place to be for food. There are countless cafés and restaurants, but below are some of my favs. 🙂
Bar Harbor Recommendations:
- Coffee Hound Coffee Bar – Definitely go here for your coffee! They can make anything (maple latte’s anyone?) but I was super impressed with their flat white’s. They’re the real deal, authentic Australian style.
- 2 Cats Bar Harbor – I didn’t get a chance to go here, although wish I could have. It’s away from the main drag, however I hear their breakfast is excellent. 🙂
- The Independent Café – I came here for lunch and loved their clam chowder and pesto turkey wrap.
Things to Do in Bar Harbor
- Shop ‘til you drop! – There are so many fun shops to wander through, try them all
- Shore Path – Stroll along this trail for great views of the harbor
- Whale Watching Tour – Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co.
- Day Cruises – Down east Windjammer Cruises, Acadian Nature Cruises
- Kayak Tours – National Park Kayak Tours
- Rent a bike – Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop
10 Things to Do in Acadia National Park
1. Park Loop Road (Drive)
The Park Loop Road is a 27-mile scenic drive, and the perfect way to start your trip to Acadia National Park. Part of this drive is a one-way, so you can have the luxury of pulling over whenever you feel for photographs. #winning If you were to drive straight through, the drive wouldn’t take longer than 30 minutes, however you’ll definitely want to jump out and explore a bit.
Park Loop Road Popular Stops:
- Sand Beach – Small inlet between the granite mountains (great for sunset!)
- Thunder Hole – You can watch the waves crash loudly against the rocks
- Otter Point – Amazing views of the coastline
- Little Hunter’s Beach (aka Pebble Beach) – Secluded beach, great for night photography (S. You can’t take the pebbles home)
- Jordan Pond – This pond is formed by glaciers and has incredibly clear water (no swimming allowed)
- Bubble Pond – Little pond nestled amongst the mountains
- Cadillac Mountain – Highest point on the North Atlantic seaboard (great for sunrise!)
When it comes to hikes, it really depends on what you’re looking for. Acadia has a mix of easy strolls, and more difficult, longer hikes. Definitely make a stop by the Visitor’s Center to grab a map and check out what will work best for you. It rained the majority of my trip, so I didn’t hike much, but below are some small ones we did.
- Cadillac Mountain Summit Loop – A paved half-mile hike with panoramic views
- Bubble Rock Trail – This rock is extremely popular in Maine. The hike is fairly steep, and about 1.5 miles roundtrip
3. Swim in the Beaches
After a long hike, why not cool off in the beach? Sand Beach and Echo Lake Beach are safe and are staffed with two lifeguards in the summer.
Note: No swimming is allowed in the majority of the lakes and ponds
4. Go Kayaking
Mount Desert Island is a great location for ocean kayaking! There are a number of private companies in Frenchman Bay (near Bar Harbor). Some are National Park Sea Kayak Tours or National Park Canoe & Kayak Rental. If you choose to go on your own be careful. The coasts of Maine can experience rough tides and fog.
5. Walk Along the Carriage Roads
The carriage roads were commissioned by John D. Rockefeller in 1915 and run throughout the park. The best part? They’re car-free! Another bonus, they have a great drainage system. It rained two of my three days in Acadia National Park, but we could still walk the carriage roads because they weren’t flooded.
6. Book a Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride through the Carriage Roads
To add a little bit of romance to your trip, book a horse-drawn carriage ride through the carriage roads. This is only available from May – October. Two companies you can go with are Acadia Magic and Acadia Horses.
7. Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse
This lighthouse is famous, and is a must see! It’s located about a 30-minute drive south from Bar Harbor, and is best seen at sunset. You can close by and walk right up to the lighthouse. However, for the best photos you’ll want to take a short walk to the nearby cliffs for those gorgeous sunset views. Just be careful! I actually got splashed while trying to take the “perfect shot”.
8. Go Whale Watching
If visiting Acadia National Park from May – October, you have the chance for spotting some whales. Take a tour and see these incredible animals up close! You can book in advance with Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co.
9. Pirate’s Cove
What the heck, why not go for mini golf? 🙂 Pirate’s Cove is open mid-April through October.
10. Night Photography
Acadia National Park is a great spot for night photography. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get any shots because it was stormy and cloudy. However, Acadia National Park is known for getting great shots of the milky way.
Night Photography Lookout Spots:
- Cadillac Mountain
- Sand Beach
- Little Hunter’s Beach
Going to Maine? Check out these popular posts:
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- 18 (Awesome!) Things to do in Portland, Maine
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What would you include in your guide to Acadia National Park? Love to know in the comments below!