Acadia National Park is often called the crown jewel of the Atlantic Coast. These coastal park lands have everything that makes Maine such a beautiful state. Rocky coastline, beautiful blue water, lush greenery, lighthouses, harbors tucked around every corner, and stunning fall foliage. It might be a bit of a journey to visit Acadia National Park, but it will be well worth the effort.
We recently started creating fun travel t-shirts inspired by our travels. Check out this clean design for your trip to Acadia!
When you buy something using the links in our posts, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Here’s our guide to all the best things to do in Acadia National Park and itinerary tips for how to spend your time there.
Where to stay:
Staying at a beautiful historic inn or hotel is a beautiful and luxurious way to visit Acadia National Park. And because of the way that Acadia National Park is spread over the island, you can still be close to the action even while staying at a hotel or inn. Bar Harbor is a popular area for inns, but you’ll find them all over the island. Stay close to the lighthouse at Bass Harbor Inn. Book a pirate themed room at Queen Anne’s Revenge. Or stay close to Park Loop Road at Lighthouse Inn and Restaurant. You’ll even find hotels and inns on Schoodic Peninsula, like Winter Harbor Inn and Elsa’s Inn.
Mount Desert Island, where Acadia National Park is located, is a great location for home rentals on sites like Airbnb.com and VRBO.com. You’ll find everything from cozy cottages to private rooms to waterfront homes.
Acadia National Park has three campgrounds: Blackwoods Campground is dry camping with a 35 foot max, Seawall Campground is dry camping with a 20 foot max, and Schoodic Woods Campground has some electric and water sites with space for larger rigs.
You’ll find several campgrounds outside of Acadia on Mount Desert Island. Bar Harbor Campground, Bass Harbor Campground, Smugglers Den Campground, Mount Desert Campground, Bar Harbor-Oceanside KOA, Mt. Desert Narrows Camping Resort, and Hadley’s Point Campground all accommodate RV camping.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at Blackwoods Campground, which is the most central campground to the majority of the park.
What to Do in Acadia National Park:
The East side of Acadia National Park is the most prominent, home to Cadillac Mountain and Park Loop Road. Here is what you can do there:
Hulls Cove Visitor Center – Pick up your entrance pass here, shop in the park store, and access the Island Explorer Shuttle.
Bar Island Trail – Also known as the Bar Island Land Bridge, this pathway is only accessible during the three hours of lowest tide. Investigate tide pools or walk across and do the loop trail on the island, but be sure to get back across before the tides come back in.
Sieur de Monts Nature Center – Visit exhibits about the work of park biologists and researchers. Several trails are located here. Jesup Path and Hemlock Path Loop are forested and boardwalk paths. Emery Path, Kurt Diederichs Climb, and Homans Path are all rocky steep trails to reach Schiff Path which leads to the summit of Dorr Mountain.
Abbe Museum – Learn the history of the native people of the Frenchman Bay area. The museum is not operated by the National Parks Service, so there is a small entrance fee.
Wild Gardens of Acadia – A beautiful nature walk cared for by community volunteers.
Park Loop Road – This scenic drive connects much of the East side of Acadia National Park. The majority of the road is one-way, so mapping out your stops ahead of time will be helpful.
Jordan Pond – Bring a picnic to this beautiful pond or take one of the two trails you’ll find here.
Jordan Pond House Restaurant – The only restaurant inside Acadia. Enjoy tea, lunch, or dinner here and be sure to order their famous popovers. You can also find a variety of blueberry items, like blueberry lemonade, soda, crisp, and jam.
Paddle at Jordan Pond, Eagle Lake, or Long Pond – Each body of water has a designated boat launch.
Schooner Head Overlook – Stop to look out on Egg Rock Lighthouse.
Sand Beach – The only sandy ocean beach in Acadia and one of two swimming locations. You can also climb the rocks on the right side for a beautiful ocean overlook.
Thunder Hole – Stop by Thunder Hole at high tide at listen for the thunderous crash of waves against the rocks.
Two Historic Gatehouses – Enjoy the historic architecture of Acadia’s two historic gate houses, Brown Mountain Gatehouse and Jordan Pond Gatehouse. These gatehouses are the entrances to the park’s historic carriage roads.
Hike or Bike the Carriage Roads – 45 miles of vehicle-free crushed rock roads. Find a map of the carriage roads here. You can also take a horse drawn carriage tour through this area from Wildwood Stables. You’ll see some really beautiful stone bridges while on these roads.
Cadillac Mountain – One of the most popular spots in Acadia National Park, Cadillac Mountain offers stunning views of the coastal and island landscape. Walk the paved Cadillac Summit Loop Trail or watch the sunset from the wide ledges of granite by the west parking lot. During peak season, timed vehicle reservations are required for entry to Cadillac Summit Road, and sunrise times are in high demand. You can also bike the 3.5 mile ascent or hike to the summit via the 4.4 mile Cadillac North Ridge Trail and 7.1 mile Cadillac South Ridge Trail.
Stargazing – Rangers recommend Jordan Pond, Ocean Path, and Sand Beach as three of the best stargazing locations in Acadia.
The West side of the park might have the most iconic symbol of Acadia, the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. Here’s what you’ll see on the west side of Acadia National Park:
Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse – A trail to the right will bring you around the side of the lighthouse overlooking the water. The trail to the left leads to stairs down to the rocks. Climb out carefully for the most iconic view of the lighthouse.
Echo Lake Beach – Most of Acadia’s lakes prohibit swimming, but Echo Lake is one of two swimming spots. This freshwater lake is perfect for a calm relaxing swim.
Ship Harbor Trail or Wonderland Trail – For tide pooling or birding.
Paddle at Echo Lake – You’ll find the launch at Ikes Point.
The road through Schoodic Peninsula is a one way driving loop. Here’s what you’ll find after you pass through the town of Winter Harbor:
Frazer Point Picnic Area – A nice spot for tide pooling. The ramp down to the floating dock here will give you a good idea of how widely the tide changes in height throughout the day.
Overlook of Winter Harbor Light on Mark Island – This is just a little road pull-off so keep an eye out for it.
Rockefeller Hall at Schoodic Institute – Learn about the naval history of the peninsula or shop in the park store.
Schoodic Point – Spread out a picnic on the huge granite ledges and enjoy the view from
Blueberry Hill – Another tide pooling spot and lots of blue rocks. This was one of our favorite spots because it was so unique.
Me and Ben’s Dairy Creme – You’ll pass by this little ice cream stand as you finish the loop. The blueberry soft serve is incredible!
Best Hikes in Acadia National Park
Jordan Pond Path – 3.3 mile loop around Jordan Pond along boardwalks, rocks, and footbridges.
Jordan Cliffs Loop – 5 miles of rocky trails with iron rungs, steep slopes, and sheer cliffs; panoramic views of the pond and surrounding mountain summits.
Bar Island Trail – .5 miles of land bridge to Bar Island; 1.9 miles round trip to include the island’s loop trail.
The Beehive – 1.4 mile loop trail, starting with a steep climb up boulder staircases and iron rungs. An alternate route is to go left at the crossroads, taking the Bowl Trail up the back of the Beehive and returning the same way after climbing the backside of the mountain. This makes the trail less challenging for those afraid of heights or hiking with children, but it does make the trail longer.
The Bubbles – 1.5 miles round trip with steep rocks and stairs to Bubble Rock.
Ocean Path Trail – 2.2 mile trail along the coastline with stairs; .7 miles to walk from Sand Beach to Thunder Hole.
Beachcroft Path – 2 miles round trip of cut granite stairs and scrambling up granite ledges to the summit of Champlain Mountain and panoramic views of the water and surrounding islands.
Ship Harbor Trail – This 1.3 mile figure-8 trail is a mostly wooded walk. At low tide, you’ll want to look for side paths down to the rocky coastline to look for tide pools. This trail can also be cut short, if you turn back after exploring the rocks.
Wonderland Trail – This 1.4 mile out and back trail to the coastline is another recommended tide pooling spot and also a great trail for birding.
5 Other Things To Experience in Acadia National Park
- The Food – I’ve already mentioned the famous popovers at Jordan Pond House Restaurant, but if you like seafood, a visit to Acadia isn’t complete without a lobster roll or a clam bake dinner. You’ll find seafood restaurants and roadside food stands all around Mount Desert Island. You’ll also find blueberry items dotting menus around the island, from blueberry pie to blueberry ice tea.
- Ranger Led Tours – Park rangers host a carriage road bike tour as well as boat tours to Iselsford Historical Museum and Baker Island. Find more information and how to book these tours on the park’s calendar page.
- Harbor Overlooks – A harbor full of boats is picture perfect Maine. As you drive along the water, look for pullouts and other areas where you can safely view the harbor and grab a photo.
- Quaint Harbor towns – Whether you just drive through or choose to stop for a bite to eat and wander the shops, take a few moments to enjoy the little towns around the island.
- Get out on a boat – A boat tour was one of the things I wished we’d been able to fit into our weekend in Acadia National Park. What better way to view the harbors, the beautiful waterfront homes, and Maine’s many lighthouses than from a boat? In addition, Isle Au Haut can only be accessed by boat.
Best Things to Do In Acadia with Kids
Junior Ranger Program – The Junior Ranger Program is a favorite with our kids. The park also has Junior Ranger stations at both Hulls Cove Visitor Center and Sieur de Monts Nature Center that will help kids complete their books.
Carroll Homestead – Visit an 1800s farm with activities and exhibits for kids.
Touch Tanks – Check out the touch tank exhibits at Dorr Hall on the Schoodic Peninsula. Check the park calendar for hours.
Schoodic Peninsula – Tide pooling at Frazer Point, finding blue rocks at Blueberry Hill, and finishing the morning with ice cream were all big hits with our boys
Bar Island Land Bridge – We didn’t do the entire path, but our boys enjoyed looking in tide pools and seeing the boats in the nearby harbor.
Sand Beach – Build a sandcastle, climb on some rocks, or splash at the edge of the water.
Echo Lake Beach – There aren’t any waves here, but kids will still enjoy playing in the water.
Tips for Visiting Acadia National Park:
Display your entrance pass – Because Acadia National Park land is spread throughout Mount Desert Island, you might not pass an entrance booth on your way to your first stop. You must display your Acadia entrance receipt or park pass when parking anywhere throughout the park, so be sure to get that taken care of first. You can pay your entrance fee or pick up a hang tag for your national pass at several locations throughout the park, including Hulls Cove Visitor Center, Sand Beach Entrance Station, or the three national park campgrounds. You can also purchase your pass ahead of time at Recreation.gov and print it for your dashboard.
Parking will be limited – Most of the parking areas around Mount Desert Island and Acadia are pretty small and trail parking extends out on the road for quite a ways at popular trails. Get out as early as you can or plan to take the free Island Explorer shuttle (usually running mid-June to mid-October).The stretch of Park Loop Road from Sand Beach to Otter Point is one of the most congested area of the park, so that’s a great spot to take advantage of the shuttle.
Be aware of the tides – In a coastal region like Acadia, you’ll want to pay attention to the tide charts when planning your trip. Overlooks like Schooner Head and tide pool areas like Ship Harbor Trail should be visited at low tide. In contrast, Thunder Hole is best at high tide. Not to mention, some of those iconic views of the harbors and sounds will not look the same when the tide is out and the mud flats are more exposed. Take a screenshot or make good notes of the tide charts before visiting.
Bring layers – Summer in Maine might not be as warm as you think. And shady walkways, coastal areas, and out on the water will feel a bit cooler.
Arrive very early for sunset – Acadia is not a big national park, so the sunrise and sunset spots can be very crowded and parking lots are small. You’ll want to plan well in advance if one of these spots is important to you. If you’re planning to watch the sunset at Cadillac Mountain (with a reservation) or Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, you will want to arrive very early to guarantee a parking spot. Plan to share your space with many others and their cameras.
Reserve tickets for Cadillac Mountain ahead of time – Like I mentioned above, access to Cadillac Mountain is limited, so you’ll want to plan ahead on this. We chose to reserve two evening times so that we had a backup in case of rain.
1 Day Acadia National Park Itinerary
Acadia National Park might not be as huge as some of the other parks around the country, but it is still hard to do everything in one day! So many beautiful overlooks and so many great hikes in Acadia National Park! Here’s how I would narrow that down a bit.
If You Can Only Pick One:
Scenic Drive: Park Loop Road
Hike: The Beehive for a rocky hike. Bar Island Land Bridge for a flat hike.
Overlook: Cadillac Mountain
Lighthouse: Bass Harbor Head is the only one you can get close to, so this is the obvious choice.
Beach/Swimming Area: Sand Beach, for the waves and the true sand.
And the good news, is that while driving around to each of these things, you’ll be driving right past a lot of other great spots. If you can spare a few minutes to hop out of the car, you’ll feel like you saw a good bit of Acadia National Park in one day!
2 Day Acadia National Park Itinerary: A Weekend in Acadia
For a 2 day trip to Acadia National Park, I would do:
– Park Loop Road
– Schooner Head Overlook
– Sand Beach
– The Beehive hike
– Jordan Pond House Restaurant for popovers and blueberry lemonade
– Walk or bike the Carriage Roads
– Sunset at Cadillac Mountain
– Bar Island Land Bridge
– Shopping and eating in Bar Harbor
– Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse
– Echo Lake
– Wonderland Trail
3 Day Acadia National Park Itinerary
For a 3 day trip to Acadia National Park, I would go to Schoodic Peninsula.
– Frazer Point tidepooling
– View of Winter Harbor Light on Mark Island
– Picnic lunch at Schoodic Point
– Blueberry Hill
– Ice cream!
4 Day Acadia National Park Itinerary
For a 4 day trip to Acadia National Park, I would add:
– Sunrise at Cadillac Mountain
– The Bubbles hike or Beachcroft Path
– Sieur de Monts Nature Center
– Abbe Museum
– Wild Gardens of Acadia
5 Day Acadia National Park Itinerary: A Week in Acadia
For a 5 day trip to Acadia National Park or an even longer trip, I would spend more time in Bar Harbor or explore the beautiful harbor towns on Mount Desert Island. A whale watching tour would be an amazing addition to this trip. It would also be really fun to put together a little food tour from all the delicious local restaurants.
When you buy something using the links in our posts, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.