Acadia National Park in Maine- A must visit
A rocky coastline dotted with islands, beautiful lighthouses, and more await visitors to Acadia National Park in Maine. Since the summer of 1916 visitors have been flocking to the National Park on Mount Desert Island, a mere three hours from Portland, Maine and only 4.5 hours away from Boston. The waves crashing along the granite cliffs and beaches as the sunrise touches the USA first at Acadia National Park.
After watching a sunrise on top of Cadillac Mountain (a tradition), then head down into the town of Bar Harbor, Maine. Bar Harbor is located on Mount Desert Island and is the main hub of life outside located on the border of Acadia National Park. Fuel up for your adventure before you head out for the day. From camping in Acadia
A morning coffee in Bar Harbor Maine after a sunrise on top of Cadillac Mountain is one of my favorite memories.
If anything, the past few months has made me appreciate the freedom of the outdoors, and if you have the chance visit Acadia National Park.
How to get to Acadia National Park in Maine?
Getting to Acadia National Park from neighboring states is easy and makes for a beautiful road trip. Boston to Acadia National Park is a 4.5-hour drive that passes Portland, Kittery, and Kennebunkport, Maine.
If you are coming from farther than New England, there are a few options for you to fly. Whether you find a good flight into Boston Logan International (BOS), Portland International Jetport (PWM), or Bangor, you probably need to rent a car to experience Acadia National Park in all its’ glory.
- Boston: 4 1/2 hour drive, 278 miles, Logan International Airport,
- Portland: 3-hour drive, 174 miles, Portland International Jetport,
- Bangor: 1 hour and a 15-minute drive, 47 miles, Bangor International Airport.
Where is Acadia National Park?
Acadia National Park is located 5 minutes outside of Bar Harbor, Maine, which is on Mount Desert Island.
See the official map of the Acadia National Park Map here.
Acadia National Park Entrance Fees
The private vehicle entrance fee that covers everyone in the vehicle is $30 USD. It will cover 7 days of exploring the loop road, and other sections of the park. Or you could splurge and buy a National Park Pass for $80 USD and is good for all the U.S. National Parks.
Best time to visit Acadia National Park
The best time of the year to visit Acadia National Park is the shoulder season September through early October. There are less cruises pulling into Bar Harbor, and the summer crowds are gone. Also, if you get there in the fall the leaf peeping season will be underway and the stunning fall colors will be a treat. But the best time to visit Acadia National Park really depends on the activities you like to take part in.
- June- August: The summer is the best time of year in Acadia in terms of beautiful weather and swimming. However, this comes with huge crowds, so hiking on trails may not be as pleasant during this time.
- September- October: The best time to visit Acadia National Park to avoid the crowds, and see the leaves begin to change colors is September. With less people, the hotel prices are cheaper, you can have a hiking trail all to yourself, and really enjoy the town of Bar Harbor. The average temperatures range from the 40’s through the 50’s. But you can get lucky with some above average temperatures.
- November- February: The best time of the year to come to Acadia is winter if you are a cross country skier. The famous carriage roads are open for cross country skiing. However, portions of the park loop close, and a good portion of businesses and hiking trails also close depending on the weather. Be warned it gets very COLD!
- March- May: Spring time, brings wet weather to Acadia National Park, and is the off season. Almost no tourists come during this time, since campgrounds and the park visitor centers are closed. The park is a muddy mess at this time, and the wet low temperatures make it feel quite cold.
Weather in Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park weather is pretty erratic, like the rest of New England. Usually you will find sunny days in the summer on Mount Desert Island, however the weather conditions can change almost instantly. It is better to be prepared for three seasons in one day to enjoy your time.
It may be foggy and overcast early in the morning, sunny during the day, and then windy and rainy by the end of the day. Always have a light wind breaker/rain jacket with you even in the summer if want to stay warm and dry.
Acadia National Park during Covid:
- Park Campgrounds, usually opening in May have delayed opening until June 15, 2020.
- Hulls Cove Visitor Center, normally open May 1st, will delay opening until June 1, 2020.
- Sieur de Monts Visitor Center, normally open May 1st, will be delayed until June 15, 2020.
- The park may reevaluate these dates depending on the everchanging situation of the pandemic.
- Concessioner services are still up in the air.
How many days do you need to visit Acadia National Park?
My recommendation would be staying for four days minimum to explore Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, and try a few different outdoor activities. Most recently my mom and I stayed in Acadia National Park for 3 days, but I had been to the park before. I recommend 4 because if you want to do one to two hikes, see the major points of interest, go kayaking, and actually have time to relax this will give you the right amount of time to enjoy Acadia.
Hotels and Lodging in Acadia National Park
Best Bar Harbor Hotels
Like to stay close to the action? Well Bar Harbor is where most of the restaurants, shops, and coffee shops are located. Also, most tours start in the town. Bar Harbor is where I prefer to stay, but there are many great options a short drive down route 3 that are also great for their value!
Atlantic Eyrie Lodge was the perfect place close to the action of Bar Harbor, Maine, but also very relaxing with breathtaking views of the harbor. There was a heated pool, hotel shuttle into town, and breakfast included in the price. Waking up every morning to the view of the Atlantic and ocean breeze as I sat on my hotel room porch was the best thing ever!
Northeast Harbor Hotels
The wealthy live in Northeast Harbor. It offers some upscale hotels and has a few local spots that are not to be missed.
Asticou Inn is by far one of my favorite hotels that is on Mount Desert Island.
But I also love the grandeur of The Bar Harbor Grand Hotel.
Southwest Harbor Hotels “The Quiet” side of Mount Desert Island
The largest town on Mount Desert Island is also on the “quiet” side of the island, and has the second-most hotels on the island.
Stay here if you want to see a working harbor in action, Bass Harbor has a few inns and is located on the southern tip of Mount Desert Island.
Schoodic Peninsula Hotels
Connected to the mainland, but still part of Acadia National Park, this area is filled with quaint coastal villages and is also a great option for visitors to Acadia.
Island View Inn offers great views and a very relaxing atmosphere.
Trenton Hotels “Best Budget” options
Part of the mainland and connected by a bridge to Mount Desert Island is Trenton. This is where you will find some of the only budget options close to Acadia National Park.
Acadia National Park Camping
If you really enjoy the outdoors you may want to camp instead of staying at a luxury hotel. These are a few of the official campgrounds offered by the National Park Services located in or close by to Acadia National Park.
*Campgrounds currently set to open June 15, 2020 due to Covid 19.
- Blackwoods Campground $30 tent, camper, and motor home sites
- Seawall Campground $22 walk-in tent sites, $30 drive-up tent, camper, and motor home sites
- Duck Harbor Campground A rugged island off the coast of Stonington, Maine only accessible by mail boat, offers 5 primitive camping sites from May 15 through October 15. Make reservations well in advance! *First night to occupy a campsite is now July 1st due to Covid.
- Schoodic Woods Campground $22 hike-in tent sites (primitive), $30 drive up tent/small RV (20 amp), $36 RV with electric only sites (20/30/50 amp), and $40 RV with electric and water (20/30/50 amp).
Things to see and do in Acadia National Park in Maine
1. Sunrise at Cadillac Mountain
It’s easy to sleep in when you are on vacation, but sometimes the most beautiful thing to see is the sunrise. Sunrise on top of Cadillac Mountain is stunning. Also, if you wake up early enough you get to experience the first spot the sunrises in the USA!
At first when my mom woke me up from my dreams at an early hour I thought the place was on fire. But she was like “wake up, wake up, let’s try to make it for the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain.” And wow. I am glad I did. At first, I thought what’s the big deal, but it was beautiful. People were wrapped up in blankets and warming up with their thermoses waiting for the sun to come up.
This is one of the top activities so be prepared to not be the only one up there.
2. Drive along The Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park
The 27-mile primary road that will lead you through Acadia National Park is “Park Loop Road”. The road is one way and begins at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center on the Northside of Mount Desert Island near route 3. Park Loop Road connects Acadia National Park’s lakes, forests, historic carriage roads, forests, the rocky coast and the beaches.
Must See Stops:
- Sand Beach
- Thunder Hole
- Jordan Pond
- Cadillac Mountain
- Otter Point
- Schooner Head Overlook
3. Have Popovers at Jordan Pond House
Usually when you pull up to Jordan Pond House you will be greeted with a line. The restaurant offers famous popovers that claim to be the best! But this is also the only full-service restaurant in Acadia National Park with a great view. So be prepared for crowds. When the weather is nice be sure to take advantage and sit outside on the lawn for afternoon tea a tradition since the 1800s.
Open late April through end of October. It is recommended to book ahead for reservations at Jordan Pond House since its’ so popular. After lunch burn off the calories with a walk around the full loop trail of Jordan Pond.
4. Bike the 57 Miles of Historic Carriage Trails in Acadia
A pleasant surprise for many is the historic carriage roads located throughout Acadia National Park. In total the rustic carriage roads cover 45 miles, the roads and 16 bridges were a gift of the philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. and family.
I was pleasantly surprised as I hiked the paths to see cyclists biking the trail. I wish I had my bike to join them. Next time I will be sure to rent bikes from … Whether you want to take a horse drawn carriage ride, run, or ride a bike the trails bring you through a romantic New England Scenery with sweeping vistas that will truly understand the extent of the beauty of Acadia.
5. Wander Sand Beach
Between the rocky cliffs of Mount Desert Island is an inlet that leads to Sand Beach. A pretty large stretch of sand allows for beachgoers to spread out, but the parking is limited especially in the warmer months. When I went in September there were plenty of spots and while the water was cool it was a pleasant place to walk around.
A lifeguard is on duty from Memorial Day to Labor Day, otherwise the beach is unmanned.
6. Watch Sunset at Bass Harbor Lighthouse
Another popular activity in Acadia National Park is taking in sunset at the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. But this area gets super crowded if you come during peak season. If you want a good spot get here early. Also, that way you make sure you get a parking spot. Also, bring a blanket and some snacks if you don’t want to sit uncomfortably on the rocks while you wait.
7. Sea Kayaking
Want to experience Acadia National Park from the water? Try a half day tour Sea Kayaking or a Sunset Kayaking Tour. I decided to take a half day tour with Coastal Kayaks. It was amazing! The 4-hour tour covered 5 miles of coastline
8. Hike the 120 Miles of Trails in Acadia National Park
There are many nature and hiking trails throughout Acadia National Park for all levels. For a hair-raising hike, check out the Precipice Trail. If you have a fear of heights the precipice trail is probably not for you. Most of the hike is exposed rock face, where iron rungs and ladders make up most of the 1.6 miles round trip. At one point there is a 1000-foot vertical rock face of Mount Champlain that looks quite daunting to climb.
However, hiking South Bubble Mountain from Jordan Pond, or hiking around Jordan Pond are enjoyable hikes that have great views. The point: Hiking in Acadia National Park is amazing for all levels. The park is accessible everyone and having a mother who is handicap it is important that there are ways she can experience the park as well.
*Check what seasons different trails are open. Some like the Precipice Trail close spring and summer for peregrine falcon nesting. If you go in mid-August- the fall you should be good to go!
9. Try your hand at Rock Climbing (Rock Climbing School)
A great place for rock climbing and learning to rock climb is the rocky cliffs of the Maine Coast in Acadia National Park. A few schools including Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School and Atlantic Climbing School offer half day and full day excursions for all levels of rock climbers.
Rock climbing is on my bucket list. I like climbing rocks for photos, so I believe I will love rock climbing!
10. Explore Bar Harbor, Maine
While there are a few spots you can stay on Mount Desert Island, the main hub for tourists, restaurants, shops, and hotels is Bar Harbor, Maine. Also, most tours and excursions leave from Bar Harbor. The town is also a popular jumping off point since it is only a 5-minute drive to the main entrance to the Park Loop Road.
11. Go Whale Watching and maybe see some Puffins!
If you want to explore wildlife more leisurely hop aboard a whale watching cruise, and depending on the time of the year you may see Puffins! Not only can you see whales and puffins, but there are seals along the coast line, bald eagles, porpoises, and falcons. `
Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company offers tours to see the puffins and whales from June 20 through October 18th.
June 20 to Sept 1 – 1:00pm
July 9 to Sept 1 – 2:30pm or 4:30pm (No Sunday Tour)
August 18 to Sept 1 – 8:30am
Sept 2 through October 18 – 12:00 noon
Rates: Adults Age 6-14 5 & under Whale Watch $59.00 $33.00 $14.00 Whale Watch 7/5 – 8/19 $63.00 $35.00 $14.00
12. Pick your own Wild Maine Blueberries near Acadia National Park
While most people come to Maine and try the lobster, they often don’t realize that Maine is also famous for its’ blueberries. Blueberry pie, blueberry ice cream, you name it there is blueberries everywhere in Maine. In season when hiking around Acadia National Park you may come across wild blueberry plants. However, if you aren’t feeling brave to eat it straight from the wild, head to a blueberry farm to pick your own blueberries!
13. Walk the Land Bridge to Bar Island (Be sure to check the Tides!)
Another fun thing to do in Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, Maine walks the Land Bridge to Bar Island. Be sure to check the tide charts, since you do not want to get stuck out there! Allow about 1.5 hours before and after high tide to fully enjoy the land bridge and hiking around Bar Island. The hike to the highest point of Bar Island is 1 mile long.
Why you should go to Acadia National Park?
With everything going on the outdoors is the best place to be, and I believe Acadia National Park should be at the top of your list if you are looking for an outdoor adventure this summer. There are things to do in Acadia National Park for all levels of comfort with the outdoors. If you want to stay at luxury hotels and eat fancy meals with a nice view, you are covered. But if you want to go rock climbing, hiking, kayaking, or go camping then Acadia National Park is for you as well. I am glad I got to come here not only once, but twice and I loved it every time. Get outdoors this summer and explore the National Parks (or state parks) this summer. While some things may be canceled, nature isn’t!
Want to check out some more national parks this year? Check out the Everglades a short day trip from Miami, Florida, USA.