Acadia National Park Itinerary: 1, 2 & 3 Day Travel Guide
Nestled on the Maine island of Mount Desert Island, you’ll find the sweeping coastlines of Acadia National Park. Whether you’re looking to visit for one day or three days, we have the perfect Acadia National Park itinerary for you just below.
Acadia is wild and often referred to as the “Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast.” Home to salty sea air, winding scenic roads, endless hiking trails, and rugged mountains, it’s easy to see why millions of visitors flock to Acadia National Park each year. With the park averaging about 47,000 acres in size, Acadia is one of the smallest National Parks in the U.S., but one of the most visited. Once you arrive, you’ll see why.
The Ultimate Acadia National Park Itinerary & Travel Guide
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Acadia National Park Facts + Planning Tips
- Entrance Fee: $30 per vehicle, $25 per motorcycle, $15 per hiker/bicyclists, $0 for active Military
- Hours of Operation: Open 24 hours, all year. However, the Park Loop Road is closed from December 1st through April 15th. Many in park restaurants and visitor centers are closed from mid-October through the end of April or even early May.
- Cadillac Mountain Reservations: Vehicle reservations are required to drive up Cadillac Summit Road between the end of May and mid-October.
- Established: July 1916 as Sieur de Monts, February 1919 as Layfette National Park and finally, January 1929 as Acadia National Park
- Park Acres: 47,000
- Avg. Annual Visitors: 3.5 million
TIP: If you are planning to explore other National Parks, you should consider buying a National Park Pass to save you a little money on Park Entrance fees. Also, be sure to visit the National Park Service website to stay up-to-date on road and trail conditions before you visit.
Where Is Acadia National Park Located?
Acadia National Park is located in Maine on Mount Desert Island (MDI). Mount Desert Island is where you will find Bar Harbor and the main and most popular Acadia National Park sights like Cadillac Mountain and the Park Loop Road.
However, Acadia National Park expands off Mount Desert Island as well. Portions of the National Park can be found on the Schoodic Peninsula and Isle au Haut. These are often less visited, and take a little effort to get to but worth the time if you have it or are looking to escape the crowds.
The most popular place to stay in Acadia is the charming fishing town of Bar Harbor. Bar Harbor shares borders with the park making it about a 5-minute drive to the closest park entrance. To expand on the geography a bit as to where Acadia is located, it’s about 160 miles from Portland, Maine, and about 50 miles from Bangor, Maine.
How To Get To & Around Acadia National Park
The closest airport to Acadia National Park is the regional Hancock County Airport, located about 10 miles from the Park. You can catch a direct flight into Hancock County Airport from Boston’s Logan Airport.
If you are looking to fly to a different airport, below are the closest major airports to Acadia National Park:
- Bangor International Airport (BGR): 46 miles | About a 1-hour drive
- Portland International Jetport (PWM): 170 miles | About a 3-hour drive
- Boston Logan International Airport (BOS): 275 miles | About a 5-hour drive
Option 1: Rent A Car
Regardless of which airport you choose to fly into, renting a car is the easiest way to get to and from Bar Harbor and explore Acadia National Park and its surrounding areas You can plan to rent your car from whatever airport you arrive at. Seeing the park in your own vehicle is our recommended way to get around and explore Acadia National Park. Having the freedom to go where you want, when you want is a lovely thing.
Option 2: Reserve Bus Transportation & Book A Park Tour
Downeast Transportation and The Bar Harbor/Bangor Shuttle provide bus service between Bangor Airport to Bar Harbor. You look into their service timetables to coordinate any transportation from Bangor airport into Bar Harbor.
Once in Bar Harbor, you will need a means of transportation to explore the park. You can 1) book a guided tour of Acadia National Park 2) plan to rent a bike or 3) hop on the Island Explorer Bus
Where To Enter Acadia National Park
Acadia has four park entrances and exits for you to choose from. Three of which are located close to Bar Habor.
- Hulls Cove Entrance: Located north of Bar Harbor off Route 3
- Cadillac Mountain Entrance: Located west of Bar Harbor off Route 233
- Sieur de Monts Entrance: Located south of Bar Harbor off Route 3
- Stanley Brook Entrance: Located south of the Park in Seal Harbor off Route 3
How Many Days Do You Need For Acadia National Park?
If you are crunched on time, you can absolutely do the highlights of Acadia National Park in one day. However, Acadia is quite the place to explore so if you can plan to spend at least three days in Acadia National Park. From hiking to sailing and kayaking tours to scenic drives, you’ll have plenty of things to fill your days. Not to mention, plenty of lobster and fresh seafood (if that’s your thing) to eat!
Best Time To Visit Acadia National Park
While the park is open all year, the best months to visit Acadia National Park are from late spring to early fall – May to October. Peak Season is considered June through September and if you are looking to see amazing fall foliage, plan to come beginning to mid-October.
If you’re planning to visit during November – April, prepare for cold weather, park road closures, and limited to no tours or lobster pounds operating. Things slowly begin to shut down for the season after Columbus Day and toward the end of October.
Where To Stay Near Acadia National Park
Bar Harbor Accommodations
Bar Harbor is the closest and most popular place to stay near Acadia National Park. With it being a 5-ish minute drive to the park entrance and home to bustling bars, tasty restaurants, and fun shops it’s a no-brainer why folks flock to Bar Harbor.
- The Inn On Mount Desert: Located in downtown Bar Harbor and 1 mile from Acadia National Park, The Inn on Mount Desert is one of the quintessential and staple accommodations. From its exceptional location to its charming yet modern setting, this little bed and breakfast is a favorite among many.
- Sand Bar Cottage Inn: Modern and trendy cottage house is what we would call the Sand Bar. This 4-star hotel is a cozy retreat after your day of exploring the National Park and its surrounding areas.
- Acadia Hotel Downtown: If you want to be right in the action, Acadia Hotel is for you. Nestled among dining, shopping, and entertainment options, the Acadia Hotel Downtown is a historic building from 1884 but updated to have all the New England charm.
- The Primrose: Recently renovated and looking so stylish and comfortable, The Primrose is a great little bed and breakfast situated right in Bar Harbor.
- Seabury Escape: If you are looking to rent out a home for the family, the Seabury Escape is your pick. With three bedrooms and a full kitchen, the Seabury Escape is great for families or large groups of friends.
- Bar Harbor Villager Motel: Coming equipped with a seasonally heated outdoor pool and complimentary breakfast, the Villager Motel is a great little find for those of you wanting something convenient and a little bit on the more budget-friendly side.
For more accommodations options in Bar Harbor, you check out the latest prices and availability here.
Nearby Places To Stay
While there are plenty of accommodations to choose from in Bar Harbor, there are other towns nearby that are viable options too!
- Southwest Harbor: Located about 14 miles away from Bar Harbor is Southwest Harbor. A much smaller town and community, but a great option for those looking for something a little more local and quiet. Some popular accommodation choices are The Dry Dock Cafe & Inn, Harbor Ridge, and Lidenwood Inn
- Trenton: Trenton is the town just before the island of Mount Desert and is about a 12-mile drive to Bar Harbor. A few well-rated accommodation choices for you to check out are Harbor Bay House, Narrows Too Camping Resort, and Isleview Motel and Cabins
If you are looking to pitch a tent or roll up in your camper or RV, there are several places you can look into to reserve a spot. Making reservations well in advance is highly recommended.
- Bar Harbor / Oceanside KOA Holiday
- Hadley’s Point Campground
- Bar Harbor Campground
- Mount Desert Campground
- Blackwoods Campground
- Smuggler’s Den Campground
- Bass Harbor Camground
Acadia National Park Itinerary Map
One Day Acadia National Park Itinerary – Park Loop Road
Alrighty. So, if you only have one day in Acadia National Park, you’ll want to focus your sights on the Park Loop Road. The Park Loop Road is a 27-mile loop that circumnavigates Acadia National Park and will take you to Acadia’s most popular and iconic sights. Let’s get to it.
Check out the top 10 things not to miss in Acadia National Park!
Stop 1: Sunrise at Cadillac Mountain
Set your alarm, it’s time to see Acadia at first light! Not only is Cadillac Mountain the highest point in Acadia National Park (1,528 ft.), it also happens to be the first place the light touches the United States from October 7th to March 6th.
You have two options when visiting Cadillac Mountain. 1) Hike via the North Ridge Trail or 2) Drive. If you drive, a PERMIT IS REQUIRED from May 26th through October 19th. Vehicles without a permit may not access Cadillac Mountain. You can make your permit reservation for $6 per vehicle online.
Regardless of which way you choose to get to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, you’ll be rewarded with vast views of the Maine coastline and Mount Desert’s surrounding islands.
Tip: If you drive on your way down from the summit, there are little pull-offs where you can park your vehicle and get some great photos of Acadia Park.
Stop 2: Head To Sand Beach
Once you’ve had your fill of Cadillac Mountain, set your GPS for Sand Beach. Sand Beach is a nice little beach that is nestled in a cove of Acadia National Park. It’s also the only beach in Acadia. If the weather is nice (and if you dare), take a dip or just enjoy a stroll along the sand as you admire the coastline views.
Stop 3: Take A Hike or Two
Ready for a hike? No Acadia National Park itinerary is complete without doing at least one hike. We have a few options that are all within a stone’s throw from Sand Beach. All are decently short but vary enough so there is a fit for everyone.
- The Great Head Trail: 1.6 miles easy to moderate hike around the Great Head peninsula located on the east side of Sand Beach. Great for dogs and the family or those just looking to get views of the coastline and Sand Beach.
- The Bee Hive Trail: 1.4 miles and the most challenging of our set of three recommendations. This trail is not dog friendly and (errrr) up to you on if you want the kids to go. Essentially it’s a rung climb that hikes you alongside a cliff. This is one of our favorite trails in Acadia, but this is not recommended for those who are deathly afraid of heights.
- The Ocean Path Trail: The Ocean Trail can be as long or as short as you want it to be (0.7 or 2.2 miles one way). The trail will connect you to the next few stop on our list (Thunder Hole, Monument Cove, and Otter Cliff), or you can just walk the coastline and once you have your fill, hop in the car and drive to the next set of locations.
For more hikes, check out ” 6 HIkes in Acadia National Park Everyone Should Do“
Stop 4: Thunder Hole
Thunder Hole is a fun little stop to hear thunderous booms and see (not guaranteed) flying sea spray from a natural rock inlet. Essentially, waves pounded the coastline surface and a small cave was formed. As the water comes rushing in, it hits the cave which causes a loud boom and flying sea spray. The best time to visit Thunder Hole is 2 hours before high tide. You can check the tide schedule here.
Stop 5, 6 & 7: Monument Cove, Boulder Beach, and Otter Cliff
Nothing more to these three stops other than just great views of the Maine and Acadia coastline. The views are spectacular and well worth the stop for some photos or to just sit on the coastal rocks and take in the beauty of Acadia.
Stop 7: Have Tea and Popovers at Jordan Pond House
Finally, time for a little sit down with some food and tea. A staple of any Acadia Park visit is taking the time to partake in the park tradition of Tea and Popovers. Since 1893, guests have been dining at this site and devouring popovers (a roll), and washing it down with some tea. If the day is nice, grab a table on the lawn and enjoy the views and day!
OPTIONAL: After tea and popovers, you can head down to Jordan Pond where you can see great views of The Bubbles. You can also walk the perimeter of the pond to get even more amazing views of Jordan Pond. The entire loop is 3.5 miles, but you can do as much or as little as you like.
Stop 8: Dinner in Bar Harbor
After a full day in the park, it’s time to get some time in Bar Harbor. Head into town and plan to grab a meal at either Thirsty Whale, Stewman’s, Side Street Cafe, or The Barnacle Oyster Bar. If you’re looking to bar hop, FogTown Brewery, Cottage Street Pub, and The Annex are all great options.
ATL: If you are wanting to experience a true Maine Lobster Pound, plan to head to C-Ray’s or Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound for dinner instead. Both are located just outside of Bar Harbor.
Two Day Acadia National Park Itinerary
Are you ready for your second day in Acadia? Just to clear the air, if you have full two days in the park, you can pick and play with our day one Acadia National Park itinerary as you please. Our day one itinerary is the essential must-see list, so feel free to adjust as you would like to make your two days in Acadia National Park perfect for you.
Stop 1: Get Breakfast in Bar Harbor
Before you start exploring, grab a bite to eat at one of Bar Harbor’s tasty breakfast eateries like Cafe This Way, 2 Cats, or Mount Dessert Bakery.
Stop 2: Book a Morning Sailing Cruise or Kayaking Tour
We cannot recommend a tour enough, especially a sailing cruise. Sail Acadia is who we used and Captain Carl took our group on an 1899 sloop sailboat and it was spectacular. Whether you want a sailing tour or a kayaking tour or to climb aboard a lobster boat, we definitely recommend experiencing Acadia by water.
Stop 3: Hike to North Bubble
After your tour is complete, it’s time to hit the trails to complete another classic Acadia park hike, the North Bubbles trail. This trail is an easy-to-moderate 0.9-mile trail that weaves you over rugged rocks and through forest trees. At the top, you are rewarded with amazing views of Jordan Pond, Pemetic and Sargent Mountains, and the Cranberry Isles. Well worth the hike and in our opinion, considered a must-do hike when visiting Acadia.
OPTIONAL: You can add to this hike by also doing the South Bubble or alternatively, you can just do the South Bubble. If you want better views, in our opinion, the North Bubble hike is better.
Stop 4: Sunset at Bass Harbor Light House
No trip to Maine is complete without seeing a lighthouse. A popular spot for sunset is Bass Harbor Light House located in Bass Harbor Maine – about a 35-minute drive from Bar Harbor. It’s our recommendation to get to Bass Harbor Light House an hour to an hour and a half prior to sunset.
You can bring some snacks, and a few drinks and find a spot on the rocks and just watch the sky change colors as the sun begins to set. It’s a fantastic way to end the day.
Stop 5: Dinner at Local Maine Lobster Pound
After sunset, you can plan to have dinner at one of two places – 1) Seaside Dairy Bar and Lobster Pound or 2) Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound.
You’ll pass right by Seaside Dairy Bar and Lobster Pound, making it a very convenient place to stop for dinner. Charlotte’s is a little further and takes an interesting approach to cooking her lobsters. Charlotte is famous for feeding her Lobster CBD oil before they hit the steaming water.
Both roadside eateries are quintessential lobster pounds that you can easily hit on the way back to Bar Harbor or your accommodation.
Three Day Acadia National Park Itinerary
For those of you who have three full days to spend exploring Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, just like the above, feel free to pick and play with the previous two-day itineraries to fit your needs. But with three days in the area, you’ll get to experience a vast variety of amazing experiences and sights.
Book Another Tour!
If you booked a sailing tour the previous day, consider booking a kayaking tour, rock climbing, a culinary tour, or even a whale watching tour. There are loads of various types of tours offered in Bar Harbor, all offering a little something unique.
Bike The Carriage Roads
Rent a bike from Bar Harbor and head into Acadia National Park to cycle the historic park Carriage Roads. Gifted by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and his family, the Acadia Carriage Roads is 45 miles of motor-free roads that were constructed from 1913 – 1940 to allow horses and carriages into the heart of Acadia Park. Today, these carriage trails can be used for walking or biking.
Go On Another Hike
If you haven’t realized, Acadia has some amazing hikes. If you looking to conquer another hike or two consider the below options (these are outside of the hikes we already listed above within the Day 1 and Day 2 sections).
- Gorham Mountain Trail: 3 miles | Moderate
- Pemetic Mountain: 1.2 miles | Moderate
- Precipice Trail: 2.1 miles | Hard
- Beech Cliff Trail: 1.2 miles | Moderate
- Jordan Rung Trail: 3 miles | Hard
- Dorr Mountain Ladder Trail: 2.7 miles | Hard
Explore Bar Harbor & Bar Island Land Bridge
If you haven’t already, wander the shops and streets of Bar Harbor. Whether you want to buy some souvenirs, eat some more around town, or just beep-and-bop in and out of local shops, Bar Harbor is well worth spending a couple of hours exploring.
Additionally, when in town, you can check out and walk the Bar Island Land Bridge. For 1.5 hours before and after low tide, a gravel bar is exposed connecting the town of Bar Harbor and Bar Island. Walk along the gravel trail and explore small tide pools. Fare warning, you need to be aware of tide times for when the tide comes back in, the Bar Island Land Bridge becomes submerged and we’d hate for you to be stranded on Bar Island for 9 hours (till the tide lowers again).
Essentials To Pack For Acadia National Park
It’s best to be prepared before entering Acadia. To help maximize your time in the park and to make it as enjoyable as possible, consider the below list of our essential items to have with you when venturing into Acadia National Park.
- Good Footwear: Meaning a good pair of boots, sneakers, and of course socks. There are loads of walking and exploring to be done, so let’s be sure to keep your feet dry and comfortable.
- Layers: The temps can change just as quickly as the wind can pick up, so be sure to have layers with you! Ideally, a windbreaker or rain jacket and a fleece for backup, especially if visiting during cooler months.
- Day Bag: A comfortable day bay is a must. Whether you are using it to carry your snacks and water for hiking or your Go Pro and Camera gear for pictures, a comfortable and durable day pack is a great sidekick to your time in Acadia.
- Water Bottle: You’ll be in nature so please avoid using single-use plastics. Do right by Mother Earth and pack and use a reusable water bottle.
- Sunscreen: Even on cloudy days, you’ll want to layer up on sunscreen. We don’t want you to get sunburned during all your outdoor fun.
- Snacks: Snacks are always a must for us. We never want to stop exploring because we are starving and need to get something to eat. Plan to pack some granola bars, fruit, trail mix, or whatever you fancy and have it with you in your day pack or car. As a reminder, the only place to eat in the park is Jordan Pond House and it’s just popovers.
Is Acadia National Park Dog-Friendly?
Acadia National Park happens to be one of, if not THE most dog-friendly National Park within the United States. Your pup can go on loads of hiking trails (must be leashed), drive the Park Road Loop with you, and even run along Sand Beach after September 8th.
Go and bring your furry little friend, they are sure to have a blast. Our’s sure did!
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– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)