Visiting Acadia National Park? Well, you’ll find no shortage of scenic places and drives, fantastic hikes, and charming towns that surround the National Park. Whether you have a long weekend in Acadia or are just there for a few days, there are amazing things to do in Acadia National Park, regardless of whether it’s your first time or tenth time.
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About Acadia National Park + Planning Tips
Before we dive into the best things to do in Acadia National Park, let’s give you some background and helpful planning tips about the park.
Acadia National Park gets on average 3.4 – 3.5 million visitors a year, making it one of the most visited National Parks in the United States. However, even though Acadia ranks among the top-visited U.S. National Park, Acadia is among the smallest National Parks in the United States.
When planning your trip to Acadia National Park, understand the park borders expand to several islands and landmasses.
- Mount Desert Island: The main hub of the park and home to popular park highlights and hiking trails along with the town of Bar Harbor.
- Schoodic Peninsula: the only part of Acadia National Park found on mainland Maine. Home to similar and dramatic coastline views as Mount Desert Island, Schoodic Peninsula is definitely more secluded.
- Isle au Haut: Requiring a ferry ride to get here, Isle au Haut is the most remote section of Acadia National Park.
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Getting Around & Where To Stay
It’s our recommendation to spend at least three days in the park and Bar Harbor area to be able to see the highlights and go on a hike or two. The best way to get around the park is to rent a car and drive, book a spot on the Island Explorer shuttle or rent a bike. If you are looking for accommodations, the closest town to Acadia National Park is Bar Harbor. Bar Harbor is home to many accommodation types, restaurants, and shops, making it a great jumping-off point to visit Acadia National Park.
Acadia Park Hours, Entrance Fees & When To Go
When visiting Acadia National Park, understand that the park is open 24 hours a day and requires a $30 entrance fee that is valid for 7 consecutive days, to gain access to the park. You have four park entry points to choose from, three of which are close to Bar Harbor.
The best time to visit Acadia National Park is in the fall (October). Why? Fall foliage! Seeing Acadia dressed in fall colors is unbelievably beautiful! While there are plenty of other great months to visit Acadia, June – September being a few, those are also considered peak season when crowds will be at their highest.
For more Acadia planning help, check out our Acadia National Park Itinerary and Planning Guide!
The 10 Best Things To Do In Acadia National Park
1. Go On A Hike in Acadia National Park
Acadia is perfect for every kind of hiker. Truly. From casual, novice hikers to those hikers who like a challenge, Acadia has something for every skill type.
Home to over 120 miles of hiking trails, Acadia’s trails can be found either weaving along the coastline or ascending up to popular viewpoints like Cadillac Mountain and The Bubbles. One of the things that makes hiking so special and fun in Acadia (outside of the views), is the series of trails that have metal ladders and rungs that require hikers to scale and climb on in order to reach the top. The most popular of these rung and ladder trails is the “Beehive Hike”.
From easy hikes like the Ocean Path Trail to the more challenging Precipice Trail, hiking in Acadia really does have something for everyone to enjoy.
2. See The Sunrise From Cadillac Mountain
During the months of October to April, Cadilac Mountain is the first place the sun touches the United States. Pretty cool, right?
Being able to see the first sunrise in the United States is definitely worth the early morning wake-up, especially on a clear day. On a clear morning, you’ll see the surrounding islands and Bar Harbor and not to mention the endless golden horizon of the Atlantic Ocean.
Getting Here: You have two ways to get to the summit of Cadillac Mountain – 1) Hike up or 2) Drive up. If you want to hike up, plan to take the North Ridge Trail (4.4 miles round trip). You’ll want to plan accordingly to allow yourself plenty of time to get up to the summit in enough time to see the sunrise.
If you want to drive to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, a VEHICLE 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 how you choose to get to the summit, plan accordingly and be sure to check the weather forecast. If you visit the summit during overcast or fog, you’ll be outta luck to see the sunrise.
3. Drive Acadia’s Park Loop Road
The heart of Acadia National Park is the scenic Park Loop Road. Acadia’s Park Loop Road circumnavigated the park and takes visitors to the most iconic sights in Acadia National Park. Not to mention, the Park Loop Road will connect hikers to some of the best hikes in Acadia National Park via trailheads.
The most popular place to start Acadia’s Park Loop Road is from the “Sand Beach Entrance Station”. Once you enter the park, the Park Loop Road begins.
TIP: The Park Loop Road is a two-lane, one-way road. So pay attention as to not miss your stop. If you do, you’ll need to continue on the one way and loop back around. Backing up or turning around one the one-way is not an option.
Once in the park, follow the 27-mile park loop road to Acadia National Park’s most popular stops and overlooks. You can plan to use the below route to ensure you see the best things to do in Acadia.
- Stop and Explore Sand Beach
- See the Waves Crash at Thunder Hole
- Take in the dramatic coastline from Monument Cove
- Explore the rocky Boulder Beach
- Take in the sights from the Otter Cliffs and Otter Point
- Enjoy Jordan Pond and Jordan Pond House
Optional: As you drive along the Park Loop Road, you have the option to stop off for a hike or two as you’ll pass by several trailheads. The most popular are the Beehive Trail, Ocean Path Trail, Great Head Trail, Jordan Pond Trail, and The Bubbles Divide Trail.
4. Have Tea & Popovers at Jordan House
Nearing the end of the Park Loop Road, you’ll come to Jordan Pond House. A restaurant since 1893, it’s custom for visitors to have a sip of tea and a bite of a popover as they sit on the lawn overlooking Jordan Pond. Having tea and popovers is considered a staple experience when visiting Acadia National Park and a nice little break from all your exploring.
Just down from the Pond House, you’ll have exceptional views of The Bubbles and Jordan Pond. Feel free to walk the 3.5-mile loop around the pond or just walk a little. Either way, it’s a nice easy afternoon spent at Jordan Pond House.
5. See Acadia From The Water – Take A Boat Tour
If you are looking for a scenic and fun experience, we highly suggest seeing Acadia by water! You can book an Acadia Boat or Kayaking tour and let guides take you along some of the most dramatic and scenic coastlines of Maine.
Sail Acadia is who we used and Captain Carl took our group on an 1899 sloop sailboat and it was spectacular. Whether you want an Acadia Boat tour or a kayaking tour, we definitely recommend experiencing Acadia by water.
6. Visit Acadia’s Most Scenic Places & Overlooks
Now, this is sorta a kill two birds with one stone “to-do” especially as you drive the Park Loop Road. Acadia is home to some AMAZING coastlines and inlets and its ocean sunrises and sunsets and spectacular. Some of our favorite scenic places in all of Acadia are just below.
Perfect for sunrise or sunset, plan to pack a little beverage, snack, and blanket and just enjoy the views.
- Monument Cove
- Boulder Beach
- North Bubble Viewpoint
- Bluehill Overlook
7. Cruise The 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 between 1913 – 1940. The goal was to allow horses and carriages into the heart of Acadia Park. Today, these carriage trails can be used for walking or biking. You can rent a bike from Bar Harbor and head into Acadia National Park to cycle Acadia’s carriage roads.
8. See the Sunset from Bass Harbor Lighthouse
Now, technically not in Acadia National Park, but 100% worth the visit during your visit to Acadia National Park is seeing the sunset from Bass Harbor Lighthouse.
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 to get a good seat. Bring some snacks, a few adult beverages, and just watch the sky change colors as the sun begins to set. It’s a fantastic way to end the day.
9. Walk Around Bar Harbor
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.
Plan to mosey the streets and bop in and out of local shops or just enjoy the waterfront and land bridge. Regardless of what you do, it’s well worth spending a couple of hours exploring Bar Harbor.
10. Take a Trip To the Lesser Visited Parts of Acadia National Park
We finally reached number 10 of the best things to do in Acadia National Park, and there is the reason why this is last on our list. After you’ve done all the above and you still have the time, consider exploring the lesser-visited areas of Acadia.
Take a trip out to Schoodic Point or Isle au Haut. You can plan for both trips to take a full day to get there, back and. to enjoy the sights at each place.
Things To Do In Acadia National Park On A Map
To help get your barring of the things to do in Acadia National Park are, we plotted a few points on the map. The map is interactive so feel free to click around and zoom in and out.
- 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 quintesstials and staple accomodations. From its expecetptional location to it’s charming yet modern setting, this little bed and breakfast is a favorite amoung many.
- Sand Bar Cottage Inn: Modern and trendy cottage is 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 it’s surroudning areas.
- Acadia Hotel Downtown: If you want to be right in the action, Acadia Hotel is for you. Nesteled among dining, shopping and entertainment options, the Acadia Hotel Downtown is a historic bulding from 1884 but udpated to have all the New England charm.
- The Primrose: Recently rennovated and looking so stlyish 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 freinds.
- 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 convienent 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.
Where To Eat Near Acadia National Park
Below are some of our favorite places to grab some food, coffee, and drinks in Bar Harbor, plus we list our favorite Lobster Pounds near Acadia National Park too!
- Cafe This Way
- Mount Dessert Bakery
- 2 Cats
- Thirtsy Whale
- The Barnacle
- Fog Town Brewery
- Side Street Cafe
- Cottage Pub Street
- The Travelin Lobster, LLC
- C-Rays Lobster Pound
Tip: During October, a lot of restaurants and shops start to close for the season. Be sure to call ahead to ensure these locations (especially the lobster pounds) are open.
What To Pack For Acadia National Park
- Good Footwear: Meaning a good pair of boots, sneakers and of course socks. There is 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 quick as the wind came 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 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 the sunscreen. We don’t want you to get sunburn 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, trial 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.
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– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)