In 2016, my family and I spent our family vacation in parts of Maine, Massachusetts & Rhode Island. Some of our time in ME was spent at Acadia National Park. This was my second visit here but my hubby & daughter’s first.
Acadia is a beautiful national park with 158 miles of hiking trails, 8 peaks above 1000 ft & 45 mi of carriage roads with 16 historic stone bridges. The park encompasses 47,000 acres along the Atlantic Coast and has over 40 mi of ocean shoreline.
Some of the bridges we saw in the park
Tip: To see two of the famed stone bridges in a little more than 5 miles, start near the southern end of Jordan Pond and follow the carriage road route called Amphitheater Loop, which hugs hillsides between two ridges to form a natural amphitheater.
Tip: Click here for the top 6 carriage road loop hikes
Among the wildlife in the park are moose, bear, whales and seabirds. Acadia has hundreds of species of birds… the record for species of birds encountered is 338. The park is considered to be a premier bird-watching area.
Side note: If you see a bear or a moose in Acadia let me know as both are rarely seen in the park. 😉
The town of Bar Harbor, with lots of restaurants and shops, is nearby and a popular place to visit.
The park is opened year round but is the busiest during the summer and Fall. The entrance fee is $25 per vehicle. There are over 2 million visitors to Acadia each year.
The park was first established as Sieur de Monts National Monument in 1916, then Lafayette National Park in 1919, and finally Acadia National Park in 1929. Read more about the history of the park here.
There are a few apps that you can download that may help guide you through the park but this post should be super helpful with your planning!
You can first stop at the Visitors Center and pick up a map of the park. However, just so you know, the visitors center is located 52 steps uphill from the parking lot.
There is an entrance available through a back entrance for those with special access needs. Instead of turning into the parking area, go up the hill a short distance and find special parking next to the rear of the building.
At the visitors center you can also access one of the famous Carriage Roads & the 3.3 mi loop trail to Witch Hole’s Pond. (see map here) And, for those wanting to use the Free Island Explorer Shuttle Bus , it makes regular stops at the main parking lot.
You can also purchase your entrance fee at the visitors center as well as several other locations in/around the park.
The main drive in the park is called Park Loop Road. It’s a 27 mi road that begins at the Visitors Center. However, you can also access it off Route 3 just south of Bar Harbor on the right just past Jackson Lab.
Much of the road is one way but there is a two way section that begins near Wildwood Stables . Also, the right hand lane of the two way section is set aside for parking. Click here to see a map of the park.
There are also some hiking trails in this area such as Jesup Trail. The Island Explorer Shuttle Bus has a pickup and drop-off point in the Nature Center parking lot.
We didn’t do this trail and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who is not an experienced hiker…and even then I’m not sure I would recommend. Read about deaths in Acadia here.
The next stop is a “must see” and a very popular stop amongst visitors. It was one of my favorites. It’s called Sand Beach.
The beach is the only “sand” beach in the park. It’s 870 ft long and nestled between two mountains. The ocean temps rarely exceed 55 degrees in the summer….so, if you’re like me and freeze all the time, I would avoid the water! 😉
No pets are allowed from May 15 – September 15. Changing rooms and restrooms are located next to the parking area. The Island Explorer Shuttle Bus stops there about every half hour during normal seasonal daytime hours.
The beaches in Lamoine State Park and Lamoine Beach are a couple of “secret” little places that most visitors know nothing about. They are much less touristy than Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island and they have awesome views of Cadillac Mountain.
Here’s a shot of Seal Harbor Beach…it’s located at the Stanley Brook Entrance.
There are two hikes that start near Sand beach. The Beehive Trail which is similar to the Precipice Trail but a bit shorter and the Great Head Trail, a loop of about 2 mi that follows the bluff overlooking the beach.
A shot of Beehive from Sand Beach. Beehive is a 520 ft peak that overlooks the beach.
At the far end of the upper parking lot at Sand Beach is the beginning of the popular 4 mi r/trip Ocean Path that follows along the coast for approximately 2 mi all the way to Otter Cliff and Otter Point.
A hornet’s nest we spotted on the trail
This is a great place to take some gorgeous shots of the rocky coastline that Maine is known for..this area was one of my favorites.
Part way in between is Thunder Hole where, when the tide and waves are just right, you can hear a sound like thunder as the waves crash into a small underwater cave. This is another popular spot and stays really busy!
If I can remember correctly, once you leave this area there’s a pull off near Otter Creek that has , what we thought, was a replica of an old fish house. Read the history of the fish houses here and here.
Next will be Jordan Pond and the Jordan Pond Restaurant…both a MUST when visiting the park. I would recommend you visit before or after the lunch rush as the parking here is very limited and stays super busy!
Jordan Pond is a glacier formed lake with a maximum depth of 150 ft. The water is super clear and has an average visibility depth of 46 feet. The lake is surrounded by big granite boulders and pine trees.
Swimming is not allowed but canoes and kayaks are permitted. The Carriage Roads are adjacent to the restaurant and pond area. Walking the path to Jordan Pond from the restaurant I had read all about the popovers at the Jordan Pond Restaurant and just had to try them…We all ordered the speciality beverage and popovers for $11.50.
You had a choice of 8 different drink options so I chose the blueberry lemonade….everything was so good! Highly recommend a stop here!A view of the pond from the table we were sitting at outsideThe restaurant has been serving popovers and tea since the 1890s. The original building burned down in 1979 and a new building was completed in 1982.
Reservations, especially during lunch and the very busy teatime are highly recommended. If you can’t make a reservation, the shortest wait for tables are before 11:30am or after 4pm.
The restaurant is opened daily from 11-9. Reservations can be made by calling 276-3316. Click here for more restaurant information.
View of the back of the restaurant
After leaving the restaurant, we headed to our next stop, Cadillac Mountain.
Cadillac Mountain is 1,530 feet tall & the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard. It’s the first place to view the sunrise in the United States from October 7 through March 6.
So, needless to say, this is a very popular place to watch a sunrise and sunset. Come early as the parking lot fills up quickly and parking is limited.
There’s a small gift, snack, and information center with bathroom facilities at the top called the Cadillac Summit Center.
We never made it for a sunrise but we did make it back one evening for a sunset…however, turns out, the weather conditions were not optimal for a nice sunset….BUT the views alone made it worth the trip back to the top.
After leaving Cadillac Mountain, we headed to Bass Harbor Lighthouse.
The lighthouse was built of brick in 1858 and stands 56 feet above the water. The lighthouse is accessible by car off Route 102A. Parking is free and is open daily from 9:00 AM to sunset.
In July 2010, President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to visit Acadia National Park. He and his family spent three days in the park and paid a visit to Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.
In November 2017, the Park Service took possesion of the property. They are now looking at a few uses for the property that will generate revenue for the continued upkeep of the lighthouse.
They have considered such things as offering the two-bedroom lighthouse as a vacation rental or opening a café or coffee shop.
On the left side of the buildings is a path. It will take you to a wooden stairway that follows down the front face of the cliff and eventually brings you to a prime spot for capturing a picture of the lighthouse and cliffs…this is also a great place to watch a sunset!
Read my blog post on all the Lighthouses that I have visited.
After leaving the lighthouse, we headed to find something to eat. We spotted a place called the Lighthouse Inn & Restaurant. The restaurant is located in Seal Harbor and is really your only option as we saw no other restaurants around.
The food and service was OK but when you’re hungry, it will do!
We all ordered a burger and they were pretty good…as you can see, we had a major mishap with the ketchup! 😉
After dinner, we headed back to our hotel and called it a day.
Please Note: Park Loop Road is closed annually December 1 through April 15.
Here are some other things to do/see in the park:
Little Hunter’s Beach – a small “beach” and private cove that is full of cobblestones – not suitable for swimming
Long Pond – in Seal Harbor near the Stanley Brook Entrance
The Abandoned Stone House – built in the mid 1800’s
The Gate Lodges – Built originally to keep automobiles off the carriage roads –Brown Mountain gate lodge is located on Route 198 outside Northeast Harbor. Its sister, Jordan Pond gate lodge, is just south of Jordan Pond House on the Loop Road. Both were built in 1931–32 by John D. Rockefeller Jr.
Below is a shot I took of the Jordan Pond Gate Lodge. Read more here.
Wildwood Stables – offers a variety of carriage rides and tours
Eagle Lake – a 436 acre freshwater lake in Acadia. It has a maximum depth of 110 feet and an average depth of 50 feet.
Pretty Marsh Picnic Area – picnic tables and grills – bathroom facility on the premises
Wild Gardens of Acadia – Over 300 native plant species organized into nine display areas and labeled for easy identification. The garden is open year round & no entrance fee is required.
Ship Harbor Trail – a 1.3 mile loop just east of the Bass Harbor Head Light Station – provides easy access at low tide with a surprising number of species including fish, reptiles, amphibians & invertebrates.
Bar Island – At low tide, the island becomes accessible by foot or by an all terrain type vehicle across a natural gravel land bridge.
A shot of us walking Bar Island at low tide
The Asticou Azalea Gardens – not part of Acadia but a beautiful Japanese style Garden built in 1956 located on Mount Desert Island
Eat Wild Blueberries – they grow wild in the park and visitors can carry out two quarts of handpicked wild berries – They’re usually ripe around July
Camping in the park
Bike Rentals in the park
Schooner Head Overlook – and located right below the overlook is Anemone Cave. The cave was once one of the park’s most popular attractions but due to the dangers they have now removed it from the park map. Only visit the cave during low tide and proceed with extreme caution as there has been drownings here.
Best Restaurants near Acadia Ntl Park
Compass Harbor Trail – a short walk that heads through the forested old estate to a granite outcropping that overlooks Compass Harbor and the Porcupine Islands in the distance. The ruins of the Old Farm estate are located on top of the hill above, although only the foundation remains.
Maple Spring Trail – 4.5 loop hike to the summit of Sargent’s Mountain
Take a boat from nearby Stonington to 5,400-acre Isle au Haut for a night at the Keeper’s House Inn, a working lighthouse. Hike the island’s rugged coast, then ride one of the inn’s bikes to Long Pond for a swim. See the Isle au Haut Lighthouse.
Take a ferry from Bar Harbor to Winter Harbor and then hop on an Island Explorer bus to make the Schoodic Loop – walk to the top of Schoodic Head for a sweeping view of the coastline. Don’t miss Schoodic Point.
Rock climbing in Acadia
Things to do in Bar Harbor
Popular tours in Bar Harbor
Thanks for reading! I hope this helps you plan your own trip to the beautiful Acadia National Park. 🙂