The Ultimate Guide To Acadia National Park, Maine (2024)
Acadia National Park, this spectacular natural spread along the Atlantic Coast, isn’t needy of introduction. Whether you are a Maine or U.S. resident or someone from far across the boundaries, you may have come across the name “Acadia” at least once in your life. And why not? Acadia is indeed a dream destination for many.
Maine’s only National Park, Acadia, is the first national park east of the Mississippi River as well as the most easterly national Park in North America. Acadia National Park is where Maine’s spectacular and undeniably best natural beauty and opportunities reside. The entire landscape preserves and presents the history and culture of Maine and the Northeastern United States in an interesting way. It is home to a diverse array of natural landscapes, picturesque historic lighthouses, breathtakingly clear lakes, mesmerizing rugged coastline, soaring high mountain peaks, and a wealth of pink granite. And the National Park service everyday work towards preserving all these blessings of nature for future generations.
Where is Acadia National Park?
The 47,000 acres long and large Acadia National Park is nestled southwest of Bar Harbor, along the mid-section of the Maine coast. The town of Bar Harbor, Maine, shares its border with Acadia and thus operates as a popular base for National Park visitors. Whereas other popular cities in Maine, including Bangor and Portland, are located within 50 miles and 160 miles distance away, respectively.
How to Access Acadia National Park?
Acadia National Park is accessible via different modes of transport, and depending on which distance you are traveling, you can choose one.
Bangor International Airport, which receives flights from different countries across the world, is just 46.1 miles (or 1-hour driving distance) away from Acadia National Park.
Simultaneously, the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport (BHB) is just 7.9 miles (or 12 minutes driving distance) away from Acadia National Park.
Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) and Portland International Jetport (PWM) are some far away airports, but a fine option for international travelers who want to visit Acadia.
For added connectivity, National Park enthusiasts can travel via Amtrak or take Concord Coach or Greyhound bus services. Options like a ferry, shuttle services, and taxis too are available at different points, offering easy travel to the National Park.
Another best part about Acadia National Park is that one can explore it while driving, and that is unarguably the best way to traverse. Or for getting around the Park, visitors also choose cycling, biking, horse-riding, and hiking.
Navigation Inside the Acadia National Park
The most popular way to go through different sections of Acadia National Park is via self-driving. The Park Loop Road, in fact, is one popular section that is meant to explore via cars and bikes. The beauty of driving here is definitely to be seen. Though cars, bikes, and cycles must obtain a park entrance pass.
Visitors can also utilize shuttle services, Island Shuttle. The shuttle services run through 10 different routes from late June to early October, connecting different tourist attractions, campgrounds, village centers, trails, etc.
Or, for added fun paired with adventure, Acadia visitors can walk and hike through over 150 miles of hiking trails, carriage roads, and craggy shorelines.
What is the Best Time To Visit Acadia National Park? Operating Season and Hours
Acadia National Park operates year-round, and there is no bad time to check out this place. Summer vacations, especially during the month of July through September, are pleasantly the best. Summers are when most of the recreational activities, tourist attractions, and lodges in Acadia operate smoothly.
For Fall season lovers, the phenomena of changing colors in Acadia during November shouldn’t be missed. It is probably the best time to hike along the towering forests or drive along the Park Loop Road and enjoy the Fall Foliage.
Simultaneously, the Winter months in Acadia call for adventure, probably the best time and place for skiing and Snowshoeing adventures. It is one of the best U.S. national parks to visit from December through March, ideally in February if you are only here for a snow adventure. But at the same time, winters in Acadia mean the least sightseeing opportunities since most routes and tourist attractions inside are closed. Also, beach activities are obviously a near impossible and dangerous task given the temperature and snow Maine bears.
Once winter ends, the early Spring season in Acadia can be quite wet and soggy, which is not at all a good time to explore.
Note: Activities and Opportunities, including tours, park stores, campgrounds, and visitor centers, are open only from late Spring to Fall season.
How Much Time Is Required To Explore Acadia National Park?
With a ton of places to visit and things to do, even months aren’t enough to explore Acadia National Park that well. However, since that won’t be a possible task for many, one should plan a 3 to 5 days trip to Acadia, especially as the first timer. This time frame is sufficient to check out the major vistas points and enjoy some popular recreational opportunities.
Lodging and Dining Restaurants in Acadia National Park
For lodging inside Acadia, visitors can utilize different campgrounds. If not camping, there are a range of hotels, Inns, B&Bs, and more such options at the Park’s east entrance. For instance, West Street Hotel, Inn on Mount Desert, Ivy Manor Inn, and Bar Harbor Manor are a few premier lodging options.
For dining, Acadia National Park has only one restaurant, “Jordan Pond House Restaurant.” Jordan operates from mid-May through late October and serves tea, lunch, dinner, and snacks. For added options, there are several restaurants and eateries in the nearby Bar Harbor.
Acadia National Park Fees
- $15 Per Person
- $30 Private Vehicle
- $25 Motorcycle
- $55 Acadia Annual Pass
Fee Free Days include the Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., the First Day of National Park Week, Great American Outdoors Day, National Public Lands Day, and Veterans Day.
Popular Entrance for Acadia National Park
- Hulls Cove Entrance (Park’s North Entrance)
- Sieur de Mount Entrance (a few miles from Bar Harbor)
- Stanley Brook Entrance (from Seal Harbor at the Southern part of the Park)
- Cadillac Mountain Entrance (at the east of Bar Harbor)
- Isle au Haut Entrance (accessible only via a ferry service)
- Schoodic Peninsula Entrance (in Winter Harbor).
Popular Places to Visit in Acadia National Park
1. Jordan Pond
Jordan Pond is an oligotrophic tarn, popular as a Pond but more likely a Lake. Covering nearly 187 acres, Jordan Pond is 150 feet deep (max.) and features a 3.6 miles long shoreline. The Pond was formed during the last glacial period millions of years ago and has been here since then. Jordan Pond’s mirror-like surface and neighboring mountains make it one of the most beautiful, peaceful, and mesmerizing places in Acadia National Park. Nearby is the popular and Acadia’s only restaurant, the Jordan Pond Restaurant. The lake cum pond is also popular for activities like canoeing and kayaking, and that, too, in its clear glass-like surface, is an experience on its own.
2. Park Loop Road
Maine’s ultimate driving destination, Park Loop Road, is the highlight of Acadia National Park. This 27 miles long go-to scenic loop goes around the east side of Mount Desert Island. The Road is open from Mid of April through the end of November since snow blocks most of its parts during winter. Driving through the Park Loop Road will bring you close to plenty of vantage points, stops, and the rugged coastline scenery. There are parking areas and designated pull-offs that connect the loop road to multiple trails in the Park. Driving through the entire stretch of Park Loop Road easily takes 3 hours (including stops at multiple vantage points in between).
3. Cadillac Mountain
Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park is a popular tourist destination and, ideally, the highlight of the Park. Located in the Mount Desert, the mountain elevates 1,530 feet high. For a certain portion of the year (from October 7 through March 6), the Cadillac Mountain summit is the first place in the continental U.S. to see the sunrise. If not the sunlight, Cadillac Mountain offers a mesmerizing panoramic view of the Park. The mountain also features numerous hiking trails and a paved road that allow hikers to explore some truly undisturbed natural spread. Passing through wood and gaining elevation here and there, Cadillac Mountain is truly a masterpiece to check out.
4. Thunder Hole
Thunder Hole is a popular year-round destination in Acadia National Park. This unique tourist attraction is a carved-out inlet along the rocky eastern shoreline of Mount Desert Island. What gave it such a unique name? Well, when a storm or the turning tide forces waves, the narrow hole in the air escapes and makes an extremely thunderous sound. The sound is thrilling, chilling, and truly a natural experience you cannot dare to miss. The highest chance of roaring is during the high tide; thus, consider reaching an hour before that. Thunder Hole has a vantage point where wave spray sometimes reaches over 40 feet high, showing over spectators. It is also registered on the National Register of Historic Places.
Acadia National Park Museums
The Acadia National Park is home to a range of different museums exhibiting art, culture, history, and many different segments of society. Most of these museums are open from May through October or November and have very less or no admission charge.
Some of the Popular museums every Acadia National Park visitor must check out include,
Abbe Museum (Popular for exhibiting the history and culture of Maine’s Native American culture, European Settlers, and early 20th-century history of Acadia).
George B. Dorr Museum of Natural History (Popular for reflecting the area’s natural history through a range of artifacts and exhibits).
Wendell Gilley Museum (A museum facility that celebrates the life and work of Wendell Gilley. The decorative bird carving here is definitely to be seen).
Mount Desert Oceanarium (Not a four-walled museum, but this is one of the few remaining lobster hatcheries in the world. They also have a Lobster Museum at the place).
Acadia National Park Lighthouses
Acadia National Park is home to three popular lighthouses that are a must in every visitors’ itinerary. These light stations include:
Bass Harbor Head Light Station (Not only in Acadia, but it is one of the most popular Lighthouses in Maine as well. It is in the southwest portion of Mount Desert Island and is also one of the most photographed islands in Maine.
Baker Island Light Station (This 10 acres historic lighthouse was established in 1828. The history, views, and photographic opportunities here are a must-see).
Bear Island Light Station (Another historic lighthouse was established in 1839. The lighthouse is not open to the public but is best seen from the water).
Acadia National Park Coastline and Beaches
The Acadia National Park boasts 64 miles of coastline on Mount Desert Island, and each year millions of visitors drive here just to enjoy the vibes. The rugged, dramatic, and iconic coastline in Acadia is nothing like others in the United States, and therefore if you are an enthusiast, you cannot simply miss it. The National Park features two swimming beaches, including
Sand Beach (Nestled between rocky shores and soaring mountains, it is one relaxed beach in Maine. The frigid water and sunny sand here make for an enjoyable afternoon).
Echo Lake Beach (It offers a popular freshwater swimming area from Dawn to Dusk)
Acadia National Park Campgrounds
The only way to stay overnight inside the Acadia National Park is through Camping. And thankfully, Acadia is home to four large campgrounds and multiple camping sites. The campsites here run from April/ May through November and become un-operational during the winter season, given the excessive snow conditions. These Campgrounds include
Blackwood Campground (It is located on the east side of Mount Desert Island and is home to 306 individual campsites and several group campsites. However, amenities here are limited, and bookings must be made well in advance).
Seawall Campground (Nestled on the west side of Mount Desert Island, it is open from late May into October. It offers four loops of campsites and requires reservation four months in advance).
Duck Harbor Campground (The campground features multiple camping sites and is reservable starting on April 1).
Schoodic Woods Campground (The newest campground in Acadia National Park, it is nestled southeast of Winter Harbor on the Schoodic Peninsula. It features 89 camping sites that operate for RVing and Tenting).
Acadia National Park Hiking
Hiking opportunities in Acadia are truly endless, immersing through more than 150 miles of trails. Hikers can traverse through rocky coastlines, forests, and overexposed mountain tops and enjoy the truly amazing natural scenery. Some of the popular trails include
Precipice Trail (Expert level trail, incredibly difficult and exhilarating though at the same time quite enjoyable).
Ocean Path Trail (This roadside trail is scenic, popular, and filled with jagged pink granite formations).
The Cadillac Mountain Loop (Is unarguably the most popular and exciting hiking trail in Acadia National Park. Hiking up to the summit will introduce you to the most mesmerizing and awe-inspiring views of Acadia and nearby towns).
Wonderland Trail and the Ship Harbor Trail (Easy and short trails that pass through pleasant scenery and dramatic terrain).
Tips And Tricks To Know Before Visiting The Acadia National Park
- When visiting Acadia National Park, be prepared for human and automobile traffic, especially during the peak summer months (July through September).
- Shuttle services run throughout the Park every half to one hour, which is a nice transport advantage to take.
- Acadia doesn’t have any restaurants (except one); thus, come prepared with your food and water.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes if you are planning to explore Acadia on foot.
- Do not miss the chance to soak in the Caddilac Mountain sunrise, but for that, you will have to start hiking early.
- Cell phone services do not operate inside the Park and, therefore, always come with a paper map and a backup plan.
- For Camping, do not forget to make reservations.
- Protect and leash your pet.
- Make your Acadia holiday plan at least 3 to 4 days.
- If you aren’t a snow adventure enthusiast, do not consider Acadia during the winters.