Acadia National Park is one of my favorite places to visit. In fact, it is one of the first places I traveled to at less than a year old! Further, my Summers and school vacations were often spent on Mount Desert Island, visiting family in Bar Harbor, and enjoying Acadia National Park. Check out my favorite things to do in Acadia National Park.
Best time to visit Acadia National Park
Peak season for Acadia National Park is June through August. Weather during peak season is actually pretty reasonable. It’s ideal New England weather: foggy mornings, breezy during the day, and cool at night (cool enough that you’ll need a sweatshirt or jacket).
September and October are ideal for visiting Acadia National park for a few reasons. Crowds will be less, as well as lodging prices. The weather can be great, as well. While you might still have hot spells, the deeper you get into Fall, the milder the days will be. Last, but not least, the Fall foliage viewing is spectacular in Acadia.
If visiting during the Fall season is not possible, consider visiting the Schoodic Peninsula part of Acadia, on mainland Maine. Given that it’s off the island, it tends to be less crowded, even during the peak season.
How much does it cost to enter Acadia National Park?
An Acadia National Park pass is only available as weekly or annual. There are no day passes.
One non-commercial vehicle with up to 15 seats costs $30 per week. Motorcycles are $25. If you are on foot or bike, the weekly pass is $15. An annual pass is $55 and valid for 1 year from the purchase date.
Don’t forget, there are fee-free days at US National Parks throughout the year, too!
Tea Time at Jordan Pond House
Yes, tea time sounds a bit frou-frou, but with beautiful views of Jordan Pond, you can’t go wrong! The most popular time to visit Jordan Pond House is for afternoon tea (3-5 pm).
No matter what time you visit, ask for a table on the lawn. Before you even ask – yes, tables on the lawn are worth the wait. There’s a gift shop next door, so while you wait, browse for souvenirs, such as a bag of Jordan Pond popover mix and berry jam.
Popovers are the signature item to get at Jordan Pond House, along with a tall glass of lemonade or a tea-based cocktail to cool down.
Visiting Jordan Pond House is one of my favorite things to do in Acadia National Park, especially if I need time to chill after a hard hike or need a bite to eat.
See the Acadia National Park wildlife
Acadia is a great place for wildlife spotting. It’s important to keep in mind that you should always keep a respectful distance from any wildlife you might come across. Look, take photos from afar, but don’t approach or feed the wildlife!
Birds of Acadia National Park
There are many areas in Acadia National Park that are excellent for birdwatching. Precipice Trail is great for watching falcons and Cadillac Mountain is known for spotting hawks.
Atlantic Puffins are my favorite species of bird that can be found in Acadia National Park. Your best chance of spotting these cuties is via a boat tour.
Marine animals of Acadia National Park
Humpback whales, minke whales, finback whales, harbor seals, grey seals, and walruses are many of the marine animals that you might spot on a boat tour within Acadia National Park borders.
Other animals of Acadia National Park
Moose, black bears, foxes, wolves, and deer are just a few of many animals that are known to call Acadia National Park home. Spottings are not common (except for maybe deer), but don’t be surprised if you see one or find tracks while out on a hike.
Horse-drawn carriage rides in Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park includes 45 miles of carriage roads that are free from cars. The carriage roads were originally built for horse-and-carriage transportation, but these days it is used for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing.
Carriages of Acadia runs horse-drawn carriage rides that last 1-2 hours, with private tours available. In 2018, pricing for adults range from $22-38 depending on the tour chosen.
Stargazing in Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park never closes, so it can be accessed at all hours. After dark it is less crowded making Acadia National Park a great spot for stargazing.
I recommend Cadillac Mountain, Sand Beach or Little Hunters Beach for prime stargazing spots in the park.
Wild Gardens of Acadia
If flowers, plants, and trees are more your thing, head to the Wild Gardens of Acadia nearby the Sieur de Monts Nature Center.
The gardens are open year round and do not require an entrance fee.
Watch the sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain
The sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain is a site to be seen any time of the year. But, in the fall and winter, Cadillac Mountain is the first place to see the sunrise in the USA. How’s that for a bucket list item?
Regardless of when you visit Acadia National Park, watching the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain is a super popular activity with visitors, which means it gets quite crowded. So get there early to secure your preferred viewing spot.
Visit Bar Island, Maine
Hop from Mount Desert Island to Bar Island from downtown Bar Harbor, near Bridge Street. During low tide, Bar Island can be accessed by foot or vehicle due to a sand path that is exposed when the tide recedes.
Bar Island has a few short hiking paths that would make for a fun afternoon of exploring a different part of Acadia National Park.
Make sure you know the timing of the tides so that you don’t get stranded on the island. It is uninhabited, so you won’t be able to pop over to someone’s house for shelter!
Lastly, I recommend walking across, not driving, to avoid any chance of damaging your car.
Camping in Acadia National Park
There are 3 campgrounds within Acadia National Park, as well as many throughout the island. Camping is a great way to extend your outdoor experience. If you’re more into glamping, consider choosing a campground outside the park that has cabins.
Tip: Book your site as far ahead as possible. Campsites in the Mount Desert Island area book up quickly, especially the cabins. Some campgrounds fill up for the summer before they even open for the season!
Acadia National Park Hiking
There are just under 2 dozen hiking trails and nature paths to explore in Acadia National Park. The trails range from 1 to 5 miles, with the difficulty ranging from easy to super hard (ex: scaling rungs on a rock).
Gorham Mountain Trail is roughly 2 miles round trip, with options to continue down other trails at the summit instead of heading back down the same way you came. While short, it can be demanding at times.
Another short trail that my family and I enjoy is Wonderland Trail in Southwest Harbor. It’s about 1.5 miles round trip, and fairly easy. While there aren’t many elevation changes, it can be a bit rocky in some places.
For experienced hikers and rock climbers, check out Precipice Trail or Beehive Trail.
Exploring a new trail or path is another one of my favorite things to do in Acadia National Park.
Rock climbing in Acadia National Park
There are several areas in the park that are great for rock climbing, such as Otter Cliff.
I recommend going with a guided group, such as the one through Atlantic Climbing School, if you are not an experienced climber.
Kayaking in Acadia National Park
If you’re looking to get out into the water, rent a kayak or join a kayaking tour of Acadia National Park. Maybe you’ll spot some marine animals along the way, like puffins and seals.
Hang out at my favorite Acadia National Park beach
Little Hunters Beach is one of my favorite spots in Acadia National Park, mainly because it is secluded and hard to find. Whenever I’ve visited, it’s been empty or only had a few visitors. Aside from its secluded location, I also love that it is made up of smoothed over rocks, rather than sand. It’s a wonderful place to get away from the crowds.
If you’re looking for a more traditional beach, check out Sand Beach in Acadia National Park.
Sand Beach is one of two beaches at Acadia National Park that is staffed by a lifeguard during the summer months.
During the summer, the water is still too cold for most people, but if you’re looking for a typical beach day, this is as close as you’ll get in these parts of Maine. Sand Beach also includes changing stalls and restrooms.
Take one of the best scenic drives in Maine
Take a leisurely drive through Acadia National Park via Park Loop Road. The road starts at Hulls Cove Visitor Center and loops around the park for 27 miles.
Yoga in the park
Relax with a yoga session at Sand Beach or Cadillac Mountain. Check out Yoga in Your Park for times and locations for yoga classes held inside Acadia National Park.
Visit Thunder Hole in Acadia at High Tide
Thunder Hole is a natural rock inlet that makes a loud thunder-like sound when the waves crash in. Try to visit during high tide, as you won’t get much of a show during low tide.