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Acadia National Park: The Complete Guide for 2023

Leah Fishman

Vermont, USA

Just south of the beautifully underrated US city of Bar Harbor, Maine, lies Acadia: 47,000-acres of wild woodland, rocky beaches, private islands, and dusty pink mountain peaks. Moose, bear, whales and seabirds hang close to this US national park‘s nearly-untouched Atlantic coast, while campers and hikers adventure deep within its emerald trees. This patch of jagged coastal Maine is where New Englanders vacation, where cottages outnumber resorts, and where the sun rises first. From twinkling lighthouses and star-filled skies to whale watching and lobster boat rides, there’s magic for everyone at Acadia National Park.

2023 Acadia National Park Guide

Where is Acadia National Park?

Acadia National Park,
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

Acadia National Park is about 160 miles from Portland, Maine, and 50 miles from Bangor. The sweet town of Bar Harbor, located on Mount Desert Island, shares its borders with the park and is a popular home base for those visiting.

What is the closest Airport to Acadia National Park?

Acadia National Park,
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

The closest airport to Acadia National Park is Hancock County Airport, just 10 miles from Acadia National Park. This is a small, regional airport, with direct flights to and from Boston.

The closest national airport, Bangor International Airport, is about one hour from Acadia. Direct flights are available from New York (La Guardia), Philadelphia, Washington D.C, Boston, Charlotte, Sanford and more.

Boston to Acadia National Park

To travel from Boston to Acadia National Park by plane, you can catch a direct flight to Hancock County–Bar Harbor Airport (BHB). If road trips are your jam, hop on 1-95 North for a scenic 4.5 hours drive up the the coast.

Portland Maine to Acadia National Park

Just 2.5 hours away by car, Acadia National Park makes for a perfect weekend getaway for those close by or with connecting flights from Portland, Maine. Hop on 1-95 North and cruise through Augusta and Bangor before pulling into Bar Harbor.

State and National Parks in Maine

While Acadia National Park is the only U.S national park in Maine, there’s absolutely no shortage of mind-blowing state parks. From Camden Hill‘s pristine beaches just down the coast to the Saint Croix Island International Historic Site on an uninhabited island less than a mile from Canada, there are endless ways to get outside and enjoy the state, whether you’re a hiker, beach-goer, or history buff.

Best time of year to visit Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park,
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

While Maine is a prime example of a four-season vacation destination, the best time to explore Acadia is the two weeks after Labor Day. Acadia is one of the best places to see fall foliage in the U.S, so arrive just before the crowds to enjoy empty trails, quiet lakes, and moderate temps peaking at a perfect 70 degrees. If cold weather is your thing, winter in Acadia promises dog sledding, snowshoeing, ice fishing, and trail hiking.

Acadia National Park Hours & Current Conditions

Acadia National Park,
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

Acadia National Park is generally open 24 hours a day, year-round. A number of park roads close during the winter including Park Loop Road, Cadillac Mountain Road, and all of the unpaved roads. Most public facilities close in the winter as well.

Park Passes and Fees

Acadia National Park,
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

Daily park entrance fees are $30 per vehicle and $25 per motorcycle. An Acadia Annual Park Pass costs $55 and is valid for one year from date of purchase.

For annual access to all 63 US National Parks, consider purchasing the American the Beautiful Pass for $80

Cadillac Mountain Vehicle Reservation

Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

As of summer 2021, guests who plan on heading up Cadillac Mountain in their own vehicle need to purchase a vehicle reservation for Cadillac Summit Road. Vehicle reservations are required for Cadillac Summit Road from May 25 through Oct 22 (peak season) and are released on a rolling basis.

According to the NPS, “Thirty percent of vehicle reservations are made available 90 days ahead of each date. The remaining 70 percent are released at 10 am ET two days ahead.” Reservations are sold in two categories: sunrise and daytime.

If you’re planning on cruising up Cadillac Mountain during your trip (10/10 recommend!), do yourself a favor and register your vehicle for Cadillac Summit Road in advance.

Acadia National Park Facts

Acadia National Park,
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.
  • Small bit mighty: It might be one of the smallest national parks, but each year, Acadia is among the top ten most visited, exceeding over two million check-ins in 2019.
  • Island living: Most of the park is located on on Mount Desert Island, just off the coast of Maine.
  • Highest East Coast Views: At 1,530 feet, Cadillac Mountain in Acadia is the East Coast’s tallest mountain.
  • Rockefeller’s “Teeth”: Those who visit Acadia know Rockefeller designed and landscaped the park’s famous carriage roads.

Acadia National Park Hikes

Acadia National Park,
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

In Acadia, skies are blue and beautiful hikes are plentiful. If you’re ready to stretch your legs (but not sure where to start), here’s a list of 10 of our favorite hikes in Acadia National Park:

Easy, perfect for families:

  1. Ocean Path (Sand Beach to Otter Point)
  2. Cadillac Mountain Summit Loop
  3. Jordan Pond Loop
  4. South Bubble Mountain and Bubble Rock
  5. Bass Harbor Lighthouse

Moderate, fairly strenuous, iron rung routes:

  1. Beehive Loop Trail
  2. Precipice Trail
  3. Penobscot Mountain
  4. Gorham Mountain
  5. Beech Cliff Trail

Places to Stay Near Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park,
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

Campgrounds in Acadia National Park

Planning a night under the stars? Here are some of the best campgrounds and campsites in and around Acadia National Park:

Dog-Friendly Campgrounds Near Acadia National Park

Hotels Near Acadia National Park

If camping isn’t your thing, there are plenty of resorts, hotels, hostels, inns, cabins and B&Bs within a quick drive of Acadia National Park. Here are some of our favorites:

Unique Places to Stay Near Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park Tours

Acadia National Park,
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

Get into the small town spirit by hopping on Oli’s Trolley: a 4 hour trolley tour with spots at the Cadillac Mountain Summit, Sieur de Monts Spring, Thunder Hole, and Jordan Pond.

Looking for something shorter? Acadia Tours combines four generations of Acadia National Park expertise with a shitton of fun. Their classic bus tour is 2.5 hours long, narrated, and offers three stops, including Cadillac Mountain, Thunder Hole, and Sieur De Mont’s Spring.

And if buses aren’t your thing, Downeast Windjammer Cruise lines offers a 2.5-3 hour cruise of Frenchman Bay with beautiful views of Acadia National Park from the sea.

Best Things to Do in Acadia National Park

Cruise up Cadillac Mountain for sunrise

Cadillac Mountain, Bar Harbor
Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

From October to March, Cadillac Mountain in Acadia is the first place to see the sunrise in the US. To catch the first glimpse, bundle up and hit the road by 4:15am. The cruise up Cadillac Summit Road takes about 30 minutes. Park and walk to a viewing spot for sun-up at 5:00am. This is one of the very best things to do in Acadia National Park.

Get wet at Acadia’s Thunder Hole

Thunder Hole, Bar Harbor
Thunder Hole, Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

Without a doubt the most magical spot in Acadia, Thunder Hole is best-visited midway between low and high tide. Waves have been said to reach 40 feet high. Storms or not, you will get wet, so don’t forget to rock a rain poncho.

Take a dip at Sand Beach

Sand Beach, Bar Harbor
Sand Beach, Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

This 290-yard stretch of pristine Maine beach is a perfect pit-stop after a full day of hiking. The water at Sand Beach in Acadia is cold. Like, really cold. Rarely exceeding 55 degrees (even in the summer!) make sure to bake in the sun and get your sweat on before hopping into Sand Beach’s famously chill water.

Hop on a boat to Isle au Haut

Isle au Haut, Isle au Haut
Isle au Haut, Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

Far from the crowds of Mount Desert Island and busy Bar Harbor, a quiet section of Acadia National Park can be found on the teeny tiny island of Isle au Haut, Maine. One of the best things to do in Acadia National Park for off-the-beaten-path explorers. Get there by kayak and expect primitive forests, rocky cliffs, and tourist-free trails.

Bike the Carriage Roads

Carriage Road, Mount Desert
Carriage Roads, Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

Closed to cars, Acadia’s Carriage Roads offer miles of quiet paved road for dog-walkers and cyclists. During winter, the roads are perfectly groomed for cross country skiing.

Hike the Beehive Loop

Beehive Trail, Bar Harbor
Beehive Loop Trail, Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

Quick but challenging, the Beehive Loop Trail is a 1.4 mile heavily trafficked loop with some of the best views Sand Beach, Great Head, and Frenchman Bay. The first part of the trail has iron rungs to allow hikers to climb steep cliffs and and balance on narrow ledges. Not for small kiddos, pets, or the faint of heart, but it is truly one of the best places to spot the fall foliage in Maine.

See the stars at Acadia Night Sky Festival

Bar Harbor, Bar Harbor
Milky Way, Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

A shimmering four-day festival in late September, Acadia Night Sky Festival aims to celebrate and protect Maine’s starry skies. The entire town of Bar Harbor dims their lights and people gather from near and far for music, poetry, good eats, and unobstructed views of the milky way.

Kayak Mount Desert Narrows and The Ovens

Mount Desert Island, Mt Desert Island
Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

The Mount Desert Narrows divide Mount Desert Island from the mainland. Because The Narrows are mostly shielded from the wind of the open sea, you can easily tuck into a smooth and scenic ride. Pit stop at The Ovens: hidden sea caves that can only be reached by kayak.

Try Maine’s famous popovers at Jordan Pond House

Jordan Pond House Restaurant, Seal Harbor
Jordan Pond House, Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

The Jordan Pond House is perfect for a lot of things: unplugging, taking in the views, sipping something bubbly. But it’s only famous for one. And that, my friends, is the Jordan Pond House popover. Light and fluffy rolls baked in muffin tins, served warm with butter or jam. Deelish.

Snap insta pics at the iconic Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

The Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, Tremont
Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

The stuff of postcards and paintings, Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse is the most iconic destination and one of the best things to do in Acadia National Park. Take the path to the right of the lighthouse to snag a view of the both the harbor and islands in the distance. Don’t forget to check out nearby quintessential Maine lighthouses, Burnt Coat Harbor Lighthouse and Baker Island Lighthouse, while island hopping in the area.

Explore the island via Park Loop Road

Park Loop Road,
Park Loop Road, Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

A 27-mile stretch of road that connects the park’s lakes, forests, mountains, and campgrounds. If you have limited time in Acadia, Park Loop Road is the best way to see the entire shebang in just a few hours.

Stroll through the Wild Gardens of Acadia

Wild Gardens of Acadia, Bar Harbor
Wild Gardens of Acadia, Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

Don’t be weirded out by Wild Gardens of Acadia‘s underwhelming entrance. Venture just beyond the parking lot and bland brown buildings to uncover nine intricate gardens with over 300 native plant species. The gardens’ shining star is the Sieur de Monts Spring, translating to “Sweet Waters of Acadia.”

Things to Do in Bar Harbor, Maine

Eat vegan pancakes at Jeannie’s Great Maine Breakfast

Jeannie’s Great Maine Breakfast, Bar Harbor, Maine.

Just minutes from Acadia, Jeannie’s Great Maine Breakfast is the perfect place to refuel after a sunrise climb up Cadillac Mountain. Menu highlights include: vegan blueberry and apple spice pancakes, spicy tofu scramble, and a bomb plant-based burrito.

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Learn about Maine Lobsters on a Lulu Lobster Boat Ride

Lulu Lobster Boat Ride, Bar Harbor
Lulu Lobster Boat Ride, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

Learn all about Maine lobsters and how the pros catch them. This two-hour long ride with Lulu Lobster Boat Ride sets sail from downtown and features views of the Egg Rock Lighthouse, Bar Harbor’s famous summer cottages, local wildlife, and of course, plenty ‘o lobstas.

Go whale watching with Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co.

Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co, Bar Harbor
Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

Splash into summer with whale-watching. Available all season (but best between July and August), Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. offers daily whale-spotting tours with a 90-95% success rate. BYO snacks and adult bevs for a sweet and wild ride.

Get some R&R at the Bar Harbor Inn & Spa

Bar Harbor Inn
Bar Harbor Inn & Spa, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

A classic New England vacation destination, the Bar Harbor Inn & Spa is perfect for weddings, events, celebrations, and treat yo self spa weekends.

Sip local craft brew at Atlantic Brewing

Atlantic Brewing Company, Bar Harbor
Atlantic Brewing, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

Atlantic Brewing is focused on small-batch beer and local food. Make sure to ask for a taste of their award-winning Thunder Hole Ale and Cadillac Mountain Stout. If you really dig beer, make sure to hop on one of the best ale trails in the US, the Maine Beer Trail, for access to and discounts for over 100 breweries around the entire state!

Get a taste of Cuba at Havana

Havana, Bar Harbor
Havana, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

Local, organic, sustainable, flavorful — Havana offers up a creative cocktail and dinner menu that is — *chefs kiss*— out of this world. Check out their new outdoor tapas bar, Parrilla, for vibrant late nights, tasty drinks and a bangin’ weekend brunch menu.

Try lobster ice cream at Ben & Bills Chocolate Emporium

Ben & Bills Chocolate Emporium, Bar Harbor, Maine, US.

It isn’t a trip to Bar Harbor without Lobster…ice cream? Head to Ben & Bills Chocolate Emporium for the fun, stay for the creamy butter-flavored ice cream, made in house with local Maine lobster, chopped, buttered, and folded in by hand. Sorbet available for my fellow vegans.


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