Article Overview: Best Things To Do in Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park is the only national park in the northeastern United States and a true coastal wonder. Nestled into the far-flung, rocky coast of Maine, Acadia National Park is home to majestic forests, tranquil ponds, rounded mountains, and wild coastline.
Acadia is a special park and a must for anyone who loves wild coastline. Maine’s wild coast is unlike any other in the U.S., speaking as someone who’s been to the shores of Olympic National Park, Acadia takes the cake for pure coastal beauty in my book.
On top of it’s famous rocky coast, Acadia is home to beautiful forests of maples, aspen, and pine that truly come alive in the fall – making the park a world class autumn destination.
Table of Contents: Things To Do Acadia National Park
Things To Do Acadia National Park
- Acadia National Park Facts
- Best Things to Do Acadia National Park
- Top 5 Things To Do Acadia National Park
- 1. See the Fall Color
- 2. See the Sun Rise on the United States
- 3. Hike the Beehive Trail
- 4. Sunset at Bass Harbor Lighthouse
- 5. Explore the Schoodic Peninsula
- 6. Take a Stroll at Jordan Pond
- 7. Soak Up the Sun at Sand Beach
- 8. Hike the Bubbles
- 9. Hike to The Bowl
- 10. Explore the Carriage Roads
- 11. Bike Acadia
- 12. Stargazing
- 13. Take in the Views at Otter Point
- 14. Drive the Park Loop Road
- 15. Have Some Lobstah!
- Map of Best Things to Do Acadia
- Camping at Acadia National Park
- Our Award-Winning Acadia National Park Video
- Top 5 Things To Do Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park Facts
Established: January 19, 1929
Size: 49,075 acres
Visitors: 3,437,286 (2020)
Sunrise: Seeing the sunrise from Acadia National Park is a popular pastime both for its beauty and the bragging right for being the first in the US to see the sun!
Things to Know Before You Visit Acadia
Entrance Fees: $30
Crowds: Hate to burst any bubbles here, but Acadia is a very crowded national park. Spring, summer, and fall see the small national park bursting at the seams with tourists. Parking is extremely limited during these seasons so prepare accordingly!
Getting Around: Acadia is a very accessible park with roads taking visitors through much of the park. Most any vehicle will do throughout the park and prepare for some scenic driving! The park does get very busy in the Summer so be prepared for long lines of cars in various areas and limited parking.
Sunscreen: Visiting national parks during certain times of the year can mean lots of sun. Seriously, some of these parks can zap you if you don’t wear sunscreen. We happen to like this one because it works AND it’s not full of a bunch of chemicals.
Leave No Trace: We’re big fans of Leave No Trace, here at MTJP. Want to learn more? Read about the seven principals of Leave No Trace here.
Insect Repellent: You hope not to need it, but you want to have it. We typically bring an Eco-Friendly Insect Repellent with us just in case.
Dogs are allowed in Acadia National Park which is rare for US National Parks! Enjoy the park with your furry friend!
Best Things to Do Acadia National Park
Top 5 Things To Do Acadia National Park
1. See the Fall Color
Sure this is a one season activity, but Acadia National Park has some of the best fall color anywhere in the world. More than enough to plan your trip around.
A large fire in 1947 actually gave birth to most of the park’s deciduous trees which now make it a premiere fall destination. Now you can hike the trails and carriage roads of the park and delight in the park’s rebirth.
The Bowl, Bubble Rock, and Jordan Pond are some of the best places to experience and photograph the park’s incredible colors.
2. See the Sun Rise on the United States
This is one of the really cool things to do at Acadia National Park. At Acadia you can be the first to see the sunrise in the United States from atop Cadillac Mountain. You’ll have bragging rights and exceptional views of the park and the Atlantic Ocean stretching out beneath you.
Be aware that this is a very popular activity and now requires reservations. Some reservations can be made 90 days in advance, while the majority are made available 2 days in advance via recreation.gov.
Cadillac Summit Road Reservations: Learn more about reservations and make yours on the park website here.
3. Hike the Beehive Trail
This unique and challenging trail up the south face of the Beehive (a rock outcropping) is one of the more popular things to do in Acadia National Park. Part of the hike involves climbing straight up the rock face using iron rungs and scrambling with and without handrails.
For those physically fit and without a fear of heights it’s a one-of-a-kind national park experience that rewards thrill-seekers with a fantastic view of the park and the Atlantic below.
4. Sunset at Bass Harbor Lighthouse
This iconic lighthouse is probably the most recognizable feature of the park. Since the park was established tourists and photographers have come to marvel at the iconic white lighthouse protruding from the rocky cliffs of Maine’s easternmost coastline.
If you want to get a good picture here, good luck! Sunset is the best time for that iconic photo, but in the summer and fall the good areas to photograph from are swamped with tourists from nearby cruise ships and tour buses looking for that same iconic shot.
Note: The Bass Harbor Head Light is in a separate section of the park not near the rest of the park's attractions so make sure you plan accordingly.
5. Explore the Schoodic Peninsula
While much of Acadia can get crowded in the warmer months, the Schoodic Peninsula is comparatively quiet and devoid of the park’s usual bustle. Here you can hike and explore in relative peace amongst beautiful evergreens and mossy forests along the rugged coast.
The Schoodic area is also home to a beautiful state-of-the-art campground set away from the park’s other buzzing campgrounds.
6. Take a Stroll at Jordan Pond
Jordan Pond is Acadia’s most beautiful lake (called ponds here) particularly in the fall. Visitors enjoy taking a leisurely walk around the pond, taking in the views of North and South Bubble, and spotting bald eagles overhead.
Parking is extremely difficult at Jordan Pond so if you plan to visit try to avoid peak times of day or be prepared to walk a ways to get there. It’s highly recommended that you take the convenient park shuttle.
For more on the shuttle visit the park website here.
7. Soak Up the Sun at Sand Beach
Sand Beach is just as it sounds, a sandy beach nestled into the rocky coastline of Acadia National Park. Here you can enjoy unobstructed views of the Atlantic Ocean as well as Maine’s famous rocky cliffs.
Such a beach is quite rare this far north and as such, it’s quite popular. Throw in that Acadia is already a pretty crowded park and you’ll understand why finding parking at Sand Beach is quite the challenge. That said, if you arrive early in the day or go in the offseason parking shouldn’t be a problem and the beach is well worth a visit.
8. Hike the Bubbles
Yes it sounds funny, but Acadia has a few iconic mountain summits referred to as North Bubble and South Bubble. Each offers panoramic views of Jordan Pond, the surrounding forest and mountains, and even glimpses of the ocean.
Your journey starts at the Bubbles Divide parking lot where you’ll set off on the trail of the same name. After .25 miles you’ll come to a junction where you can hike to either North Bubble or South Bubble. Many visitors opt to do both by doubling back after visiting one.
Check the weather conditions before setting out as the trails often travel along granite ledges that are very slippery when wet.
Distance: 1.5 miles round trip
9. Hike to The Bowl
The Bowl is a tucked away lake near the Summit of the Beehive. This tranquil lake is the perfect place to picnic or just relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings without the hustle and bustle of the roads and crowds below.
The Bowl is a moderate 1.2 mile out and back hike with options to continue on to the Beehive or nearby mountains. It usually takes around 45 minutes to reach the Bowl.
10. Explore the Carriage Roads
Built and donated to the park by the famed philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr., Acadia’s Carriage Roads are a terrific way to see the park without the hustle and bustle of cars and buses as they are only open to hikers, bikers, and horses.
These meticulously crafted gravel roads wind through the park’s forests and hills with beautiful stone bridges and lined pathways throughout. If you’re looking to escape the crowds or for ares with less strenuous hiking, I would highly recommend exploring the park’s network of Carriage Roads.
11. Bike Acadia
Biking is one of the great things to do in Acadia National Park due to the park’s unique carriage roads. Acadia’s beautiful Carriage Roads are open only to hikers, bikers, and horses. Apart from the Carriage Roads, The Park Loop Road is open to bicyclists, but can be very challenging due to it’s steep winding roads and frequent vehicle congestion.
For more on biking in Acadia visit the park website here.
Owing to it’s remote northern location, Acadia affords excellent opportunities to take in the night sky free from the usual light pollution. Popular stargazing spots include Jordan Pond, Cadillac Mountain Summit, and Sand Beach.
Be sure to dress appropriately as nighttime temperatures can drop significantly. Also don’t forget essentials like a headlamp! For more information on stargazing at Acadia check out these resources from the park website.
13. Take in the Views at Otter Point
Otter Point is one of those quintessential Acadia spots that should be on every visitors list of things to do in Acadia National Park. From here you can take in some of the best views of the North Atlantic coast found anywhere.
The eponymous Otter Cliff juts out from the coastline here making for a terrific photo opportunity. In fact this area was used as a backdrop for the 2010 Martin Scorsese thriller Shutter Island.
14. Drive the Park Loop Road
Acadia’s Park Loop Road is famous for it’s world-class scenery and once on it it’s easy to see why. The road frequently hugs the majestic North Atlantic coastline as it winds through the park passing under stone bridges, though beautiful forests, and past waterfalls and mountain views.
Of course such beauty has to have a catch right? The catch here is that Acadia’s Park Loop Road is exceptionally crowded during the popular summer months. Parking is extremely challenging and traffic tends to back up near points of interest.
You can always take the free Island Explorer Shuttle to avoid the hassle of driving or plan your trip around peak season in the park.
15. Have Some Lobstah!
If you enjoy seafood even occasionally, you can’t visit the Acadia area without having some world-famous Maine lobster – pronounced (and often spelled) lobstah in Maine. Whether it’s a delicious New England lobster roll on freshly toasted split buns or a piping hot whole lobster fresh out of the cauldron there’s really no better food on this planet in my humble opinion.
You’ll have plenty of opportunities to try this Maine delicacy around the park. Bar Harbor and surrounding towns have no shortage of lobster for sale and you can’t miss the lobster pounds with their giant boiling cauldrons outside beckoning you in.
Map of Best Things to Do Acadia
Summary of the Top 10 Things To Do in Acadia National Park
- See the Fall Color
- See Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain
- Hike the Beehive Trail
- See Bass Harbor Lighthouse
- Explore the Schoodic Peninsula
- Stroll around Jordan Pond
- Soak up the Sun at Sand Beach
- Hike the Bubbles
- Hike to the Bowl
- Explore the Carriage Roads
Camping at Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park has four campgrounds, each offering a different type of camping experience.
Duck Harbor Campground is the most remote and primitive campground in the park. Located on Isle au Haut, this campground is only accessible by boat. You must have a reservation to camp at one of the campground’s 5 primitive sites. Open from May 15 – October 15.
Seawall Campground is a what we might call a full service campground with flush toilets, running water, picnic tables, and fire rings provided. The sites are reservable 3 months in advance and are located in a quiet wooded part of the park with easy walking access to the coast. There are shower facilities and a camp store located a mile away. Open late May to early October.
Blackwoods Campground is a popular wooded campground located on the coast halfway between Bar Harbor and Northeast Harbor. The campground has flush toilets, running water, picnic tables, fire rings, and RV dump stations. Regular sites are $30. Open early May to mid October.
Schoodic Woods Campground is a relatively new campground and has terrific facilties including flush toilets, running water, picnic tables, fire rings, and RV dump stations. The campground is located on the more remote and quiet Schoodic Peninsula and provides a more peaceful setting away from the hustle and bustle of the park and Bar Harbor. The campground is open late May to mid October. Visit the park website for more information on campgrounds and camping.
Our Award-Winning Acadia National Park Video
More Than Just Parks ACADIA is the culmination of several weeks spent exploring Acadia National Park during peak fall color. The film is dedicated to George Dorr, who was instrumental in saving the land and founding the park. Journey with us as we explore this magnificent coastal wonderland in stunning fall color.
Expert Tips For Visiting Acadia National Park
Before visiting Acadia you need to understand that this is a very crowded national park during the warm months. Having lived in Maine I can attest that even on weekdays during the warm months the park is practically bursting at the seams by noon.
With that in mind you can make the necessary preparations to still have a wonderful trip. Book your campsites and Cadillac Mountain reservations as far in advance as you can. If you plan on driving in the park try to get to the most popular spots early in the morning. Most of all, plan to share this beautiful place with lots of other people who, like you, want to enjoy it.
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