Acadia National Park is located on Mt. Desert Island just outside the town of Bar Harbor, Maine. It’s consistently one of the most visited National Parks in the United States and sometimes called the “crown jewel” of the Atlantic coast, primarily due to the beautiful rocky coastline and abundance of lakes, mountains and forests.
We had about a day and a half in the Bar Harbor area, which is a perfect amount of time to hit the park highlights as well as spend a few hours exploring downtown Bar Harbor. Since this is a heavily visited area, you can expect higher food and lodging prices, so plan accordingly for that when thinking about your trip.
Our hotel, the Edenbrook Motel, was within walking distance of downtown Bar Harbor, which turned out to be a blessing because there was very little parking! There are plenty of pedestrian and bike paths from the hotels that are located just outside the waterfront and downtown area, so I would recommend walking from your hotel instead of paying for parking that’s hard to come by. It was also just a few minutes from the park entrance and visitor center, which was very convenient when exploring.
We traveled to Acadia at the end of September, which is usually less busy since peak summer travel has ended. The weather was perfect – cooler mornings and evenings and warm enough during the day that you could wear light layers then shed them by afternoon. If you’re thinking of going to see the leaves change, they were just beginning to turn. Each year is different based on summer weather, but I’d estimate mid-October to be the best time for peak leaf peeping.
What to Do if you Only have one Day in the Park
-Drive up the Cadillac Mountain Summit. No matter what time of day you choose to go, this is a beautiful spot in the park and the highest point on the east coast. Many people get up extra early to see the sun rise. At certain times of the year, this is the first place in North America to see the sun come up. Due to the popularity of this drive, reservations are now required. You can book through Recreation.gov.
-Hike the Beehive Trail. This hike is great for people wanting something adventurous as the Beehive Trail takes you up the side of cliff with a 450 ft. elevation gain. You’ll use iron rungs and ladders to get to the top in a few spots, so if you have a fear of heights, this hike is not for you. The views of sand beach are spectacular, so if you’re up for the challenge, I highly recommend it. It is a short hike at 2 miles round trip and the way down is much easier than the way up.
-Drive the Park Loop Road. You’ll pass all the major stops like Sand Beach, Otter Cliffs, Thunder Hole, Jordan Pond and Bubble Rock Trail. Parking is limited at some of these locations, but the Ocean Path Trail does take you to several of these stops, so you could park in one place and walk down to the others.
-Head out to Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. Built in 1858, this gorgeous lighthouse juts out from the rocky cliffs on the southwestern side of Acadia. The lighthouse is not on the park loop road, and you’ll go through several cute coastal towns to get to it. Parking is pretty limited, but free. Expect to wait to get into the lot.
-Hike the Bubble Rock Trail. I kind of messed up on this one – there are two paths and I didn’t realize they split off, so I went down to Jordan Pond instead of up to see Bubble Rock. The views are still lovely, but make sure you do BOTH trails so you get to see the infamous Bubble Rock up at the top.
Other Things to do in Bar Harbor
-Eat! We had great meals and ice cream in Bar Harbor. There are plenty of restaurant options, including lots of fresh seafood. Jordan’s Restaurant has blueberry pancakes all day and Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream has some pretty unique flavors that they make in house.
-Go whale watching! Several companies offer seasonal whale watching tours. Some of them also combine the harbor cruises with puffin watching and lighthouse viewing.
-Shopping. You’ll find Maine’s oldest bookstore in Bar Harbor along with lots of other souvenir shops. We found lots of local goods, like blueberry honey and all things lobster themed.
For more behind the scenes of our trip, be sure to check out my YouTube video!