Acadia National Park is a gem along the rugged coastline of Maine offering serene shoreline, coastal forests, and remote islands. Being the only national park in the New England area, with its comparatively smaller size, Acadia National Park records a high number of visitors every year. No wonder it is referred to as the Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast.
The best thing about Acadia is its location. Unlike other National Parks that are remotely located, most of Acadia is located on Mount Desert Island but its close enough to the neighboring town of Bar Harbor. Even though you are in a National Park, you can get to town in no less than 30 minutes.
Getting around the park
The summer months are peak season in Acadia and with limited parking inside the national park, the best way to get around is the Island Explorer. The bus is free and operates late June through early October. It provides service between park destinations, campgrounds and the town of Bar Harbor.
Things to do in Acadia National Park
Drive the Scenic Park Loop Road – Park Loop Road is the main road that runs through Acadia National Park. This 27-mile scenic road offers spectacular views of the shoreline and some of the best attractions in the park. The road is open from April through November, weather permitting.
Cadillac Mountain – When I was researching for my trip to Acadia, sunrise at Cadillac Mountain ranked high on the things to do. It is the highest point of Acadia National Park and of the entire North Atlantic coastline. Therefore, the summit of Cadillac Mountain is one of the spots in the United States that gets the first rays of the sun.
The summit is accessible via a winding, narrow, 3.5-mile road and is closed during the winter time. Do note that Cadillac Mountain is closed to recreational vehicles (RVs) and trailers and the private tour buses operate after sunrise. We had an RV for this trip and had to hike all the way to the summit. It is a strenuous hike but the views sure do make up for the effort. Although we did not see the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain, just the feeling of reaching its summit was fulfilling.
Sand beach has the best beach setting, tucked between two walls of solid pink granite and towering evergreens. Even in the summer, the water is on the cooler side.
Beehive Trail is one of Acadia’s iconic hikes. The Beehive is the majestic peak that overlooks Sand Beach. It is a thrilling hike that involves granite steps and iron handrails to climb up the rocks. The hike starts at the Bowl Trailhead across from Sand Beach. The trail has views all the way to the top. I would rank the hike moderate because apart from the height factor, the scrambling to the top does not take a lot of effort. It is all about patience and care on this hike.
The Precipice Trail is another Acadia classic that involves using iron rungs and ladders on exposed cliffs. It is, however, longer and strenuous in comparison to Beehive and you get views quite later on.
Note: Both Beehive and Precipice trails are not suitable for small children or anybody who has a fear of heights.
Thunder Hole as the name indicates is a semi-submerged cave that forms an inlet where the waves crash thus making a thunder. It is however not on display at all times and is best seen when the tides are changing.
Jordon Pond House – Both Jordon Pond and Jordon Pond House (the restaurant) should be on your list. The sight of the clear waters of Jordon Pond against the surrounding mountains is so refreshing. The Jordan Pond Shore Trail goes around the pond and makes for a leisurely walk.
But I highly suggest you do that after reserving a table at the Jordon Pond House. The popovers are the restaurants most famous offering. A popover should be eaten warm, slathered with butter, strawberry jam and preferably with coffee. I swear I can recall its taste as I type this.
Bass Harbour Lighthouse is a great spot for sunset. It is located in the village of Bass Harbor which is quite charming in itself.
Lastly, explore the town of Bar Harbour. The Bar Harbor Village Green, or simply Village Green is the town’s center with a charming square with fountains, benches and quaint shops and restaurants. I don’t know if its a Bar Harbour thing but there are a lot of ice cream shops in a small area and they sure don’t disappoint.