Seven Things to See and Do in Acadia National Park

Maine is home to Acadia National Park. It’s home to a beautiful, rugged coastline—a unique combination of granite mountains and seashores. Here’s a rundown of our recent visit.

First, we flew to Boston’s Logan airport. We actually spent a few days exploring the historic sights of Boston (maybe a future post!). Then we rented car and drove about 4.5 hours to Acadia, where we spent 4 days exploring Mt. Desert Island, which is where most of the park is located. Mt. Desert Island is also home to several small towns, including Bar Harbor, the main stop for dining and other nightlife.

Pro-Tip: Being such a short drive from many of our populous East Coast cities, Acadia can be fairly crowded, especially in August when the weather is just perfect. Be prepared for full parking lots and road construction! For Bar Harbor, try parking along West St

And now, here’s a quick rundown of the fun things we did on our trip.

1. Watch the Sunrise

If you’re an early riser, you can be the first person in the USA to see the sun rise. We got up well before the crack of dawn and hiked the Great Head trail. This was tricky in the dark—a rough scramble up rugged granite slopes—so be sure to take a flashlight! And bug spray: the mosquitoes were vicious. But the view was worth it.

Sunrise at Great Head in Acadia National Parl

2. See the Milky Way

If you’re more of a night owl, Acadia is a great place to view the night skies. We attended a program led by two park rangers. It was held at Sand Beach, so we rolled out a beach blanket and lay back watching the rangers point out constellations and tell folk tales about the origins of the stars.

3. Enjoy the Beaches

By the way, Sand Beach is a great place to go during the daytime. Most of Acadia’s coastline is rugged and rocky, but Sand Beach is one of the few beaches on the island that is made of sand instead of rocks (hence the name).

Sand Beach vs Boulder Beach

The rocky beaches, such as Little Hunters, or the aptly named Boulder Beach, are fascinating to visit. They’re littered with polished stones of all shapes and sizes.

Pro-Tip: Sand Beach is a beatiful beach, but the water is COLD! Even in August, it can be cold enough to be dangerous. Also, beware of the strong waves that can sneak up on you.

4. Hike the Trails

Besides being a great beach, Sand Beach also is a good starting point for several hikes. Besides the Great Head trailhead, it is right on the Ocean Path trail, which is a level, paved path that winds along the edge of the cliffs above the water. You can also hike several other more challenging trails, such as Gorham Mountain or The Beehive.

Pro-Tip: The Beehive is not for the faint-of-heart! There are several sheer, narrow spots on the hike where you cling to iron bars sunk into the mountain face.

The Beehive in Acadia National Parl
The Beehive

If hiking isn’t your thing, but you still want to get a mountaintop view of the island, you can drive to the summit of Cadillac Mountain. Just don’t expect to find an easy parking spot!

The Beehive in Acadia National Parl
The View from Cadillac Mountain

5. Explore the Carriage Roads

If you need a break from hiking the hills, try exploring the historic carriage roads. We had planned to rent bikes and cruise along the trails near Jordan Pond. That didn’t quite work out due to weather, but we did hike along one of the roads after the rain slacked off.

Jordan Pond and a Carriage Road Bridge

If you need a break, check out the Jordan Pond House Restaurant, famous for serving tea and popovers on the lawn.

6. Take a Boat Ride

Of course, Maine is famous for lobsters. If you’re interested in learning more about lobster fishing, take a boat tour with Bar Harbor Whale Watch. They do, of course, have whale-watching excursions, but since the whales don’t always cooperate, we opted for the Lobster Fishing and Seal Watching tour. This is a 2-hour cruise where the crew demonstrates how lobster fishermen haul up and bait their traps, while epxlaining the history and rules of the trade. After that, the boat heads over to Egg Island, home to a bird sanctuary and a favorite resting spot for seals.

Summary

Naturally, there are many more things to see and do in Acadia. We tend to do lots of hikes, but there are also lots of fun things to do at sea as well, including several other boat tours and cruises from Bar Harbor. And for the food-lovers, there’s lobster galore!