Updated: Mar 22, 2022
"In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks." - John Muir
If you haven't been to Acadia National Park, you definitely should add it to your National Parks' bucket list. Just like any other national park, it has its unique beauty that hard to describe until you experience it yourself. Acadia National Park is located on the beautiful Mount Desert Island, Maine. Unlike many national parks, Acadia is much smaller in size and just a few minutes away from Bar Harbor, which is a beautiful and charming coastal town in itself. I can see why Acadia National Park was 7th in the top 10 most visited National parks.
What I love about Acadia National Park is that you don't really have to do a lot of driving. This perhaps is a good first national park to visit for many, especially for family with small children. There are wonderful biking trails, to and around Acadia, and there many beautiful picnic spots for lunch. My kids also enjoyed spotting some animals along the way our hikes.
The kids found a lunch spot with a view along Ocean Path Trail; Hiking along Jordan Pond Loop; We spotted a little friend along the way.
We visited Acadia the last week of June right before July 4th weekend. We lucked out on this trip because it is right before the peak season starts. We got a great discount on lodging and we also beat the crowd. The weather was perfect, but it can be unpredictable in the end of June. Sometimes it can still be on the cold side and sometimes it could rain.
Depending on where you come from and how many days you have, there are many beautiful places along the way that you can add it to your itinerary. Bangor Airport is the closest airport to Acadia National Park. It's about 1 hr. drive to the town of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. Portland, ME Airport is about 3hrs drive while Boston Logan Airport is 4.5hrs drive. If you have the time, I highly recommend flying into Portland, ME or Boston Logan Airport. This way, it will allow you to check out Portland or Boston. Portland and Boston are awesome destinations in themselves. They offer a wide range of activities, so much history and amazing restaurants. Portland head light is one of my all-time favorite lighthouse and it's located right inside Fort Williams Park which is a beautiful spot if you need to take a break for lunch as you drive up to Acadia National Park.
If you drive from Portland, some beautiful towns along the way are Camden, Booth Bay Harbor, Rockport to name a few.
If you drive from Boston, Newburryport_MA, Portsmouth, York_ME are very cute and charming coastal towns that you can easily stop on the way. These towns are right off I-95.
Feel free to reach out if you need activities or restaurants in any of these locations.
Portland head light house @Fort Williams Park; My daughter learning how to handle lobsters with @LuckyCatchCruise; The kids @PortlandSeaDogs game.
* You can schedule a lobster cruise at http://www.luckycatch.com/
* Portland Head light house and Fort Williams Park https://portlandheadlight.com/what-to-do
* My favorite seafood restaurant in Portland, Maine is Street and Co. It's a small place and require reservation in advance. https://www.streetandcompany.net/
Our family went to Acadia with my sister, nephews (6 and 9 yrs. old at that time), and a friend's family whose kids were 1, 5 and 8 yrs. old. I chose The West Street hotel (https://www.theweststreethotel.com/) due to the discount as well as the great amenities that came with it. As a guest at West Street hotel, we were able to get access to the Bar Harbor Club (https://www.theharborsidehotel.com/the-bar-harbor-club/)which is amazing. The Club is just directly across the street from the West Street Hotel and the club has a large oceanfront pool, hot tub, and large club house. We picked up foods and basically had dinner at the club house every night. It was so much fun for the kids and adults to relax there after our day at the park. The other thing great about the club house location is that there is an access path to the beach and if you go at low tide, you can actually walk to Bar Island. One thing to keep in mind if you choose to take this walk is that you have to about 1.5hrs before and after low tide to get there and back before the high tide arrives.
There are many other lodging options depending on what experience you are looking for. Camping site inside the park (https://www.nps.gov/acad/planyourvisit/camping.htm ) or via KOA Oceanside (https://koa.com/campgrounds/bar-harbor-oceanside/ ) is another great option. Acadia is also a great park for camping with RV/Campervan as well.
If you are looking for new experience, I would highly recommend you give Glamping a try. We have done Glamping many times at different national parks, and we absolutely loved it. It's perfect for those that don't like traditional tent camping, but still want to be out in the nature. Keeping mind that even these options are on the pricey side, don't expect the 5 stars luxury amenities. It's still technically "camping" in the woods where luxury amenities are not possible. There are definitely more options for Glamping now than 2 yrs. ago. If you decide to go with Glamping, I would recommend you checked out these two Glamping spots, UnderCanvas and Terramor. We have stayed with Under Canvas multiple times and loved it. However, Terramor Outdoor Resort set up seem to be even better for family. I plan to revisit Acadia and check out Terramor Outdoor Resort. When I do, I will definitely update with my review. https://terramoroutdoorresort.com/ or https://www.undercanvas.com/camps/acadia/
Sunrise over our tent at Basecamp Terlingual @BigBendNationalPark; Our tent at Moab UnderCanvas @ArchesNationalPark; Inside of the Suite Tent at Yellowstone UnderCanvas @YellowstoneNationalPark.
For all hiking trails, I used the National Park Trail Guide App which is free. This will give you detailed descriptions of all the trails and its difficulty levels. I pretty much use this same app to plan out our hikes in each of our national park trips.
Given our kids' ages at the time of our visit, we did the following hikes and stops:
Jordan Pond Loop, Bubble Rock trail, Ocean Path, Cadillac Mountain Summit, Sand beach, Thunder hole, Bass Harbor Lighthouse and stopped for lunch at Jordan Pond House.
Some of these are easy and some is more strenuous for the younger kids. But as I mentioned in my other post, you just take your time. Go as slow or as fast as you like.
I would highly recommend pack your lunch and snacks and pick a spot along the Ocean Path Trail and take in the beautiful sceneries that Acadia has to offer.
I want to make a couple special notes about the Bass Harbor lighthouse. It's probably one of the most photographed lighthouse in all New England. To get the most beautiful view of this lighthouse, you must take the Bass Harbor Lighthouse Trail. The trail head is near the parking lot where the bathroom is. I have seen many people came and view the lighthouse at the base of the lighthouse and left. You will not appreciate how beautiful the lighthouse is until you view it from the trail. In addition, on the way back to town from the lighthouse visit, you should stop by the Upper Deck Restaurant for some yummy seafoods with a view (https://upperdeckdining.com/).
Bass Harbor Lighthouse @AcadiaNationalPark
Lobster feast on the way back from Bass Harbor Lighthouse @Upper Deck Dinning in Southeast Harbor
There are many other activities that you can do including sea kayaking, bicycling, boat tours, etc. We didn't rent bikes at that time because some of our kids can't bike at that time. We opted to rent kayaks and kayak on Eagle Lake and that was so fun. We combined this activity with our trip to Bass Harbor lighthouse since it's kind of nearby area.
If you travel with young kids, don't forget to get Junior Ranger badges. It becomes a tradition for us and we participate in Junior Ranger program at every single National Park that we visited.
This is probably a good pic to describe our feeling at the end of our Acadia National Park trip:) My youngest at Cadillac Mountain Summit @AcadiaNationalPark
Jordan Pond @AcadiaNationalPark. I love this photo because it describes the feeling I have each time I visits any national parks: relaxation, calmness and the wow of nature beauty.