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Best Things To See In Acadia National Park

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What has twenty-six mountains, was named after a Greek village and has the first place you can see the sun rise in America?

If you said Acadia National Park, you got it!

Acadia is wild, gorgeous, untamed and packed full of adventure. Did you know that there are 158 miles of hiking trails in the park? There is also 64 miles of coastline that runs along the turbulent and magnificent Atlantic Ocean. The combination of the majestic old growth of the North Woods and the clear blue ocean make for one fantastic getaway from the dull and mundane. Acadia National park is divided into three regions, Mount Desert Island, Schoodic Penisula and Isle au Haut. There are many things to see and do in these regions while visiting this masterpiece on earth. Here are some of the best activities to put on your itinerary.

Explore Mount Desert Island

Mount Desert Island encompasses most of Acadia National Park and is easiest to access and explore in spite of it being an island. Mount Desert Island, pronounced Mount “Dessert” Island, features the most to see and do in the National Park.

Visit Bar Harbour

Bar Harbour is likely where you will be staying when visiting Acadia. Here, you will find restaurants, hotels and a lovely downtown area that will invite you in and make you never want to leave. Considered the “Gateway to Acadia National Park”, Bar Harbour is the perfect place to begin your day of exploration into the only national park in New England.

Bar harbour Maine
Aerial view of Bar Harbor, Maine.

Stop at the Bass Harbour Headlight

Mount Desert Island is an island in the tempestuous waters of the Atlantic. The need for lighthouses became apparent after legions of people began crossing the Atlanta in the 19th century. The Bass Harbour Headlight is one of three lighthouses in the park and has been shining since 1858. It even has the same Fresnel lens that has been in operation for the last 120 years. Photographers love this spot, so you know it must be something special to see.

Best Things To See In Acadia National Park
The Bass Harbor Headlight

Experience Thunder Hole

Nothing has the power to illustrate the power of the ocean like Thunder Hole. Thunder Hole is as violent as it is intriguing and you just can’t get enough. As the tide comes in, the ocean is forced between a small inlet where it violently crashes against the rocks exploding onto awaiting spectators where they will be pummeled with the forces of nature. After a storm, is the best time to see the hole at its best, but anytime is great to witness this interesting sight in the park.

acadia thunder hole

Take a walk down the Carriage Roads

John D. Rockefeller spear headed what would become one of the most impressive philanthropic endeavors ever bestowed upon a national park. A avid horseman, he wanted to ensure that there would be a way to see the park without an automobile. Twenty-seven years of gently clearing and building roads just wide enough for a carriage, taking great care not to disturb the environment, resulted in 45 miles of breathtaking natural access to the interior of the park. Walk or bike the trail across bridges and passed waterfalls to cliffside views. Traveling into the heart of Mount Desert Island helps the visitor appreciate why this park is so special.

acadia carriage roads
Leaf Covered Carriage Road in Acadia during autumn

See Jordan Pond

Jordan Pond is the clearest, deepest lake in Maine at 150 feet deep and a visibility of 44 feet into the water. To walk around this lake is a calming and relaxing experience. The 3.5 mile loop that hugs the shores on the pond is especially spectacular in the fall when the leaves turn. Don’t leave without tea and popovers at the Jordan Pond House, the park’s only restaurant.

acadia jordan pond

Watch the sun rise on Cadillac Mountain

Be the first to see the sun in the entire United States when you get to Cadillac Mountain early and set your sights on the east. You will need to drive to the summit if you are there for the sunrise as you will need to arrive in the dark. The 3.5 mile road will end at the summit and you can walk the additional half mile to the lookout point. At first light, you will be among the first of over 330,000,000 people to see the sun that day. Now, that is pretty cool!

Best Things To See In Acadia National Park
Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain

Explore Park Loop Road

The 27 mile loop road begins at the Hulls Cove Visitors Center and meanders through the park past some of its most revered stopping points. You will learn so much about the park and this is a great thing to do if you are going to be at the park for multiple days and want a preview of all the sites. Make a note of what interests you and then you can come back to explore deeper.

Walk the Bar Island Land Bridge

Try something you’ve never done before. Walk across a land bridge to Bar Island. Otherwise covered by the ocean, the Bar Island Land Bridge connects Bar Harbor and Bar Island 1.5 hours before and 1.5 hours after low tide. You can walk the 1.9 mile trail and explore the island and its viewpoints. However, you must time your hike wisely, as the tide could cover the only way back to civilization and nine hours is a long time to wait for the land bridge to appear once again.

Bar island land bridge

Watch the tide come in at Sand Beach

Sand Beach is the only sandy beach in the park. On a sunny day it can be quite crowded with sunbathers and beachcombers. Sandwiched between the rocky mountainous shores, Sand Beach is a great place to see the tide roll out and relax in the fleeting New England sun. However, if you want to take a dip, be aware that the temperature usually stays around 55 degrees! Access is easy from Park Loop Road, but come early as parking tends to fill on holidays and weekends.

View of ocean at Sand Beach, Acadia National Park

Discover Echo Lake

If you want to go swimming in summer, Echo Lake is much warmer at around 73 degrees and has a beauty that is unmatched. With Beech Mountain to the west, it has an ambiance that exudes from its crystal clear waters. Its shallow waters extend far out into the lake and make a great place for families to romp in the summer sun.

Echo Lake, Acadia

See the summit of Precipice Trail

A hike on the Precipice Trail will really reveal what you are made of. This trail is a route up to the summit of Champlain Mountain that is fraught with obstacles that you must scale, climb, slither and in some cases crawl through. One wrong step and the consequences could be disastrous. But, isn’t this what makes us feel alive? You know that when a trail is not recommended for children that it must be exhilarating. This 2.6 mile hike will have you boasting and thanking the Almighty, simultaneously as you complete what is the east coasts most thrilling and beautiful hike.

Get away to the Schoodic Peninsula

The Schoodic Peninsula is the only region of Acadia that is actually attached to the mainland. It has dramatic wild scenery that must be seen when visiting the park.

See Schoodic Point

Although Schoodic Point is only 4 miles away from Bar Harbor by looking across the water, a drive to Schoodic Point will take you about an hour. However,, the drive is one of the most scenic parts of the trip. The shoreline is dramatic and just gets better with each passing mile. Once there, you can see the pounding surf as it crashes into unspoiled coastline. Perfect for photographers and romantics alike. If you want to take a day off driving, there is a ferry service that also will take you to the Peninsula.

Schoodic Point

Stop at Blueberry Hill and Moose Island

Moose Island can be reached at low tide and is a fun adventure for families. Blueberry Hill is not far and you can have your pick of blueberries from the bushes in summer adding to the summer experiences you crave on your vacation.

Experience Raven’s Nest

The cliffs of Raven’s Nest are stunning and are what you came to this part of Maine to see. Hike down the steep path and get up close to the scenery and gaze down at the emerald azure of the Atlantic Ocean before you. It is a sight to behold and you won’t want to miss it.

Isle au Haut

People come to Isle au Haut to get away from it all. With spotty cell service and no automobiles allowed, it’s remoteness is what entices the weary city dweller to explore.

Hike The Duck Harbor Mountain Trail

This relatively short hike at 2.4 miles packs a big punch in difficulty and payoff. It’s incline and scrambling will have you choosing your footing carefully. But, once at the summit, the views are out of this world and you’ll be confident you made the right choice to take this trail. Duck Harbor to the north and Western Head to the south can be seen from this vantage.

duck harbor acadia

Bike the roads of the Isle

See the interior of the isle by bike as you ride the twelve miles of paved and unpaved roads provided. The scenery changes from coastline to forests and moss covered paths, but you will be able to appreciate the isle in a different way as you ride in solitude.

See Boom Beach

Boom Beach gets its name from the crashing waves violently moving the boulders on the beach. This action makes loud booms when the boulders move against each other. The power of the ocean once again at work.

Acadia National Park is a park like no other. The natural world in which it contains is, in many ways, preserved like it has been for thousands of years. Bar Harbor adds just the right amount of modernization so that your vacation will feel like the holiday you were dreaming of this summer. With so many activities and interesting things to see, you’ll want to book your next trip back to the park very soon.

Wendy Edwards
Wendy is a native of Atlanta, Georgia. But for the past seven years she has traveled by RV to many National Parks, monuments and everywhere in between. She and her family of five, a furry canine friend and a bearded dragon have crossed the United States thirty one times. She never tires of hiking, biking, camping and photographing this beautiful country.