Acadia National Park is at the top of our list of favorite national parks. It’s probably tied with Glacier National Park for our favorite one. It’s a place full of fun activities—we spent three full days in the park and the Bar Harbor area, and we could have spent even more time.
We decided to do something we’d never really done before, and that was to camp, meaning in a tent, for the duration of our visit. We’ve camped in a tent before, but never for more than one night at a time. So, I was a little bit worried about camping for four nights at Acadia. It actually ended up working out great. I must admit that we didn’t cook at our campsite at all, but we did enjoy s’mores a few times.
Camping in the park was so much more economical than any other sleeping option, and we were right in the park. If you camp in the park and would like to be closer to Bar Harbor and some of the main attractions, stay in the Blackwoods camping area. Book your reservation as far in advance as you can, but remember they have a liberal cancellation policy like most national parks, so you may get lucky even closer to your trip. Finally, be prepared for rain. It seems to rain there a fair amount—so bring that rain cover for your tent!
If you’re not a camper, Bar Harbor is full of hotels and bed and breakfasts, and so many of them looked so charming!
The highlights of our trip to Acadia include:
Hiking. We only went on two good hikes, and we left anxious to return and try a few more. We hiked the Jordan Cliffs Trail to Penobscot Mountain, which starts behind Jordan Pond House. This was such a fun hike—challenging but full of surprises like iron rungs, ladders and bridges. At the top, the view is spectacular! This hike is 4-5 miles round trip. You can climb up Penobscot Mountain on an easier trail than the Jordan Cliffs Trail; just ask at the visitor’s center for your options.
The other hike we went on was to Acadia Mountain, which is on the west side of the island. It’s only about a 2.5-mile hike, but pretty challenging as well. The views at the top are once again amazing and make the climb so worth it!
If neither of these hikes interests you, there are lots more. We had such a hard time picking a hike because they all looked great. This website includes some of the hikes in Acadia, but not all. The visitor’s center is a great resource for more information. http://www.nps.gov/acad/planyourvisit/upload/HkingTrails-2011-NEW.pdf
Biking. One day we rented bikes in Bar Harbor, loaded them up on one of the free Island Explorer Buses that go all over the park, and headed off to the carriage roads. We spent four or five hours biking around Eagle Lake and Jordan Pond and stopping to enjoy the views. The carriage roads are great for biking, and no cars are allowed on them. Our perfect day included a stop at Jordan Pond House Restaurant…which is the next thing on my list of highlights.
Jordan Pond House Restaurant. Overpriced, but a really fun way to spend some time. Make sure you eat at a table outside on the lawn overlooking the pond. We ordered their famous popovers and homemade raspberry lemonade. It’s just one of those experiences you have to have at Acadia. The wait can be a little long, if you haven’t made reservations, so come prepared to enjoy some down time.
Kayaking. We’ve been kayaking before, but never sea kayaking, and it was great! We loved spending a few hours on the water, surrounded by beautiful scenery.
We went on a tour with a company in Bar Harbor, which I had reserved in advance. I was in a kayak with Natalie, and at one point she told me she was too tired to paddle any more. I yelled back to her that she couldn’t stop until we got out of the strong waves that were buffeting us. Fortunately for me, she hung in there. Emilee and Kara were together in another kayak. During our adventure, they lost their foot steering ability and struggled to stay on course. It was a challenge, but something we’ll always remember and laugh at. I love memories like that. Sterling was in a kayak by himself. The companies that rent kayaks will take you out on different tours; some of them are milder than others, so don’t be afraid.
Diver Ed’s Dive-In Theatre. I had read a lot of positive reviews about Diver’s Ed boat ride, and it appeared at the top of many lists of must-do’s in the area. It’s a boat ride out into the bay where Diver Ed, using cameras and sound equipment, dives to the ocean floor. There he collects sea animals, which he brings back up with him to show everyone on the boat. Except he doesn’t just show off his newfound friends, he allows everyone to come up and hold them, if they want to. We even have a picture of Emilee kissing one of them. I made reservations for us one evening, thinking it would be a nice way to relax at night after an active day. We enjoyed it so much! All of us were so entertained and spellbound by Diver Ed’s antics and enthusiasm. We were talking about it for days, and it was one of the top highlights of our trip. http://divered.com/
Bar Harbor. Bar Harbor is just a fun, little tourist town. It’s so charming, and we wandered the streets, sampling ice cream, fudge and buying sweatshirts. We ate dinner in Bar Harbor most nights, and my happiest moment was when I bought a blueberry pie, which we ate on the grassy common. (I’d been dying for a blueberry pie and finally found one at the bakery there.) Sterling decided he had to go to the ice cream shop to buy vanilla ice cream to go with it, and none of us complained about that!
Thurston’s Lobster Pound. I don’t like seafood. In fact, I really don’t like much meat, but I wanted everyone to have the experience of eating lobster since we were in Maine. Thurston’s was where we decided to go for this adventure because of the high marks it received in all the reviews that I read. Thurston’s Lobster Pound is on the west side of the island, so we scheduled a full day over there with hiking, swimming and exploring. We were hungry by the time we got there. I just straight out ordered a hamburger, but everyone else ordered lobster to give it a try. Sterling and Emilee really liked it a lot, Kara tolerated it (but didn’t enjoy it), and Natalie put one bite in her mouth and spit it out before she even tasted it. Oh well, I tried to expose them to lobster at least. Even those who didn’t eat lobster, or finish theirs, enjoyed the experience of watching others go for it as well as taking in the fun atmosphere.
Besides yummy lobster, they have the best blueberry cake there! They were nice enough to give me the recipe, which I have since enjoyed at home. http://thurstonslobster.com/
Cliff diving. We did this on the west side of the island right after we finished hiking Acadia Mountain. The trail down to Echo Lake was just across from the trailhead for the hike. We were so sweaty that the refreshing water felt great. They weren’t very high cliffs by any means (in fact just a few feet), but it was a fun jump off the rocks into the water. There are other lakes you can swim in at Acadia, but some that don’t allow it. So check before you jump!
Besides all of the above mentioned highlights, we enjoyed Cadillac Mountain at sunset (we drove up there),
walking across the sand bar from Bar Harbor to Bar Island during low tide and looking for starfish, driving the Park Loop and stopping at different sights including Thunder Hole, enjoying a ranger program about stars on Sand Beach at night, and scrambling along the rocks on the rocky shore near our campsite.
Hopefully, you see why Acadia is at the top of our list of favorite national parks. We now have many memories of so many adventures to enjoy for years to come. If you ever make it to Maine, Acadia is a must do.