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What do you get when you mix the state of Maine, USA, and a national park? Rugged coastline, picturesque beaches, woodland, and the east coast’s highest point.
What an unexpected mixture of nature, I hear you exclaim? That’s exactly what I thought!
Acadia national park in Maine is one of the East Coast’s most beautiful and popular national parks. This beautiful national park is a must-visit on your next East Coast Road trip. We spent 2 days here and loved every moment of our time here.
To help others, I’ve put together a guide sharing my Acadia National Park itinerary for first-time visitors…
Morning: Cadillac Mountain
This Acadia National Park Itinerary starts with Cadillac Mountain.
Cadillac Mountain is the highest point on the East Coast of the US, and what a beautiful spot to start your day! Cadillac Mountain is the most popular place to see the sunrise, but it can get pretty busy as the views here are incredible!
If you’re planning to watch the sunrise from here, make sure you arrive early to find car parking during peak season (the car park usually fills up in summer or on public holidays).
Psst: Cadillac Mountain is famous for being the first place in the US to see the sunrise. But this is only true for part of the year (from October to March). So unless you’re visiting these months, Cadillac Mountain is not the first place in the US to see the sunrise 🙁
Otherwise, if pre-sunrise wake-ups aren’t your thing (hello, sleep!), I’d recommend visiting in the morning anyway. It’s usually a quiet time to visit, and who doesn’t like a beautiful view to start their day.
Some of the heart-racing views from Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park
There are two ways to access the peak of Cadillac Mountain:
1. You can drive up via the Cadillac Mountain summit parking lot
The drive up to the parking lot is a short 10-15 min drive from the Cadillac Mountain Entrance.
Remember: if you’re parking here, the car park does get busy during the summer and peak vacation season, so make sure you arrive early!
2. You can hike up via a couple of trails. The main trails are either the North Ridge Trail or the South Ridge Trail
The North Ridge Trail is shorter and steeper climb (4.4 miles / 7.0 km) than the South Ridge Trail (7.4 miles / 11.8km). Whichever one you take depends on your fitness levels and what hike you want! This is a great resource for hiking difficulties in Acadia National Park.
Once you’re at the summit, there is a short loop trial known as the Cadillac Summit Loop Trail. This trail is a 0.5 mile long, 30min walk around the summit of Cadillac Mountain. It’s a maintained path (note: it’s not 100% flat, but it is an easy walk) that will give incredible views.
Mid-morning: Jordan Pond + Popovers
The next stop on my recommended Acadia National Park Itinerary would be the Jordan Pond.
This pond is named after the Jordan Pond House, a former farmhouse located near the pond, formerly owned by the Jordan family of Seal Harbor. You can also see two rock formations known as “the bubbles” because they – you guessed it – look like bubbles!
At Jordan Pond, you can go for a walk around the pond. Or if you’re feeling tired, you don’t even need to walk the entire distance around the pond!
Jordon Pond with the “bubbles”
I’d also recommend while you’re here to visit the Jordan Pond House. This restaurant serves famous popovers (seriously they are delicious and well worth the effort!)
Delicious popovers – get in my belly!
Check the opening hours before you go and try to get a table as soon as they open (or put your name down before!)
We visited a bit before 11 am, and were seated as soon as they opened.
Psst: the original Jordan Pond House was destroyed in a fire in 1979, but funds were raised to build a replacement which was finished in 1982. So while you won’t be sitting in the original house, it still has historical significance to the area!
Afternoon: Driving time
Depending on whether you took the loop walk around Jordan Pond, you probably have the rest of your afternoon free.
I’d suggest going for a leisurely drive along the Park Loop Road.
Some of my suggestions include:
- Stopping at Sand Beach, one of Acadia National Park’s most beautiful beaches!
- Take the ocean walk from Sand Beach to Otter Point
Some of the incredible views from our road trip
If you have extra time…
If, after all that, you have extra time (or you have a spare day) here are some extra suggestions on things you can include on your Acadia National Park itinerary:
Drive to Schoodic Peninsula
The Schoodic Peninsula is lesser visited, quieter part of Acadia National Park. Just because it lacks crowds, though, doesn’t mean it lacks beautiful views.
Here you’ll find incredible views of Cadillac mountain and the ocean (Maine at its finest!)
Explore Bar Harbor
While not part of Acadia National Park, it’s hard to ignore the pull of nearby Bar Harbor. This bustling town is filled with adorable boutiques and souvenir stores.
I loved looking for souvenirs made in Maine, and even walked away with a tea towel with lobster print all over it (sooo Maine!)
While you’re here, also make sure you try the ever so famous lobster rolls. We loved Route 66 restaurant, a 50s diner filled with themed decor. Make sure you try their 1 and 1/4 pound lobster (it even comes with a fun instruction sheet on how to eat a lobster!)
And if you have a sweet tooth, make sure you stop by the Acadia Country Store for fudge (yum!)
If you’re not walked out, or after a leisurely stroll, I’d also suggest walking across to Bar Island (during low tide). If you do this, make sure you don’t lose track of time! People have been known to get stuck on the island once the tide rises again.
Walking across to Bar Island at sunset during low-tide
The Abbe Museum has two locations – one in Bar Harbor and the other on Mount Desert Island. The museum is dedicated to exploring the culture and history of the Wabanaki, who are the first peoples to Maine.
Where to stay
While you can’t stay actually in Acadia National Park, you can stay at nearby Bar Harbor, which is super convenient!
There are so many accommodation options at Bar Harbor; there are options to suit every budget. Nightly rates are very seasonal, however.
I’ve put together some suggestions below.
Where to stay for budget travelers: Belle Isle Motel
This is a great option for budget travelers, and is only a 15-min drive from the town of Bar Harbor. They also have a swimming pool and a fire-pit which is a fun way to wind down at the end of the day! The motel also has a self-service laundry and a common area with kitchenette facilities (microwave, toaster) available to guests. This is a great option especially if you want to prepare snacks! Read TripAdvisor Reviews | Book on Booking.com
Where to stay for mid-range budget travelers: Highbrook Motel
This is where we stayed when visiting Acadia National Park, and we found our room to be clean and have everything we needed. The rate includes a continental “grab and go” breakfast which is available in their reception. This includes oats, sandwiches and pastries. They also have complimentary tea & coffee available all day (plus home made cookies!!) Read TripAdvisor Reviews | Book on Booking.com
Where to stay if you want to treat yo’ self: Saltair Inn Waterfront B&B
The Saltair Inn is a great option if you want to splurge. The Inn offers that New England touch – adorable rooms, gas fireplaces and waterfront views. Rates also include a delicious hot breakfast which you can choose to enjoy while taking in the water views. Read TripAdvisor Reviews | Book on Booking.com
Acadia National Park is a beautiful part of Maine, and one of my favorite National Parks on the east coast!
Hopefully, my Acadia National Park Itinerary helped you plan your trip.
Regardless of your travel style or fitness levels, there’s bound to be an activity or experience for you!
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Great itinerary, but you forgot Thunder Hole! Also, Bar Harbor Inn and Spa is an amazing place to stay with great bay and ocean views