Acadia National Park is a beautiful destination on the coast of Maine. Just outside of Bar Harbor, the park takes up an area of about 75 square miles and is filled with amazing hikes, great bike rides, and fantastic photo opportunities.
There are some “go-to” items on the average visitor’s bucket list. Everyone in the park loves to drive the Park Loop Road and visit Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Cadillac Mountain, and have tea at the Jordan Pond House. Don’t get me wrong, these places are great and you should see them, but unfortunately, during peak travel season, these are often choked with traffic and crowds. Why not try some of these tips and adventures to get a true taste of Acadia?
Take the Island Explorer Bus
Instead of spending your day stuck in traffic, take the FREE Island Explorer Bus to get to Mount Desert Island! It has stops at lots of popular places around the park, and you can pick it up in Bar Harbor. You can even bring your bike on some of the busses.
Hike Goram Mountain
This is one of the more popular day-hikes in the park, making it not-so-hidden as far as hikes go, but it is a much nicer way to take in the view of Sand Beach! It’s a short hike (1.8 miles round trip) with sweeping ocean views at the top. It’s do-able even if you haven’t been hiking in a while or if you are traveling as a family.
Bike the Carriage Roads
This is a feature that makes Acadia unique among the National Parks. The Carriage Roads were built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to explore the land by horse and carriage. Cars are not allowed, so the wide, graveled paths are open for bikes, runners, and walkers (and yes, horses, too). In the winter, they are a prime spot for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. Dogs are allowed, too!
Rent a bike in Bar Harbor and bike the short distance into the park. From there, you can link together the Carriage Road paths to create a loop as long or as short as you would like.
Cadillac Mountain Sunrise Photography
Cadillac Mountain is one of the most famous features of the park. What you may not know, though, is that it is the first point in the continental U.S. each morning to be touched by sunlight! Instead of driving up midday, which granted, still has lovely views, make the effort to wake up early and greet the sun. Grab your camera, tripod, and a thermos of coffee and make a morning of it. There are also two hiking trails that ascend to the summit if you’d rather earn your views. Check out the Cadillac South Ridge Trail (7 miles, roundtrip) for a somewhat challenging hike with plenty of rewarding views.
Explore or Camp on the Schoodic Peninsula
While the majority of Acadia National Park is on Mount Desert Island, the Schoodic Peninsula section is part of the mainland and is much less-traveled. That makes it a calmer, more peaceful destination than much of the main section of the park. As of 2015, you can also camp on the Schoodic Peninsula! This makes for a great jumping-off point for exploring the area’s local fishing villages.
Visit Thuya and Asticou Gardens
These are not part of the park, but are a lovely destination on Mount Desert Island. Take the Asticou Terrace trail, a short walk uphill with an overlook near the top. From there, you can sit and take in the view of Northeast Harbor before continuing on to the gardens at the top. Asticou has an azalea garden that is stunning the right time of year. There is also a nice walk through the garden, with Japanese-inspired landscape architecture. Thuya is a more formal, English-style garden. Together, Thuya and Asticou make a great way to spend a day, and is a good break from the park if you need one. Bring your camera!
Eat Wild Blueberries
Lobster is what Maine is known for, of course, but in late summer, wild blueberries ripen all along the coast. You can even see (and taste!) them along hiking trails. If you are visiting at the right time, make sure to try the wild blueberry pies and jams that can be found in abundance. You can also buy pints of wild blueberries (which are smaller than farmed blueberries, but much sweeter) in local grocery stores, or go out blueberry picking yourself. Mmmmm.