Acadia National Park is one of the premier destinations to visit in the state of Maine. Thousands of visitors flock to Mount Desert Islandevery year, especially during the summer months, to enjoy all that the Park has to offer – and there is a lot to do! If you plan to stay in the areafor a longer period of time, there are many lighthouses, beaches and beautiful, charming Bar Harbor.
Kids will love learning about Acadia at the Nature Center or from the park rangers that guided tours. Acadia has so much to offer that it is sure to make any vacation an adventure. Here are some of our top things to do in Acadia National Park:
What draws thousands of visitors to Acadia each year are the more than 125 miles of historic trails throughout the park. Hiking in Acadia National Park can be as easy and relaxing as flat trails or more challenging and sometimes dangerous heights along the exposed Cliffside.
But thrill-seekers will love the view and feeling of accomplishment once they reach the top. If you’re looking for adventure, try a steep mountain climb up one of the many hiking trails, like The Beehives.
Drive up Cadillac Mountain
If a hike seems too difficult or time consuming, the next best way to enjoy a great view without the exertion is a drive up Cadillac Mountain. It is Acadia’s tallest mountain and the highest point on the Atlantic Coast. From the top you can see spectacular views of Bar Harbor and Frenchman Bay, sunrise and sunset.
Swim at Sand Beach
What this beach lacks in size it certainly makes up for in beauty. With soft white sand surrounded by granite rock walls and an ideal southern exposure with views out to sea, it is a must visit during your time in Acadia. Although the water temperatures are some of the coldest in Maine, even during the summer, visitors enjoy simply relaxing in the sun and taking in the scenery.
Explore Bar Harbor
Although there are so many things to do in Acadia National Park, a trip to Mount Desert Island may be once in a lifetime and visiting Bar Harbor should be high on your list. Bar Harbor is a quaint seaside village with charming shops, delicious seafood restaurantsand plenty of activities for visitors to enjoy – from biking and shopping to boating and other water activities. Time your trip to Bar Harbor ideally when cruise ships are not in town.
Bike on a Carriage Road
Acadia National Park is home to over 50 miles of carriage roads, thanks to JD Rockefeller, and some of the best biking in Maine. If you can’t travel with your bike, there are plenty of bike shops that will rent to you in Bar Harbor. Visitors can choose to explore the roads on their own or take a cycling tour with a knowledgeable guide.
See the Jordan Pond House
The Jordan Pond House dates back to the late 1800s, a time when teahouses were very popular for accommodating the growing number of summer visitors. The Jordan Pond House is famous for their ibaked popovers, homemade ice cream and fresh lemonade overlooking the beautiful pond.
Drive the 20-mile Park Loop Road
If you are only visiting for a day, the best way to see the sights and scenery the park has to offer is by driving the 20-mile Park Loop Road. See breathtaking views of the ocean, mountains and forests as you wind around the park.
Visit Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse
No trip to Maine is complete without seeing a lighthouse! Bass Harbor Head is located on the southern end of Mount Desert Island along the rocky Maine coastline. It stands 56 feet above water and is open daily to the public year round. Stop in the delightful fishing and boating villages of Southwest and Northeast Harbor.
More About Acadia National Park and It’s History
2016 marked the 100th birthday of Acadia National Park, and also the National Park System’s centennial.
Acadia’s official birthday is July 8, 1916 when Sieur de Monts National Monument was established on Mount Desert Island in Maine. Three years later, the name changed to Lafayette National Park, and finally in 1929, Acadia National Park became the title, the first National Park in the eastern United States. Acadia is also the first park established entirely through private land donations thanks to founders George B. Dorr, landscape architect Charles W. Eliot and John D. Rockefeller.
Today, over 2.5 million people visit Acadia National Park annually. Acadia’s celebrated natural beauty reaches from Maine’s Blue Hill Bay to Somes Sound, up to the summit of Cadillac Mountain overlooking Frenchman Bay, to Isle au Haut and the Schoodic Peninsula, covering 49,000 acres of mountains, main land, islands, ocean, lakes and ponds, forests and cliffs of sparkling granite.
The idea to establish Acadia came from landscape architect Charles Eliot, his father Charles W. Eliot was president of Harvard. Collaborator George B. Dorr was considered the “father of Acadia National Park,” for his land donations and his work on state and federal status with President Woodrow Wilson to create the National Park Service. It’s also great thanks to the uber wealthy John D. Rockefeller, Jr. who designed the park with 50 miles of carriage roads, 17 granite bridges, and two gate lodges, using granite quarried from the site from 1915 -1933. To this day, the granite guard rails are known as “Rockefeller’s Teeth” and also referred to as “coping stones” as these stones help visitors cope with the steep drop offs.
Of Acadia’s 49,000 acres, 30,300 are on Mount Desert Island, 2,728 acres are on Isle au Haut and 2,366 acres are on the Schoodic Peninsula. The National Park Service acquired the land on Schoodic Peninsula in 2012, this former naval base is on the mainland just north east of MDI, with stunning views looking back toward Cadillac Mountain across Frenchman Bay. The Schoodic Loop Drive is a beautiful drive, with gorgeous pink granite boulder shores for picnic’ing with incredible views out to sea.
The crowning glory of Acadia is Cadillac Mountain, named after the French explorer Sieur de Cadillac, Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, it stands over 1500’ above sea level, and it’s one of the first places in the United States to see the sunrise. Acadia National Park is a gem, a haven for hikers and bikers, nature lovers. Its also a natural habitat for over 40 species of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, moose, beavers, porcupines, minks, muskrats, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, and black bears, vast birds, bald eagles, and peregrine falcons, plus the many sea mammals, fish and crustacean that inhabit the oceans, lakes and ponds.
Do yourself a favor and visit Maine’s Acadia National Park to help celebrate her 100th birthday. Stay in the bustling port town of Bar Harbor or quieter Southwest Harbor or Northeast harbor, the beautiful fishing village of Bass Harbor, or the nearby towns of Trenton, and Blue Hills. See our top things to do in Acadia National Park, and where to stay in Bar Harbor to help plan your trip to Mount Desert Island.