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Things to Do in Acadia National Park

12 Amazing Things to Do in Acadia National Park

United States

Acadia National Park, more than any other national park that we’ve visited in the United States, brings to mind the word leisure.

In many ways, Acadia feels less like a national park in the way that we are accustomed to thinking of the word (rugged, challenging, remote, full of difficult hiking opportunities), and more about a beautiful place to relax, like a neighborhood park you would like to have a picnic in.

Just, you know–a lot more majestic and quite a bit bigger.

Sure, you can hike in Acadia–but as its tallest mountain tops out at a modest 1529 feet, this is not a place you should compare to the likes of the Rocky Mountains and Grand Tetons.

That being said, there are still plenty of amazing things to do in Acadia National Park.

Take a leaf out of the books of the Rockefellers and other wealthy families who used to patron the oldest United States National Park east of the Mississippi: the best things to do in Acadia National Park are about taking a step back to relax and bask in the beauty of the place.

Here are 12 things to do in Acadia National Park that you won’t want to miss.

Things to Do in Acadia National Park

Amazing Things to Do in Acadia National Park

Take in the view from the top of Cadillac Mountain.

If you’ve seen a picture of Acadia, it has probably been taken from the top of Cadillac Mountain, with the small islands off the coast showing in the distance. It’s a gorgeous spot–hike or drive up to catch the views, and don’t plan on being in a big hurry to come back down.

In the fall and winter, this spot is the first place to where the sun rises in the United States, and watching those sunrises is one of the most popular things to do in Acadia National Park. Come catch the first sunrise in the country, or, if you’re like us, sleep in and catch the sunset instead.

Things to Do in Acadia National Park

Drive Park Loop Road.

There are very few times in my life I’ve ever considered using the phrase “pleasure drive”, but of all the things to do in Acadia National Park, this may be the most classic: 27-mile Park Loop Road drives right past most of Acadia’s most well-known sights, making it an efficient way to take in the breathtaking views.

Simply pull over on the right-hand side of the road whenever a trail, a view, or anything else catches your eye: in most places, parking is incredibly easy to come by, though there can be some traffic congestion at popular spots.

While shuttles during the busy summer season mean that it is technically possible to visit Acadia without a car, we wouldn’t recommend it: this is a place for exploring, and you’ll want the freedom to drive. We rented a car from Hertz for our trip to Acadia National Park and were very pleased with the experience–the representatives were very straightforward, had reasonable prices, and made both pick up and drop off easy.

Things to Do in Acadia National ParkAdmire the changing leaves in the fall.

Sadly, we didn’t get to witness this beauty ourselves as we visited in July, but I have no doubt that the view from Cadillac Mountain when the trees are bursting with autumn color is absolutely breathtaking. It will be the first item on our list of things to do if we ever visit Acadia National Park at the “right” time of year!

See if you can catch the thunder at Thunder Hole.

A small inlet in Acadia’s rugged coastline gets regularly slammed by the ocean waves as the tides change: at lucky moments, the crash sounds just like thunder.

Thunder Hole wasn’t performing for us when we were there–the tide has to be coming in just the right way–but definitely check for ideal times to try to hear the phenomenon and swing by during that window if you can.

Things to Do in Acadia National Park

Eat blueberry everything.

During our weekend in Acadia National Park, we managed to have blueberry pie, blueberry muffins, blueberry pancakes, blueberry tea, and blueberry habanero sauce (which was surprisingly good!).

At the Jordan Pond House, we counted no less than seven blueberry-themed drinks on the menu: suffice it to say, Maine takes their blueberries seriously.

Luckily, they are completely delicious: bask in the options and eat everything you can.

Check out Sand Beach.

Bright, clear water, colorful picnic blankets, families sprawled on the beach, and children shrieking while they swim… it definitely sounds more like a scene from Florida than Maine, but that’s Sand Beach!

Of course, the fact that the water is freezing and the weather was only 65 degrees in July makes it very clear why only people under the age of 10 tend to think that swimming is a good idea there… but the beach is still beautiful and worth seeing.

Things to Do in Acadia National Park

Eat a lobster roll.

What’s a trip to Maine without a lobster roll? Lobster pounds (aka hole-in-the-wall places that serve primarily lobster) are everywhere around the island.

Lobster rolls come in two varieties: cold with mayo, or hot with butter.

We tried Charlotte’s Lobster Pound, which serves cold lobster rolls, and while we can now confidently say that cold lobster rolls are not our thing, the blueberry pie was amazing.

Things to Do in Acadia National Park

Things to Do in Acadia National Park

Watch the sunset at the Bass Harbor Head Light.

Is there anything more quintessentially Maine than a rocky Atlantic coastline paired with an adorable lighthouse? I doubt it.

Things to Do in Acadia National Park

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Take a stroll around Jordan Pond (after you eat).

The Jordan Pond House has been serving popovers (a sort of hollow bread roll served with butter and jam) for more than a hundred years… but it’s not the only thing they know how to make. Stop by for lunch or afternoon tea to have a meal, perhaps a glass of wine, and stare out over the restaurant’s lawn to Jordan Pond itself.

While we were there, they closed down the lawn for dinner and only had people eat inside or on the porch–for that reason, I recommend going for an earlier meal.

Plus, that leaves you time in the day for a relaxing 3.2 mile walk around Jordan Pond after you’re finished–you’ll need the walk to digest.

Things to Do in Acadia National Park

Explore the Carriage Roads.

You can thank John D. Rockefeller for this: in the first half of the twentieth century, he financed the production of 57 miles of carriage roads in Acadia. No cars are allowed on these roads, but they’re perfect for walking, biking, and horseback riding.

If you are feeling a bit old-fashioned, consider taking part in one of the most iconic things to do in Acadia National Park: ride in a horse-drawn carriage along the roads, similar to how the wealthy patrons of Acadia explored it long ago.

Our time in Acadia went by way too quickly–though it is a small park by United States National Park standards, there are more than enough wonderful things to do in Acadia National Park to keep any outdoors lover entertained for days.

Climb along the coastline.

Acadia’s rocky coastline makes for a wonderful jungle gym for adventurous souls: simply pick a place and (carefully) climb down to the shore: listening to the waves lap at the rocks and checking out all of the tidal pools near the water are worth the effort to get down there.

Things to Do in Acadia National Park

Have a picnic.

On the rocks by the sea, near Jordan Pond, at a random grassy pullover, along a trail, in a field with flowers… it doesn’t matter where! Any quiet corner of Acadia National Park is a great place for a picnic.

Where We Stayed in Acadia National Park:

Sara’s Retreat — This was our first time staying in a private room (rather than full apartment) in the USA, and the first time we ended up in another family’s house while they were there–and it couldn’t have gone better! The room was very clean, Sara and her daughter were incredibly nice, and the location was perfect for driving all over Acadia National Park. Located in Mount Desert, Sara’s house is set away from the hustle and bustle of Bar Harbor, which we really appreciated. Be warned: a short drive on a well-maintained dirt road is required to get to the house!

Never used Airbnb before? Sign up with our link to get a discount on your first stay!

If you’re looking for something special, be sure to check out this great list of unique Airbnbs in New England from our friends at Two Drifters!

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Things to Do in Acadia National Park

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17 Comments Write a comment

Kate has been traveling the world full-time for more than 3 years. She tries to keep a balance between going on new adventures and exploring favorite destinations (like Italy!) in depth, and is always on the lookout for the next beautiful overlook and delicious meal.

17 Comments

  • Courtney CJ July 29, 2017

    I am on a mission to see 30 states before I’m 30 but Maine wasn’t at the top of the list. After seeing all that this park has to offer though, I am strongly reconsidering. The park is gorgeous and the colors in the sky paint a beautiful picture. It doesn’t hurt that I’m a major seafood lover and wouldn’t mind inhaling a lobster roll or two.

    • Kate Storm July 30, 2017

      Your mission sounds awesome, Courtney! Maine is definitely worth the trouble of getting all the way up into the corner of the USA. If you’re a seafood lover, you’ll be in heaven!

    • Naomi Liz August 1, 2017

      Courtney, I highly, highly recommend Maine! 😀 I may be biased because I grew up there, but I like to say that it’s the best of New England wrapped up into one state: rugged coastline with quaint towns AND incredible mountains, lakes, and waterfalls in western Maine (which is my favorite area of the state). But if you like the coast, Acadia is lovely and well worth the trip. I recommend checking out the two peninsulas on either side of Mount Desert Island (where Acadia is)–Schoodic Peninsula and Blue Hill Peninsula (and going down onto the island of Deer Isle and Stonington). Parts of the park that are less visited are in/near these two places, and they’re significantly quieter. And if you’re up for driving, head to the Cutler Bold Coast Trail–it’s absolutely breathtaking! Anyway, I hope you make it there someday.

  • Cliff Hazel Santos July 29, 2017

    I’m interested to see that thunder hole and hear the thunder. You have a great images and I can see that park is really vast compared to parks I know.

    • Kate Storm July 30, 2017

      Interesting you say it seems vast, Cliff, because it’s pretty small by US National Park standards! We definitely do have some massive parks in this country. 🙂

  • Abigail Sinsona July 30, 2017

    Oh yes booking a trip here asap!! It is undeniably beautiful and your photos definitely captured the essence of the park. That view from Cadillac Mountain is insane!! And that lobster roll looks too good to be true!

    • Kate Storm July 30, 2017

      You won’t regret it, Abigail! 🙂

  • Lisa July 30, 2017

    Acadia National Park looks so beautiful! Your photos really capture the nature and its splendour, it makes me want to see it for myself! I love the sound of the lobster roll, and would take mine to eat on Sand Beach. Could I do that?!

    • Kate Storm July 30, 2017

      Haha, it never would have occurred to me to try, but I don’t see why not! Hard to imagine a better place to eat seafood than on a pretty beach.

  • LYNNE SARAO July 30, 2017

    I was lucky enough to visit Arcadia National Park a few years ago and loved every minute of it! Your suggestions are all wonderful and I second the recommendations to eat everything blueberry and try a lobster roll – in fact you should try many lobster rolls! We biked the ring road and it was an incredible experience. Thanks for taking me back!

    • Kate Storm July 30, 2017

      We would love to bike the carriage roads if we go again! No chance this time, but glad you agree that it’s worth taking the time for. 🙂

  • James July 31, 2017

    Arcadia national park looks like it’s worth a visit, I’ve never been to Maine and plan to visit every state in the US so I’ll add it to my itinerary. I love it when the trees are changing colour so will plan my visit for autumn. Thunder Hole sounds interesting, I’d love to hear the thunder, see how loud it is, to look at it reminds me of where they dive in Acapulco.

    • Kate Storm July 31, 2017

      Every national & state park in the US is quite the goal, good luck! I agree with you about the fall–if we go back, I’d like to time our visit for when the leaves are changing.

  • Vicki Louise July 31, 2017

    I’d never heard of Acadia NP before your post! It looks absolutely beautiful – and the view from Cadillac mountain looks like somewhere exotic is south east Asia! I love that the focus is on leisure and that a lobster roll is a staple food – I would definitely be happy here!

    • Kate Storm July 31, 2017

      You’re right, Vicki, the Cadillac Mountain view does kind of have a SEA look to it–I hadn’t thought of it before. Hope you get a chance to visit!

  • Cat July 31, 2017

    There are so many beautiful sites at Acadia National Park! Your list captures them well. I would love to grab a bite of the lobster roll and have a swim at the Sand Beach!

    • Kate Storm August 1, 2017

      You’d be brave to swim at Sand Beach–it’s way too cold for me! It is beautiful enough to be tempting, though.

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