Acadia National Park Itinerary: What to Do and Eat in Acadia National Park in 2-3 Days
Planning to visit Acadia National Park? This sample Acadia National Park Itinerary will show you the best things to do and places to eat in Acadia National Park.
Acadia National Park is a breathtaking destination located on the Atlantic Coastline of Maine, USA.
Established in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson, it was the first national park east of the Mississippi River. Spanning nearly 50,000 acres, Acadia is known as the “Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast”.
It is a nature lover’s paradise with its diverse landscape that includes rugged coastline, beaches, granite mountains, pristine lakes, and dense forests.
Acadia National Park is home to an abundance of wildlife, from moose and deer to peregrine falcons and bald eagles. Acadia National Park also has a rich history, with evidence of human habitation dating back thousands of years.
In this post I will tell you everything you need to know about Acadia National Park and give you a sample itinerary for Acadia National Park.
This blog contains occasional affiliate links, where I receive a small commission on sales of the products/hotels that are linked at no additional cost to you. In addition, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Where is Acadia National Park?
Acadia National Park is located on the east coast of the United State, off the coast of Maine.
It is about 45 miles east of the city of Bangor and 170 miles north east of Portland, Maine. Acadia National Park is actually only about a 130 miles from the border of Canada, so you can imagine how north it is on the US map.
What Are the Regions of Acadia National Park?
Acadia National Park is one of the top 10 most visited national parks to visit in the United States.
Acadia National Park is about 50,000 acres in size, and it consists of a few different areas: Mount Desert Island, Schoodic Peninsula, Isle au Haut, and Outer Islands.
Mount Desert Island
Mount Desert Island is a large island off the coast of Maine. It is where most of Acadia National Park sits.
In particular the east side of Mount Desert Island is the most popular part of Acadia National Park. This is where our itinerary will focus on.
The town of Bar Harbor is also located on the east side of Mount Desert Island.
Schoodic Peninsula is the part of Acadia National Park that is on the mainland of Maine. It is about 4 miles east of Bar Harbor and it accounts to about 5% of Acadia National Park in terms of land mass.
There are a few villages on Schoodic Peninsula as well as a number of hiking trails. Only about 10% of Acadia National Park visitors make it to Schoodic Peninsula.
Isle au Haut
Isle au Haut is accessible by ferry only and it is a remote region of Acadia National Park. There are a few strenuous trails on Isle au Haut that explores the shoreline and hills.
There are a number of islands that are managed by Acadia National Park. These islands are home to communities and villages. You can only visit 2 of the outer islands and a ranger-led tour is needed.
How to Get to Acadia National Park/ What Airport For Acadia National Park?
Most visitors to Acadia National Park fly to one of the two airports near Acadia National Park: Portland International Airport and Bangor International Airport.
Portland International Airport (PWM)
Portland International Airport (not to be confused with the one in Oregon) is the largest public airport in Maine. There are direct flights to Portland from most major cities in the US.
Many visitors choose Portland Airport for Acadia National Park because there are more [direct] flights in and out of this airport and more rental car options as well.
Portland Airport is about 180 miles (290km) from Acadia National Park and it takes about 3 hours to drive from Portland to Acadia National Park.
Bangor International Airport (BGR)
Bangor is a smaller airport located in Maine.
Bangor Airport is about 50 miles (80 km) from Acadia National Park and it takes about 1 hour to drive from Bangor to Acadia National Park.
Since it is a much smaller airport, there are fewer flights and most direct flights are from east coast cities in the US.
Once you land, you will need to pick up a rental car.
Boston to Acadia National Park
If you are located in Boston, you may wonder if you should drive to Acadia National Park from Boston or fly.
Boston is about 275 miles (443 km) from Acadia National Park and it takes 5-6 hours to drive from Boston to Acadia National Park with scenic stops along the way.
Many visitors actually do a full day roadtrip from Boston to Acadia National Park on Route 1. Some of the best stops on the Boston to Acadia National Park include the following:
- Salisbury Beach State Reservation
- York beach & Nubble Light house
Do I Need Reservation or a Park Pass to Visit Acadia National Park?
You need a valid park pass in order to visit Acadia National Park.
There are different passes you can use:
- Acadia Pass (either by vehicle, person, or annual pass)
Since Acadia National Park is a popular national park, there are more and more visitors each year. Therefore they implemented a reservation requirement for Cadillac Summit Road.
There are 2 types of vehicle reservation: sunrise reservation & day time reservation.
- Sunrise reservation: enter from 4am to 6am depending on the months and date. You have a 90 minute entry window
- Daytime reservation starts around 6am-8am (depending on the months and date). You have a 30 minute entry window.
Vehicle reservation is $6 per car and you can only purchase them online in advance. They are not sold at the park. You will need to print a digital copy of this vehicle reservation with the QR code.
This vehicle reservation is in additional to the Park Pass you need.
For 2023, May 24 – June 30, the vehicle reservation will be available for purchase at 10am EST 2 days in advance of the reservation date.
For 2023, July 1 to Oct 22, 30% of the vehicle reservation will be available for purchase 90 days in advance of the reservation date and 70% of the reservation will be available 2 days in advance of the reservation date.
Is Acadia National Park Open Right Now?
Acadia National Park roads and hiking trails are affected by weather, snowfall, road work and infrastructure upgrades.
There are several websites you can use to check current conditions of Acadia National Park to better plan your visit.
Is Acadia National Park Open in the Winter?
Acadia National Park is open in the winter, but with very limited vehicle access. Some of the most popular roads are only open for vehicles from April 15 to December 1 and most unpaved roads are open from May 15 to November 15.
But if you are not driving then these roads are open to recreational uses like on snowmobiles and bicycles.
Many campgrounds, picnic areas, beaches and visitor facilities are only open from early or mid May to mid October.
You can certainly visit Acadia National Park in the winter but you will not be able to do much.
So…What Is the Best Time to Visit Acadia National Park?
The best time to visit Acadia National Park is from mid May to mid October when roads, trailheads, beaches and campgrounds are open.
Most people visit Acadia National Park from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend. But having gone to Acadia National Park both during Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day Weekend, I can attest that the weather is quite chilly at night and early morning.
Keep in mind that since most people go to Acadia National Park in the summer months and most people stay in the town of Bar Harbor, hotels there get booked up very fast and prices can be expensive.
Foliage season in October is another great time to visit Acadia National Park. But weather can be chilly in October so make sure you pack enough layers.
I recommend you book hotels as soon as possible. I remember we had trouble finding a moderately priced hotel in Bar Harbor the first time we visited during Labor Day weekend because we were too last minute.
How Many Days Do You Need for Acadia National Park?
You need at least two full days to see and experience Acadia National Park. If you are flying into Portland instead of Bangor, you should consider adding at least 1 more day since it takes 3 hours to drive from Portland to Acadia National Park.
2 Days in Acadia National Park means you can bike around the park, explore 1 to 2 short hiking trails, drive to the various view points and beaches in Acadia National Park and maybe have a few hours to walk around Bar Harbor, the town you will most likely be staying in.
If you have 3 days in Acadia National Park, you will be able to do more hikes, see the famous lighthouse, do a boat tour and potentially drive back to Portland (and stop by the famous Reds Eats for lobster roll along the way!)
If you have 4 or 5 days in Acadia National Park, you can check out the west side of Mount Desert Island and venture out to Schoodic Peninsula for hiking and avoid the crowd.
Detailed Acadia National Park Itinerary
2 to 3 Days in Acadia National Park Itinerary Overview
Day 1 in Acadia National Park: Bike on the Carriage Roads, Jordan Pond, Bass Harbor Lighthouse for Sunset
Day 2 in Acadia National Park: Cadillac Mountain Sunrise, Hike, Explore Park Loop Road
[Optional] Day 3 in Acadia National Park: Explore Bar Harbor, Boat Cruise, Drive to Portland
Day 1 in Acadia National Park
Start your first day in Acadia National Park bright and early as we will be exploring a lot of the park on the east side of Mount Desert Island today.
Renting a Bicycle from Bar Harbor
Today you will be exploring Acadia National Park on a bike! Biking is one of the most popular things to do in Acadia National Park.
Most of the bicycle rentals are in Bar Harbor, the large town closest to Acadia National Park. Some of the bike rentals in Bar Harbor include:
- Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop
- Acadia Bike Rentals
- Alpenglow Adventure Sports
The bike shops usually give you a map and tell you the different biking routes in Acadia National Park.
Explore the Carriage Roads on Bike
There are different routes you can bike on in Acadia National Park. Some biking routes are harder and longer than others in Acadia National Park.
Some of the biking routes in Acadia National Park include the following:
- Eagle Lake Loop: 5.9 mile loop around Eagle Lake
- Tri Lakes Loop: 10.9 miles to see Eagle Lake, Bubble Pond and Jordan Pond
- Jordan Pond Loop: 8.6 miles around Jordan Pond, starting at Jordan Pond House (you can park your car in the Jordan Pond Parking and bike from there)
- Around the Mountain Loop: 11.3 mile loop around Penobscot Mountain and the west side of Jordan Pond
There are a couple of other routes you can bike on but they do not go through Jordan Pond.
I biked twice in Acadia National Park and had different experiences. The first time I visited I did not read the map properly and edited up doing a very long loop up the mountain (and saw Jordan Pond and Eagle Lake). It was very strenuous with a lot of steep uphills.
The second time I biked in Acadia National Park I just biked around Jordan Pond which took about 2 hours and it was relatively flat with a few uphill rides going counterclockwise.
Explore Jordan Pond
One of the most famous attraction in Acadia National Park is the Jordan Pond.
Jordan Pond is a glacier formed tarn located inside Acadia National Park. If you are biking down Carriage Road you will (hopefully) eventually reach Jordan Pond.
There are man-made walking path built around Jordan Pond for visitors to walk around and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
The walking trail also can turn into a hiking trail called The Shore Trail.
There is also a restaurant near Jordan Pond called the Jordan Pond House, the only restaurant inside Acadia National Park. If you are hungry from your hiking and bike rides then be sure to stop by this restaurant (and souvenir shop).
Dinner at Thurstons
Watching Sunset in Acadia National Park
If you are a photographer or simply want to enjoy the natural beauty of Acadia National Park then you will love watching the sunset there.
Bass Harbor Lighthouse is about an hour drive from Acadia National Park and it is also located really close to the restaurant Thurston mentioned above.
However, you should aim to get to Bass Harbor Lighthouse at least an hour before sunset because parking is crazy there.
Day 2 in Acadia National Park
Start your 2nd day of Acadia National Park adventure really early because you will be going up Cadillac Mountain for sunrise.
Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain
When I went to Cadillac Mountain a few years ago, there was no reservation needed and we could go up multiple times a day although it was kind of crowded.
Many people go to Cadillac Mountain for sunrise and that is why reservation is very hard to get for sunrise tickets.
If you do not want to wake up early or you do not have vehicle reservation for sunrise, don’t worry, sunset there is pretty awesome too! We actually drove up for sunset and I was pretty impressed by the view.
Hike a couple of trails in Acadia National Park
Hiking is a popular activity in Acadia National Park as there are more than 150 miles of hiking trails in the park. The trails cover rugged coastlines, beautiful mountain tops and lush forests.
My personal favorite hike is the North Bubble Hike. It’s a very short hike that takes about 20-30 minutes but the view is really stunning! There is a much longer hike called the South Bubble Loop that is quite popular as well.
Two other popular hikes at Acadia National Park is the Beehive Trail and the Bowl Trail. I personally did the Bowl Trail which was 1.3 miles long.
The Bowl Trail actually connected with the Beehive Trail at the summit so you end up with the same view. The Beehive Trail is more thrilling with rock scrambling and exposed cliffs. If you are scared of heights it might not be a good idea to do the Beehive Trail.
Other popular hikes in Acadia National Park include the following:
- Jordan Cliffs Loop: 5 miles to see panoramic view of mountains and Jordan Pond
- Cadillac South or North Ridge Trail that takes 2-4 hours each and have a sweeping view of the surrounding areas
- Precipice Trail: 2.5 miles of steep climb (including iron rungs) to reach the summit of Champlain Mountain
- Bald Peak and Parkman Mountain Loop: 2.7 mile hike to the top of two mountains with view of Somes Sound and Northeast Harbor.
- Pemetic Mountain Loop: 4 mile hike that includes a scenic pond, panoramic view, scrambling and climbing on iron rungs/ ladders. If you want a hike that has everything this would be a good choice
Drive the Park Loop Road & go to the beach and other view points
Did you know that there is a small beach in Acadia National Park? It’s called Sand Beach, accessible via the Park Loop Road.
Sand Beach is a small but family friend beach accessible via the Park Loop Road.
During the summer months families go to Sand Beach to tan and relax. But since Sand Beach is very popular if you go later during the day you won’t be able to find parking.
Another notable view point along Park Loop Road is Thunder Hole.
Thunder Hole is a naturally formed inlet that makes a thunder sound when the right conditions are met.
Otter Cliff is another area right by the Park Loop Road that’s beautiful and easy to visit and great for sunsets.
There is plenty of parking near Otter Cliff but I do recommend that you go around sunset time since most people would have left by then. You can actually walk on the “cliffs” just be careful to not be too close to the edge.
Star Gazing in Acadia National Park
Sunsets are always beautiful but so are the stars. Since Acadia National Park is so far from light pollution, on a clear night you can see all the stars and even the Milky Way.
You don’t actually need to go too far to watch the stars in Acadia National Park but personally I watched the stars from Cadillac Mountain. We watched the sunset there, went to eat dinner then drove back to Cadillac Mountain with our tripods. (I am not sure if you need the vehicle reservation if you want to go up late at night).
It does get pretty cold at night in Acadia National Park even in the summer, so if you are planning to watch the stars then make sure you bring enough layers, gloves, etc. Also check the weather forest before hand since you won’t be able to see anything if it’s cloudy!
Day 3 in Acadia National Park
After spending 2 full days in Acadia National Park exploring the hiking trails, view points and ponds, you can spend the last day of your 3 day Acadia National Park itinerary to relax in Bar Harbor and potentially drive back to Portland.
Bar Harbor is the closest town to Acadia National Park and it is where most people stay and dine.
Bar Harbor itself is very charming, it has a rich history dating back to the late 1800s when it became a popular summer resort for families in the US.
Bar Harbor has a cute downtown area filled with shops, restaurants, and galleries. You can stroll along the waterfront and take in the beautiful views of Frenchman Bay or explore the town’s historic architecture, which includes many beautiful Victorian-era homes.
One of the top attractions in Bar Harbor is the Abbe Museum, which celebrates the history and culture of Maine’s indigenous Wabanaki people. The museum features a collection of artifacts, exhibits, and interactive displays that provide insight into the region’s native history and culture.
Other places to check out in Bar Harbor include the Balance Rock, Agamont Park, Village Green, and the Bar Harbor Shore Path.
Boat Tour, Kayaking, SUP from Bar Harbor
A popular activity in Bar Harbor is whale watching and boat excursions. You can take a scenic cruise around Frenchman Bay.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can actually do a kayaking tour or rent a kayak, canoe or stand up paddle boarding yourself to explore the coastline in the summer months.
There are many whale watching, boat tour and kayaking/ SUP rental companies in Bar Harbor and you can easily find them on Google Maps.
What to Eat in Acadia National Park & Bar Harbor
One thing I really enjoyed was the food around Acadia National Park. Since we went to Acadia National Park twice we were really able to try all the different places around Acadia National Park so I can recommend you the restaurants we really liked.
Keep in mind that food does take a while to be served, so plan your day/ meals accordingly.
Best Lobster/ Lobster Roll near Acadia National Park
I can go on forever about how amazing and cheap the lobsters are in Maine. There are a number of places I’d recommend for Lobsters/Lobster rolls near Acadia National Park:
Eagle’s Nest Restaurant
This compact joint is near Bangor Airport.
Their lobster roll is pretty fresh and tasty and comes in good portion size. They also have these combo meals like fried shrimp and fried scallops. If you are landing in Bangor, definitely should stop by
Best Brunch Near Acadia National Park
2 Cats is a bed & breakfast but serves brunch. It is probably the best brunch place in Bar Harbor. We had to stop ourselves from going everyday.
Their specialty is probably anything blueberry related (pancake, muffins, etc). Other breakfast items are equally as amazing.
Go early as the line is usually an hour after 10am and then food takes another hour to come out but it’s worth the wait.
Other Food Near Acadia National Park
Side Street Cafe: It’s a pretty popular restaurant near Acadia. We had to wait for about an hour while the BBQ restaurant next door was empty.
They have all sort of food, from steamed lobster to pasta to sandwiches. Food was ok but the desserts are to die for. We had the blueberry pie with ice cream and this amazingly rich Chocolate bread pudding with ice cream. They also have a few blueberry flavored drinks that were really good.
Where to Stay in Acadia National Park?
Most visitors stay in the town of Bar Harbor a few minutes away from Acadia National Park on the east side of Mount Desert Island.
Bar Harbor has a lot of restaurants, shops and accommodation. But since most people visit Acadia National Park during the peak summer months, accommodations in Bar Harbor do get expensive and get booked up fast, especially during holiday weekends of Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day weekend.
Another thing to keep in mind is that accommodations in Acadia National Park are generally in smaller Inns and Motels. You will not find large chain hotels like the Hiltons in Bar Harbor.
You should book your accommodation in Bar Harbor early to avoid disappointments.
Other Interesting Questions You May Have on Acadia National Park
Are there bears in Acadia National Park?
There are black bears in Acadia National Park, but they are not frequently seen by visitors. You generally do not need to worry about bear encounter in Acadia National Park.
Can you fly a drone in Acadia National Park?
Drones are banned in Acadia National Park. Do not even bring one with you.
Are there cellular signals in Acadia National Park?
Signals are very spotty in Acadia National Park. It is best you download offline map as well as take a photo of park maps when you enter the park. At some locations in the park (like on the hiking trails or near the water) there is probably no signal.
Alternatively you can download the National Park Service App and use the interactive maps on the app.
Are there any guided tours in Acadia National Park?
Is Acadia National Park Kids Friendly?
Acadia National Park is kids friendly. We saw many families biking with kids and exploring the easy trails in the park and at the beach.
If you have young kids you may be limited in the hikes you can do with them, but spending a couple of days in the park with kids just sightseeing and driving around is very do-able.
Final Thoughts on 2-3 Days in Acadia National Park Itinerary
Acadia National Park is a truly beautiful and relaxing place, that is why we kept going back there. There is just a little bit of everything for everyone.
I do recommend that you at least spend 3 days in Acadia National Park since it is so remote (takes a while to access), has so much to offer and there are so many amazing restaurants and food options. If you have more time in Acadia National Park or in Maine in general I do recommend that you also visit Portland!
Is Acadia National Park worth visiting? Definitely yes! Acadia National Park has amazing hiking trails, driving tours, and delicious lobster rolls. Even if you are not a lobster fan, there are also good crabs and blueberries here.
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