Exploring Acadia and Bar Harbor

During the summer of 2021, Teddy and I spent a week traveling through New England. One of the top stops on our trip was to Acadia National Park. Neither of us had been here before, so this was a new National Park for both of us. It’s my 36th and Teddy’s 12th. We both have a goal to getting to all 50 states as well as all of the National Parks. There’s a total of 63 parks currently, but they continue to be added. These four have been added since 2018 – New River Gorge, Indiana Sand Dunes, White Sands, and Gateway Arch.

Where to Stay:

We stayed in Ellsworth, Maine at a Hampton Inn. It’s about 30 minutes outside of Bar Harbor. While we would have loved to stay in Bar Harbor, we didn’t book as far in advance to be able to stay somewhere within our budget so the options left were quite expensive or not necessarily what we were looking for.

If you are booking a few months out, I created an AirBnb list of places I’ve looked at staying that you can check out here. They range in price and accommodations so you’ll see a variety of options.

Other Hotels:

  • Inn on Mount Desert
  • Atlantic Oceanside Hotel
  • Ivy Manor Inn
  • Claremont Hotel

Campgrounds:

  • Blackwoods Campground
  • Seawall Campground
  • Wildwood Stables Campground
  • Duck Harbor Campground

When choosing a place to stay, consider where you plan to spend time during the day or in the morning and plan accordingly. If you are looking for more budget friendly options, staying toward Ellsworth or other towns off the island are going to be a bit less expensive.

Where to Watch Sunrise:

One of the things we really wanted to do in Acadia was watch the sunrise. The most popular place to watch sunrise is in Cadillac Mountain. From October through March, this is the first place to see the sunrise in the US. Because we were there in the summer, and because our hotel was about an hour from the mountain, we opted for not booking reservations for the sunrise on the mountain. We instead booked our timed entry a bit after sunrise and watched sunrise instead in Bar Harbor at the Shore Path. It was totally empty and we had the path to ourselves. There were so many different spots to watch the sunrise over the bay and I thought it was a beautiful spot.

Other popular places to watch sunrise:

  • Otter Point
  • Thomson Island
  • Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse
  • Schooner Head Overlook

Keep in mind that if you plan to watch sunrise, you will want to get to your spot about 30-60 minutes prior. And if you’re visiting in the prime season over the summer, prepare for there to be a good amount of people wherever you are.

Shore Path in Bar Harbor
Shore Path in Bar Harbor
Top of Cadillac Mountain

Hiking:

There are so many different hikes in Acadia. My favorite way to check out what hikes I want to do is by using the All Trails App. You can search your location and use filters to determine where you’d like to hike.

From the more popular hikes, if you’re looking for something easy, the Ocean Path is a great option and gives you access to a variety of spots like Thunder Hole and Otter Cliff. If you’re looking for something more moderate, check out the Bubbles Trail, the Jordon Pond Loop, or the Gorham Mountain Loop. These are all a bit more of a climb but have great views. And if you’re into something difficult and don’t mind ladders or rock scrambling, check out the very well known Beehive Trail, Precipice Trail, or Ladder Trail. They are sure to be an adventure.

Cadillac Mountain

Scenic Drive:

Park Loop Road – This is the most popular drive through the park with the most incredible views along its 27 miles. It was designed by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in response to the amount of cars coming to the Island. He designed it to go around the outside of the park so the carriage roads in the interior would be undisturbed (more on those below). Park Loop Road was known as “Rockefeller’s Four Million Dollar Road” by locals when it was being developed.

Eating

We had breakfast and coffee from Coffee Hound in downtown Bar Harbor and sat on a bench in town to eat it. The coffee was some of the best I’ve had while traveling and the breakfast sandwich hit the spot. They also have cookies, muffins, and other pastries which looked incredible.

After we visited the Bass Harbor Lighthouse, we stopped at Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound which was nearby. They had yard games, picnic tables, and incredible food. This was one of my favorite meals while traveling in all of 2021.

Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound
Lobster Roll & Lobster Mac and Cheese
Giant Yard Games

Other Things to Do:

Bass Harbor Light House – This lighthouse is a beautiful place to watch the sunset. You go down a wooden walkway to big rocks and can climb your way a bit into the water to check out the lighthouse from the bottom.

Path to the Lighthouse
Bass Harbor Lighthouse

Sand Beach – A 300 yard or so sandy beach with pretty cold water along Park Loop Road but with beautiful views.

Explore Bar Harbor – Initially named Eden in the 1700s, this town is great spot for grabbing coffee, a meal, doing some shopping, or crossing the sandbar at the end of Bridge Street.

Downtown Bar Habor

Jordon Pond House – If you’re prepared for the wait, you can stop here for tea and popovers with strawberry jam. Lines even when you get there early can be over an hour, so plan accordingly.

Carriage Roads – Not only is a carriage ride in a National Park just a super cool thing to do, but the architecture of the bridges you will cross over are beautiful. There was a point in the early 1900s that cars were banned on the island, which is around when the 45 miles of carriage roads began to be built.

Carriage Road View from Below

Thunder Hole – This is a fissure in the granite cliff and when the surf is high you can hear a loud thundering noise accompanied by water spraying in the air.

Thunder Hole

1 Day Itinerary:

If you only have one day in the park like we did, here’s our recommendation –

  • Watch Sunrise from Shore Path
  • Get a timed entry to Cadillac Mountain for right after sunrise
  • Grab breakfast and coffee back in Bar Harbor
  • Drive the Park Loop Road and pick 1-2 short hikes
  • Drive down to Bass Harbor Lighthouse and go out on the rocks to see the lighthouse from below
  • Grab a late lunch at Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound
  • Check out bar harbor further for shopping or seeing the sights and grab dinner
  • Go back into the park for an evening hike or to watch the sunset

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