Acadia National Park 3 Day Itinerary
Northern Maine’s Acadia National Park is well known for its astonishing beauty and extensive array of outdoor activities. The park encompasses about 50,000 acres of lush forest, glacial lakes, soaring mountains, and miles of spectacular coastline. Our Acadia National Park 3 Day Itinerary will help you get organized to fit-in all the fun.
Acadia is one of the most visited US National Parks for good reason. Part of area’s charm is that there are things to do in Acadia National Park for all ages and abilities. Visitors can drive the Acadia Park Loop Road, or walk it on the Acadia Ocean Path. Travelers can park in lots and visit attractions like Thunder Hole and Jordan Pond, or be alone on hundreds of miles of hiking trails and carriage roads that are closed to motorized traffic (except class 1 e-bikes).
In this post, we have organized some of Mt. Desert Island’s best attractions into a well-paced 3-day Acadia National Park itinerary. For other ideas of what to visit in the region, refer to our post on Acadia National Park Things To Do.
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BEST TIME TO VISIT ACADIA NATIONAL PARK
Acadia National Park is a four-season vacation destination. Summer is glorious, but the crowds are at their peak. The winter season brings hikers and cross-country skiers. In these months, park attendance is much lower due to the harsh climate and freezing temperatures. In spring, many carriage roads and hiking trails are closed because of mud and refurbishment. We recommend September as the ideal month to experience Acadia, with the first two-weeks of June and October as close runners-up.
WHERE TO STAY ON A VISIT TO ACADIA NATIONAL PARK
For a trip to Acadia, we recommend staying on the Mt. Desert Island portion of the park. There are several charming fishing villages to use as a base of operations on Mt. Desert Island. Seal Harbor, Northeast Harbor, and Southwest Harbor all have great restaurant and lodging options. Acadia National Park camping opportunities for RVs and tents can also be found at Seawall and Blackwoods Campgrounds. These are solid options if you prefer a lowkey environment without much nightlife or hustle and bustle.
Our first choice for lodging on a trip to Acadia is Bar Harbor. The town is a pleasing mix of wharfs, green space, sea shanties, and gilded-age mansions. Although it can get quite crowded in peak months, Bar Harbor’s abundance of good food, nightlife, shopping, and hotels, combined with its proximity to park attractions, make it a great compliment to the beauty of Acadia.
ACADIA NATIONAL PARK 3 DAY ITINERARY
Day 1: Acadia Park Loop Road & Ocean Path. Bar Harbor Shore Path. Paddy’s Irish Pub.
Today will be a full day of sightseeing; roughly equal parts driving and walking. Begin with a stop at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center at the entrance to Acadia National Park. At Hulls Cove you can purchase park entry passes, make reservations for the Cadillac Mountain summit, stock up on Acadia National Park maps, and learn about the latest alerts, weather advisories, and programs.
Next, head to the 27-mile Acadia Park Loop Road. This paved (mostly) one-way road winds past some of the Acadia’s most well-known attractions. Note: you will want to bring water and snacks as there are few places to purchase concessions within the park. Also, have a paper park map handy as cell service is poor.
The first attraction to stop at is Sand Beach – Acadia. Park in the lot and walk the sandy beach. Then, find the entrance to the Acadia Ocean Path. The gravel path roughly parallels the Acadia Park Loop Road. The portion of the Acadia Ocean Path we will walk takes you past some of the loveliest vistas in the park (3-mile roundtrip). The walk includes:
Sand Beach – Acadia: (Begin hike) A gorgeous sandy beach surrounded by granite cliffs and long grasses.
Thunder Hole – Acadia: (.7 miles) A blowhole that makes a thunderous clap when the incoming tide hits a granite inlet on the shore. A staircase leads to a viewing platform above the cove.
Monument Cove – Acadia: (.9 miles) A boulder strewn beach with a dramatic granite tower.
Otter Cliffs – Acadia: (1.5 miles) A 110-foot high section of coastal cliff that is a favorite with rock climbers, hikers, and photographers. Otter Cliffs is a spectacular spot to take in the coastal views.
After snapping a few photos at Otter Cliffs, retrace your step back to the car. Rejoin the Acadia Park Loop Road until reaching a major intersection (just after Wildwood Stables) that will lead you to Route 3/Northeast Harbor (leaving the Acadia Park Loop Road).
Enjoy a leisurely drive through Seal Harbor. A bit down the road, stop in Northeast Harbor to walk the marina and the Main Street area. Back in your vehicle, drive the coast until linking back up with the Acadia Park Loop Road (Route 3 to 233). At the conclusion of this drive, you will have seen a major portion (about half) of the Mt. Desert Island coast.
If you are staying in Bar Harbor, return to town and have lunch with a view of the harbor at Stewman’s Lobster Pound (35 West Street). Then, return to your lodging for a well-deserved break. Later, ready for an evening in Bar Harbor, Maine.
Begin your exploration of Bar Harbor with a walk of the waterfront and Town Pier. At Agamont Park, look for the Bar Harbor Shore Path (.5-miles). Walk the path past reinvented gilded-age mansions and Frenchman Bay. After retracing your steps, head to Paddy’s Irish Pub for food, drinks, and music.
Day 2: Boat Cruise or Carriage Road Wagon Ride. Shop Bar Harbor. Cadillac Mountain Sunset.
On Day 2 see the magnificent Maine coast from the water. There are many tours that originate in Bar Harbor. We suggest choosing one of these well-established Mt. Desert Island cruises:
Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company – See fin, humpback, and minke whales aboard a high-tech catamaran. The season runs roughly May to October.
Lulu Lobster Boat – Offers 2-hour cruises on a traditional down east Maine – style lobster boat.
Schooner Margaret Todd – Sail aboard a tall ship from Frenchman Bay to the Bass Harbor Lighthouse.
If you are not a sailor, try a different kind of adventure. Wildwood Stables in the Acadia National Park offers horse-drawn carriage rides through an extensive network (45-miles) of Acadia Carriage Roads. This is a popular outing, so make reservations ahead.
Later in the afternoon, head to downtown Bar Harbor. Have lunch at Geddy’s Seafood Restaurant (Main Street). Then shop the area located between Main, Mt. Desert, Redick, and West Streets. This is a great neighborhood to shop for gifts for home.
As the afternoon wans, walk to the Bar Harbor Inn. At the Oasis Club Lounge, grab a table and enjoy a cocktail where the Vanderbilts, Morgans, and Pulitzer’s once did. Order a glass of wine and a few of the locally-inspired appetizers while listening to live piano music. Or, move outside onto the balcony and bask in views of Frenchman Bay.
End Day 2 with a trip to the summit of Cadillac Mountain at sunset (reservations required May-October). Cadillac Mountain is the highest peak in Acadia National Park. Drive the 3.5-mile summit road, and then walk the paths that crisscross the summit. Find a place to spread a blanket and settle in to watch the sky become a kaleidoscope of color.
Day 3: Breakfast at Jordan’s Restaurant. E bike ride or hike the Jordan Pond Carriage Roads.
Begin the day with breakfast at Jordan’s Restaurant (80 Cottage Street). The family-style restaurant is revered for its all-day breakfast.
Next, rent e-bikes (Class 1) in Bar Harbor, and have the bike shop assist you to plan a route that takes you from the shop into the park. Once in the park, you can do a loop taking in Eagle Lake and Jordan Pond. Depending on the roads you chose, the loop will be around 12-15 miles.
Once you leave public roads and enter the Acadia carriage road system, you will only encounter horses, walkers, and bikes (pedal and Class 1 e-bikes). No motorized vehicles are allowed on the sloping gravel roads. At the Jordan Pond House, stop to visit the giftshop and enjoy a signature warm popover with jam in the onsite restaurant.
If you would prefer to let someone else do the planning and navigating, there are many bike and e-bike Acadia carriage road tours that leave from the Bar Harbor region.
If you are not a biker, spend your day in Acadia National Park hiking outdoors. Drive the Acadia Park Loop Road to the Sand Beach – Acadia parking lot. Search for seashells on the beach, then walk on the rocks (.7 miles) to Thunder Hole. When you tire of watching the blowhole, take the Acadia Ocean Path back to your vehicle.
Next, travel on to the Jordan Pond House complex. Here, you can hike the Jordan Pond Nature Trail (1-mile loop) or Jordan Pond Shore Trail (3.3-mile loop). There are also canoes available to rent. Before departing, have lunch or afternoon tea at the Jordan Pond Restaurant. There is a parking lot onsite.
Acadia will call you back, again. Until next time, Laura and Randy
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