Moody, Magnificent Acadia: 7 Night Travel Itinerary & Guide
Our Acadia National Park 7 day itinerary and guide will help you get to know this national treasure. The park is located on Maine’s Mt. Desert Island and the Schoodic Peninsula. On any given day Acadia’s mountains, forests, and spectacular Atlantic shoreline can ricochet between sun-drenched and mist-covered. Sweeping vistas quickly transform with changeable light, temperature, and precipitation. The only thing predictable about moody Acadia, is that you will be enchanted.
The territory is more than just great looking. The park offers lots to do within a small area. There are hiking and biking trails for all abilities as well as fishing villages, harbors, and scenic drives to enjoy. The sea offers another playground with kayaking, sailing, whale watching, and fishing adventures to experience. There is never a shortage of things to do in Acadia National Park.
Our 7 day Acadia itinerary will introduce you to some of the park's must-see sights at a pace that will leave you feeling rejuvenated by this truly amazing region.
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ACADIA GUIDE / TRAVEL TIPS
Weather: As noted, the weather changes frequently. Dress in layers. Pack bug spray, sunscreen, rain gear, and a hat on all days - no matter the forecast. Wear shoes with good ankle support and tread. Each day check the tide and sunrise/sunset schedules for safety (and the best pictures!).
Entrance Pass & Reservations: Acadia National Park requires an entrance pass that can be purchased online or at park visitor centers (daily or weekly). In addition, vehicle registration is required for the Cadillac Summit Road (end of May through mid-October). Go to nps.gov for park general information and alerts, and recreation.gov to purchase entrance passes or make a vehicle registration.
Transportation: Most people use a personal vehicle to navigate Acadia. Parking lots fill up fast (leave early!). The park offers a fare-free Island Explorer bus service running between lodgings and popular park sights. Go to exploreacadia.com for routes, timetables, and restrictions. Carriage roads are shared by hikers, bikers, and horses. For electric bikes: only Class-1 e-bikes are allowed (no Class-2 or -3).
Lodgings: Mount Desert Island offers many types of accommodations at various price ranges. There are campgrounds, motels, hotels, and houses for rent. Reserve early if booking during the summer season.
Restaurants: Mt. Desert Island offers a surprising array of eateries. There are Thai, Mexican, Irish, Italian, Seafood, and Ale House to name a few. The greatest congregation of restaurants is in Bar Harbor. See our post on Bar Harbor restaurants for more info.
Groceries: There are several small to medium sized grocery stores scattered about the island, and a full-sized Hannaford's Grocery Store in Bar Harbor. For best prices stock up before you arrive on-Island.
7 DAY ACADIA NATIONAL PARK ITINERARY
Day 1: Hull's Cove Visitor Center
Travel day and check-in. After you have explored your lodgings take a trip to the Hulls Cove Visitor Center (Route 3). Hike up 52 steps to the main building. Purchase park entrance/vehicle registration(s) if you did not buy online. Stock up on maps. Learn about the upcoming weather and park alerts.
Day 2: Acadia Park Loop Road, Seal Harbor, and Northeast Harbor
Big day! Leave early. Pack a picnic. Bring your camera. Drive to the Acadia's Cadillac Mountain Entrance. On the Park Loop Road drive to the Sand Beach - Acadia parking lot (rest rooms available). Note: There is overflow parking along the right-hand lane of the road.
ACADIA OCEAN PATH: The itinerary begins with a hike of the Acadia Ocean Path (4-5 mile round trip from Sand Beach to Otter's Point). The wide, flat, family-friendly trail follows one of the most scenic portions of the coastline. The path parallels Acadia Park Loop Road (only a few portions abut the roadway). For long portions of the path you can go off-trail to climb across wide expanses of rock that drop off into the crashing surf. Allow around 3 -4 hours for the hike.
Stop 1 - Sand Beach-Acadia: After parking, follow the stairs down to Sand Beach. Walk the coastline and begin to acclimate to the amazing scenery. Take a few photos before heading back up the stairs. Veer right on the trail and look for the marker denoting the start of the Acadia Ocean Path.
Stop 2 - Thunder Hole-Acadia: Leave the path and descend the stairs to a blow hole where waves crash with a roar. This spot tends to quickly become overcrowded, so enjoy a splash or two and move along.
Stop 3 - Monument Cove: Pass by a small, rocky stretch of coast with striking granite formations.
Stop 4 - Boulder Beach: With care, you can hike down to a cove littered with bowling ball sized rocks worn smooth from the surf.
Stop 5 - Otter Cliff and Point: Reaching the end of the hike you will pass dramatic cliffs that are a favorite of rock climbers. Next, comes Otter Point where you can relax on the rocks. When rested, head back to Sand Beach for a picnic lunch and beach time.
Back in your vehicle, continue on Acadia Park Loop Road. Turn off on Route 3, then begin to veer toward the coast. Drive past scenic Seal Harbor. Eventually, you will reach Northeast Harbor. Park in the lot by the marina. Explore the wharf before walking up the hill to the downtown area where you will find an array of interesting shops and cafes. There is a lovely, low-key pace to this area.
Day 3: Bar Harbor Shore Path, Downtown Bar Harbor, and Bar Island Hike
Early afternoon head to Bar Harbor. Park at the Town Pier. After exploring the waterfront, walk along the wharf by Agamont Park. The Bar Harbor Shore Path begins here. Treading on past the Bar Harbor Inn, round the point and enjoy the path for another .5 miles past cottages, inns, and the dramatic eastern shore.
Next, discover downtown Bar Harbor. This thriving seaside town seems to always be hopping. You can eat, drink, shop - and then, do it all some more! There are great bakeries and coffee shops, bars, restaurants, souvenirs, and stores offering high quality wares.
After shopping, head to Bridge Street. At the end of the road, at low tide, water from the bay disappears and there is a natural land bridge leading to Bar Island (part of the National Park). Cross to Bar Island and trek it's rocky perimeter or hike the hill for spectacular views of Bar Harbor. This hike is especially fun to do at sunset. TIP: Plan your day according to the tides. The land bridge can be crossed within 1.5 hours before/after low tide (or the area floods). Switch the Bar Harbor Shore Path walk and Bar Island hike as needed to accommodate the tides.
Day 4: Explore the Acadia Carriage Roads and Jordan Pond. Sunset at Cadillac Mountain
Take the Acadia Park Loop Road to either Jordan Pond House or Wildwood Stables, and park. The area around Jordan Pond and Wildwood is crisscrossed by Acadia carriage roads, ponds, and National Forest. Pick your morning activity:
Option 1: Hike the Jordan Pond Nature Trail (approx. 1 mile), and offshoots as desired.
Option 2: Rent a pedal or Class-1 e-bike and complete Jordan Pond Carriage Road Loop (approx. 8 miles).
Option 3: Take a horse-drawn wagon ride along the Acadia carriage roads.
Option 4: See our post on biking in Acadia and rent a bike or e-bike for the morning.
Have lunch at the Jordan Pond House and browse the gift shop. Take the afternoon to relax. At sunset, drive to the Acadia Park Loop Road, and turn onto the Cadillac Mountain Summit Road. Explore the summit and enjoy the sunset (or enjoy the eerie stillness of the mountain top while shrouded in fog).
Day 5: Day at Sea. Evening in Bar Harbor
This morning get out on the water. There are tours for every taste and ability. You can ride on a lobster boat, spot seals, bird watch, see lighthouses, or set sail on a schooner. There are also kayaks and paddle boards for rent. If being on the water doesn't appeal to you there are train, trolley, and airplane tours.
Take the afternoon to relax. Spend the evening in downtown Bar Harbor.
Day 6: Road Trip to Schoodic Peninsula and Winter Harbor
Embark upon a road trip to the 'other' Acadia; the forested Schoodic Peninsula. Situated on the mainland, the peninsula is about an hour drive from the Hull's Cove Visitor Center. The Schoodic landscape is similar to Mt. Desert Island, but is less crowded. Its rocky, windblown landscapes somehow feel even more unspoiled. Along the 6 mile, one-way park loop road there are many places to pull off and explore. There are picnic grounds and restrooms within the park.
On the way back to Mt. Desert Island, stop in the fishing village of Winter Harbor. Look back at Bar Harbor from the boat launch at Henry's Cove. There are few small shops, eateries, and a pretty little inn to visit.
Day 7: Morning hike. Afternoon at Sand Beach-Acadia.
Pack a picnic. Leave early for 1.4 mile (2.2 km) morning hike of the Great Head Trail. Following the perimeter of the Great Head peninsula, this moderate trail climbs past pink granite formations for terrific views of Otter Cliffs and Thunder Hole. Park in the Sand Beach lower parking lot. At the far eastern end of Sand Beach, look for stairs at the base of the trailhead.
When you have finished your hike, enjoy Sand Beach. Find a spot at the end of the beach where the tidal pools gather in the shadow of the Beehive Mountain.
Day 8: Travel Day Home
Safe travels home, Laura and Randy
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