Acadia National Park – Tips and Images
Bar Harbor, Maine
Last October, my daughter and I were able to check a place off of our bucket list. Acadia National Park had been on our radar as soon as my daughter moved to New York. We love visiting national parks and Acadia had always seemed so very far away from our west coast home. But, now with a new home base just a long day’s drive from this particular national park, we could make plans to visit during the colorful autumn season.
I purchased a guide book and started doing my research into the Bar Harbor, Maine area before I flew out to meet up with Amanda. There were hikes and viewpoints to work into our schedule. The weather was a factor so we made contingency plans just in case the rains kept us from being outdoors.
These were both very helpful in guiding our plans. Please note these are affiliate links to Amazon.com.
I’ve wanted to share the highlights of our trip for months now and since I have more free time while sheltering in place, the time has finally come to show you the enchanting place called Acadia National Park.
Our drive from New York to Maine was a wet one. We ended up breaking up our travels with a half day drive from Orange County, New York to Portland, Maine and then continuing the next day into Bar Harbor, Maine and the national park.
Since neither of us had been to this part of the world before, making a short stop in Portland gave us the opportunity to explore an interesting area and do a little shopping at the L.L. Bean flagship store. If you get the chance to visit Portland, we highly recommend the L.L. Bean outlet store for some real bargains! We spent most of our time walking around the Old Port, looking in shops, drinking coffee at Bard Coffee, and eating a potato doughnut at Holy Donuts. It was a lot of fun.
The next day we drove up to Mt. Desert Island where Acadia National Park is located. With sprinkles on the windshield and a few colorful trees along the highway, we made our way to the Hull’s Cove Visitor Center. I always like to stop at the visitor center to get our bearings at any new park.
We picked up a map and a bus schedule which was invaluable to our time spent exploring the park. I would like to mention here that this is a free shuttle system and it will take you pretty much anywhere you want to go. The system is easy to figure out and there is a brochure you can pick up at the visitor center to determine which shuttle bus you want to take to reach your destination. We were pretty good at using the shuttle by the time we left.
Since it continued to rain, we opted to visit Jordan Pond and experience the famous popovers served at the Jordan House restaurant. I’m told that on a normal day the wait is LONG to get a table for tea and popovers. They are famous for their popovers which are a pastry they serve with jam and butter. Yum!
But, the combination of being late in the season and the weather made it possible for us to walk right up and be seated at a beautiful spot at the window, looking out over the pond and gardens.
Taking time to experience this treat was a perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon. Before we finished, the weather cleared a bit and we were able to walk down to the pond itself and see the beautiful colors and the reflections in the water. I can imagine that the summertime gardens here are amazing.
We finished off our first day by driving the loop road around the park and back into Bar Harbor where we had hotel reservations. Bar Harbor is a quaint little town and the main streets are lined with lots of cute restaurants and shops. We had dinner at the Peekytoe Provisions. It was a fun atmosphere and delicious food.
The next morning we woke to clearer skies so we jumped on the chance to get out and hike! First stop was breakfast in Bar Harbor at Café This Way. Super delicious! After that, we parked our car and rode the shuttle out to the trail head for the Ocean Path. We decided to walk the Ocean Path from Sand Beach to Otter Point. This trail went along the coast for about 2 miles but you can opt off the path at several spots along the way to shorten your walk by jumping back on the free shuttle.
We stuck it out the whole length of the trail because it was such a great way to see the ocean, the rock features, smell the distinct fragrance of the balsam fir coming from the trees, and just stretch our legs. The path is fairly level and I would recommend it to even beginning hikers. Parts of the trail were a little congested, especially at the Thunder Hole.
We ate our lunch sitting on a rock overlooking the ocean. I was glad we had made a stop at the grocery store in Bar Harbor and put some lunch items in our backpacks. Food always tastes better along the trail!
After our hike, we hopped back on the shuttle bus and went to Sieur du Monts where there is a beautiful native plants garden and spring. From there we took the Jesup Trail and saw the most beautiful autumn color of the whole visit. Sometimes a boardwalk and sometimes a dirt trail, we walked serenely along the trail. The trees are all around you and it’s so peaceful and quiet. We found ourselves in an open space that had a vista of colorful trees. It felt like we were inside a postcard image!
The sky was blue and the trees were varying shades of yellow, orange, burgundy, red, and gold. This is how we imagined a New England autumn!
We soaked in the views and then headed back to our car because we would need it for the next activity on our list. We wanted to experience Cadillac Mountain at sunset and you need to drive up there in your own car. We were told that you need to get there about 1 ½ hours before sunset to get a parking place and I can imagine that in the busier months, this is a nightmare to plan. Again, because we were there in a less popular time of year, we were able to drive up to the top, find a place to park quite easily, and then hike around at the top to take photos. We ended up leaving before sunset but only because it had been a great day already and the crowds up at the top were a little overwhelming. We didn’t want to ruin our good vibe!
We drove back to Bar Harbor and ate dinner at a brewery…pizza and beer after a day outdoors is just what we needed! Then back to the hotel for an early night.
On our last morning, on our way out of the park, we drove out to the Bass Harbor area of Acadia National Park. This is the place to see the iconic lighthouse that you see so many times in advertising and literature for Acadia. It looked just like you would imagine a Maine lighthouse would look like, perched up on the rocky cliffs.
It was a beautiful day and after taking photos at the lighthouse, we decided to hike the Wonderland Trail. Mostly under the trees and eventually ending up at the ocean, this is an easy flat hike with a gorgeous view at the end.
Thus ends our first ever epic trip to Acadia National Park. I was so impressed with the beauty of Maine in general and the variety of things to do and see at the national park. I can see why so many people visit this very out of the way place during the summer to experience the hiking and the beaches. But, if you find yourself with the time to visit in the autumn, the fall color will not disappoint.
We left with great memories but also a feeling that things were left undone as well. But, I always feel that way when leaving a national park.
I will think back on this trip and try to remember the fragrance of the balsam fir and sea air.
Additional Tips and Information
- There is a $20 entrance fee that you need to pay at the visitor’s center. We used our National Parks pass.
- I highly recommend staying in Bar Harbor and taking advantage of the free shuttle that picks you up at the town square. It takes you right into the park and comes frequently.
- If you are hiking in the park, make sure to pack a lunch or snacks!
- I would plan on at least 2 days to get the most out of your visit.
- Take the park loop road at least once, stopping at some of the turn outs to take photos.
- There is camping available in the park and I noted that one of the campgrounds is on the shuttle system.
I invite you to read my other national park entries to inspire your next visit. Make a plan and then make it happen!
You can read more of my national park entries by following these links:
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Redwoods National Park (California)
- Channel Islands National Park(California)
- Death Valley National Park(California)
- Crater Lake National Park (Oregon) .
- Additional Entry for Crater Lake National Park from 2017
- Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)
- Hot Springs National Park (Arkansas)
- Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)
- Great Basin National Park (Nevada)
- Petrified Forest National Park (Arizona)
- Lassen Volcanic National Park (California)
- Joshua Tree National Park (California)
- Saguaro National Park (Arizona)
- Point Reyes National Seashore (California)
- Muir Woods National Monument (California)
- Zion National Park (Utah)
- Weir Farm National Historic Site (Connecticut)
- Pinnacles National Park (California)
- Paterson Great Falls National Historic Site (New Jersey)
- Morristown National Historical Park (New Jersey)
- Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (New Jersey)
- Cabrillo National Monument (California)
- Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)
- Acadia National Park (Maine)