Our favorite summer tradition is camping in Maine, and this guide to Acadia National Park will tell you everything you need to know!
Every summer, we invite a group of friends to spend a weekend away in nature. We stay in tents, go hiking, have campfires, relax in hammocks, and just enjoy each other’s company.
Our trip to Acadia is something I look forward to every year. Acadia has become one of my favorite destinations in New England (almost tied with Vermont!). There are so many fun activities, and every year it gets better and better.
Here's how to have a fabulous weekend getaway in Acadia National Park. This travel guide to Acadia National Park includes campground information, epic hikes, gluten-free food, and the best spots for stargazing!
The Ultimate Guide to Acadia National Park
- The Ultimate Guide to Acadia National Park
- About Maine
- About Acadia National Park
- Where To Stay in Acadia
- Activities in Acadia
- Places of Interest in Acadia National Park
- Bar Harbor, Maine - Acadia's neighboring town
- Gluten-Free Options in Bar Harbor, Maine
- Final Thoughts on this Guide To Acadia National Park
Maine is a beautiful state and the region of Acadia is stunning. If you haven't been here, you need to add it to your bucket list.
Maine is the biggest state in New England, with over 3,000 miles of beaches and more than 15 million acres of land! The beauty here is breathtaking and not to be missed, especially if you enjoy the outdoors. While Maine can be enjoyed year-round, I find the summer, especially in Acadia, to be the most magical of all.
About Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park is an extremely popular destination in New England. There are very few national parks on the east coast and only one in New England. It’s visited by more than three million people every year. Acadia was established in 1916 and was the first national park east of the Mississippi River. The name comes from the Algonquin who called the area Acadia for thousands of years.
Acadia is a unique national park due to its juxtaposition of the woods right along the coastline on Mount Desert Island. You get to enjoy the waves and beaches as well as the woods and quiet forests. The mountains are not that tall, making the hikes manageable, and the weather while hot during the day usually cools off at night.
You will need a National Park’s Annual Pass to enter Acadia or will have to pay the entrance fee of $30 per vehicle. We always invest in a National Parks pass for any years we are taking trips within the USA and visiting national parks. However, you can also buy an Annual Pass to just Acadia if you plan to visit Maine regularly.
For more information on entrance fees to Acadia, click here.
How To Get To Acadia
Acadia National Park is located on Mount Desert Island, Maine. It takes between 4-5 hours from the Boston area to drive to Acadia National Park and is roughly 275 miles of driving.
We spend a weekend every summer from Friday - Sunday. Normally, our friends try and carpool to save on gas. We leave early Friday morning, and always stop in Portland for brunch or lunch, or grab donuts from The Holy Donut! If you haven’t tried them, they are a must and one of my favorite stops for gluten-free food on the Seacoast of Maine!
By early to mid-afternoon on Friday, we arrive at our campsite, get set up, and still have time to explore or do a short hike before making dinner. We have one full day in Acadia on Saturday, then head home Sunday around lunchtime.
Getting around in Acadia is easy - you can drive your car and park at the trailhead parking lots (go early, they fill up fast!) or use the free bus system within the park. Pickup locations are all over and it runs fairly often. Make sure to visit the Visitor’s Center at Hulls Cove to get a map, learn more about the park, and find excellent things to do. They also have their own additional guide to Acadia National Park that can be useful.
Further information on getting to Acadia can be found here.
Where To Stay in Acadia
While AirBnB's and hotels will be pricey, especially in the summer (peak season), you can get a much more reasonable rate by camping.
We stay in Blackwoods Campground, which is within Acadia National Park. The campgrounds cost $60 per night. When divided up among a large group of people, it usually costs $10-$12 per person for two nights. There is also another campground called Seawall Campground, within the park.
People in the group usually carpool to save gas and money, and we all divide meals so no one has to do all the cooking or prep work. Everyone brings their choice of beverages and any other snacks or s’mores supplies, and we have a great time! There are plenty of trees to set up hammocks and relax in the breeze.
Activities in Acadia
Hikes In Acadia National Park
There are lots of hiking opportunities in Acadia, and these are our top picks! More information on hikes in Acadia can be found here.
Cadillac is the highest point in Acadia National Park. For a short time every year, it’s the first place in the US to see the sunrise.
Whether you choose to hike Cadillac in the daytime or for an epic sunrise, it’s worth the climb. At only 1,527 feet, it’s a popular hike in the park. If you’d rather not hike Cadillac, you have the option to drive up to the top. There are parking lots and plenty of walking space on the summit with 360-degree views all around.
We’ve hiked Cadillac on the South Ridge Trail from Blackwoods Campground because it’s super easy and we don’t have to drive anywhere. It’s also a very gradual hike.
Length: 7 miles (loop)
Elevation Gain: 1350 feet
The Beehive is one of my favorite hikes. It’s got thrills that include climbing up granite steps, using metal rungs built into the rock, and living a bit on the edge.
After hiking Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park during our road trip honeymoon, I’m convinced that nothing can be as scary as that. We’ve hiked the Beehive twice and it doesn’t scare me at all. However, if you have a fear of heights, be warned - it’s a lot of scrambling and you’re very exposed.
The hike up the Beehive Trail doesn’t take long and provides you gorgeous views at the top of Sand Beach and the surrounding islands in Acadia. You can return via the Bowl Trail on the way back. Park at Sand Beach and walk over to the trailhead to begin this hike.
Length: 2 miles (loop)
Elevation Gain: 450 feet
Precipice Trail to Champlain Mountain
Dylan originally wanted to do this hike the first year we came to Acadia in 2016. We ran out of time. Unfortunately, every year since, there have been peregrine falcon nesting there, and the trail was closed in both 2017 and 2018.
This year we visited Acadia a bit later in the summer (August), and the trail was OPEN! We were so happy we finally hiked the Precipice Trail to Champlain Mountain!
Here's a video of the hike on the Precipice Trail!
The hike is similar to the Beehive with a lot of rock scrambling, exposed rock, ladder rungs, and thrills. It’s not for the faint of heart or those with a fear of heights. It’s a bit on the challenging side, so be prepared!
You can park right at the parking area for The Precipice Trailhead or along the roadway on Park Loop Road in designated areas. You can then make this a loop hike by returning down the Black Bear Path.
Length: 2.6 miles total (loop)
Elevation Gain: 850 feet
Gorham Mountain Trail
This is another popular trail in Acadia is the Gorham Trail. All of the hikes in Acadia provide such beautiful views of the ocean along with the forests, you’ll never get tired of seeing them side by side.
This hike is an easy one and won’t take you very long. The elevation isn’t too bad and there are even wild blueberry bushes along the mountain! You can also complete this hike by parking at Gorham Mountain Parking Lot or by Thunder Hole (more on that below).
Length: 2 miles (loop)
Elevation Gain: 500 feet
Bubble Rock & Jordan Pond
Jordan Pond is a special spot in Acadia that is adjacent to both North and South Bubble trails. This hike is short and does have a little bit of scrambling to it, but manageable for anyone and the rewards are well worth it.
There’s a special parking lot for the Bubble Rock area, but be sure to get there early. We tried hiking them last year on a Sunday morning, and the lot was completely full by 10:00 AM.
Length: 1-2 miles (loop, depends on the trail you use)
Elevation Gain: 250-500 feet total
Places of Interest in Acadia National Park
Make sure to visit Thunder Hole at high tide to get the full experience! It’s a rocky inlet with big waves and a thunderous sound. There are rocks you can climb, or stairs to go down and possibly get wet standing close to the waves. It’s a .7 mile walk from Sand Beach parking lot and beautiful around dusk. Thunder Hole is also a great spot for stargazing.
Sand Beach is the perfect small beach spot in Acadia for a swim (if you can brave the freezing temperatures!), a picnic, or a spot to relax with a book. You can walk around the beach, or even into the woods nearby there are trails, rocks, and other lookout points.
Stargazing & Bonfires
My favorite part of visiting Acadia are the campfires and nighttime skies. It’s the perfect way to hang with our friends, tell funny stories, and roast s’mores, while enjoying the peaceful sound of the ocean below the stars.
If you are able to walk down to the beach/rock area on Shore Road at night time, the stars are magnificent. We’ve seen shooting stars, satellites, and even the most incredible moonrise during a full moon one summer.
Bar Harbor, Maine - Acadia's neighboring town
No guide to Acadia National Park would be complete without chatting about Bar Harbor!
The closest town to Acadia is Bar Harbor, a picturesque and adorable town that just screams New England. With seafood shops, antique stores, art galleries, outdoor parks, and harbor porpoises dotting in and out of the water, there’s so much to love about this adorable town.
Here are our favorite spots in Bar Harbor!
We did a sunset kayak tour as a group of twelve last summer in Bar Harbor with Coastal Kayaking Tours. It was about 4 hours total and we had tandem kayaks. The tour was guided around both Porcupine Islands in Bar Harbor. We saw seals, porpoises, and bald eagles on this awesome afternoon adventure. Definitely worth adding to your itinerary!
On our last day to Acadia during our first visit in 2016, we decided to try and squeeze in one more fun activity on Sunday afternoon before driving home, so we rented bikes through Acadia Bike Rentals. We rode around Bar Harbor and the surrounding area and on the Carriage Roads inside Acadia. It was a nice bike path with plenty of space, lakes to view, and stops to spot and enjoy nature!
Land-bridge to Bar Island
During low tide, there’s a land bridge or walking area that appears from Bar Harbor and allows you to walk across to Bar Island. It’s free, and you’ll need to double-check the tide charts for the best time to go.
Along the way you can see starfish, snails, and other sea life in the water as you explore and go across to Bar Island. Make sure you leave yourself enough time to get back so you don’t get stuck out there and keep an eye out for bald eagles in the trees.
Shore Path & Agamont Park
You can walk along the harbor on the Shore Path for a look at Bar Harbor’s history while admiring the water, flowers, and inns that line the coastline. Agamont Park is directly on the corner of West Street and Main Street, which is where the path begins.
Often enormous cruise ships will be in the harbor as part of a Northern New England/Canada cruise itinerary as well as old-fashioned ships too. Stop and have a picnic in the grass or just admire the view from the benches you pass along the way.
Stewman’s Lobster Pound is a great stop for drinks, fresh seafood, and views. It’s located directly on the water and has fabulous outdoor seating for big groups of people.
From here you can also stroll West Street and check out the various art galleries that sell beautiful paintings and portraits of local wildlife, coastlines, and lighthouses. There are also small boutique shops that sell products of Maine as well as memorabilia, clothing, and souvenirs. Try Sea Dawg Gift Shop, Debbah’s, and Moose Tracks.
Gluten-Free Options in Bar Harbor, Maine
My favorite restaurant in Bar Harbor is Geddy’s. They are incredibly knowledgeable and cognizant of gluten allergies and celiac disease. Geddy's has a dedicated fryer and there are SO many options. From gluten-free nachos to fish and chips, to calamari and shrimp, you can’t go wrong here. Geddy’s also has gluten-free beer and a classic Maine dish - lobster rolls on gluten-free buns!
Learn more about Geddy's and their current menu options.
Side Street Cafe
Another great find in Bar Harbor is Side Street Cafe! I stumbled upon this place during our first visit to Acadia in 2016. They also have a dedicated fryer and informed staff. Plenty of gluten-free options are listed on the menu including macaroni and cheese, ribs, sandwiches, and burgers. They have gluten-free buns/rolls for all sandwiches and almost everything can be made gluten-free!
Learn more about Side Street Cafe and its current menu options.
Choco-Latte was a recent discovery and sooo good! They have breakfast sandwiches, paninis, coffee, tea, and more. They offer Udi’s gluten-free bread and bagels for all their sandwiches and were extremely careful with my order, using a separate prep area and changing their gloves. I watched as the server who took my order went back into the kitchen to tell them about an order with an allergy. Great signs! I ordered an egg sandwich on a bagel and had a matcha latte.
For more gluten-free dining options, check out my gluten-free travel guide to Southern Maine.
Final Thoughts on this Guide To Acadia National Park
Every year I expect we will run out of things to do in Acadia and we won’t have anything to look forward to for next year.
But it never happens!
There are still hikes we haven’t traversed, shops we haven’t explored, and restaurants with gluten-free options we haven’t tried. I’d really love to go whale watching and look for puffins next year, so we will see if that pans out!
Have you ever been to Maine?
What's your favorite spot in Acadia?
Let me know what else I should add to this guide to Acadia National Park!