How to Explore Acadia National Park in Two Days

I have been dying to cross Acadia National Park off of my summer bucket list over the past few years. This summer we had a vacation planned in New Hampshire and took the chance to jump on a weekend trip!

Essentials to pack:

  • bikes, kayaks, paddle boards (we only have bikes so we hooked those up to our car)
  • rain coat
  • hiking boots
  • hiking pack with water sack
  • bathing suit
  • bug spray

Acadia is the first National Park I’ve ever visited! Alike to most trips I like to do my research. Unfortunately,  I found there was not much available as I was combing the internet for blogs with reviews. I did stumble upon one blog that was very useful, Musings of a Rover, with detailed information about the park!

Quick note: One cool app I found as a reference from a friend was the REI National Park App 

After the long car ride we had a general list of things to accomplish but no real game plan. Essentially, we tackled Acadia National Park by winging it and it actually worked out!

First things first, before you go over the bridge onto the Island you need to stop at the  information center, Thompson Island Information Center, on the right of the road where you can get a free map of Acadia(you will need this) and a weekly Almanac guide to Acadia with tide times and sunrise and sunset times – grab those too. Then buy your park pass here for $30 for your car – it pays for everyone in the car. If you are planning to bike ride – print out a separate Carriage Road Map before the vacation.

[Thompson Island Information Center: Hours open May 16 to Oct 12 are 8:30am to 5pm  Address: 1319 Bar Harbor Rd, Bar Harbor, ME 04609]

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Number one on your list should be to drive the Park Loop Road. This road is amazing because most of the major attractions are along the ride.

Note: the top half of the park loop is a two-way street and the bottom half is a one-way street so you will need to drive clockwise around the loop. We drove counterclockwise and got lost for a bit. It wasn’t the end of the world but it would have been easier if we had this information to start.

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We started our journey around the island around 1:30 pm by driving up Cadillac Mountain. It was full of switch backs and beautiful overlooks. When we arrived at the top there was a large parking lot fulls of cars and people. This is definitely a tourist spot but the view was spectacular. We stayed for no more than ten minutes and then decided to head back down the mountain.

Note: you can hike up the mountain separately & many decide to view the sunrise/sunset here.

Next we headed towards Jordan Pond – do not do this! Turn around and drive the opposite direction because you are driving counterclockwise around the loop.

I wanted to try the famous popovers at Jordans Pond Restaurant for lunch but the parking lot was packed. We had to wait ten minutes just to drive through it! When we eventually arrived back at the road we decided to skip this lunch spot and continue driving.

We ended up at Seal Harbor. This was a beautiful surprise….. once we realized where we were! We found parking was easy on the street and we were quickly able to bike around and explore the harbor at low tide. This harbor was a quiet, family friendly beach spot worth the extra couple of minutes of driving (this is not technically part of the park). After about thirty minutes of venturing we headed back out on the park loop.

At this point our time had been crunched. On our way back around the loop we stopped in Bar Harbor. We quickly dropped off our things where we were staying at The Central House. We were a little nervous as we were early for check-in but the owner didn’t mind at all and let us right up to our room!

The rooms were better than we had anticipated for the price and the location was the perfect spot to walk around the harbor.

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Note: I had read in a magazine and other blogs to stay in some of the lesser known harbors on the island because of overcrowding in Bar Harbor but I totally disagree! This is the perfect spot! There are endless side streets to choose from to explore. I felt like we could have spent an entire week here. At the same time it was nice because it was equally quiet due to the islands vegetation. The spot is a must stay, sorry not sorry.

A little past three pm we headed out to accomplish our hike. We had decided upon the Gorham Mountain Trail. We parked on the road by Sand Beach and headed towards the Beehive Trail head. Gorham Mountain Trail is tricky because it technically starts at the Beehive Trail head (so you could essentially do both). Honestly, we had some extra time at the end of our hike and I chickened out on the Beehive Trail. I regretted this choice later on as we talked with one of the locals at dinner about the trail. He said the Beehive Trail is fine as long as you are sure-footed and take your time. Note: Some trails are periodically closed during the year due to falcon nesting because they can attack people at speeds of 140 miles per hour.

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Gorham Mountain gave us magnificent views all the same and only fell slightly shorter in height than the Beehive trail. It boasted the beautiful Maine coastline, wild blueberries, cairns, and a spectacular view of Sand Beach. The best part was that compared to the Beehive Trail there was saw very few people.

As we descended the mountain we decided we would check out Sand Beach. We had heard that the beach is typically jam-packed with people but were curious. The beach was actually the exact opposite. To our surprise when we arrived it was mostly empty. Walking off the trail onto the beach it felt like I was in a dream. This is the type of beach you see in the movies but don’t actually believe exists. If I had a week to spend in Acadia I would have spent an entire day here!

As the night was coming to a close we decided to cruise around the rest of the park loop. There are so many spots to pull over and walk around on the rocks! However, due to our time constraints we just enjoyed the ride and made our last stop at the Otter Cliffs before dinner.

 

As we finished the loop and made our way around back to Jordans Pond Restaurant. This time we were pleasantly surprised to see an empty parking lot. We were seated right away and enjoyed the popovers with the quiet of the pond looming in the background. The popovers were like nothing I’ve ever tasted. They tasted like a mash up of a croissant, eggs, and crepes. They were delicious! After dinner we took a walk around the pond too. The pond is as magnificent as the pictures, definitely one of the highlights of the weekend.

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After dinner we headed back to get drinks at Bar Harbor. There were so many cute places to stop to grab a beer and dessert. I can’t say this enough but we really enjoyed the nightlife here.

In the morning we walked to Thrive Market for breakfast. Kevin thought smoothie bowls might balance out our beer intake from the night before, lol. I of course loved all of the superfood ingredients and the presentation of the food!

After a nutritious breakfast we headed out to the Carriage Roads. We typically take our bikes on every vacation therefore this was the perfect excursion for us. We followed the Musings of a Rover  Aunt Betty Pond Loop. We ended up getting lost at first. because we didn’t have a map of the carriage roads, but we eventually found our way. We saw “Rockefeller’s teeth” and a grouse flew right above us at one point. The hills were challenging at times but it was a very leisure ride overall.

 

With only a couple of hours left to spare we headed to our last stop at Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. The drive through the rest of Acadia was serene. The smaller harbors were quaint but much smaller than Bar Harbor. The lighthouse was majestic but alike to Cadillac Mountain it was very touristy. You definitely won’t be there by yourself. That aside we saw some crabs and sea life that were neat. As a last stop this was definitely fitting.

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Before we headed to New Hampshire we grabbed lunch at Seafood Ketch in Bass Harbor. This harbor was really cute! However, at low tide the smell of fish was so intense that I left extremely nauseated. This was a real bummer but the food was great.

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So that was our weekend trip! I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any cool experiences to share from your trip Acadia Trip – share below!