Acadia National Park Itinerary helps you plan 1-3 days in Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor. The jam-packed itinerary can also be spread out over more days. Acadia National Park is a wonderful place for families to explore the outdoors. National Parks have a wonderful Junior Rangers Program that provides educational activities within the Park. National Parks also offer Kid-Friendly Hikes and many more activities.
The National Parks website is a wealth of information so if you are looking for specific information I recommend visiting their website. Planing a trip can be overwhelming and I hope to provide information to make planning easy and provide tips to make your trip go smoothly.
Grab America the Beautiful National Parks pass for one low price for a year’s worth of admission into National Parks across the country. If there is a fourth-grader in the family they can get a free pass through the every kid outdoors program.
- Admission is $25 for one day or $55 for a year pass. A national parks pass for all national parks across the country for one year is $80 which I feel is the best option.
- Ordering your park pass online will assure you have it before you arrive and can enter the parks early before entrance booths are staffed. We did see signs allowing early morning parking which may be ticketed and required to pay the parking/admission fee by a set time. We were able to pick up our pass on arrival by 7 pm on the first day.
- Part of the park is one way only, some sites are better at high or low tide, and the mornings (or all day) can be covered with fog. So planning can be tricky and flexibility is a must
- Our kids can pretty much handle 2 hikes in a row and at most 3 in a day. We kayaked along with 2 hikes one day and biked along with 2 hikes another day. We also added scenic stops into our itinerary.
- The Jr Rangers program is only held at select times. During Covid-19 restrictions they are offering booklets kids can fill out and submit for their badges. The booklets are available at the visitors center and are best to pick them up at the beginning of your day due to the location.
- Due to covid, the park is not operating its shuttles.
- We found that parking lots started to get busy or full around 10 am. Also after 2:30 pm, things quieted down as well. If you can start your day early you may be able to get 2 popular places in before the crowds.
- While Driving up to Acadia National Park, stop at Reds Eats about an hour north of Portland for the best Lobster Rolls around. They are not overhyped and are amazing.
We Stayed at the Acadia Sunrise Motel. Its located in Trenton about 25min drive to Acadia National Park. It’s a great value as we paid around $130/night including a kitchenette which we used daily. The motel has renovated rooms with super soft sheets. The heated pool was the main reason we chose this motel and it was perfect for evening swims. They also have a ship playground, basketball hoop, and fire pit. Bring smores kits for a fun evening of storytelling by the fire. It also is next to a private airport so if your kids love airplanes they will love watching them take off and land.
Camping is another great affordable option when visiting Acadia National Park.
Camping is only permitted at one of four designated campgrounds within Acadia National Park. There is no backcountry camping, “out-of-bounds” camping, or overnight parking allowed. The park has two campgrounds on Mount Desert Island, one campground on the Schoodic Peninsula, and five lean-to shelters on Isle au Haut. You can make reservations at www.recreation.gov. If you go the camping route, check out the best portable solar panels, which can help camping with kids easier.
Firewood brought in from other areas may contain non-native insect species that pose a serious threat to park resources. Quarantines have been issued for some areas. Please leave your firewood at home. Firewood is available locally.
1 or 2 Day Acadia National Park Itinerary
Day 1 is jam-packed and designed in case you only have 1 day in Acadia National Park. If you do not get to everything you likely can make up for it the next day or so.
Day 1 Acadia National Park Itinerary:
8:30 am Visitors Center Junior Rangers Program
Stop at the visitors center at the opening and pick up your junior rangers books. The children can work on the activities while you driving between stops.
9:30 am Bubble Rock Outlook Hike
This is an uphill hike as well as climbing over large rocks at one point. The end is a worthwhile photo op but also some nice views (if the weather is cooperative it wasn’t for us). I am scared of heights so I was a bit nervous around the boulder but our fairly nonadventurous family did it.
11-12:30 Thunder Hole, Boulder Beach, and Otter Cliffs Outlooks
Best to be seen midday between high and low tide. However, you will still hear the thunder at other times as well. While there are some steps on the walkway to get down to the viewing platform this is not a hike and is an easy way to end a busy day.
Water rushing into a carved cavern and when the wave smacks against the back it makes a loud thunder sound. Water can shoot very high so be prepared to be wet.
The path down is across the street from the parking lot
Location: Thunder Hole Parking lot Latitude 44.321011; Longitude -68.189330
Scenic photo opportunity beach covered with boulders as well as views of Otter Cliff
Otter Cliff Overlook
Some say the best view of the entire park. The path is across the street from the log
Location: Otter Cliff Parking Latitude 44.310803; Longitude -68.189828
12:30-1 pm Cadillac Summit
You can drive to Cadillac Summit. It’s an easy walk to viewing areas. We were out of luck as both days we visited were foggy, especially in the higher elevations and we did not get a clear view.
Location: Cadillac Summit Parking lot.
It will take about 40 minutes to Drive from Cadillac Summit to Wonderland Trial. Timing this around low tide is ideal so that there are tidal pools to explore
2 pm Wonderland Trail Hike and Exploration
Plan a visit here around low tide. This was our favorite hike and experience. If you do not have a second day here I would plan to do this in place of the kayak or bike ride but note it is out of the way at the western side of the park so I would skip the visitors center if you already have your park pass and head to this trail, then hit the visitors center when you come back up for the other experiences.
Location: Wonderland Trail
Bass Harbor Head Light House
If there’s time make a stop at the Bass Harbor Headlight house before heading back to the Visitors Center for your Junior Rangers Badges.
Before 4:30 pm Visitors Center Junior Rangers
You can turn your activities books into any Park Rangers but if you do not run into any you can return to the Visitors Center, which we did, to receive a pin or badge.
Head to Bar Harbor or Trenton for a Lobster Dinner. There are many seafood restaurants to choose from. Driving toward Trenton the further away from Mt Desert Island you the cheaper the steamed lobster meals seem to get.
Day 2 Acadia National Park Itinerary :
8:30 am Hike Gorham Mountain Trailhead
This is a 2-mile hike and is one of the most popular hiking trails due to its proximity to the coast.
Location: Gorham Mountain Trail
10:30 am Jordan Pond Kayak or Hike
If you have kayaks, canoes,s or other non-motorized boats, you can head out to Jordan Pond. The parking lot was busy on our return due to hiking trails in the area but we had the pond all to ourselves. It’s very calm and crystal clear. The pond is very large so for us, we just stayed around 1/4 of the area. If not you can head out on the hiking trail around the lake the entrance is to the right of the boat launch area.
We often eat our lunch or snacks while kayaking or you can eat while driving to your next stop.
Location: Jordan Pond Parking
1:00 pm Eagle Lake Bike Ride
The Bike Ride around Eagle Lake is challenging. We only made it about 1/3 of the way before we needed to turn around as our youngest was tired. It was our first time riding on a dirty/stone path and lots of large hills. On our return, we saw several groups with rented motorbikes so that’s another option.
Location: Eagle Lake Bridge
3 pm Sand Beach
If you still have some energy to burn head to Sand Beach. Just be prepared for chilly waters and waves.
If you looking for a break from seafood, check out one of the BBQ Joints in Trenton this evening.
Bar Harbor 1 Day Itinerary or Day 3 Acadia National Park Itinerary
Bar Island Trail
A natural Bridge path connects Bar Harbor to Bar Island, called Bar Island Pathway. It is only accessible about 2 hours before and 2 hours after low tide. Make sure to keep track of time as you could become stranded and a taxi is a whopping $50 ride back and requires a phone call and a long wait time. The kids enjoy walking the pathway there and looking for sea life. We mostly found crab parts. When you arrive at the island there is an island path you can take.
Location: Bridge St and West St (street parking on West)
Lunch and Walking Around Bar Harbor
Bar Harbor is full of little shops you can explore including toy stores. Grab an outdoor table at a restaurant to enjoy lunch. We ate at Galyan’s Restaurant. The food was very good while portions were a bit small for the price.
Enjoy lunch and ice cream in Bar Harbor and check out some local shops.
Timber Tina’s Lumberjack Show and Experience
Spend the Afternoon Watching the Timber Tina Lumberjack show and participating in the Lumberjack experience. It was the highlight of our trip. You can read all about it in my review.
This Acadia National Park Itinerary can easily be adjusted to fit your family’s needs. If you only have 1 day in Acadia national park, the 1-day pack in all the highlights. These itineraries are jammed-packed and can easily be cut pack to cover a week while enjoying more of the national park, relaxing poolside at your accommodations or enjoying other location experiences.
Our Children spent both evenings swimming in the heated pool at Acadia Sunrise motel. We also enjoyed smores (we brought) over the fire pit and Ship playground. The inside of the rooms looked recently renovated and came with kitchenettes. our room seemed to have an adjoining room that would accommodate larger families.
These were mostly highlights of Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor. There’s so much to do you could easily fill a week or more.