Of all my years living on the east coast, it never once occurred to me to visit Acadia National Park. In all honesty, my curiosity and exploration of the national parks is fairly new. It was never something my immigrant family were curious about, and spending time in nature was not really what they considered “a vacation.”
Luckily, I found myself falling in love with the parks and each new discovering is like discovering gold for me, especially when this experiences are shared with my family.
The fact that Acadia was so close to us made the trip even more exciting. We drove in from New Jersey—about an 8 hour drive—but for those wanting to get there quicker, a flight in Bangor International airport is only a little over an hour to the city of Bar Harbor.
We booked our entire trip through the Expedia app. Though we decided against flying, we did go for a car rental, just to not put those extra miles on our own car. We also booked our stay that the newly remodeled Holiday Inn Resort Bar Harbor.
My family and I spent five days exploring the area and walked away feeling sad to be leaving.
Here are some of the highlights of our trip, through photos, as well as the best ways to take in all the beauty the park and surrounding area has to offer.
Hike, or drive, up to Cadillac Mountain for the views
There are different ways to reach the summit of Cadillac Mountain. It can be as easy as driving up and doing a short loop or as strenuous as doing a 7.4-mile ascent from the campgrounds at the base. Either way, getting up there for either the sunrise or the sunset is a must. With views of the harbor and surrounding islands, it will take your breath away.
Do a ranger-led morning hike
We got up bright and early to do a morning hike along the coastal rocks of the park. I wish I could start my day like this every day! Though the hikes vary depending on the season, they are worth taking advantage of. They are free and the rangers are personable and full of knowledge. For my homeschooling purposes especially, this was an awesome activity to take my kids on.
Rent a bike and do the loop
Renting a bike in Bar Harbor is easy and affordable and getting into the park with your bike is easy. My family and I only did 8 of the 27 miles and still enjoyed beautiful views as well as rest times in little quiet pockets of nature around Eagle Lake.
Visit the museum and nature center
Learn about the Wabanaki, the Native Americans who lived off the land long before the arrival of the settlers. Explore the history of the land, its resources, and how it has all changed over time. Another area to learn more about the park and its history is at the Visitors Center, which has a collection of books as well as information on learning sessions and tour to take part in during your visit.
Explore the outskirts of the park too!
The city and surrounding island of Bar Harbor are also fun to walk and drive around in. Take a boat tour for natural views and wildlife of the area. Do some rock jumping near the Bass Harbor Head lighthouse. Indulge in a two-pound lobster at Stewman’s Lobster Pound. Shop around town or take a stroll along the Shore Path. The list is endless. During the summer months, this small town is filled with visitors and cruisers who dock along the coast. But during the off-season months, you pretty much have the place to yourself—though expect some spots to be closed for the season as well.
Either way, you will find that every day offers something new to do and see, whether in town or in the park. The diversity of the park will keep you wanting to explore more and more, and the serenity of the same will encourage you to slow down, sit back, and take it all in.
What are your favorite ways to experience a national park?