Acadia National Park Attractions

6 Things You Must Do in Acadia National Park

Maine’s Acadia National Park is one of the best national parks in the U.S. And with all of its natural beauty, small town charm, and opportunities for adventure, it’s no wonder. Located on Mount Desert Island, Acadia will stir your senses, whether you take a brisk summer dip in the Atlantic or visit during the stunning fall foliage season. Before you go, check out these top things to do in Acadia National Park, so you won't miss any of the highlights.

01 of 06

Drive the Park Loop Road

Otter Cliffs Acadia National Park
© 2011 Kim Knox Beckius
Park Loop Rd, Maine, USA

Maine's Acadia National Park attracts more than 2 million annual visitors. Its perennial popularity is fueled by the wonderful accessibility of its scenic highlights. Most can be viewed without venturing far from your car when you drive the 27-mile Park Loop Road.

That may seem like a short stretch, but exploring the attractions along this winding roadway can occupy the better part of a day. Acadia National Park is a photographer's dream, and you'll want to pull over and shoot iconic attractions like majestic, evergreen-fringed Otter Cliffs and Thunder Hole, where water sprays 40 feet in the air when the tides are just right.

The Park Loop Road is open April 15 through December 1, weather conditions permitting. Pick up a map at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center when you enter the park, or download an Acadia map from the National Park Service Web site.

No car in Bar Harbor? Cruise ship passengers and other car-less travelers who want to visit Acadia National Park can take advantage of the free Island Explorer shuttle bus, which departs from the Hulls Cove Visitor Center every half hour from late June through Columbus Day and stops at key attractions along the Park Loop Road.

02 of 06

Get Your Feet Wet at Sand Beach

Sand Beach - Acadia National Park Attraction
Amos Zhang / Getty Images
Sand Beach, Bar Harbor, ME 04609, USA

Sand Beach is a mandatory detour at Acadia National Park. Aim to arrive early in the morning on summer days. Otherwise, you may struggle to find a parking space. Even when temperatures climb in July and August, the Atlantic Ocean remains jarringly cold this far north. But this crushed seashell beach is one of the most stunning you may ever behold.

Bodysurfing in water that never gets much warmer than 55 degrees Fahrenheit may be out of the question, but you'll want to at least get your feet wet. The uniqueness of Acadia lies in the abrupt way land and sea collide, and you'll remember standing at the intersection and feeling your toes tingle.

03 of 06

Take a Horse-drawn Carriage Ride

Acadia National Park. Maine. USA. Horse & cart on historic carriage trail in autumn. Mt. Desert Island.
Scott Smith / Getty Images
21 Dane Farm Rd, Seal Harbor, ME 04675, USA
+1 207-276-5721

John D. Rockefeller Jr. gave the public a tremendous gift when he donated 10,000 acres of land on Mount Desert Island—including 57 miles of carriage roads he developed and cherished—to the National Park Service. A favorite experience at Acadia National Park is embarking from Wildwood Stables on a wagon pulled by sturdy Belgian draft horses or Percherons for a tour of these broken-stone roads, which took more than 25 years to build.

Rockefeller's carriage road network is an engineering feat. You'll see stone walls and some of the 17 stone bridges his crews constructed and marvel at the views as a team of horses clip-clops along cliff-hugging curves. It's just the right speed for savoring Acadia and appreciating the foresight of those who endeavored to preserve these lands.

Carriages of Acadia operates these one- or two-hour narrated sightseeing outings, which take visitors into Acadia's forested interior. Private carriage charters are also available. Carriage rides are available late May through late October. Reservations are strongly encouraged. To book a tour, call 877-276-3622 or 207-276-5721.

04 of 06

Dine at Jordan Pond House

Jordan Pond House Acadia National Park

© Kim Knox Beckius

2928 Park Loop Rd, Seal Harbor, ME 04675, USA
+1 207-276-3316

Dining alongside Jordan Pond with a view of two gently rounded mountains known as "The Bubbles" has been a tradition for more than a century. You simply can't leave Acadia National Park without experiencing a meal in this eye-pleasing environment.

Jordan Pond House, the restaurant within the park, is operated by Ortega Family Enterprises. The company upholds cherished Jordan Pond House traditions including afternoon tea served with signature popovers with jam.

Make reservations in advance to minimize the wait time for lunch, tea or dinner by calling 207-276-3316.

Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06

Chat with a Park Ranger

Acadia National Park Ranger

© Kim Knox Beckius

25 Visitor Center Rd, Bar Harbor, ME 04609, USA
+1 207-288-3338

Throughout Acadia, park rangers are on hand to answer your questions and to point out things you might otherwise miss. Visiting with kids? Be sure to stop into the Hulls Cove Visitor Center to learn about Acadia's free Junior Ranger Program. By completing a series of activities in the—including interviewing a park ranger—kids can earn an official Acadia Junior Ranger patch: the perfect keepsake.

06 of 06

Enjoy the View from the Top of Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain
Gail Shotlander / Getty Images
Bar Harbor, ME 04609, USA

The summit of Cadillac Mountain is the highest point on the East Coast. If you're ambitious, you can hike the 2.2-mile North Ridge Trail to the top: about 1,530 feet above sea level. Luckily for visitors who don't have hours or the stamina to climb, a 7-mile road to the summit has made the 360-degree views from this seaside peak accessible to motorists since 1931.

Devote the time you didn't spend hiking to taking in the surroundings... the pink granite slopes, soaring birds, pitch pines and rare sub-alpine vegetation. Cadillac Mountain is one of three Maine spots that are first to see dawn's light in the USA, so it is a popular place to watch the sunrise. Even if you're not a morning person, experiencing daybreak atop Cadillac Mountain should be on your bucket list.

Back to List

6 Things You Must Do in Acadia National Park