How to Get to Acadia from Portland, Maine

Illustrated map of the main coast showing three routes to go from Portland, Maine to Acadia National Park

TripSavvy / Ellen Lindner

Portland is Maine's hip and happening largest city: a coastal hub that's home to the state's busiest airport. Continue just over 150 miles north along Maine's storied coast, and you'll reach Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor. There are more than 47,000 protected acres within the park's boundaries: some 30,300 of them here on Mount Desert Island. To see Acadia's sights is to appreciate Maine in all of its wild and rugged diversity. Within the park, Cadillac Mountain—the highest point on the Atlantic Seaboard—is the first point in America to greet the sun each morning from early October through early March.

How will you travel between these two popular destinations in Maine? It's best to have your own car, but if you are determined and creative or willing to drop some cash, you can also make the trip via bus, or plane. Keep in mind that Acadia is at times so crowded in the summer that traffic becomes incredibly congested. Even if you've driven your own or a rental car to Bar Harbor, you may want to trade it for a seat on the free Island Explorer shuttle bus that stops at points in town as well as within the park.

  Time Cost (one way) Best For
Car 3 hours 152 miles (245 kilometers) Everyone
Bus 5+ hours ~$37 Patient travelers
Plane 50 minutes ~$1,500 People in a rush

What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From Portland, Maine, to Acadia National Park?

You won't find a less expensive way to get from Portland to Acadia National Park than driving if you have your own car. If you need to rent a car, try to score a deal that still makes driving affordable, as alternatives are either costly or cumbersome. Rental cars are readily and easily available at Portland International Jetport, which is convenient for travelers who are flying into Maine's most popular airport. 

What Is the Fastest Way to Get From Portland, Maine, to Acadia National Park?

If you're in a rush to reach Acadia and its well-known natural features, then driving on Maine's interstates is your fastest option. Typically, entering Acadia National Park into a GPS will route you out of Portland on I-295, which merges 46 miles later with I-95. Continue north to Exit 182A and follow I-395 East a short distance to Exit 6A for US-1A. In Ellsworth, pick up ME-3 East to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. You can make the trip in almost the same time by leaving I-95 at Exit 113 and following ME-3 East/US-1 North through Belfast and Searsport en route to Bar Harbor. 

How Long Does It Take to Drive?

Following either route described above, you'll reach Acadia in just under three hours from the time you left Portland if you don't make any stops along your drive. The two options differ in time by a matter of minutes, and road work, accidents, and traffic can affect your total travel time.

Is There a More Scenic Driving Route to Acadia?

There definitely is. In Maine, Coastal Route 1 is famous for showing off ocean views and for wandering through some of Maine's most picturesque towns. Drive straight from Portland to Acadia, sticking to Route 1 until it meets Route 3 in Ellsworth, and you can make the trip in about three-and-a-half hours: not much more than if you'd driven on far-less-interesting interstates. But will you really be able to resist stopping to shop at the L.L. Bean flagship and outlet stores in Freeport? Waiting in line at Red's Eats in Wiscasset for a lobster roll? Visiting Rockland's art museums and walking along the stone breakwater out to Rockland Breakwater Light? Pausing in Camden to admire the pretty harbor, shop, and drive to the top of Mount Battie? Taking the elevator to the top of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory in Stockton Springs to admire the view from the tallest public bridge observatory in the world? There are so many temptations along this scenic route that you can easily spend a full day—or even two days—making your way from Portland to Acadia National Park and making memories all along the way.

Red's Eats Roadside Restaurant, Maine
CatLane/Getty Images

Is There a Bus That Goes From Portland, Maine, to Acadia National Park?

Have you heard that Maine saying, "You can't get they-uh from hee-ah"? Well, you can't take a bus from Portland to Acadia… not directly, at least. But if you're feeling adventurous and have some time on your hands—and either don't have access to a car or a license to drive one—there are ways to hack public transportation. You'll first have to take a Greyhound or Concord Coach bus from Portland to Bangor. That will cost you about $26. Bangor is still 45 miles from Acadia National Park, but you can take a Downeast Transportation bus there for $9. Schedules are limited, though, and even if you could connect from one bus straight to the next, you'd be looking at five hours' ride time minimum. 

How Long Is the Flight?

So, you want to fly from Portland to Hancock County Bar Harbor Airport, the closest airport to Acadia National Park? The bad news is there are no regularly scheduled commercial flights available. You can actually more easily fly from Boston to Bar Harbor. Cape Air offers regularly scheduled flights priced from about $199 and up for a one-way ticket from Boston's Logan Airport to Bar Harbor, where the airport is about 10 miles from the entrance to the national park. Flight time is just under 90 minutes.

If you're determined to fly from Portland International Jetport (PWM) to Hancock County Bar Harbor Airport (BHB), your only option—unless you have your private pilot license—is to charter a flight for your group. Maine Instrument Flight is one charter service you might consider. The approximate cost for them to fly your group of up to five passengers in a Beechcraft Baron is $1,500 one way. Other charter plane companies include Air New England and MAC Jets.

Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport?

At Hancock County Bar Harbor Airport, ground transportation options include rental cars, taxis, and the seasonal Island Explorer shuttle bus, which has the advantage of being free.

When Is the Best Time to Travel to Acadia National Park?

Try to time your trip for summer or fall, when Acadia is at its most beautiful. While summer weekends can be crowded, midweek is more manageable. Visit in August for the best chance of finding water temperature warm enough for swimming and in late September or early October to see fall colors. Keep in mind that the park is closed in the winter, from November through April.

Acadia National Park in the Fall
Scott Smith/Getty Images

What Is There to Do in Acadia National Park?

Natural wonders dominate the list of the best things to do in Acadia National Park, but in addition to these photo ops, you'll also find plenty of opportunities for outdoor exploration and adventure. One of the most unique things you can do within the park is to book a horsedrawn ride on John D. Rockefeller Jr.'s 45 miles of scenic carriage roads. There are plenty of added attractions in Bar Harbor, too, to make this Maine destination worthy of your visit, Don't overlook other areas of Acadia away from Bar Harbor: The park sprawls into quieter towns like Southwest Harbor and Bass Harbor.

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