Explore Acadia in 3 days
Acadia National Park is not huuuuuuge in the way Yellowstone is, but it is spread out and separated by large bodies of water (mainly the Atlantic), so it will take some time and logistical planning to explore efficiently. Hopefully this article will be a great start to your planning!
There are so many hidden gems in the park that many visitors would miss if they strictly stuck to the "tourist" attractions, so I highly recommend going off (while practicing Leave No Trace, of course!!!) and creating your own adventure in addition to visiting the go-to spots!
↟ DAY 1 ↟
ARRIVE IN ACADIA
& drive to the Schoodic Peninsula
After a long day of travel, this is the PERFECT place to start your Acadia adventure for several reasons:
- You will not be stuck in crazy traffic like the rest of the park. So you will be able to get out, stretch your legs, and get a big ol' dopamine release from the beautiful sights Schoodic Peninsula has to offer.
- There is a grocery store right outside the entrance that has a great selection of food! It's so convenient to stop at quickly, grab what you need, and then be on your way!
- If you camp here, well, you're here! You can sit back, relax, and take in the start of your trip.
If you are camping, I highly recommend trying to book a site in Schoodic Woods Campground. BEWARE, SITES FILL MONTHS IN ADVANCE DURING PEAK SEASON. Schoodic Woods camp sites have bathrooms, running water, paths to bike/hike, and although terrible, there is wifi near the visitor center. The Schoodic Peninsula is one of those hidden gems that is definitely worth spending a day exploring around. It is full of easy hikes that are great for families, and there are WAY less crowds than any other part of Acadia! So if you don't like people, this is your place.
It is a big one-way loop so make plenty of stops, explore the tide pools and take advantage of the hikes along the way!
Outside of Schoodic Peninsula is a grocery store that has almost everything you could need (although they didn't have avocados when we went which was disappointing).
GROCERY STORE: Winter Harbor Food Service
254 Main St, Winter Harbor, ME 0469
GET A GOOOOOOD NIGHT SLEEP, DAY 2 IS A LONG ONE!
↟ DAY 2 ↟
SUNRISE AT CADILLAC MOUNTAIN
UNBELIEVABLE. They say this is the first place the United States sees sunrise each morning, so that's pretty neat!
*MUST BOOK 3 DAYS IN ADVANCE - $6 fee per car. Spots for sunrise and sunset fill up fast, set an alarm to make the reservation and be ready to book immediately when they open.
The sunrise reservation is between 4:30 am and 6:30 am. I recommend getting up there at least 1.5 hours before the scheduled "sunrise" that day. Ex: If sunrise is at 6:30am, arrive at 5am. This is to avoid any potential traffic, get a good viewing spot, and be there from the beginning to end of sunrise and watch the sky fill with different colors!
- A hot beverage in a thermal mug
- 2 blankets (one to sit on and one to wear)
- A hat
- National Park Pass and Reservation (IMPORTANT)
BAR ISLAND SANDBAR
Depending on the tides after sunrise, head over to Bar Island to walk the sand bar over to the island!
If you plan to explore the town of Bar Harbor, this is a great time to do it!
Head back into Acadia National Park to kayak Jordan Pond!
- I highly recommend bringing your own kayaks so that you don't have to worry about renting. My husband and I have inflatable Kokopelli Rogue Rafts that are 5 lbs each, easy to pack and travel with, and take less than 10 minutes to inflate! They do not come with paddles, but we grabbed a set of Werner's from REI. Backcountry also always has great deals, and like REI, their return policy is amazing so I recommend purchasing through either of them! If the Kokopelli's are out of your budget, Amazon has great inflatable rafts that are cheaper but get the job done! I've seen people use the Intex Excursion Pro and LOVE it!
Parking can be tricky at Jordan Pond so be prepared to throw elbows once you get there! Kidding - but it is a pain sometimes so you may want to bring a snack/lunch while you wait for a spot.
*If you don't want to kayak, there is an easy hiking loop around the pond that is BEAUTIFUL and so fun to explore. Easy for kids and family!
* AFTER JORDAN POND
Make sure you grab food and drinks to enjoy dinner in the park at sunset!
Park Loop Road
*CAN ALSO BE DONE ON DAY 3 AFTER MORNING HIKE
- Sand Beach and look for Seals
- Thunder Hole (high tide)
- Anemone Cave (low tide)
- Otter Cliffs (sunset)
- STOP AT ANY AND ALL PRETTY PLACES YOU SEE!! Acadia National Park has so much to offer, and the main tourist attractions don't even come close to covering all the beauty this place has to offer. *And of course, stay on all trails to help preserve the environment!*
Grab some beers, lobster rolls to go and head to Otter Cliffs!
*Wear shoes with good grips if you plan on exploring!
If it is a clear night, head back to sand beach to see the Milky Way!
↟ Day 3 ↟
A HIKING DAY - come prepared.
Beehive Loop - start just after sunrise to avoid the crowds. This hike gets busy!
Parking is at Sand Beach.
This is a HARD HIKE that will take 2-3 hours, with parts that are very steep and technical. Nor recommended for kids and people who are not experienced hikers.
If you didn't explore Sand Beach on Day 2, this is also great time to do it! LOOK FOR SEALS, there were at least 5 swimming around the cove when we went!
EASY HIKE - Wild Gardens of Acadia
This path is FULL of vegetation! With over 300 types of plants, it is such a beautiful area that must be explored while you're here! There are also museums and the visitor center along the way!
Bass Harbor Lighthouse - Arrive early, the traffic to the lighthouse is BAD and there are limited parking spots! There is a hiking trail (Bass Harbor Head Light Trail - less than .5 miles) that goes to an amazing viewpoint of the lighthouse! DO NOT waste your time walking right to the lighthouse - it will be very crowded and underwhelming.
ACADIA ADVENTURE PACKING LIST:
- Rain jacket/ponchos
- Kayaks and paddles
- Hiking boots
- Hand warmers
- Cameras (DUH)
- Garbage bags (Pack it in, pack it out)
- Head lamps
- Guide books - Plants, birds and mushrooms
- Variety of clothes for warm days and cold, cold nights
- Acadia map - there is terrible service in the park and you will need it.
This is just my recommended acadia adventure guide!
Like all adventures, do your own research and choose activities that meet your levels of expertise and expectations! Acadia is an amazing park for all types of people - from the ones who like to view parks from their cars to the midnight hikers! Be sure to practice Leave No Trace anytime you are enjoying nature and above all else, prioritise your safety while exploring!
TYING THE KNOT IN ACADIA?
On September 20th we met up with our clients to explore for a 3 day elopement in the park! Acadia is an incredible place to elope because it is so unique and easy to find beautiful places without crowds and other elopements taking place around you. Plus, currently (as of Sept. 2021), you are not required to get a permit it you have less than 10 people present at the elopement! There are some ceremony restrictions, so it is important to do your research before planning. For all Acadia wedding and permit info, visit: Acadia National Park Service
My husband and I capture photo and video for elopements and intimate weddings across the US. If you would like more information on eloping in Acadia, or would like to inquire with us to capture your event, head over to www.talesofsonder.com and fill out our inquire form, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org! We are so excited to hear from you!