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Thinking of doing a Boston to Acadia National Park road trip? You could certainly manage the full drive in just a half-day itinerary if you’re pressed for time. But if you’re interested in enjoying the quaint coastal towns along the way, plan for several days to soak it all in on your way to New England’s only National Park.
How far is it from Boston to Acadia National Park?
The quickest Boston to Acadia drive will take you about 4.5 hours, covering around 280 miles mostly along I-95 and 295.
You can absolutely do this direct route and just get to Acadia as quickly as possible if you’re short on time.
I grew up visiting Acadia every summer and we always did the drive as quickly as possible — school vacations are short, after all!
But now, as an adult with more flexibility with my time, I love taking the longer slower route to get anywhere.
If you want to make this more of a scenic road trip from Boston to Acadia, then you’ll want to follow our 4-day itinerary for quaint coastal towns, beautiful viewpoints, and fun activities along the way.
After all, it’s not all about the destination; the journey should be part of the adventure!
And the coast between Boston and Acadia is truly beautiful…you won’t want to miss it by just barreling through on 95N and 295N.
If you don’t have a car and want to use public transportation to get to Acadia from Boston, there’s a section at the end of this guide detailing those options for you.
Spoiler alert: I wholeheartedly believe the best way to get to Acadia National Park from Boston is a scenic road trip!
Boston to Acadia National Park Itinerary
For this itinerary, we’ll be taking a scenic drive from Boston to Acadia National Park, so buckle up and get ready for gorgeous views and picturesque places along the way!
You can opt to cut out any of these stops to shorten your drive time or distance, of course.
We’ve offered a mixture of museums, beaches, and places to stretch your legs along the way so you can just bookmark this itinerary and follow it each day of your trip.
Day 1: Boston to the North Shore
Driving Time and Distance: 3 hours, 74 miles
Stops this day will vary based on your interests, but could include several beaches or museums, estates, art galleries, or even a whale watch!
We recommend choosing two main stops to spend some time at each and just skipping past the others or stopping briefly just to stretch and take some photos.
Like any good road trip, you’ll want to leave Boston early in the morning to maximize your day.
Since you’ll be heading away from the city, you should avoid most of the rush hour traffic, too.
Your first day will be spent all along the pretty North Shore of Massachusetts.
With a coastline dotted by historic fishing towns and lined with beautiful beaches, you can’t really go wrong with a stop anywhere in the area that strikes your fancy.
We can personally recommend Salem, Gloucester, and Newburyport for stops with plenty of attractions and activities — plus tons of delicious places to eat!
From Downtown Boston, drive just 15 minutes through the Callahan Tunnel into Eastie along Route 1A North and you’ll find yourself at Revere Beach.
Get your toes in the sand to start this road trip to Acadia on the right foot!
After a beach stroll, keep going on Route 1A toward Salem; Salem is just about 40 minutes from Boston so you don’t have to worry about being stuck in the car for too long at all.
If you only stop at one place in Salem, make it the Salem Witch Museum (19 1/2 N Washington Square).
Other favorite spots in Salem include the House of Seven Gables, the Witch House, and Ye Olde Pepper Companie for some sweets.
You should also definitely stop by the Witch Trials Memorial (24 Liberty St).
It’s a more somber reminder of what made this city famous than some of the rest of Salem’s lighthearted witch memorabilia.
Before you hit the road again, grab a slice at Engine House if you’re already feeling hungry.
If you’re a movie buff, you might find yourself doing a double-take when passing a few different homes and buildings in Salem.
Check out our guide to Hocus Pocus film locations so you can stop by a few sites in Salem before continuing on your road trip route.
You can also take this guided tour of film locations in Salem to enjoy multiple Hocus Pocus sites with interesting background information.
From Salem, head to Hammond Castle Museum (80 Hesperus Ave, Gloucester) to marvel at this architectural feat combining Medieval, Gothic, and Renaissance elements.
You can enjoy the grounds and views of the building from the outside or pay to enter and explore the interior of the home.
Note that the interior is not accessible.
When you’re done taking photos of this beauty, get back into the car to drive just a few more minutes into the heart of Gloucester, which is famous for its fishing history.
During the summer season, whale watches are very popular from Gloucester; you can allocate time for this 4-hour experience if you plan ahead.
You’re almost guaranteed to witness these marvelous marine mammals in the wild around Cape Ann.
Alternatively, stop by the Cape Ann Museum (27 Pleasant Street) to learn local maritime history and enjoy a variety of local artists’ work.
I could have spent hours perusing the galleries and learning local history at this museum — I highly recommend it for however long you can spend there!
The North Shore has long been an artistic haven; creators of all types make their homes in the Cape Ann area to take inspiration from the stunning coastal scenery.
Once you leave Gloucester, you’ll drive about 30 minutes toward Castle Hill on the Crane Estate or Crane Beach, depending on what you’re interested in doing at this point in the day.
Wander the grounds and estate or enjoy one of the prettiest beaches in Massachusetts if you’d like!
However long you spend there, plan to detour over to Plum Island Beach for another beautiful stretch of sand, with a quick photo op stop at the Plum Island Lighthouse before driving to your accommodations in Newburyport.
Newburyport is a lovely North Shore town full of independent shops and great dining options; the main street area offers a delightful space to stroll around in the evening so you can enjoy the atmosphere.
Stay the night and plan to grab an early coffee and breakfast from Plum Island Coffee (14 Market Square) before setting out the next day.
Day 2: Newburyport, MA, to Portland, ME
Driving Time and Distance: 3 hours 40 minutes, 110 miles
Stops this day include Hampton Beach and Portsmouth, NH, before you cross the state line into Maine.
In Maine, you’ll stop in York, Ogunquit, Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Old Orchard Beach, and Cape Elizabeth, and then you’ll stay the night in Portland.
On day two of our Boston to Acadia road trip, you’ll cross into two more states.
New Hampshire has just a sliver of coastline that separates Massachusetts from Maine.
Take advantage and stop at Hampton Beach for a sandy stroll, just 20 minutes up the road from Newburyport.
If you don’t want to get out and walk along the beach, you should still drive through Hampton to stay on Route 1A as it hugs the coastline all the way into the heart of pretty Portsmouth.
When you’re ready, get back on the road and take Route 1 North just 20 minutes up the road into York, Maine.
Stop at Stonewall Kitchen (2 Stonewall Ln #2) to grab some gourmet road trip snacks before doubling back just a tiny bit to turn onto Route 1A.
This will take you through York Village and York Harbor, and then along the coastline of York Beach; hop out anywhere you’d like for photo ops or to stroll this picturesque place!
Be sure to turn down Nubble Road to see Nubble Lighthouse before you leave the York area.
When you’re ready, get back onto Route 1A and then take Route 1N toward Ogunquit, a classic coastal town that takes its name from the indigenous Abenaki word for “beautiful place by the sea”.
Depending on the time, you can get lunch if you’d like, we recommend the chowder from Village Food Market (230 Main St).
You could also stop into the Ogunquit Heritage Museum (86 Obeds Ln), which is free and housed in a former captain’s house that’s now on the National Register of Historic Places.
From Ogunquit, you’ll drive just another 20 minutes along Route 1 to Kennebunk, where you can stop at Sebago Brewing Company (65 Portland Rd) for a locally crafted pint before a photo op at the Wedding Cake House (104 Summer St).
If you stay on Route 35 past the Wedding Cake House, you’ll reach the Dock Square bridge to cross over into Kennebunkport, made famous by the Bush Compound.
KPT offers so much more beyond a photo op from a distance of the Bush Compound, including excellent seasonal events and festivals that you may want to plan around for your trip from Boston to Acadia!
From Kennebunkport, you have about 1.5 hours until Portland if you make our last two recommended stops, so keep an eye on the time and the sunset!
Next up is Old Orchard Beach, about a 35-minute drive from Kennebunkport, and then you’ll finish up your day at the Portland Head Light, which you’ll surely recognize from photos.
If you’re pressed for time, skip Old Orchard Beach, especially if you’ve been stopping at other beaches today.
You’ll be spending the night in Portland, which is known as a foodie city and quite an arts hub.
You could easily spend two nights in Portland to savor that awesome foodie scene (hello, lobster rolls!) and check out the many attractions in the area.
However long you opt to stay, make sure you wander the Old Port to see the Federalist-style architecture and learn about the history of this coastal hub, which is still Maine’s largest city today.
Day 3: Portland to Rockland
Driving Time and Distance: 3 hours 20 minutes, 120 miles
On day three of this road trip to Acadia from Boston, you’ll leave Portland and stay along the coast until you reach Rockland.
As with our other days, you can opt to cut out any stops that don’t interest you — and always stop when you see a pretty view!
Stops today include Freeport, Brunswick, Bath, Wiscasset, Bristol, Owl’s Head, and Rockland.
From Portland, you can drive to Acadia National Park in just another 2-3 hours via Waterville along I-95.
However, we recommend you take the slower route and draw out this Acadia road trip for yet another night!
None of these first few driving sections should take longer than 35 minutes, so you can keep getting out of the car and enjoying different highlights along the way.
Hug the Maine coast for a little longer so you can stop in Freeport, home of L.L.Bean (95 Main St) and its giant boot — it’s a great photo op during your road trip!
Get back in the car and drive just 20 minutes into Brunswick to stop at the Bowdoin College of Art (245 Maine St) for a little local culture to break up the drive.
The campus offers a pretty place to stroll even if you don’t want to go into the museum.
Once you’ve had your fill of the art scene, drive another 15 minutes to the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath (243 Washington St), where you can learn all about the various sea-related industries like shipbuilding, sailing, and lobstering.
Speaking of lobster, your next stop is in the small town of Wiscasset for quite possibly the best lobster roll in the entire state!
Red’s Eats is iconic and you won’t want to drive past it — just look for the typically long line of people waiting for their turn to try a no-fuss, super-fresh lunch.
It can take an hour or more during busy times, so plan ahead and have a snack so you don’t get hangry while you wait.
Once you’ve had your fill, it’s time to head toward Rockland, which is a beautiful coastal town in Midcoast Maine that just oozes New England charm.
En route, you can stop at two more lighthouses if you haven’t had your fill of them yet!
Pemaquid Point Lighthouse (3115 Bristol Rd, New Harbor) will be quite a detour, but you’ll get to explore one of the many peninsulas along this ragged coastline; stay on Route 130 and enjoy the drive until you reach the lighthouse.
There’s also an art gallery next door if you want to check out some local artists’ work.
From Pemaquid, you can drive to Owl’s Head Lighthouse in Owl’s Head State Park for a final lighthouse stop before reaching your accommodations for the night in Rockland.
Plan to enjoy an evening by the water as you dine al fresco; Archer’s on the Pier (58 Ocean St) is always a popular choice.
Rockland is home to the Maine Lighthouse Museum, plus it has a lively downtown area with lots of cool street art, multiple art galleries, and several places to eat or grab a drink.
Day 4: Rockland to Acadia National Park
Driving Time and Distance: 2 hours 30 minutes, 92 miles
Today is the last day of our Boston to Acadia National Park road trip, so soak it all in before you enjoy the trails, views, and beauty of the park.
We suggest just two brief stops in Camden and Belfast so you can get to Acadia early enough to enjoy the afternoon.
Get up early to drive just 30 minutes up the road to Camden to bask in the beautiful views from Harbor Park.
Grab a coffee and a bite to eat as you stroll this gorgeous downtown along the water; Camden is a personal favorite of mine!
When you’re ready, drive just 5 minutes up the road to the Mt. Battie Tower Trailhead and walk up the 0.5 miles to enjoy even wider spread views over Camden and Penobscot Bay.
For a more accessible option, drive up Mt. Battie Road and skip the walk; accessible restrooms are also available.
However you get there, the views are spectacular!
Mt. Battie is part of Camden Hills State Park, which is one of our favorite Maine State Parks.
After enjoying the views, get back in the car and drive another 30 minutes to Belfast, where you can stop and stretch your legs again at Heritage Park.
Grab a coffee and a scone from Crumbs Provisions (2 Spring St) to enjoy the harbor views even more.
From Belfast to Acadia National Park is only another 1.5 hours, which you can do directly to get there early enough to start enjoying the beauty of the park by lunchtime.
For an alternative route, if you’re super into Stephen King novels and the films they’ve inspired, you should take a detour into Bangor to see his house before you finish your Acadia road trip.
Either way, you’ll finally make your way into Ellsworth, which is the last large town where you can handle all your grocery and other shopping needs first before you drive onto Mount Desert Island, where Acadia is located.
Acadia National Park spans a large portion of Mt. Desert Island (it’s pronounced like dessert), as well as a portion of the mainland on the Schoodic Peninsula.
There are awesome hikes in both areas, so be sure to spend your time out on the trails.
How to Get to Acadia National Park from Boston Without a Car
There are other ways to get to Acadia from Boston besides driving if you don’t have a car.
However, none of these options is direct, quick, or simple.
If you don’t have a car, your best bet is honestly to rent one to do this drive on your own time.
If you can’t rent a car or simply don’t want to, then here are your other options for getting there…
If you want to take a bus from Boston to Acadia National Park, obviously you won’t be able to control the stops made en route but you also won’t have to worry about navigating or parking once you’re there.
You’ll take a bus from Boston to Bangor, and then switch to another bus from Bangor to Bar Harbor.
From Bar Harbor (when in season), the Island Explorer shuttle can take you around various points of interest in Acadia for free.
There is no direct Boston to Acadia National Park train service, but you could opt to take the Amtrak Downeaster from Boston to Portland to enjoy that city first and then hop onto the bus to Bangor and then Acadia from there as described above.
If you’re starting your bus journey in Portland, you might require an additional stop in Augusta before getting to Bangor, so just double-check bus schedules for your desired dates.
If you prefer flying, the closest airport to Acadia is Hancock County/Bar Harbor Airport (BHB), located in Trenton.
There is the option of a flight from Boston to Bar Harbor and then the Island Explorer shuttle actually offers service to and from the airport during the main tourist season.
We hope this guide helped you plan your route from Boston to Acadia National Park so you can maximize your time and the journey itself!
Let us know your favorite stops along the way; drop them in the comments below.
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