24 Best Things to Do in Acadia National Park: Scenic Drives, Hiking, Boating & More

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Get ready to venture through one of Maine’s most popular outdoor destinations: Acadia National Park.

Situated on Mount Desert Island, the park’s convenient New England location, with proximity to cities like Boston and Bangor, makes it easily accessible for a weekend getaway or longer vacation.

In fact, Bar Harbor is the final destination on our favorite Boston to Maine road trip!

If you’re planning to visit, this guide details some of the best things to do in Acadia National Park.

The park encompasses a rugged and picturesque coastline, with the inland featuring lush forests, scenic trails, freshwater lakes, and towering peaks.

Whether you’re into action-packed adventures like hiking, cycling, and swimming, or prefer a laid-back visit with sightseeing and scenic drives, the following list of activities and attractions ensures you get the most out of your trip.

It’s no wonder why Acadia is one of the best national parks on the East Coast and a must-add to your Maine bucket list.

You may also check our other Maine guides, including the best places to go in Maine and a list of nice cities and towns to visit in the state.

Things to Do in Acadia National Park in Maine

The following list of things to do at Acadia National Park starts at the visitor center, then a drive through some of the most prominent routes and destinations within and around the park.

Then we head south of Bar Harbor and go into the western part of the park for more activities before ending up in the Schoodic Peninsula outside of Mount Desert Island, which still has attractions that are part of Acadia.

Visit Hulls Cove Visitor Center

Hulls Cove Visitor Center basically functions as Acadia’s visitor headquarters.

Completed in 1986, the center offers souvenirs, maps, and ranger-led programs, and is a great starting point for those who want more ideas on what to do in Acadia National Park.

It’s also an easy place for anyone to get face-to-face contact with someone who knows the rules of certain activities in the area.

If you want to know more about the park, you can also check out our comprehensive guide to Acadia National Park.

Enjoy the Views from the Top of Cadillac Mountain

The highest point in Acadia, Cadillac Mountain is over 1,500 feet above sea level.

There is a road to the top or you can opt to hike to the summit via a variety of trail options.

The road is a spur you can take off of Park Loop Road to reach a parking area and several overlooks at the top.

Note that a separate Cadillac Mountain pass is required if you plan to drive to the summit during the peak season (from May to October); book yours here.

With 360-degree views of the Atlantic Ocean and Frenchman Bay, Cadillac Mountain is Acadia National Park’s most popular tourist attraction.

The sunrise and sunset views from the summit are nothing short of spectacular from there — you can also spot the charming coastal town of Bar Harbor nestled along the coastline.

View from Cadillac Mountain summit in Acadia National Park.

Stop by the Cadillac Mountain Gift Shop

Sitting atop Cadillac Mountain, the gift shop carries all things Acadia, perfect for picking up something to remember your trip.

The gift shop is also convenient for snacks, with it carrying trail mix, cookies, and jerky to keep you going on your hikes and walks.

Drive the Park’s Scenic Loop

One thing that should certainly be on everyone’s list while visiting Acadia National Park is driving the Park Loop Road and stopping at some of the overlooks.

While the main loop doesn’t cover any of the west side of the park, on a different day, you can drive the western road loop on Mount Desert Island to get a full sense of the island.

Rocky Cliffs on the Atlantic Ocean, amazing views of the park’s ponds, and unique bridges scattered throughout make this one of the best drives on the East Coast.

You can even go on a self-guided driving tour and learn more information about the park along with some of its hidden gems. 

Acadia National Park is also especially beautiful in the fall; check out our free New England fall road trip itinerary if you’re planning to drive here during the season.

Or follow our Boston to Acadia road trip itinerary for a 4-day adventure before you start journeying around the park.

Road trip Acadia National Park Maine

Bike along the Carriage Road

If you want to do some Acadia National Park sightseeing in a different way, biking is a great option.

And the carriage roads are some of the best spots for it!

Gifted by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and his family, Acadia’s carriage road system spans approximately 45 miles and winds through a variety of landscapes, including forests, and lakeshores, with picturesque bridges that add to the scenic charm.

Biking along the Carriage Roads is especially stunning during autumn as you’re surrounded by an array of beautiful fall colors.

Check out our things to do in Maine during the fall season too.

Biking Acadia National Park in Maine

See One of the Many Trail Bridges

Several trail bridges dot Acadia National Park’s carriage road.

The Deer Brook Bridge, Duck Brook Bridge, and Cobblestone Bridge are all stone trail bridges that cross creeks and brooks in the park.

These are unique to East Coast parks since parks elsewhere in the US didn’t have historic development as early as on the East Coast, allowing these bridges to pop up all over the place.

Eat at Jordan Pond House

Acadia National Park’s main restaurant is called the Jordan Pond House.

At the south end of Jordan Pond, the restaurant’s location in the center of the park and on the park’s loop road is convenient for most visitors.

The restaurant serves standard American food and seafood since it is so close to the coast and heavily in lobster territory.

A large lawn is popular with visitors on nice days to sit and eat while overlooking the pond and mountains.

The start of fall colors at Jordan Pond Acadia National Park Maine

Go on a Guided Tour From Bar Harbor 

Discover some of Acadia’s top attractions in this guided group tour from Bar Harbor.

A tour guide will take you through some of the most popular places to visit in Acadia National Park, including the Sieur de Monts Spring, Thunder Hole, and Otter Cliff. 

You can enjoy the views and take photos without worrying about navigating or finding parking.

At the end of the tour, you’ll be treated to Maine’s famous lobster roll.

You may also like our list of things to do in Bar Harbor in fall if you’re visiting at that time of year.

And take a look at our suggestions for where to stay in Bar Harbor with our list of hotels including luxury and pet-friendly ones.

Aerial view of Bar Harbor, Maine, on Mt Desert Island with Acadia National Park beyond the coastal town

See the Sieur de Monts Nature Center

The Sieur de Monts Nature Center (2 Sieur de Monts Rd) comprises a larger area that includes the gardens and museum.

A number of trails surround and weave through the nature center, allowing for short walks or hikes.

These paths are mostly flat and take visitors to the spring, wigwam, garden, and museum.

Walk Through the Wild Gardens of Acadia

On the northeast side of the park, the Wild Gardens of Acadia is the centerpiece of this well-developed area of the park.

These gardens showcase native species to Southern Maine with walking paths made from wood chips and gravel.

A natural spring, wooden bridges, and information kiosks set this small area apart from the rest of the park, which is much wilder.

Visit the Abbe Museum

Adjacent to the Wild Gardens is the Abbe Museum (26 Mt Desert St), a small building with more comprehensive information about the people and animals that inhabited this area.

Only open during the summer and fall, the museum is a good supplement to a walk through the gardens.

One of two structures in the garden area, the Abbe Museum can also be one of the things to do in Acadia National Park when it rains.

Spend Time at Sand Beach

On the far southeast side of the park, Sand Beach is the largest beach in Acadia National Park.

Located on the Atlantic Ocean, it isn’t much of a swimming beach on most days, but a warm calm summer day might just bring the right conditions for a day at this awesome beach.

Surrounded by rocks on both sides but with fine yellow sand, this unique spot is definitely one of the top Acadia National Park attractions.

Sand Beach crowds Acadia National Park Maine

Listen to Thunder Hole on a Windy Day

As one of the main attractions in Acadia National Park, Thunder Hole draws lots of people no matter what day it is.

Windy days bring out this natural feature’s impressiveness though.

Try to come an hour or two before high tide to witness the powerful sound of water rushing through the narrow inlet.

A short paved path with stairs leads down to the hole, and strong waves will frequently soak visitors who venture down here.

This is a busy spot, especially in the high summer season, but it’s still a fun one to witness regardless of the crowds.

Across the road from Thunder Hole is one of the park’s multiple gift shops where you can pick up a gift for a friend or a souvenir for yourself.

Thunder Hole Rock Formation at Acadia National Park, Maine

Rock Climb at Otter Cliff

High rock cliffs line the east side of Otter Point on the southeast side of the park.

The park facilitates rock climbing activities on these cliffs, which usually drop directly into the water.

Visitors can climb in parties of fewer than six without a permit, but groups of six to twelve people must be okayed by the park.

Groups may not be larger than twelve.

The park maintains anchors at the top of Otter Cliff to latch onto to start descending.

This is one of the Acadia National Park attractions that’s perfect for those who love a bit of challenging activities.

Otter Cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean in Acadia National Park, Maine

Go for a Boat Ride

If you’re on the hunt for Acadia activities that are water-based, why not try boating?

While there is no boat ramp within Acadia’s boundaries, several exist on Mount Desert Island allowing access to Long Pond, Somes Sound, and the Atlantic Ocean.

It’s a lovely way to enjoy the park’s natural beauty from the water.

To plan any boating activities within the park, check the regulations on the NPS website.

Bar Harbor with boats in Acadia National Park, Maine.

Enjoy Fishing

While there are a number of regulations related to it, Maine residents might find fishing in the park enjoyable.

Somes Sound is the most reliable place to do this, with hiking trails being the main access points.

Somes Sound only borders the west unit of the park, with the rest of the park being set away from it.

Visit the West Unit of the Park

On the other side of Somes Sound, an entirely separate section of Acadia National Park exists.

With three ponds and five hills and mountains, it’s a good alternative for those wanting to get more into the wilderness.

While it has more authentic wilderness experiences, it also has the most popular inland beach in the park: Echo Lake Beach.

Relax on Echo Lake Beach

Echo Lake Beach is on the south end of Echo Lake, in the west unit of the park.

As a more inland body of water, Echo Lake’s temperatures are more reliably warmer in the summer.

Not to mention that its scenery is on par with the many beaches Acadia has on the Atlantic Ocean.

A visit to the lake is a must-do in Acadia National Park as it is a popular spot for swimming, paddling, picnicking, and other outdoor activities.

Boardwalk heading to Echo Lake Beach in Acadia National Park, Maine.

Go Paddling

Acadia National Park has dozens of ponds and is also located on an island, so it would be silly if paddling wasn’t on a list of things to do here!

While the ocean can be spotty in terms of paddling conditions, kayaking conditions are usually good on the inland ponds, and on especially calm days, paddleboarders may get to try it out, too.

There’s a boat ramp located on Ikes Point along Route 102 in Echo Lake where small water crafts like kayaks or canoes can be launched.

A paved parking area is available in the area, too.

See the Carroll Homestead

Another popular attraction in the park on the west side is the Carroll Homestead.

If you like historic spots and wondering what you can do at Acadia National Park, this place is a must-visit and the rangers host open houses periodically where visitors can take a walk around inside.

The park staff tend to know a lot about the history of the park, so they are the most helpful with answering questions.

Check Out One of the Park’s Cemeteries

Acadia National Park has two cemeteries within its boundaries.

Seal Harbor Cemetery is the closest to the center of the park, south of Jordan Pond.

More isolated, Kelley Cemetery is on the west side of the park on Seal Cove Road.

Both contain historic grave markers that might offer a glimpse into the people who have lived and died here over the years.

This is one of the unique things to do in Acadia, especially for those who like to add an eerie vibe to their adventures.

If you’re visiting the park in October, these two spots might capture the spirit of the season the best.

Head to Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse is one of the most iconic and photographed lighthouses on the eastern seaboard of the United States.

Built in 1858, this historic lighthouse perches atop rugged cliffs overlooking the entrance to Bass Harbor and Blue Hill Bay, serving as a vital navigational aid to mariners.

The lighthouse itself is a classic New England-style structure, featuring a white brick tower with a black lantern and gallery.

The area surrounding this attraction offers a short trail leading to a viewing platform that provides excellent panoramic views of the lighthouse and the surrounding coastal scenery.

It’s particularly popular during sunset when the warm hues of twilight create a breathtaking scene.

Bass Harbor Head Light on rocks Acadia National Park Maine

Visit Schoodic Peninsula

A third, much less well-known part of Acadia exists on the mainland.

Schoodic Peninsula is home to cliffs, forests, and a couple of hills and overlooks.

While the amount of hiking trails there is small compared to the variety on Mount Desert Island, it’s an easy place to stop for those not wanting to deal with traffic on Mount Desert Island.

If you’re planning to hit the trails, check out our guide to the best hikes in Acadia National Park.

Trees surround a cove in the Schoodic Peninsula in the Acadia National Park in Maine

Climb Schoodic Head

If you’re a fan of physical activities and looking for more things to do around Acadia National Park, how about a climb at the Schoodic Head?

The main peak on the Schoodic Peninsula is Schoodic Head, which is over 400 feet above sea level.

While the main overlook on the head looks inland, on the far left side, hikers can see Mount Desert Island rise out of the ocean in the distance.

The head has five different approaches, all different distances, with one even originating outside the park on Schoodic Hill Road.

Visit the Raven’s Nest

The best cliffs on the Schoodic Peninsula are called the Raven’s Nest.

These cliffs drop more than 50 feet down to inaccessible beaches.

A number of hiking trails follow the cliff sides up and down the coastline, and they are another easy place to see Mount Desert Island from a distance.

Read next: Best State Parks in Maine.

Final Thoughts

We hope this guide has given you enough ideas for what to do in Acadia National Park.

Share your favorite activities with us or, if we missed some, feel free to let us know more of your recommendations in the comments below!

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