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As part of our East Coast road trip, we made a two-night stop at Bar Harbor, Maine, to check out this seaside town and Acadia National Park.  We divided our short time pretty equally between the town and the park. As always, I wish we had more time, and on this particular adventure, I wish he’d had less morning fog. Still, we always make things work and I’m grateful for the experience. I hope to return to the area someday to experience more of this fabulous park!

Acadia National Park is primarily located on the largest island off the coast of Maine–Mount Desert Island.  Bar Harbor is also located on this island, and Acadia National Park is right outside of town.

Acadia National Park

Our Acadia National Park Adventure Begins

We arrived in Bar Harbor in the late afternoon. That left us enough time to settle into our lodging, have dinner, and browse some shops. After some deliberation, we settled on reservations at Bar Harbor Manor, and I’m so glad we did. We initially planned to stay in a KOA cabin or a more moderately-priced motel just outside of town. Ultimately, it looked as if walking to shopping and dining in Bar Harbor would be a plus, so we went that route.

You will need reservations, probably months out from the summer season. Keep an eye on that if you’d like to book a summer visit as we did in June.

We stayed in a double queen room in the hotel section, and it was perfect! The room was just what we needed, and the man at the front desk was so friendly and helpful. He suggested some options for dinner, and we chose Side Street Cafe based on his recommendations. I wanted to try a lobster roll for the first time, and this place was amazing. We were able to walk to dinner from our hotel.

After dinner, we did some shopping. We love some good touristy shops, and Bar Harbor’s are great. As the evening wore on, we walked back to our room. We wanted to get a good start on our park day the next morning.

Hulls Cove Visitor Center

Our first mission of the day was to go to Hulls Cove Visitor Center. We needed a new America the Beautiful pass, and we’ve found that the visitor center is a good place to start in any national park.

In case you’re wondering, yes, we did have a reservation for sunrise on Cadillac Mountain, but it was for the following morning. More on that later.

Pathway to Hulls Cove Visitor Center

We drove to the visitor center, and that was fine, but for the actual loop, you may want to consider taking the shuttle due to limited parking issues. You can actually catch a shuttle in Bar Harbor at the Village Green. The shuttle is known as the Island Explorer, and it can make stops that aren’t true stops in the park if it can do it safely.

Here is a link to a shuttle map and schedule.

Acadia National Park Hulls Cove Visitor Center

After we got our pass and asked a few questions, we set out on Park Loop Road.

Park Loop Road

The first part of Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park was under construction during our visit. After a brief detour, we were in the park. This park is popular with bicyclists. The carriage roads donated by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., provide 45 miles for biking, waking, or actual carriage rides. The carriage roads are not for automobiles, but the Park Loop Road can get you access to many popular attractions and trailheads in the park.

Park Loop Road Acadia National Park

We enjoyed the rugged coastline. There are places to stop along Park Loop Road to see picturesque locations like this one.

Acadia National Park

Or this one. It’s worth noting that both mornings of our visit included dense fog that didn’t dissipate until the afternoon. This is important to realize. You may secure a reservation for sunrise at Cadillac Mountain, but the fog may impact visibility.

Acadia National Park

Sand Beach

During our first go-round that morning, we couldn’t find parking at Sand Beach to get out and explore. We made plans to return in the evening when the crowds thinned. If you’re set on visiting Sand Beach in the morning during peak season, definitely take a shuttle.

Sand Beach Acadia National Park

Just like the name suggests, the beach is sandy and it’s a fun place to dip your toes in. Some people were brave enough to swim in the cold water. We were not those people. Krisitin and Jeff waded along the shore, but I didn’t even do that!

Sand Beach Acadia National Park

Sand Beach has some great rocks nearby. They’re great for exploring and photo ops.

Sand Beach Acadia National Park

Thunder Hole

Thunder Hole is another popular stop in Acadia National Park. We easily found parking during our morning. The pathway to Thunder Hole was damp and slick. Use caution.

Thunder Hole Acadia National Park

The water crashes into this crevice, giving the feature its name. I don’t know if I’d call it “thunderous,” though. It may depend on the tide.

Thunder Hole Acadia National Park

Jordan Pond House

So, let’s talk Jordan Pond House. Apparently, Jordan Pond House has been serving tea and popovers since the 1890s on their lawn overlooking the pond. If you know us, you know that we love history and historic places. I really wanted to be a part of days gone by. I would’ve even dressed the part and wore white gloves if it wouldn’t have been completely over the top and weird. But the idea of popovers on the lawn had completely captured my imagination, and I really wanted to try the famous popovers at Jordan Pond House,

In the weeks leading up to our trip, I tried to use the online reservation system. The system kept telling me nothing was available, even when I tried on the day it was supposed to open up. I read that you can do walk-up, so I decided to give that a try.

Now, it seems, Jordan Pond House is using Open Table for its reservations, so that may be easier to deal with.

Anyway, we were unable to find parking during our first loop drive that morning, so we went to Hulls Cove Visitor Center to catch a shuttle. We barely secured parking there, but we finally managed. It’s worth noting that there is a shuttle that goes straight to Jordan Pond House from the visitor center; you don’t have to go around the entire loop.

Jordan Pond House Acadia National Park

When we arrived, we walked straight to the restaurant to get on the waiting list. It was late morning, by this point. Maybe almost noon. They put us on the list and received a buzzer. We decided to take first available seating, so that meant that we may be seated inside the restaurant instead of on the lawn, and that was fine with us.

Be sure to explore the Jordan House Retail Store; it’s a good one.  We also walked down towards the pond. Our buzzer worked when we were down by the water, but I don’t know how much farther it would’ve reached. It’s a beautiful place for a walk, and the trail is worth it even if you don’t eat in the restaurant. But more on that in a moment.

When the buzzer went off, we were seated inside the restaurant. You can see the lawn seating through the window.

Jordan Pond House Acadia National Park

This may have been uncool of us, but we really just wanted popovers. We don’t often eat lunch on our trips; we usually sample some goodies and do our big meal in the evening. So, we just ordered popovers for Jeff and me, and ice cream for Kristin.

Here is my popover “before.”

Jordan Pond House Acadia National Park

And here is is with the strawberry jam. Yum!

Jordan Pond House Acadia National Park

While we waited to be seated, we walked to the pond. Here is the view looking back at the lawn as we walked down the trail

Jordan Pond House Acadia National Park

And here is the trail looking ahead.

Jordan Pond House Acadia National Park

It’s almost like walking into a painting.

Jordan Pond House Acadia National Park

We didn’t do the whole trail. It seems there are different entry points to the trail, and you can do a mile loop or use the trail to get more adventures.

Rockefeller’s Carriage Roads

We didn’t hike, bike, or ride a carriage on the carriage roads, but I would’ve liked to. I especially would love to do a carriage ride. If I visit again, that would be at the top of my list. Below is a carriage road bridge. We did see people walking on the trails as we drove around, and we saw a stable for the carriage rides. Next time!

Rockefeller's Carriage Roads Acadia National Park

Things We Didn’t Do This Trip (But Hope to Next Time)

On a road trip like this one, it’s impossible to do everything that makes a national park special.  I don’t usually discuss the activities we didn’t do; I usually want to share what we did and how we did it so people can see our true experience. But. there are so many experiences that sound amazing at Acadia National Park; I had to include some. Here are some things I would’ve liked to have done, but it just didn’t happen.

Cadillac Mountain

As I mentioned above, we did have a reservation for a sunrise visit at the summit of Cadillac Mountain. This is probably the most popular thing to do at Acadia National Park. When we visited in June, both mornings of our stay were plagued by morning fog. When we saw the forecast, we opted not to get up at dawn to go up the mountain. Since we had to pack up and leave, we slept a tad longer before loading the car and going on our way.

Maybe I could’ve booked a sunset visit, but then we would’ve missed out on Sand Beach, which Kristin really enjoyed. We’ll have to try to go up the mountain next time.

Beehive Trail

Okay, this one also scares me a little since there are parts of the trail that include climbing metal rungs in rock. It sounds interesting, but I don’t know if Kristin would’ve enjoyed this one. Also, when things are damp, the rungs and trail can be slippery. Maybe someday!

Carriage Ride on a Carriage Road

As I mentioned above, I’d definitely book a carriage ride on a carriage road next time. Here is a link to more information about that.

Tidepooling

I also wish we’d have time for tidepooling. This is tricky to get right because you need to be there at low tide, so you’ll need to work the journey to the tidepool areas into your schedule. Since we also wanted to try local flavors for dinner in Bar Harbor each evening, it was difficult to make it happen along with everything else we wanted to do.

One cool place to do this is by walking the sandbar to Bar Island. You can only do this at low tide. When the tide is high, the sandbar is underwater. This is what makes it a great place for tidepooling.

Wonderland Trail is another popular tidepooling place. It’s on the quiet side of Mount Desert Island. At the visit center, a park ranger suggested Schoodic Pennisula. We simply didn’t have time.

Bass Harbor Light Station

I’m always into seeing a lighthouse, and this one is supposed to be spectacular at sunset. It’s on the list!

The Wrap-Up

As you can see, Acadia National Park has so many fun adventures just waiting for you. There is certainly more to see and do than I originally believed when we first started planning this trip. Acadia National Park seemed like a small national park to me, but there is a lot of great experiences packed in that small space. I wouldn’t hesitate to spend a week in the area; I hope to get back someday to have more adventures in Acadia National Park.

Click on the links below for more national park adventures!

Yellowstone National Park

Glacier National Park: Going-to-the-Sun Road

Olympic National Park: Ruby Beach  

Arches National Park

Acadia National Park
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2 Comments

  1. Jennifer Empey Reply

    Summer at Acadia National Park looks interesting with the beaches and nature so it makes a nice way to spend the summer. I think it would be cool to see the Thunder Hole. It’s similar to the blowholes here.

  2. I’ve got Acadia National Park on my list. It’s so beautiful with the coastline and scenic hiking trails. It does look like you’re walking in a painting.

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