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The Best 4 Day Itinerary Acadia National Park (2024)

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As one of the oldest and most visited National Parks in the US, Acadia National Park has it all. From rugged coastlines, to mountain top trails, and a multitude of activities to fill your days, it’s the perfect place to spend an extra long weekend.

The best 4 Day Itinerary in Acadia National Park & Bar Harbor, Maine that works for families, couples, and visitors from around the world includes:

  • Day 1: Best of Acadia & Park Loop Road: Cadillac Mountain Sunrise, Beehive Trail or Ocean Path, Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Jordan Pond House & Hike
  • Day 2: Explore Bar Harbor: Walk to Bar Island, Visit Downtown & Abbe Museum, Boat Tour & Lobster Dinner
  • Day 3: Carriage Roads & Gardens: Carriage Road System by bike or tour, Asticou Gardens
  • Day 4: Lighthouse & Easy Trails: Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, Wonderland Trail and Ship Harbor Trail

Read on for an overview of all the things you need to know about Acadia and Bar Harbour before you go.

Followed by a more in depth activity guide for the ideal 4 day family friendly itinerary, plus a 3 day option as well. We hope you stick around, there’s so much more to explore.

This itinerary is the one I planned for our family, that will give you lots of ideas for yours too!

Table of Contents


view from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia down to ocean below.

Acadia National Park Tips – What You Need To Know

Acadia is one of the things Maine is well known for. It’s located on Mount Desert Island in northern Maine, across the water from Nova Scotia, Canada.

There are so many amazing things to do in Acadia National Park for families, couples, friends. Especially for outdoor adventurers of all ages.

The majority of things to do are on the eastern side & in Bar Harbor. The western side is quieter and less visited, but has some great hikes, gardens and gorgeous views, so save some time for this section of the island.

We’ve planned out a 4 day itinerary in Acadia and around Bar Harbor for your vacation. But if you have less time, days one and two hit the major highlights of the area. I’ve also provided a long weekend, and 3 day option.

Or just pick and choose whatever catches your fancy.

There are so many amazing sights, hiking trails and activities to do in this area, you can’t go wrong.

Where to Stay in Acadia National Park, Maine?

Now all you need is a cozy place to stay.

As Acadia does not have lodgings in the park itself, we recommend a stay nearby in iconic Bar Harbor, or Southwest Harbor, on the other side of the island.

We’ve put together our top choices for where to stay near Acadia. From charming boutique hotels to sweet budget & family friendly cottages, these places are convenient, popular and relaxing places to get a great night’s sleep. Before your next days adventures.


We’ve highlighted our top choices for popular, well reviewed hotels, inns, and cottages near Acadia.

For more ideas check out our top 10+ Bar Harbor places to stay and our recommendations for pet friendly hotels in Bar Harbor.

Inn on Mount Desert – Charming Boutique Hotel (Bar Harbor)

Our top pick is this Inn on Mount Desert, which combines all the best things of a clean modern boutique hotel, with the coastal decor and nautical feel of a charming Bar Harbour bed and breakfast.

What guests love: Guests rave about the breakfast, the friendly, helpful staff & nice touches. The inn is conveniently located only a 10 minute walk to the waterfront, a 5 minute walk to the shops & restaurants in downtown Bar Harbor and 1 mile (1.6km) from the park itself. Family friendly.

Check availability of Inn on Mount Desert.

The Bar Harbor Inn & Spa – Mid-Range Inn, Bar Harbor, ME

Book Bar Harbor Inn, for its gorgeous 8 acre oceanside property, offering beautiful views, an infinity edge pool and two hot tubs, plus a spa.

What guests love: Convenient access to main street in 5 minutes, and a 10 minute drive to the park. Stunning sunset views, instant access to the shore path and a delicious continental breakfast. Enjoy freshly baked warm cookies in the afternoon. Great for romantic getaways, or family vacations.

Check availability of Bar Harbor Inn.

Eden Village Motel & Cottages – Budget & Family friendly (Bar Harbor, USA)

Stay at the Eden Village Motel & Cottages for a sweet, affordable option for families, friends or couples.

Eden offers simple and comfortable motel rooms, some which have connecting units, as well as 11 cottages.

What guests love: The simple, clean accommodations, with kitchenettes, outside grills and cottages that sleep 6. For kids young and old, there is a playground, pedal boats and pond. Some units are pet / dog friendly. Minutes from Acadia and downtown Bar Harbor, ME.

Check availability of Eden Village Motel & Cottages

Drydock Inn & Cafe – Quiet Escape in Southwest Harbor

For a quieter escape, stay at this cozy Drydock Inn and Cafe is a family favourite, and for those looking to be close, but not too close to the action.

What guests love: Exceptional service & onsite restaurant. Museums and whale watching are close by. Experience a more relaxing atmosphere on the quieter side of the island while still being close to everything.

✅ Check availability of Drydock Inn and Cafe

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Campground in Acadia National Park

If you are set on staying inside the park, camping is the only option, which allows easy access to hiking, open night skies and fun.

They are typically open mid May – mid October. The NPS website has lots of good info and online booking.

  • Blackwoods Campground – reservable up to 2 months in advance. No first come, first serve sites, advanced reservations only.
  • Duck Harbour Campground – small 5 site campground on Isle au Haut
  • Seawall Campground – reservable up to 2 months in advance. No first come, first serve sites, advanced reservations only
  • Schoodic Woods Campground – reservable up to 2 months in advance. No first come, first serve sites, advanced reservations only.

Park Hours & Entrance Fees

Acadia National Park in Maine is open 24 hours year-round, and you will need a pass to enter and park from May to October. To avoid line ups, buy your park pass online. Vehicle and per person passes are good for seven days and cost:

  • Private Vehicle: $30
  • Motorcycle: $25
  • No Car: $15 per person
  • Youth 15 and under: Free
  • Annual Pass: $55

👉 Save money on entrance fees with the annual America the Beautiful Park Pass.

Covers entrance fees for driver and passengers for over 2000 National Park and Federal Rec Sites. Especially useful if you are planning on a long road trip or visiting more than one park in a year.

Hulls Visitor Center & Cadillac Mountain Reservation

From May to October, make your first stop the Hulls Visitor Centre, to pick up maps, and gather information for your day in the park. Hours are usually 8:30am to 4:30 pm daily. Holiday hours vary.

The park rangers are super friendly and can give helpful advice for trails and parking.

If you visit in the winter season from Nov 1 – to mid April, park info is available from rangers at the Chamber of Commerce. It’s located at 2 Cottage St. (the corner of Cottage and Main streets) in downtown Bar Harbor. Hours are 8am to 4pm daily, and holiday hours vary.

  • Visitors to the Cadillac Summit Road will require a vehicle reservation for summer / fall season (Mid-May through October), during sunrise and daylight hours. So be sure to plan ahead.
  • Other areas of the park, and entering by foot or bike do not require reservations.

As things are constantly changing, it is a good idea to check the National Park website for all the latest news and requirements, before you book your trip.

PRO TIP: The park offers free shuttle service with your park entrance fee that can take you most anywhere you want to go. So if you don’t want the hassle of trying to find a parking spot, which can be challenging during peak tourist season, the free seasonal Island Explorer shuttle is highly recommended.

NOTE: The shuttle typically runs June to August, and for some routes until early-October. Island Explorer buses do not go to the Summit of Cadillac Mountain.

What is the best time to visit Acadia National Park?

The best time to visit Acadia National Park is from the end of May until October. After Labor Day until mid-September is less busy, with good weather, before the leaf peeping crowds arrive. Mid September until mid October is best for fall colours. Visit early October for peak fall foliage in the park.

Luckily when is rains in Acadia National Park, it’s not usually for long, and there are still plenty of fun and interesting things to do on a rainy Acadia day.

3 Day itinerary Acadia National Park. Walk along the Harbour path.  Sailboats, in  Bar Harbour, Maine
Sailboats in Bar Harbour, early morning
Photo: “rabbit_jake / canva.co

Can you drive to Acadia National Park?

It is possible to drive to Acadia National Park from adjacent cities and states, and makes a great New England Fall Foliage Road Trip. Boston to Acadia is a popular road trip route.

Some common routes, distances and approximate driving times to the park include:

  • Portland, ME: 170 mi / 274 km, 3 hours
  • Bangor, ME: 50 mi / 80.5 km, 1 hour
  • Boston, MA: 264 mi / 425 km, 5 hours
  • New York City, NY: 482 mi / 775 km, 9 hours
  • Saint John, NB: 227 mi, / 291 km, 5 hours
  • Montreal, QU: 370 mi / 595 km, 8 hours
  • Halifax, NS: 437 mi / 703 km, 9 hours
Leaf peeping in fall is a fun family activity. Lake with fall leaf colors.
Fall is wonderful for leaf peeping, no matter where you visit. (Exploring at home)

How to get to Acadia National Park?

Most visitors fly into Bangor International Airport, then rent a car, or take the bus or shuttle into Bar Harbor, Maine.

Once in Bar Harbor, the entrance to Acadia National Park is only a 5-10 minute drive or shuttle ride away.

Travel Options from Bangor, MaineTransportationAvailabilityTimeCost
Rent A CarBook in advance onlineFlexible1 hour Varies
Take a BusDowneast TransportationMonday to Friday (limited schedule)1.5 hours$9
Take the ShuttleBar Harbor – Bangor ShuttleJune through October – by reservation1 hour 15 minstarts at $70 one way
Travel Options from Bangor to Bar Harbour, Maine

👉 You may also like Camping gift ideas for kids to prepare for your Acadia trip.

Winter in Acadia

Winter time in Acadia offers amazing cross country skiing, and snowshoeing on the carriage roads, as well as ice fishing.

Safe winter hiking trails include Ship Harbor, Ocean Path and carriage roads.

Check out the best hiking apps which will help you keep in the loop of trail conditions and everything you want to know about the trails.

Please note the Park Loop road is only open from around April 15 – December 1. Jordan Pond Road and parts of Ocean Drive are open and plowed in the winter. The Hulls Visitor Center is also closed from about Nov. 1 to May 5 annually.

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4 Day Acadia Itinerary infographic. Park Loop Road, Bar Harbor, Lighthouses, Sailing Carriage roads.


Day One Acadia Itinerary: Best of Acadia & Park Loop Road

It’s easy to see why Acadia National Park is one of the top National Parks in the US. Between gorgeous sunrises, hiking trails, carriage roads, and beaches, there are so many fantastic activities to do.

For day one you will be heading out on the Park Loop Road which takes you to all the major highlights and attractions in Acadia National Park.

The 27 km Loop Road drive takes about 3-4 hours, if you stop and go while enjoying mountainous scenery, and rugged coastline.

There’s a few different options for exploring Park Loop Road; take a self-guided audio tour, book a guided Private Tour or Bus Tour, or hop on the free shuttle.

Acadia National Park Self-Driving Tour

Explore Acadia & Park Loop Road from the comfort of your own car, by bringing along a self-guided audio tour.

Along the way learn about the forests, secret spots and historical significance of sites and attractions in the park. Take your time, and stop along the way.

Acadia Driving Tour

If you’re short on time, and want to avoid the hassles of parking during the busy season, a popular option is to take this Acadia Driving Tour. A stress free way to see the the highlights of the park.

Other options include:

What to Pack: You will be spending the day out here, so pack your camera, beach bag (towel, swimsuit, sunscreen, sunhat), water and snacks.

👉 Don’t forget to bring along backpacks for the kids, so they can carry their own snacks, water and change of clothes for your daily adventures!

EARLY MORNING: Cadillac Mountain Sunrise (Optional)

Acadia National Park Itinerary 4 Days. Sunrise over the ocean,  on top of Cadillac Mountain Maine.
Acadia National Park, Maine: Sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain.
photo: “ultima_gaina / istock.com”

If you are a morning person, watching the sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain will be your first order of business.

FUN FACT: This is the first place to view the sunrise in the United States from early October through March, and is a popular place early morning.

Cadillac Mountain is a must for your Acadia Itinerary.

Arrive early to grab your parking spot (at least an hour before sunrise to be safe). If you can’t fathom getting up early on vacation, or are travelling with teenagers who aren’t pleasant before noon, visit Cadillac Mountain for sunset.

Remember, you will also need a vehicle reservation during peak season, May to October.

Then head out on the Park Loop Road to your next destination, Sand Beach & the Beehive Trail or Ocean Path.

MORNING: Sand Beach, Beehive Trail or Ocean Path Trail & Thunder Hole

After sunrise, a little hiking and beach time are in order.

You will find parking in the Sand Beach parking lot, or on the right lane of the Loop Road (watch the signs). From here you can hit the beach and both of the hiking trails.

Choose the Beehive Trail if you are looking for a hike of moderate difficulty.

The Ocean Path is rated an easy trail, so choose that one if you want an all-ages family friendly trail, or are looking for a more leisurely oceanside stroll.

Acadia Hiking: Beehive Trail – Moderate Difficulty

Acadia hiking. View of Sand Beach and ocean from the top of Beehive Trail, Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park – Beehive Trail View
Photo:”istock.com / Douglas Rissing”

The Beehive Trail is a somewhat easier version of the Precipice Trail. However you will still need to be able to climb metal rungs & fearlessly walk cliff edges, so not recommended for very young children.

It’s a fairly strenous 0.8 mile (1.3 km) hike because of the steep grade and steady climb. Go early to avoid the crowds.

For a slightly longer hike (2 miles / 3.2 km), return via the Bowl Trail. You’ll be rewarded with more amazing views and a hike by a beautiful lake.

PRO TIP: If you are looking for more adventure on an advanced trail, the well known Precipice Trail is a 5 minute drive up the road.

👉 More Maine ideas: 50+ Things to do in Maine

Acadia Hiking: Ocean Path – Easy

Ocean Path, Acadia Park, Maine

The Ocean Path is a great family friendly alternative for those with young children, or anyone who wants an easy oceanside trail.

This path begins near Sand Beach and runs parallel to Park Loop Road and the ocean 0.7 miles past Thunder Hole all the way to Otter Cliff and Otter Point, (4 miles or 6.4 km one way).

Return the way you came, or flag down the Island Explorer shuttle when it is running, and bus back to your car or Bar Harbour.

Sand Beach

After your hike, head to the beach for some sand, sun and relaxation. Explore the tidal pools, build a sandcastle, then go for a cool dip in the ocean.

The water is cold, so be prepared.

Sand Beach View, Acadia, ME
Sand Beach – Acadia National Park
Photo: ” EJJohnson Photography / canva.com”

👉 Come prepared with your Beach Vacation Packing List (with Kids) and Road Trip Food List – Snacks!

Thunder Hole

After a relaxing beach morning, head out on the road again towards Jordan Pond House for lunch. Along the way be sure to stop at Thunder Hole if you chose the Bee Hive hiking trail this morning.

Thunder Hole is where the spectacular sight of crashing of waves meets thunderous booms, as water is forced through a rock crevice and into a small cave. The noise is loudest 1-2 hours before high tide, or just after a storm.

If you have time stop at Otter Point and walk the southern tip of Mount Desert Island.

AFTERNOON Acadia Itinerary: Jordan Pond House & Hike

Jordan Pond House and Trail is a fun way to spend an afternoon. The Tea House is perched on a lawn overlooking the pond for which it is named, and glacier errants called “The Bubbles“.

Their menu spans everything from local lobster and scallops, to stews, chowders and sandwiches, and of course their famous popovers. Choose an outside table in warm weather.

The Jordan Pond Loop Trail is an easy 3.4 mile roundtrip hike, which takes you around the pond. An ideal family friendly hike, as you be walking on fairly flat well groomed surfaces. The last mile is over raised wooden boardwalk along the wetlands.

Jordan Pond and Bubble Mountains, Maine. Acadia itinerary hiking ideas.
Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park
Photo: “diane39 / canva.com”

For a more moderate hike, loop into the South Bubble Trail, which will take you to a balanced rock, Bubble Rock. Be sure to take the iconic photo of you trying to push the rock off the cliff edge. After a millenia, it’s still there, so good luck!

South Bubble Trail, Acadia Park. Bubble ROack on the edge of the cliff looking over fall foliage forest.
Bubble Rock, A Glacial Erratic Boulder, at Acadia National Park, Maine, USA
Photo: ” istock.com/DougLemke”

PRO TIP: As the only full service resturant in Acadia, Jordan Pond House can be overcrowded. Who doesn’t want to try one of their popovers? Reserve your lunch date online before you go. If you forgot to reserve, pick up a sandwich or snack at the shop and head out on the trail for a picnic. They are open usually from May to October.

Day Two: Bar harbor Itinerary – Explore by Land & Sea

Bar Harbour, Maine is a bustling coastal town, and a popular home base for visitors to nearby Acadia National Park. It is the shopping, dining, hotel / resort and nightlife centre of Mount Desert Island.

Here you can also book tours of all sorts from boat & whale watching tours, to carriage rides in the park. Many stop for the winter, and start back up in Spring.

A boat ride is a perfect addition to your Bar Harbor itinerary.

Take this Windjammer leisurely sail on Frenchman Bay for a chance to see eagles, seals, porpoises and learn the history of the area.

Bar Harbour has some of New England’s best restaurants. Including fantastic breakfast spots for down east morning bites.

The seafood, craft beer and locally roasted coffee are highlights. Be sure to save room for dessert.

What to Pack: You’ll be walking on sand / gravel to Bar Harbour Island, so bring or wear beach shoes, camera, sun hat, sunscreen, water, snacks, and a light sweater or long sleeve shirt.

MORNING: Walk to Bar Island – Bar Harbor

Start your morning off by walking the land bridge to Bar Island, followed by a stroll in downtown Bar Harbor, and a visit to Abbe Museum.

Check the timing for low tide as Bar Harbour Island is only reachable along the sand bar for about the 1.5 hours before and up to 1.5 hours after low tide. Shift your plans accordingly.

If you get stranded on the island, it’s an expensive water taxi ride back (but at least there are options). Or you can wait about 9 hours for the next low tide.

  • If you are heading up West Street watch for the signpost that indicates where to turn onto Bridge Street to reach the Bar Island Path.
  • Dogs are allowed on the island and its trails if leashed.
  • On the island you will find hiking trails, and picturesque views of Bar Harbor, and Frenchman Bay, but no washroom facitilies.

Once on Bar Island, the trail (an old road) heads up through the forest. At the first junction, right will take you to an old home site, the left will take you up to the highest point of the island. Both offer gorgeous views of Bar Harbor.

Bar Harbor, Maine: Visit Downtown, Abbe Museum & Walk the Shore Path

Bar Harbor is best explored by foot. Stroll along Main Street for cute shops, restaurants and a sweet treat.

Bar Harbor itinerary, wander the streets & shops of Bar Harbour Downtown. Colorful shops leading to the ocean.
Downtown Bar Harbor, Maine: Shops and restaurants with an ocean view.
photo: “istock.com / paulaandreaonline”

If you are feeling particularly brave, try the lobster ice cream at Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium on Main Street. If that doesn’t satisy your sweet tooth, they also offer 70+ other flavours of ice cream and gelato, as well as homemade fudge, chocolates and candy.

End your morning with a promenade along the Shore Path. Follow the half-mile walkway, from Ells Pier to Wayman Lane, down the east shore.

Along the way, you’ll be delighted by many iconic sights; the iconic Bar Harbor Inn, Porcupine Islands, Balance Rock and Egg Rock Light.

Now that you’ve enjoyed the incredible scenery, it is time to learn about the history and culture of the Wabanaki, the original people of Maine.

  • The Abbe Museum and it’s satellite branch in the park is the only Smithsonian-affiliated museum in Maine. Abbe features permanent and changing exhibits, as well as special events throughout the year.
Abbe Museum Historic Building Maine
Bar Harbour, Maine, USA: The Abbe Museum
Photo: “istock.com / carso80”


This pick is for the kids. Diver Ed’s Dive-in Theater Boat Cruise is a unique and fun way to spend two hours. Add this to your family vacation to Acadia National Park itinerary.

Board the “Starfish Enterprise,” and head out on the water to a special diving spot.

Watch a live video as Diver Ed descends to the bottom of Frenchman Bay. Then enjoy the interactive part of the show as he brings back a touch tank full of sea creatures you can observe and handle.

If touching sea cucumbers and star fish are not your cup o’ sea (har har), there are plentiful tour options to head out on the water; whale watching, lobster boats, kayaks, stand up paddle boarding, sailing and more.

Acadia National Park also offers 2 – 4.5 hour ranger guided boat tours. Here kids can also touch sea life, look out for seals, porpoises, and sea birds, as well as explore island life and learn some maritime history of the area. Check out all their ranger programs here.

Lobster Dinner

Lobster Sign Restaurant Bar Harbour, ME
A wooden sign in front of a lobster at a restaurant in Bar Harbor (Maine, USA)
Photo: “istock.com / carso80”

If you love lobster as much as my partner does, then you definitely want to make sure to plan a special lobster dinner or two. The grocery stores will even cook one up for you if you want a cheaper option to take back to your hotel, or for a fancy picnic by the sea.

If seafood doesn’t appeal, there are retaurants and cuisine to suit everyone’s palate. Below is just a taste of what Bar Harbor has to offer. Many restaurants and cafes are seasonal, and open only May to October.

Check out all the best Bar Harbor breakfast spots here. A few ideas to get you started:

  • Cafe This Way: Locally sourced foods, eggs benny, blueberry pancakes, breakfast fare – 14 Mt. Desert St, Bar Harbor, ME (open seasonally)
  • Chocco-Latte: Homemade bagels, coffee & hot chocolate, breakfast sandwiches – 240 Main St, Bar Harbor, ME
  • Coffee Hound Coffee @ the Stadium – Local treats & fancy coffees – 62 Main Street

A few restaurants we’re interested in trying for Lunch & Dinner:

  • Side Street Cafe: Mac n’ Cheese, Soups & Sandwiches, Lobster rolls, Fish Tacos, Burgers – 49 Rodick St, Bar Harbor, ME
  • Thrive Juice Bar & Kitchen: Smoothies, fresh juice, salads, wraps – 51 Rodick Street, Bar Harbor, ME (open seasonally)
  • Geddy’s: Seafood, “Wood-fired” Pizza, Burgers – 9 Main St, Bar Harbor, ME
  • Galyn’s: fish, seafood, steak, prime rib – 17 Main Street, Bar Harbor, ME
  • Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound Lobster & Seafood – 1237 Bar Harbor Rd., Trenton, ME (open seasonally)
  • Thurston’s Lobster Pound – 9 Thurston Rd, Bernard, ME (open seasonally) – Close to Bass Harbor Lighthouse

Day Three: Acadia Carriage Roads & Asticou Gardens

For day three we will be returning to Acadia Park to explore the Carriage Road system by bike, foot or horse drawn carriage and the Japanese / Azalea Gardens within Asticou Gardens.

If meandering through colourful gardens doesn’t appeal, the drive to Northeast Harbor is a beautiful alternative. There you will find a quaint village, at the entrance to Somes Sound, and waters dotted with yachts and sailing vessels.

What to pack: Bike, bike helmet, camera, sweater or jacket, water, snacks.

MORNING: Acadia National Park Carriage System

Rent a bike and tour around some of the forty-five miles (72 km) of rustic carriage roads, a gift from John D. Rockefeller Jr. and family.

You can rent bikes at a few places in Bar Harbour.

The Acadia National Park Carriage system was built between 1913 and 1940 and weaves through the beautiful mountains, valleys and woodland roads of the park and over 17 stone bridges.

Stone Bridge Carriage Roads, Maine
Carriage Roads: One of the famous stone bridges in Acadia National Park
photo: “istock.com/Bkamprath”

For a more relaxing way to see the carriage roads, take a horse drawn carriage ride & tour. Hikers, bikers, horseback riders, and horse-drawn carriages share these roads, as no motor vehicles are allowed.

Eagle Lake and Bubble Pond access points are wheelchair accessible. Both have parking and wheelchair accessible washrooms. Other access points on Mount Desert Island include Jordan Pond, and the Hulls Cove Visitor Cente.

AFTERNOON: Asticou Gardens

The Asticou Gardens were created in 1956 by John Savage and financed by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. A colourful delight, these gardens are influenced by Japanese stroll garden design, with coastal Maine influences.

Stroll the trails through the azalea garden encircling Asticou Pond, as well as the mountainscape, lawn and sand gardens to name a few.

The gardens are free to enter, but the suggested donation is $5 to help support this volunteer run place. They are open seasonally, usually May to October.

👉 More seaside adventures: Boston to Acadia Road trip

Day 4: Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, Wonderland Trail & Ship Harbor Trail

The western side of Acadia National Park is quieter, and less frequented.

Our day four itinerary will take you past Southwest Harbor to the Bass Harbor Lighthouse and two family friendly hiking trails; the Wonderland Trail & Ship Harbor Trail.

What to pack: Picnic lunch, camera, sun hat, sunscreen, sweater or jacket, tide pool identification guide.

MORNING: Wonderland Trail & Ship Harbor Trail

The Wonderland and Ship Harbor Trails are located near the town of Bass Harbor on the southern tip of Mount Desert Island.

Both of these trails are easy, family friendly strolls, with mostly level terrain through pine forests, ending oceanside.

Wonderland is a short, very easy trail that follows an old gravel road to rocky shoreline. This 1.5 mile hike roundtrip will take about an hour. Add more time in for tide pool exploration.

Ship Harbor Trail is also an easy family friendly 1.5 miles roundtrip hike to the ocean shore. Bring a picnic lunch or head back to Southwest Harbor for lunch, before heading back out to the lighthouse in the afternoon.

AFTERNOON: Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

The Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse is one of the most famous and photographed landmarks of Acadia National Park. Constructed in 1876, the lighthouse is located at the southernmost tip of Mount Desert Island, south of Bass Harbor.

Not to miss iconic lighthouse to see during your 4 days in Acadia National Park.

Lighthouse Bass Harbour Head, Maine
Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse in Summer
photo: “zrfphoto / canva.com”

While you can’t go into the lighthouse itself, you can explore around the lighthouse and trails which will take you to a viewing platform. The perfect place to take that iconic rugged coastline with lighthouse in the background photo.

Bass Harbor Lighthouse is also a popular place to visit at sunset.

👉 More Maine camping (& tubing), on the Saco River

3 Day Itinerary Acadia National Park

If you don’t have four full days to spend in the park, here’s an outline of our suggested 3 Day Itinerary for Acadia. Perfect for a long weekend getaway.

As always, feel free to mix and match depending on interests, desired activity levels, and ages of your group. It’s a vacation, relaxation and napping are always ok!

Day One: Best of Acadia & Park Loop Road


  • Hike the Beehive Trail or Ocean Path
  • Explore Sand Beach, don’t forget a snack and sunscreen
  • Visit Thunderhole (If you didn’t see it on the Ocean Path Trail)


  • Lunch at Jordan Pond House (Be sure to try their famous popovers)
  • Hike the Jordan Pond Loop Trail / and or South Bubbles Trail

Day Two: Explore Bar Harbour

Depending on when low tide is, you may want to switch around your morning and afternoon Bar Harbour activities.


  • Walk the landbridge, across the beach to Bar Island, and wander the trails
  • Sightsee in downtown Bar Harbor: try a treat or ice cream at Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium, visit Abbe Museum and stroll the Harbour Pathway


  • Boat Tour: Many options ( Diver Ed’s, Ranger-Led Tour, whale watching, fishing and more). Like this Windjammer leisurely sail on Frenchman Bay for a chance to see eagles, seals, porpoises and learn the history of the area.
  • Lobster Dinner – Yum!!

Day Three: Sunrise, Carriage Roads & Lighthouse


  • Watch the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain
  • Tour the Carriage Road system by bike or horse drawn carriage. You can rent bikes, or bring your own.
  • Lunch Options: Bring a picnic, or pick a restaurant close to the Lighthouse (Maine-ly Delights, Seafood Ketch) or the iconic Thurston’s Lobster Pound a 10 minute drive from the Lighthouse.


  • Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse
  • If you are up for more adventure add either the Asticou Gardens or hike along the Ship Harbor Trail

Did I miss anything you would recommend, for a 3 Day Itinerary to Acadia National Park? Let me know in the comments.

What Should You Not Miss In Acadia National Park?

So now you have a fun Acadia National Park Itinerary to inspire your next adventure. I’ll put all our suggestions in a handy list below, in case you want to create your own itinerary.

The top 21 things to do in Acadia National Park, you, your family and friends definitely should not miss:

  1. Park Loop Road
  2. Riding the Carriage Roads
  3. Cadillac Mountain Sunrise or Sunset
  4. Sand Beach
  5. Beehive Trail
  6. Ocean Path
  7. Thunder Hole
  8. Otter Cliff
  9. Otter Cove
  10. Jordan Pond House & Hike
  11. South Bubble Trail & Bubble Rock
  12. Downtown Bar Harbor
  13. Abbe Museum
  14. Bar Harbor Island
  15. Lobster Dinner
  16. Boat Tour
  17. Wonderland Trail
  18. Ship Harbor Trail
  19. Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse
  20. Asticou Gardens
  21. Northeast Harbor

So many things to do and see on an Acadia National Park itinerary 4 days.

FAQs – Bar Harbor & Acadia

How many days in Bar Harbor do you need?

You will need a minimum of 2-4 days in Bar Harbor to see the main highlights of the town, and nearby Acadia National Park. With so many things to do from hikes, touring Park Loop Road, visiting the quaint shops, eat Maine lobsterm and heading out on the water, one day is not enough time.

How many days do you need in Acadia National Park?

You will need to spend at least 3-4 days in Acadia National Park. This will give you enough time to drive Park Loop Road, see the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain, visit Jordan Pond House & Harbor Head Lighthouse, as well as do a few short hikes. Add an extra day if you want to explore the Schoodic Peninsula.

How to get from Bar Harbor to Acadia National Park?

You can either drive or take the free Island Explorer shuttle from Bar Harbor to Acadia National Park. By car it’s a 10 minute, or 2.2 miles (3.5 km) drive from downtown Bar Harbor. During peak season, driving times may be longer due to congested traffic. The free shuttle has many stops in the park.

Where are the entrances to Park Loop Road in Acadia?

There are four entrances to the most popular sections of the Park Loop Road in Acadia, on Mount Desert Island. Distances from Bar Harbor are:

  • Hulls Cove Entrance, located off Route 3 on Paradise Hill Road, it’s a 3.1 miles / 15 minute drive. This is also the Main Visitors Center area.
  • Cadillac Mountain Entrance, located on the outskirts of Bar Harbor off Route 233 / Eagle Lake Road. It’s 2.2 miles (3.5 km) / 5-10 minute drive. The summit is 3.5 miles / 30 minute drive from dowtown.
  • Sieur de Monts Entrance, located on Route 3 (take Main Street) south of Bar Harbor. It’s 2.5 miles / 10 minute drive
  • Stanley Brook Entrance, also located on Route 3 in the town of Seal Harbor. It’s 8.3 miles / 20-30 minute drive.

Final Thoughts: Itinerary for Acadia National Park

To recap, flying into and renting a car in Bangor, Maine for the short drive (1 hour), is a popular way to visit the park.

Our top pick for places to stay near Acadia is this sweet boutique hotel Inn on Mount Desert, for its fabulous breakfast, quick walk to dowtown Bar Harbor & the waterfront and short 10 min drive to Acadia.

Not to miss activities include Park Loop Road, hikes, eating lobster, and stopping off at Sand Beach to dip your toes in the Atlantic Ocean.

I hope this guide and itinerary for Acadia National Park helps you plan an amazing vacation.

If there are sights or things to do in Acadia National Park we’ve missed, let us know in the comments below, or connect with us on social media. We’d love to hear from you.


Here are our favourite resources we use to research and book our trips. They offer competitive deals, and good customer service. Plus itineraries and more travel ideas for Maine:
Amazing Oceanfront places to stay in Maine
Weather in Maine & does it snow?
Maine things to do in Spring
Camping & tubing on the Saco River
15+ Things to do on rainy days in Acadia
Best Bar Harbor breakfast spots
Where to stay in Bar Harbor, Maine (All budgets)
Top Pet Friendly Bar Harbor Hotels
Boston to Bar Harbor Road Trip: What not to miss

Booking.com – Book your accomodations here. Excellent all round booking site for lowest lodging rates.
VRBO Book family friendly accommodations here, that have the comforts of home, but without the cleaning!
Viator – Find & book even more experiences, tours & fun lessons world wide.
Discover Cars – Make finding the cheapest or best car for your trip easy (worldwide)

Anything else? Check out our Family Travel Resources & Tips page

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  1. Acadia is so high on our bucket list! Your pictures are absolutely beautiful! We would love to catch the sunrise at Cadillac Mountain and see all the lighthouses. Thanks for all the information!

    1. Yay for bucket lists. Glad to help out with the dreaming. Can’t take credit for the photos, they are by wonderful artists off of Canca.com. One day I hope to be able to take pictures like that.

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