Of course, all National Parks are beautiful. They’re all full of natural wonders, rich landscapes, and diverse wildlife. And yes, they’re all beautiful, but Maine’s parks just might have an upper hand. And Acadia National Park is proof of that.
First of all, it’s situated primarily on Mount Desert Island off the coast of Maine, as well as on a few smaller adjoining islands. It has a sprawling shoreline and a rich New England forest. Acadia National Park weather is mostly moderate. What’s more, the air is crisp and the list of activities to do is long.
A quick glance at an Acadia National Park map reveals just part of why the park is so alluring. Most importantly, you get the best of both worlds. Along with plenty of adventures on land and on sea, you get to behold the beauty and power of the ocean’s waves. And don’t forget the stately beauty of a fir-lined forest.
The Top Five Things to Do at Acadia National Park
Over three million people have visited Acadia National Park, and it’s time to add your name to that list. But, you want to make sure that you make the most of your visit. With so many sites to see, and so many activities available, you want to make sure you come prepared, informed, and educated. And in order to do that, you need to know the best things to do in Acadia National Park. Here are the top five things to do on your visit.
1. Take a visit to Thunder Hole
Thunder Hole Acadia is the place to go to experience the raw power of the sea. Over time, waves have naturally carved a small inlet into the rocky coastline. And when powerful waves fill the inlet with water, the force of the water and air against the rocks sounds like a clap of thunder. It also sends water up to 40 feet into the air.
Of coure, you can park nearby, at Sand Beach, and take the 3-mile round trip trail on Ocean Path. On this route, you’ll get a beautiful, up-close view of Maine’s shoreline. And at the end of it, you’ll get to experience first hand the power of the ocean. However, watch out for the waves and hold onto your hat and your cell phone.
2. Take a photo at Otter Cliff
The same Ocean Path trail that can take you to Thunder Hole can also lead you to Otter Cliff. Significantly, it’s one of the most recognizable locations inside Acadia National Park, and it is also one of the tallest coastal headlands in America.
Its craggy rock formation juts out sharply into the sea. Note that the cliff is rugged and aggressive. ;However, the beach below is covered in round rocks that look like delicate little pebbles.
Just off the shore, you may spot “The Spindle,” a bouy marking a place from our early American history. This historic spot marks the spot of one of the first landings on the North American continent.
Sixteen years before the Pilgrims landed nearby, explorer Samuel de Champlain and his crew were forced to overwinter in Otter Cove due to storm damage to their ship. Worth noting, they dubbed the area “New France” at the time.
You’ll find plenty of places to wander and plenty of things to photograph during your trip to Acadia. But make sure that one of them is Otter Cliff.
3. Catch the sunrise at Cadillac Mountain
Cadillac Mountain, located on Mount Desert Island, is the highest peak on the North Atlantic Seaboard. And from October 7 through March 6, it’s also the first place in the United States to see the sun rise.
Rising about 1,522 feet above sea level, you can hike to the top using one of the four hiking trails. Luckily, however, you can also drive to the top if that seems a bit more than you’d like to tackle at 4 a.m. in the morning.
A scenic highway winds its way up the mountain with several overlooks along the way, making it an easy place to get beautiful views. At the top, you’ll find plenty of parking and, thankfully, restrooms.
Once there, you can get a picture-perfect view of the surrounding landscape and snap a great photo of the sunrise before anyone else in America sees it. Sure, it’s just a sunrise, and it happens every day, but there’s something a little special in knowing you got to see it first.
4. Camp out inside the park
It’s tempting when you visit a National Park to balance the rustic wilderness with the creature comforts of a hotel room. At the end of a long day spent hiking, biking, and sightseeing, it’s only natural to want to collapse into a plush, king-sized bed. If you can subdue that urge, the chance to enjoy Acadia National Park camping is even more alluring.
Most importantly, camping helps make the wilderness real. You can hike and bike all you want through it, but you can’t really experience nature without spending at least one night out in it. You have to hear the rustle of the tree branches outside your tent and the sounds of the birds in the early morning.
Choosing a campground at Acadian National Park
The campgrounds at Acadian National Park are usually very popular and busy. So, it’s a good idea to make reservations ahead of time. Luckily, you can easily make those reservations only at the Recreation.gov website.
Acadian National Park offers several campgrounds to enjoy: the Blackwoods Campground, the Seawall Campground, and the Schoodic Woods Campground.
Last, but certainly not least, there are also limited camping sites at the Duck Harbor Campground, located on the rugged island of Isle au Haut.
And if you are camping with your horses or ponies, you can access the Wildwood Stables Campground.
The camping season is generally scheduled between May and October, although the Blackwoods site offers extended, off-season camping into November.
The Blackwoods Campground features sites for tent campers. This staffed site also provides flush toilets and running water. You’ll find picnic tables and fire rings at all the sites too.
Seawall Campground offers tent sites with both walk-up and drive in access. Unfortunately, they don’t offer electric sites, but you’ll find site that can accommodate campers and RVs.
The Schoodic Woods Campground also offers tent and RV sites with electric and water access. It also boasts Wi-Fi access. Unfortunately, none of the camp sites offer public showers.
What’s more, you’ll also find group damping sites for large groups of 15 to 20 people at all three facilities.
Duck Harbor Campground has only five campsites available on the remote island of Isle au Haut. And you’ll have to catch the mail boat to get there. However, if you’re lucky enough to get reservations, you’ll find lean-to shelters, picnic tables, fire rings, and a handy water pump in the great outdoors where you can really get back to nature.
5. Take a canoe or kayak trip
The shoreline of Acadia National Park demands to be experienced in an up-close and personal way. And there’s no better way to do that than by kayaking around it. During your trip, you’ll get amazing views of the rocky shoreline, the pebble beaches, and the tall pines.
Acadia National Park trails are a great way to experience the untamed wildlife of the park. However, they can make it hard to really fathom the size and scope of the place. You can’t always see the forest for the trees. But a trip on the water can solve all of that.
If you’re not comfortable wrangling watercraft by yourself, you’re in luck. You’ll find plenty of boat tours around the area that offer cruises and tours for visitors. The National Parks Service even offers a way to shop around by posting the local Chambers of Commerce on their Acadia National Parks website.
On the other hand, if you’re a seasoned boater and just need the equipment, you can easily rent a watercraft from local vendors. For sailboats and motor boats, check out Mansell Boat Rentals.
For people-powered watercraft, like paddleboards, canoes, and kayaks, National Parks Canoe Rentals has you covered in the local area.
See the Best Acadia Has to Offer
It’s hard to pick from the dozens of activities and sights that Acadia National Park has to offer. However, now you can be confident that you have a good place to start. You have a good list of must-sees to work from, and you’ll find plenty to help fill in the gaps.
Can you think of any must-do activities within Acadian National Park? Give us your recommendations in the comments section.