Everyone has different ideas of the best and favorite spots are at Acadia National Park are. Here are a few of our preferences!
Things to Do on the Way to Acadia
Before we dive into the list of activities for Acadia, here are activities you can do on the way to Acadia National Park.
Favorite Spots Inside of Acadia
Ocean Path and Otter Cliff
The Ocean Path is just over two miles long from the Otter Point parking lot to Sand Beach. To be honest, I’ve only ever hiked from Otter Point to Thunder Hole (and back again), as we typically avoid the overcrowded Sand Beach area.
Otter Point to Thunder Hole
From Otter Point to Thunder Hole is 1.4 miles on fairly easy terrain. There are some stone staircases and climbing down rocks, but the majority of the path is easy walking. The best part of the walk is leaving the path and going out onto the iconic rocky Maine coastline and relaxing next to the crashing ocean.
While we were visiting the Park in the summer of 2020, we actually saw an otter while at Otter Cliff. Definitely take some time to sit on the rocks there and keep an eye out! There’s more to see than seagulls.
On a normal non-Covid year, there is a shuttle bus that’s free which runs along the Loop Road, which the Ocean Path is adjacent. So if you do get too tired to complete the hike back to Otter Point, you can hop on the shuttle and get dropped off.
– Early morning is best, in my opinion, as most people aren’t up yet and the path and rocks are fairly quiet. It’s also a good time to see boats heading out. However, bring sunblock and water, as when the sun begins to shine, you are fully exposed.
– Why do we park at Otter Point and then walk back? The Otter Point parking lot generally isn’t full and everything else from Sand Beach to Thunder Hole to Gorham Mountain Trailhead is.
Information varies about the best time to hear the hole thunder, but we’ve had the best luck about 90 minutes before high tide. However, the sea conditions have to be just right to really hear the thunder, otherwise, you’ll get more of a “slap” sound.
Look for an early high tide – because if high tide is mid-morning to late afternoon, the place will be mobbed.
Also, the rocks around the Hole (or anywhere on the rocky coastline) can be very slippery when wet. Good hiking shoes are better footwear than flip-flops or sandals.
– There are two vault toilets located at Thunder Hole in the parking lot.
– Print off a tide chart before you head out for your vacation.
To be fair, Bar Island is also very popular. However, there is so much room to spread out and explore, it’s worth the somewhat crowded walk across the low-tide gravel bar.
If you can, it might be best to take the shuttle into Bar Harbor and, depending on which stop you choose, walk the 0.4 to 0.5 miles to Bridge Street. Parking is difficult to come by if the low tide is any time after mid-morning.
As you walk the 0.5 miles out to the Island, take some time to explore the tidal pools. There are all sorts of crabs and other life in those little pools.
You can also hike another 0.5 miles up to the highest point on Bar Island. The last time I hiked to the top (2018), the trees were so grown up, there wasn’t much of a view.
We like to walk along the southern coastline of the Island heading east. At times you can the cruise ships come in to dock and be re-supplied, or head back out to sea.
– Plan to arrive 1.5 hours before low tide for the first chance to cross the gravel bar. You can spend about three hours in this area, but make sure to be back on Bridge Street before the gravel bar is covered by the Atlantic Ocean again!
As we take the Loop Road through the Park, we often stop and get out. I like to look at the bridge, but the view down Otter Cove isn’t bad either!
There is often some parking here and a couple of hiking trails too. The Otter Cove Trail comes through and meets up with the Quarry Trail.
Bass Harbor Head Light
We normally stop by the Lighthouse in mid-afternoon or evening. We’ve either had the place about to ourselves or the place is packed.
If the place is packed, you’ve got about enough room to turnaround and head back up the road, but not always. There is NO PARKING along the roadway.
If you do get a parking spot and want to stretch your legs a bit, there’s a 0.1-mile hike down the coast. Part of the hike is a lot of wooden steps. If the parking lot is crowded, this area can also be crowded since it’s such a short hike. But you do get a nice vista looking up at the Lighthouse.
If you really don’t like the crowds and want to get away by yourself, drive the 47 miles northeast of Bar Harbor to Schoodic Peninsula. Here you can enjoy the crashing surf against the rocky coastline and almost have the entire area to yourself.
Or go for a hike on the Buck Cove Mountain Trail to get impressive views from Schoodic Head.
– Dress warmer for touring Schoodic Peninsula than you plan to for Mount Desert. The wind can blow fierce here and it’s not a warm wind.
Spots We Avoid in Acadia National Park
Parking is always insane here. There are gobs and gobs of people, especially on a hot day. Yes, the beach is sandy and you can go swimming here, but it’s just not worth our time.
Jordan Pond House and Jordan Pond
Unless you are planning on coming here first thing in the morning – don’t bother.
We made the mistake one year of splitting up to do different activities and planned to meet at Jordan Pond around noon. By some minor miracle, I managed to find a parking space (I had the car). Somehow, I managed to find my sister in the crowds of people moving through the area along the hiking trails.
– If you do plan to meet up with someone at Jordan Pond, be very specific about where you plan to meet them. There are two parking lots and it’s very easy to miss the person you’re meeting up with.
Don’t get me wrong, the hike around the Pond is great. The gift shop at the House is nice. The food at the restaurant looks incredible, but the number of people and cars constantly moving through the area is insane.
If you are planning on hiking the mountain – go for it! The trails can be a bit crowded since the mountain is such a popular hike; however, the parking lot, if you drive to the top, is typically very full.
– If you do drive up to the top and there’s no parking, stop at one of the pull-off areas on the way back down. We had a lovely picnic on the rocks one day looking out over Bar Harbor.
Do our favorite spots in Acadia line up with your favorite spots? If not, let me know!
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