Top Ten Things to do in Acadia

Bar Harbor from the Cadillac summit

Vacation season is almost upon us! An Acadia adventure awaits. This is one of those posts I’ve been meaning to write for a long time since it is an attempt to answer the question I hear most often.  I will try to list the Top Ten in reverse priority (#10 first) and give alternatives when possible. Some choices are weather-related and so should be shuffled in the priority as necessary.

10.  A visit off island. It’s important to see the “real” Maine, away from the remarkable beauty of Mt. Desert Island. Two of my recommended off-island trips are to Stonington on Deer Isle (1-1/2 hours, 58 miles), a real fishing village and former granite quarry. See Kathleen’s post about the Settlement Quarry and the Crockett Cove Woods. The second choice is Castine (1-1/2 hours, 53 miles). Castine is great for history buffs. You can see remains of old Fort George built by the Brits. Castine is interesting because it was claimed at various time by the  French, British, Dutch and finally the Americans. There is also a lighthouse and the Mane Maritime Academy.

9.   Shopping, Brewery, Museums. I would love to claim we have perfect weather in the summer, but if you find the outdoors soggy, you should have some indoor options. Go here to see museums associated with College of the Atlantic. Try the Abbe Museum, 26 Mt. Desert, open 10 AM to 4 PM, Thursday to Saturday from late May through early November for Maine’s Native American story.  Southwest Harbor’s Oceanarium is a hit with kids.  A brewery tour is on tap at Atlantic Brewing at Town Hill while shopping is always an option in downtown Bar Harbor.

8.   Beach Time. Finding a place to stretch out in the sand or swim is not that easy on the rocky shore. There are two great options. The first is Sand Beach, the first  stop on the Park Loop Road after the pay gate  ($20 per week per vehicle). This is on the ocean so taking a dip may involve pain. For a warmer option try Echo Lake Beach on Rt. 102 just north of Southwest Harbor. This is a great place for kids. For a walk on a stony ocean shore, try Seawall, on Rt 102A just south of Southwest Harbor.

7.   Explore Anenome Cave. This is a little known place and you need me to tell  you where it is.  It is also a little dangerous; the rocks are slippery and it is possible to get trapped in the cave if the tide is on the move or the waves are high. Visit at low tide in calm seas. Drive to the Schooner Head parking lot, the last stop before the pay gate on the Park Loop Road.  The trail will lead to the shore and the cave is ten minutes or so away along the shore (follow the shore south, to the right). Inside are tide pools with pink anenomes and other interesting sea creatures and plants, some which seem to be adapted to low light conditions. Please see Sarah’s comments at the bottom of this entry.

6. Dinner at a Lobster Pound. Our two favorites are at Beal’s Pier at the end of Clark Point Rd in Southwest Harbor and Abel’s Lobster Pound on Abel’s Lane off Rt. 198 on the way to Northeast Harbor at the top of Somes Sound.   Any place can boil a lobster. What you want is the real Maine experience that goes with it. Don’t expect elegance. An occasional whiff of bait may be in the air, but the views are awesome.

5.  Hike, hike, hike. You need to work off the lobster, right? What better place than Acadia National Park. There are so many to choose from and the right one can be found for all fitness levels. Try to pick one with a mountain top like Bubble Rock so you can be rewarded with a stunning view. South Bubble is pretty easy (400 feet). Read about hiking preparations here.

4.  Get out on the water! This can range a bit in expense. At the low end you can borrow our kayaks when you stay at SeaCat’s Rest. Our water is fairly protected, at the sheltered end of Frenchman Bay. There are also guided kayak trips leaving from Bar Harbor. If I were to recommend a more expensive outing I would include a whale watch trip. You will see a fair amount of open ocean and be rewarded with a close encounter with ocean leviathans! For even more options go here.

3.  Luncheon at Jordan Pond House. This is just mandatory, that’s all there is to it.  Read all about it here.

2. Bike, walk or (horseback) ride the carriage trails. This is the Rockefeller family’s  gift to America representing an ideal of pre-automobile road and stone craft set in the beauty of Acadia. Don’t miss it. More here.

1. Drive the Park Loop Road and to the top of Cadillac Mountain. This is how most people start their trip here and it is a good way. Pick a clear day for the Cadillac summit and take your camera. Don’t forget the free Island Explorer bus which can take you just about anywhere. Try to time your Thunder Hole visit to middle to high tide and good waves are a plus. This is a good time to buy your week-long park pass.

Thunder Hole on the Park Loop Road

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Filed under Acadia, Carriage trails, Day trips, Good Food, Hikes, off island, on island, Restaurants, Sand Beach, Thunder Hole by on .

Comments on Top Ten Things to do in Acadia


Pat @ 10:49 pm

I don’t think I went to the Pond House, but I heard that Keith did. He was served the lemondade and didn’t realize that he had to add the simple syrup. Eeew. He probably just sipped away without making a fuss!


Sarah @ 4:47 pm

Hi, Anenome Cave is a secret delight…but please, if you go there, do not touch any of the wildlife, including the anenomes. They are very sensitive to touch and to the contaminants on your skin, such as lotion, sunscreen, and other chemicals. Be sensitive to the swallows that nest there…be quiet, sit quietly, take only memories and pictures. I remember visiting the cave about 40 years ago and it had thousands and thousands of anenomes…now there are only a few, due to too much stress from human visitors. Be gentle.


Bruce @ 9:31 am

Sarah, Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Perhaps this is why this spot is kept quiet. I have changed the text to direct folks to your comment.


Ellen Spain @ 11:02 am

When I was a kid, I visited this cave often. My parents, the Bigenho’s” owned Great Duck Island, about eleven miles east of this cave. But we boated over to MDI every week to shop and enjoy Acadia. My parents were early enviromentalists. When I visited the cave a few years ago, I was distressed to see how much was destroyed by the tourists. I am writing “Adventures on Duck Island: 1949 to 1981, which includes over a hundred photographs my parents took; some are on my web site at EllenSpain.com for the public to enjoy. My published 2009 novel, “Secrets in the Fog” is set around Acadia National Park and Great Duck Island. Enjoy.

Bruce @ 5:34 pm

Amazingly, I stumbled on the Great Duck Island story recently. I think I was just looking for isolated islands with Google Earth and trying to find out who owned them and whether they were inhabited. Just being nosy. I even found the Wikipedia entry and the bit about the buried treasure. I will enjoy looking at your site at ellenspain.com.