Views over sand beach to highlight the places you'll get to visit in this 3 day itinerary Acadia National Park

The Best 3 Day Itinerary: Acadia National Park

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Ready to plan your trip to Acadia National Park in Maine, but you aren’t sure how many days you’ll need to see Acadia National Park? I’ll help you plan the perfect trip where you’ll be sure to see all of the Acadia National Park attractions with either 3 days in Acadia National Park, add on a few days to have 5 days in Acadia National Park or even how to enjoy a quick stop with one day in Acadia National Park.

I’m a planner, so having the perfect Acadia National Park itinerary is important in order not to miss the best Bar Harbor activities, tours, and things to see in Acadia National Park. After multiple visits to Bar Harbor and Acadia, I can assure you that this is the best Acadia National Park trip itinerary for couples, families, cruise ship visitors and visitors across the globe.

Without further ado, check out the best 3-day itinerary for Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park Activities: Walking along the cliff sides looking at the tidal pools.

Best time to visit Acadia National Park

The best time to go to Acadia National Park is between late May and early September. Maine and Acadia National Park are located in the Northern Hemisphere and just across the water from Nova Scotia. Summer highs vary between 59 degrees and 79 degrees (July/August), which is also the height of the tourist season.

I do not recommend visiting Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, Maine from November – February where it is extremely cold with night temperatures dropping below 0 degrees and high totals of snow accumulation. However, I would suggest visiting some of the many amazing Maine ski resorts to enjoy the winter season.

Acadia National Park beach view from the trail.

How to get to Acadia National Park

Most tourists fly into Bangor International airport located just over an hour’s drive from Bar Harbor, Maine. Then you have a few options for how you want to get to Bar Harbor, Maine.

Option 1: Rent a car.

Option 2: Downeast Transportation provides bus service between Bar Harbor, Ellsworth, and the Bangor airport and Concord Coach bus depot every Friday and Monday.

Option 3: The Bar Harbor/Bangor Shuttle is a private shuttle service that operates June through October on a reservation basis.

Interested in driving? Check out the distances and estimated driving time from these major cities.

-Portland to Acadia National Park: 170 Miles, 3 hours
-Boston to Acadia National Park: 280 Miles, 4.5 hours
-NYC to Acadia National Park: 480 Miles, 8 hours

If you plan to include Portland, Maine as a part of your itinerary, check out this great guide to visiting Portland, Maine.

Once you reach Bar Harbor it is a short 5-10 minute car ride or trolley ride to the entrance of Acadia National Park.
-Bar Harbor to Acadia National Park: 5-10 minutes driving

Bar Harbor to Acadia National Park: 5-10 minutes driving.

Looking for more places to visit in Maine? Check out this Maine Travel Guide for all of your travel needs.

Day one: Best of Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is one of the top National Park in the US and you’ll quickly see why with its immense beauty, fun hiking trails, carriage roads and a multitude of Acadia National Park activities that you can take part in.

Start off day one exploring the many Acadia National Park attractions including sand beach, thunder hole, Jordan Pond and the many cliffside lookouts and tidal pools. I’ve included this interactive map below that highlights all of my recommendations for Day 1. Click on each icon for a photo and suggestion for each sight.

Morning: Things to do in Acadia

With your 1st full day, let’s hit the main attraction, Acadia National Park.

Feeling adventuresome? Wake up before sunrise (check the charts here) and head up to Cadillac Mountain to be one of the first persons in the US to catch the sunrise. If not, totally fine, I also suggest catching the sunset and doing some stargazing, more on that later.

Sunrise over Cadillac Mountain at Acadia National Park in Maine

After you’ve enjoyed your sunrise or some breakfast at Café This Way head 5 minutes towards the park entrance.

Important Information for your Acadia National Park Vacation:

Acadia National Park Hours: Acadia National Park is open 24 hours year-round, however, the visitor center opens from Mid-April till Mid-October from 8:30 am – 4: 30 pm. (Sumer Hours: 8 am – 6 pm)

Acadia National Park Fees:

  • Private Vehicle: $30 (Valid for 7 days)
  • Motorcycle: $25 (Valid for 7 days)
  • Per Person: $15 (Valid for 7 days)
    • Hiker/pedestrian
  • Acadia Annual Pass: $55 (12 months)
    • Includes Passholder and Passengers
  • Active Duty Military Service Members: FREE
    • Show your ID at the Visitors Center

Don’t want to deal with lines at the Visitor Center or plan on entering the park before hours? Buy your park pass online HERE.

Stop #1: Sand Beach:

Start your visit at Sand Beach (located on your left). There is a parking area located walking distance to the beach and since you are arriving early, you’ll have no problem finding a spot. You’ve got 2 options for this stop!

Sand beach in Acadia National Park
The Sand Beach, at Acadia National Park, Maine.

Option 1: Hit the beach, explore the tidal pools and soak up the beauty.

Kid-Friendly Tip: There is a nice stream that runs inland from the beach that is much warmer and safer to play in. Head down the beach until you see the crossing.

Check out my favorite packable beach gear!

Option 2: Head across the road to the Beehive trail. The trail is only recommended for adventurers who are sturdy on their feet and able to climb metal rungs and traverse cliff edges. You’ll want to hit the trail early to beat the crowds. Be sure to pack water and snacks for the ascent.

Beehive Trail in Acadia National Park

Stop #2: Thunder Hole:

Be sure to look up the tide schedule if you really want to see Thunder Hole in all of its glory. Either way, it’s fun to check out the whole structure and climb around the cliffs to look at the coastline. If you visit during low tide, there are a few places where you can check out tidal pools below the cliffs.

Cliffs with waves splashing at Acadia National Park in Maine.

Stop #3: Boulder Beach/Otter Cliffs:

If you have time, take a peek at Boulder Beach and Otter Cliffs, otherwise, continue on the one-way road.

Afternoon at Jordan Pond:

Continue on the one-way road to the Jordan Pond House. Be sure to make reservations for lunch if you are traveling during the busy summer travel season. I highly recommend the popovers, but everything on the menu is delicious. With the beautiful Maine weather, it is nice to sit outside overlooking the pond.

Jordon Pond House views in Acadia National Park

Forgot to make reservations and it’s over an hour wait? Pop into the store and there are some grab and go sandwich options.

If you are feeling like a nice jaunt, take a walk around the Jordan Pond. It is a 3.5-mile roundtrip hike without any incline and relatively flat surfaces. Great for travelers of all ages.

Jordan Pond Popovers and trail around the pond.

If you have additional time in your schedule, I highly suggest arranging a horse-drawn carriage ride or renting bikes to explore the Acadia National Park carriage roads and the many stone bridges located in Acadia National Park. The interior of the park is much less trafficked because it is pedestrian/carriage/horse transportation only.

Evening: Bar Harbor

Head back to Bar Harbor for an early evening walk along the Shore Path. Depending on where you are staying, you’ll find multiple entrances to the Shore Path located in the neighborhoods as well as in the center of town near the wharf. There are opportunities to explore the tidal pools, watch the lobster boats and cruise ships head back into port as well as views of the lighthouse and islands.

Shore path near Bar Harbor, Maine

After a nice walk along the shore path, you’ll be ready to enjoy a delicious meal at one of the many places to eat in Bar Harbor. I highly recommend your first dinner at the Side Street Café.

Enjoy your evening lingering over dinner, walking around Bar Harbors shops with a scoop of ice cream from Mount Desert Ice Cream or hitting one of the many parks to linger and do some people watching.

If you only have one day in Acadia National Park, then this 1st day will pack in the highlights of the park. Doing an Acadia National Park day trip gives you at least a sample of what the area has to offer and I bet you’ll want to return for more! Staying for another night? I’ll show you how to spend 2 days in Acadia National Park next!

Day Two: Bar Harbor Activities

With another full day explore, I highly suggest one of the many boat tours located in Bar Harbor. We really enjoy learning about the local area when we travel, so we suggest Lulu’s Lobster Boat Tour, but you can also check out sailing boat tours, whale watching and more.

Lulu's Lobster boat tour in Bar Harbor, Maine

Here is another interactive map that covers all the sites, restaurants and places I recommend on Day 2. Click on the icon to see a photo and personalized recommendations.

Morning: Boat Tour

Lunch: After your tour, you’ll be ready for a nice seafood lunch. I highly recommend heading over to the Trenton Lobster Pound if you want the full Maine lobster experience. Looking for a bit of a varied food experience, then I also recommend The Thirsty Whale Tavern.

Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound

After lunch, it’s time to explore the Bar Harbor shops. Check out some of my favorite shops below!

Walking along the streets in Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor, Maine 07-31-2008 Town of Bar Harbor, Maine on a sunny summer afternoon.

Favorite Shops:

In The Woods– This beautiful shop is full of wood carved items. From children’s toys (including a giant rocking horse) to unique puzzle boxes, wooden bowls, and walking sticks. The shop is filled with products created by local artisans. They donate all profits to land conservation efforts.  

Cool as Mouse– If you are looking for a souvenir shop filled with wooden boats, lobster gifts, t-shirts and more, then this is the place to check out. The local blueberry jam is a favorite. 

Bark Harbor– If you have a furry friend in your family, this is a great local shop. They have everything from treats, collars, clothing, and toys. Support a great cause as they share profits to support the local pet pantry and SPCA. Our pup wasn’t along on the journey with us, that we picked up a lobster toy for him to squeak to his heart’s content!

Christmas Spirit Shop: if Christmas ornaments are your souvenir or choice or you just can’t help but enjoy wandering around Christmas shops, then this is the place for you. Be sure to check out their personalized ornaments. 

House Wine: This spot is a bit further up Maine Street, but it’s a great spot to pack a picnic. Grab a bottle of wine, check out their selections of meat and cheeses, add some crackers and you’ve got the perfect picnic. 

Bar Harbor is the type of coastal town that is meant to be wandered. Take a break to window shop, peek into various stores and see what fun discoveries you’ll find. Tired of walking? Head over to the many green parks where you can relax on a picnic bench or lay in the crisp green grass. Slow down and soak up the coastal ambiance.

Enjoying the slower pace in Bar Harbor, Maine
BAR HARBOR-OCT 17: Bar Harbor architecture in downtown near Frenchman Bay in Maine, USA on October 17, 2015.

Afternoon: Sand Bar out to Bar Harbor Island

Check the tide schedule and shift your schedule around if needed, but walking along the sand bar path to the Bar Harbor Island is a delight for visitors and highly recommended. You can park along the side streets and take your shoes off while you look for sea glass and shells. There is a short hike up to the top of Bar Harbor Island with views back to the shore. Just make sure you time your visit to make it back to dry land before the tide rolls back in.

Walking across the sand bar to Bar Island.
Views from the top of Bar Island.

Late Afternoon: Back to Acadia National Park

If you have the time, head back into Acadia National Park to hike the Bubble Trail. It’s a relatively easy 1.4-mile roundtrip hike up to views over Jordan Pond and massive 14-ton boulder that had found itself perched high on the rock.

Bubble trail at the peak overlooking Jordan Pond and a 14 ton boulder sitting on the edge.

Evening: Star Gazing and Dinner

After your hike, drive up to Cadillac Mountain for a late sunset and some stargazing. I recommend packing a picnic dinner to linger a bit longer. It is park policy that no alcohol is permitted, but feel free to bring other drinks. Side Street Cafe will do take-out if you call ahead.

Acadia National Park Night Sky Festival in September.

If you are an avid stargazer, then be sure to time your visit with Acadia National Park Night Sky Festival in September. The festival includes speakers, special events and stargazing on sand beach. It’s a festival not to be missed!

If you’d prefer a nice dinner, check out the stars and then down for a late-night dinner at Geddy’s.

This concludes another full filled day in Bar Harbor. If you are only able to stay for 2 days in Acadia National Park, then my suggestion will certainly give you a taste of the beauty that Acadia National Park has to offer and the surrounding harbor town of Bar Harbor.

Day Three: Things to do Near Acadia National Park

When planning a trip to Acadia National Park, the beauty of the surrounding towns and attractions can be often overlooked. Day three will cover areas within a short drive of Bar Harbor. From the Bass Head Lighthouse to the beautiful gardens and small harbor towns, it’s the perfect mix of nature-based fun with plenty of opportunities to relax.

Breakfast- Choco-Latte

Start off your third full day with Breakfast at Choco-Latte with their home-baked bagel sandwiches and baked goods to go along with the amazing coffee! Then jump into the car and drive over to wander through the beautiful Azalea Gardens.

Choco-latte breakfast sandwich

Morning: Asticou Azalea Garden

The Asticou Azalea Garden was created in 1956 by John Savage, who was a longtime resident in the area and was financed by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. It is a garden filled with delights and colorful flowers. Enjoy the smells as you meander through the winding paths or sit for a while to soak it all in. It is part Japanese garden and part azalea garden. 

Asticou Azalea Garden near Bar Harbor, Maine.

Admittance to the garden is free, but it is managed by volunteers and owned by the Mount Desert Land and Garden Preserve, so donations are appreciated. The garden is open 7 days a week (sunrise to sunset) from May till October. There are restrooms available and plenty of nice benches to rest, but please do not bring a picnic because food and drinks are not allowed. Pets are also not welcome due to the beauty of the gardens. 

If you love visiting beautiful gardens, then located nearby is Thuya Gardens and Lodge. The Thuya Garden and Thuya Lodge are preserved from a long-time summer residence Joseph Curtis. He was a Boston landscape architect that wanted to connect with nature and enjoy the beauty of Northeast Harbor. When Curtis dies in 1928, the 140-acre property was gifted to the residents of Mount Desert and is now managed by the Mount Desert Land and Garden Preserve with a community of volunteers. in 1956, Charles Savage a landscape designer helped to transform the gardens into what you see today. 

Lunch: Southwest Harbor and Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

After exploring a bit, head over to Southwest Harbor for a nice lunch at the Quiet Side Café and Ice Cream shop (360 Main Street, Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island, ME 04679).

Bass Harbor Lighthouse
Bass Harbor lighthouse is located in northern Maine’s Acadia National Park

After lunch, head over to the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. You can’t go into the lighthouse, except on special occasions, but you can explore around the base of the lighthouse, as well as trails along the shore to have nice views looking back at the lighthouse. Parking is free and it is a popular spot for photographers who want to capture the perfect sunset with the lighthouse in the background.

Bass Harbor Lighthouse sunset.

Evening: Bar Harbor

After your visit to the Bass Harbor Lighthouse, head back to Bar Harbor for your final dinner at Galyn’s.

Looking for more things to do in Bar Harbor, Maine? I’ve got more great ideas below!

What to Pack for a Trip to Maine

Even in the height of summer, Maine doesn’t often reach temperatures that we would associate with warm summer weather! Be prepared to layer with cooler mornings and then nice afternoons on a sunny day. Be sure to bring sunscreen because even though the sunshine feels good with a cool blowing breeze, you’ll easily end up with a sunburn.

Acadia National Park is also all about getting outdoors! That means you need to bring some good shoes to climb around the rocks and tackle some fun trails. Grab a rain jacket as well because the weather can be a bit unpredictable and rain keeps the beautify of nature nice and green.

Lastly, don’t forget to stay hydrated with a packable water bottle and a daypack to haul your raincoat, snacks and extra gear. You’ll be glad you were prepared and then you’ll get to focus more on the trip!

Book your trip!
Discover the best hotels in Bar Harbor.
Rent a car with our favorite rental car company.
Check out these guides for more Maine travel ideas.

I hope you love Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park as much as we have. Please feel free to message me with any questions, updates, favorite parts of your trip. I love connecting with my readers. Happy Travels!

See my recent posts to inspire your future travels!

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7 thoughts on “The Best 3 Day Itinerary: Acadia National Park”

  1. Great Blog on Acadia. we are planing an RV trailer trip to Acadia Sept-October 2021. Would you suggest staying in one central location or choose 2 different sites for the duration of our stay. We plan to hike, bike, SUP. Prefer quiet areas vs crowds. How easy is the commute from bass harbor back to Bar Harbor location via vehicle? Thanks
    cell 5133190839

    1. Hi Pat!

      You’ll have such an amazing trip to Acadia, especially during the Fall with the beautiful foliage and quieter months.

      If you plan to stay more than a week, I’d add another destination. Maybe find an RV site near Bar Harbor for 7-10 days and then another location further south near Camden. Camden is great to explore! Lots of hiking and beauty.

      Bass Harbor is an easy drive to Bar Harbor.

      Have a great trip!

  2. I love Bar Harbor! My very first knowledge of it was when I watched an old movie “Leave Her to Heaven”. I loved the movie and loved the town! It was great and unfortunately before the internet! Now I’m too old and in a w/c so I’ll never get back there!
    That was a lovely tour of Bar Harbor and I saved all the beautiful pics in my virtual album! We ate a wonderful lobster dinner at a restaurant , and did a little shopping! I still have the little bear I bought as a souvenir of our visit! It brings me right to the small shop where I bought the bear! That was the fall of 1990! (31 yrs ago) I loved doing there and ma de me kind of regret moving West! Then I think of the very cold winters and h ad mixed feelings! Thanks again for the lovely tour! I keep Bar Harbor in my heart!❤️

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