East Coast

One Day Itinerary for Acadia National Park in Maine

How to see Acadia in One Day.
Acadia National Park is the oldest national park east of the Mississippi River. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Acadia National Park is a popular summertime destination and one of the most visited national parks on the East Coast. With rocky shores and evergreen forests along with the highest peak on the eastern seaboard (Mount Cadillac), visitors can explore on foot, on the shuttle bus and even by water. Or visitors can explore Acadia as the national park travelers did nearly a hundred years ago and take a horse-drawn carriage down its carriage roads. Afterward, travelers can enjoy a popover and a cup of tea or a glass of lemonade. Here is the best one-day itinerary for Acadia National Park.

Why Visit Acadia National Park

This landscape is simply stunning. The deep blue waters of the Atlantic crash against the rocky, tumbled gray shore as the evergreens sway in the ocean breezes.  Acadia National Park is the oldest national park on the East Coast and is a few hours from top cities like Boston.

Visitors can explore a variety of landscapes, such as forests, lakes and seascapes. Acadia is also home to wildlife. During the summer, its sandy beach is a popular destination for sunning and sand castles.

One Day Itinerary for Acadia National Park

To enjoy Acadia National Park in one day, an early start is important. After a good breakfast, head to the Visitor Center and park your car for the rest of your visit. Hit the highlights of Acadia National Park using the free shuttle to see the top sites.

Hulls Cove Visitors Center
Sieur de Monts Nature Center
Sand Beach
Thunder Hole
Jordan Pond

Acadia National Park at a Glance 

Year Established: 1929
Located: Maine Coast
Size: 47,000 acres
Top Features: Cadillac Mountain, Jordan Pond and Rocky Shoreline
Planning Guide to Schoodic Peninsula in Acadia National Park

Top Things to Do in Acadia National Park

As in most national parks, the visitor center is a great place to start a national park visit.

Visit the Hulls Cove Visitors Center

The Hulls Cove Visitors Center offers maps and Junior Ranger booklets, as well as an interpretive area that introduces visitors to the park. An introductory film about Acadia National Park is also shown. Park rangers are available to answer questions and offer suggestions.

The Hulls Cove Visitor Center is located off Route 3 in Bar Harbor at 25 Visitor Center Road. It is a seasonal visitor center and open from early Mary until October 31. It features seasonal hours and is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Hulls Cove parking lot is one of the largest, so park there. The Hulls Cove Visitor Center offers restrooms and a water station.

Use the Free Acadia Shuttle Bus–The Island Explorer

Acadia National Park is busy during the summer months, so parking can be a problem at its popular sites. Thanks to L.L. Bean, Acadia provides the free Island Explorer Shuttle Buses from Bar Harbor to the park and stops within the park. It is even open to leashed and well-behaved dogs.

The Island Explorer offers 11 different routes that service Acadia National Park and the area around it. During our visit, we rode the Island Explorer Route 4, which travels along Park Loop Road.

It is easy for families to get on and off the bus, and the bus stops are conveniently located. Service starts in late May and continues through mid-October.

Be sure to pack a bag and be prepared for the day. You will be away from your car the majority of the day. I packed the essentials in my backpack.

  • Sunscreen
  • Beach towels
  • Picnic lunch + Snacks
  • Water bottles
  • Phone Battery Charger + Cord + Plug

Stop by the Sieur de Monts Nature Center

Hop on the free Island Explorer and get off at the Sieur de Monts Nature Center. This nature center offers several areas to explore.

During our summer visit, I dropped my carful of kids off on the grassy lawn to participate in the Wild Things Junior Ranger Program. A requirement to earn the Acadia National Park Junior Ranger patch.

While my kids learned about the animals and plants of the park, I explored the Sieur de Monts Nature Center.

  • Sieur de Monts Spring–Fresh water is necessary for survival.
  • Wild Gardens of Acadia–A garden with 300 native plants of the region.
  • Abbe Museum–A museum dedication to the Native American Culture.

The Sieur de Monts Nature Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the summer season from Memorial Day until mid-October. It is a stop on The Island Explorer Route 4.

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Sand Beach
Visit Sand Beach in Acadia for some beach time or a place to picnic. credit: Catherine Parker

Build a Sand Castle at Sand Beach

Right off Park Loop Road, Sand Beach offers the ideal place for a picnic lunch and some wave chasing. Sand Beach is 290 yards long and nestled in between the rocky shore and the mountains. The sand is natural, not imported, so I found tiny shell fragments in it.

It’s inching towards lunchtime, and like most kids, the carful of kids love the beach. I packed a towel, water bottles and ingredients for sandwiches in the backpack. As I start making sandwiches, the carful of kids head to the water to chase waves.

Tips: Keep in mind that there are not a lot of food options in this area of Acadia. The Atlantic Ocean is cold, topping out at 55F at the height of summer.

Before I have slapped the bread together, my eleven-year-old son is thigh-high in the water. Geez. Well, I’m not the one who will be walking around in wet shorts for the rest of the afternoon.

The water is chilly and not many people swim though lots splash and wave chase. For kids who will get wet, pack their swimsuits. Sometimes lifeguards are located along Sand Beach.

There are restrooms in the area, so changing is easy. There are also rinse-off showers for sandy feet. Sand Beach is a stop on the Island Explorer Route 4.

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Sand Beach. How to see Acadia in One Day.
Large enough to spread out a blanket and picnic at Sand Beach. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Hiking near Sand Beach 

Located close to the straw-colored beach, visitors can take a hike.

Great Head Trail–A 1.7-mile moderate trail travels along the Great Head. It offers some great viewpoints of Sand Beach and the shoreline of Acadia National Park. Hikers will also find wooded portions of the hike.

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Thunder Hole. How to see Acadia in one day.
Kids will love hearing the roar at Thunder Hole. Photo Credit: Pixabay

Thunder Hole

Another must along the shuttle route, Thunder Hole is a natural inlet. If a wave hits just right, you will hear a thunderous boom. The waves can splash the water up to 40 feet in the air.

If you want to get wet when the waves crash against the rocks, walk out on the landing. However, use caution, especially with nearby storms that churn up the ocean.

Thunder Hole also features a small, seasonal hut filled with souvenirs and cold drinks. There are also restrooms and an upper-level viewing area.

There is a small bookstore that sells snacks, and we bought a local blueberry soda and refilled the water bottles before getting on the bus again. Thunder Hole is a stop on the Island Explorer Route 4.

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Jordan Pond. How to see Acadia in one day.
Jordan Pond sits between the Penobscot Mountain and The Bubbles. Photo Credit: Pixabay

Visit Jordan Pond

After exiting at several shuttle stops along the Atlantic Ocean, we ride the Island Explorer back into the interior of Acadia National Park as it travels the scenic Park Loop Road. I want to make it to one of the top stops in Acadia National Park.

As an oligotrophic tarn (lake) formed by a melting glacier, Jordan Pond is flanked by Penobscot Mountain on one side and The Bubbles, another mountain formation, on the other side. Jordan Pond features clear water, so it’s possible to see to depths of 45 feet. At 155 feet, it is the deepest lake in Acadia National Park.

We drove from Texas because my son did a school project on Maine and wanted to pick blueberries. After a quick hike, the carful of kids found the blueberry bushes and started to dart along the footpaths among the knee-high bushes, looking for tiny blueberries. My son found one and looked to each side before he popped it into his mouth.

Jordan Pond Nature Trail

Take a few minutes to hike. It is one of the top things to do at Jordan Pond.

Jordan Pond Nature Trail–A 3.3-mile round trip path that’s level and covered in gravel. Great for families and even rugged strollers.

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Jordan Pond House. How to see Acadia in one day.
Sit on the lawn in front of Jordan Pond House for poppers and tea. Photo Credit: Pixabay

Jordan Pond House

Since the 1890s, Jordan Pond House has been serving popovers and afternoon tea. To continue the tradition, sit at a wooded table on an expansive lawn next to Jordan Pond and the Bubbles, the nearby mountains. This is one of the few places to eat in Acadia National Park.

Open from mid-May to mid-October from seasonal hours from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the spring and extending to 9 p.m. for the summer. Full seasonal lunch, afternoon tea and dinner menus are available, along with a kids menu. Online reservations are recommended.

Carriage Tours

Take a horse-drawn carriage ride along the original carriage roads. Built by John D. Rockefeller from 1913 to 1940, the roads are closed to vehicular traffic. Wildwood Stables offers carriage rides from mid-May to mid-October. Reservations are required.

No swimming is allowed at Jordan Pond. Jordan Pond is a stop along the Island Explorer Route 4.

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How to see Acadia in One Day.
Explore Acadia National Park with your kids for a national park adventure on the East Coast. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Acadia National Park with Kids

The Junior Ranger Program is the go-to program for families to learn more about a National Park Service site. It’s free and takes about two hours to complete. My kids love the badges the Rangers present them with after they complete their booklet.

We picked up our booklet as soon as we arrived at Hulls Cove Visitors Center. A ranger program is required though Acadia National Park offers lots of kids programs during the summer season.

  • Wild Things Junior Ranger Program atSieur de Monts Nature Center
  • Touch Tank Talk at the Dorr Museum of Natural History
  • Super Sand Sleuths at Sand Beach

Acadia National Park operates a Junior Ranger Station from mid-June to Labor Day at the Carroll Homestead, south of Echo Lake, in the western part of the park. Open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Free.

BARK program

Acadia National Park welcomes pets as long as they practice the principles of the BARK program. For more information, visit the Acadia page for visiting with pets.

B–Bag waste and dispose of it in the trash

A–Always leash your dog for their safety and others

R–Respect wildlife

K–Know where you can go

Junior Ranger Guide

Night Programs at Acadia

Learn about the night sky while visiting Acadia National Park. Check in with the visitor centers for the following programs.

  • Stars over Sand Beach
  • Knowing the Night
  • Campground Night Programs

Take a Cruise or Scenic Ride

For visitors with more time, reserve a cruise. Acadia National Park works with several operators.

  • Baker Island Cruise–A five-hour cruise that includes a hike. No strollers.
  • Frenchman Bay Cruise–A two-hour on a 151-foot four-masted schooner.
  • Islesford Historic and Scenic Cruise–A two-hour cruise that visits Little Cranberry Island.
  • Schoodic Shoreline and Lighthouse Cruise
  • Carriage Road Bike Tour–Pedal along the Pedestrian and Bike Road to see the beauty of Acadia. Rentals and transportation to the park are provided.

Know Before You Go: All excursions require a fee, and reservations are recommended.

Picnic Areas in Acadia National Park

Find day-use picnic areas across Acadia National Park.

Mount Desert Island

  • Bear Brook
  • Seawall
  • Pretty Marsh
  • Thompson Island
  • Fabbri

Schoodic Peninsula

  • Frazer Point

Where to Eat in the Park 

Jordan Pond House

Open for lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. Enjoy indoor and outdoor dining along with the signature popovers. Open from mid-May to mid-October from 11 a.m to 9 p.m.

Acadia National Park Camping

Want to camp? Acadia offers one year-round campground, Blackwood Campground. Though during the winter, it’s a primitive, walk-in campground. Or camp in the seasonal campgrounds.

Blackwoods Campground–located on Mount Desert Island

  • Reservations Required
  • Seasonal from early May until mid-October
  • 281 sites with 60 RV sites
  • Dump station
  • Potable water. Flush toilets, no showers

Seawall Campground–located on Mount Desert Island

  • Reservations Required
  • Seasonal from late May until mid-October
  • 202 sites with 59 RV sites
  • Dump station
  • Potable water. Flush toilets, no showers.

Schoodic Woods Campground–located on the Schoodic Peninsula

  • Reservations Required
  • Seasonal from late May until mid-October
  • 89 sites with 41 RV sites
  • Dump station
  • Potable water. Flush toilets, no showers.

Duck Harbor Campground–located on Isle au Haut

  • Reservations Required
  • 5 three-sided lean-to shelters are available.
  • Backcountry camping and a trip on the mail ferry is required. No auto ferry is available.
  • Composting toilets, water faucet nearby.
Grab a picture with a Maine sign.
At the tip of the U.S., not everyone gets a picture next to this state sign. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Animals of Acadia

Bears and moose are known to live in Acadia National Park, though they are rare, so spotting one is a treat. Though the Schoodic Peninsula offers a better chance to see one than Mount Desert Island. Acadia is home to a variety of mammals and about 300 varieties of birds. 

  • Seals
  • Red Fox
  • Snowshoe Hare
  • Mink
  • Coyote
  • Otter 
  • Fishers 
  • Marten
  • Beaver
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Bald Eagle

The Seasons of Acadia

Fall Color Season

For leaf peeping trips to Acadia National Park, October is the best month. The peak of color is the second to third week of October. The overall visitation is down after the first couple of weeks of September though Bar Harbor is a port-of-call for fall color cruises. 

Interspersed between the evergreens, oaks, maples, ash, birch, sycamore and beech all change colors. Combined with the gray of the granite, it’s a Wow landscape, and often, the colors are reflected off the water. Fall is a favorite time to experience the Downeast portion of Maine.

Winter in Acadia

Winter comes early to the Maine coast, and expect winter-like weather starting around November 1 through mid-April. Seasonal road closures start around December 1. Acadia offers winter sports like cross-country skiing, with about 60 inches of snow over the season. Temperatures range from zero to 30s Fahrenheit so expect freezing weather. 

Acadia National Park is open and offers lots of winter recreation options. For up-to-date information, consult the NPS winter page.

Spring in Acadia

March is still winter in Maine, and April is chilly, with days in the 50s Fahrenheit. Visibility is limited, with numerous foggy days. May warms up with highs in the 60s. With the weather on the cool side, visitors can explore the park with far fewer visitors until the summer sun starts to shine. 

Summer in Acadia

Summer is high season, and the days are glorious. High temperatures can reach the 90s Fahrenheit, though the next day can be foggy, as the weather is affected by the Atlantic. Dressing in layers is essential, especially on the water. Overnight temperatures can reach the mid-40s F. Water temperatures range between 50 and 60 degrees F all summer. 

A Brief History of Acadia

The Mi’kmaq people of the Wabanaki Confederation settled in this area and called it Acadie. The French explored the area in the 1600s, and the name was adopted.

In 1604, Samuel de Champlain sailed by the area and named it Isles des Monts Desert. The largest area of the park is still called Mount Desert Island.

The U.S. government named the area Sieur de Monts National Monument in 1916, then later redesignated the monument Lafayette National Park in 1919. A final name change occurred in 1929, and Acadia National Park was born. It’s the oldest national park east of the Mississippi River.

Where to Eat Near Acadia

Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound

1237 Bar Harbor Road

It’s Maine so lobster is on the top of the list. Right outside Acadia National Park is Trenton Bridge Lobster Poundserving up lobster since 1956.

Completely casual and family friendly. Walk inside and pick out your lobster according to weight. They’ll throw them into a numbered bag and to cook outside.

The Carful of Kids at Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound
Our dinner is in the bag and ready to go into the seawater cookers at Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound. Credit: Catherine Parker

A line of wood-fired cookers filled with fresh seawater awaits. Minutes later, the best lobster in the world is ready to eat. Cooking in seawater is the key, along with the freshest catch. The lobsters are caught that day.

Lobster is our Favorite.
Lobster is our Favorite. credit: Catherine Parker

After eating lobster, clams, corn-on-the-cob all dipped in melted butter, we finish off dinner with blueberry pie. I wish everyday was lobster and blueberry pie day. Open from 8 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. from Fathers Day until mid-October.

Lodging Near Acadia

Bar Harbor

The closest gateway town to the enter of Acadia National Park offers visitor services and it is a destination on its own.


As a popular summer gateway, Bar Harbor hotel prices reflect that. To save some money, we stayed in Bangor, Maine, at a family-friendly three-star hotel with a free breakfast. Then, we got an early start to drive the 45 miles to the Hulls Cove Visitors Center.

Where’s Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is just south of Bar Harbor, Maine, and 275 miles northeast of Boston, Massachusetts.

Acadia National Park is open year-round, but there are seasonal road closures from November through March. Admission is $25 per car for a 7-day pass or an America the Beautiful pass.

National Park Passes Guide 

Visit Maine's Acadia National Park in One Day. See the highlights and use the free shuttle. Visit the beach, the pond and a lot more. Add Acadia National Park in Maine to your East Coast Road Trip. Got all the details to explore the oldest national park east of the Mississippi River. Find hiking, beaches and where to eat and more in this free planning guide to Acadia National Park. What to do in one day at Acadia National Park | Where to eat near Acadia National Park #Maine #NationalParks

Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a pair of 100-year-old houses. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.


  1. Hello,

    Did you do this tour since the pandemic started? Or did you complete this prior to the pandemic? We are planning a trip to Acadia this summer and are trying to find out what will be available. Thanks!