Life is busy with kids and sometimes you just get one day to explore. Happens to me and the Carful of Kids all the time. I don’t fret, instead I see as much as I can and hope to return with more time one day. After exploring Maine in a flash, I’m here to give you all my tips on how to see Acadia in one day with kids.
Maine and especially Acadia National Park have been on my bucket list for years. It’s a long way from our home near Austin, Texas, just over 2200 miles away.
It’s worth the trip and I wish I had made it sooner. So where do you start? After a good breakfast, head to the Visitor Center.
How to See Acadia in One Day
Hit the highlights.
Hulls Cove Visitors Center
Sieur de Monts Nature Center
Hulls Cove Visitors Center
First Stop Hulls Cove Visitors Center towatch an introductory film about Acadia National Park. Grab a park brochure and map then pick up the Junior Ranger Booklets.
Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the summer and 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during the Spring and Fall. The parking lot at Hulls Cove is one of the largest so we parked our SUV and used the free shuttle bus.
Getting Around on the Island Explorer
Acadia National Park is busy during the summer months so parking can be a problem. Thanks to L.L. Bean, Acadia provides the free Island Explorer Shuttle Buses from Bar Harbor to the park and buses within the park.
During our visit, we rode the Island Explorer. Easy on-and-off for families and the bus stops are conveniently located. Service starts in late June and continues through mid-October.
As a Mom, pack up and prepare. You will be away from your car the majority of the day. I packed up the essentials in the my backpack.
- Beach towels
- Picnic lunch + Snacks
- Water bottles
- Phone Charger
The North Atlantic Ocean is cold so we just splashed in the water.
Sieur de Monts Nature Center
The carful of kids hop on the free Island Explorer for our first stop, 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 the carful of kids learn about the animals and plants of the park, I explored around 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.
After an hour of exploring the nature center, time to move on the beach. TheSieur de Monts Nature Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the summer season.
It’s inching towards lunchtime and like most kids, the carful of kids love the beach. Right off Park Loop Road, Sand Beach offers the ideal place for a picnic lunch and some wave chasing.
Sand Beach is a bit small, only 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.
I packed a towel, water bottles and ingredients for sandwiches in the backpack. AsI start making sandwiches, the carful of kids head to the water to chase waves.
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.
Sand Beach offers
- Changing rooms
- Outdoor showers to wash the sand off your feet.
Beware: The Atlantic Ocean is cold, topping out at 55F at the height of summer.
If you have the time, spend the day in a beach chair with a good book. Though the carful of kids wash off our feet and head to the Island Explorer bus stop for our next destination, Thunder Hole.
Another must, Thunder Hole is a natural inlet and 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. Though 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. Restrooms and an upper-level viewing area available.
The carful of kids find a local blueberry soda and refill the water bottles before getting on the bus again.
Visit 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 its possible to see to depths of 45 feet. No swimming is allowed though canoeing is.
We drove from Texas because my son did a school project on Maine and wanted to visit to pick blueberries. We heard Jordan Pond had blueberry bushes.
After a quick hike the carful of kids find the blueberry bushes and start darting along the foot paths among the knee-high bushes looking for tiny blueberries. My son finds one and looks to each side before popping it into his mouth.
Jordan Pond Nature Trail
Take a few minutes and take a hike.
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.
Jordan Pond House
Since1890s Jordan Pond House has been serving popovers and afternoon tea. Continue the tradition, sit at a a wooded table on a expansive lawn next to Jordan Pond and the Bubbles, the mountains nearby.
Open from mid-May to mid-October from 11 a.m to 9 p.m. Full seasonal lunch, afternoon tea and dinner menu available, along with a kids menu. Reservations are recommended.
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. Carriage rides available for mid-May to mid-October and require an additional fee.
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 that the Rangers present them after completing 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.
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 provided.
Know Before You Go: All excursions require a fee and reservations are recommended.
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 Sameul 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 happened in 1929, 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 isTrenton Bridge Lobster Pound,serving 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.
A line of wood-fired cookers filled with fresh seawater awaits. Minutes later, the best lobster in the world is ready to eat.
We eat fresh lobster several times a year since it’s a favorite and my husband is a chef. Cooking in seawater is the key along with the freshest catch. The lobsters are caught that day.
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 until 7:30 p.m.
Lodging Near Acadia
As a popular summer gateway, theBar Harborhotel prices reflect that. To save some money we stayed Bangor, Maine, at a family friendly three-star with a free breakfast. Then got anearly start to drive the 45 miles to the Hulls Cove Visitors Center.
Acadia National Park Camping
Want to camp? Acadia offers one yea-round campground, Blackwood Campground. Though during the winter, it’s a primitive, walk-in campground. Or camp in the seasonal campgrounds.
- Duck Harbor Campground
- Schoodic Woods Campground
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 November through March. Admission is $25 per car for a 7-day pass or use an America the Beautiful pass.
Make It a Road Trip
The Carful of Kids road trip to see the continent. Think about adding these destinations to your itinerary.