Looking for exciting things to do in Acadia National Park? Acadia is full of amazing nature, hiking, and history. There is so much to do! However, these 3 activities aren’t found in any other national park.
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3 Best Things To Do In Acadia National Park That Are Unique To This Park
1) Explore Carriage Roads Acadia
One of the amazing creations the Rockefeller family gifted to Acadia National Park is the beautiful carriage road system. It is an intricate system of crushed stone paths that run throughout the park.
The Rockefellers were equestrians and wanted to build a way to enjoy Acadia away from automobile traffic. It was a feat of engineering in the early 1900s to build a road around the mountain grades that would also withstand the extreme Maine climate.
Not only is the carriage road full of scenic vistas, but the road itself is beautiful. There are 17 gorgeous stone arch bridges that cross over roads and streams.
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3 Ways To Explore Acadia Carriage Roads
Take A Wildwood Stables Acadia Carriage Ride – One Of The Best Acadia National Park Tours
The best way to explore the carriage roads is to take a horse-drawn carriage tour. This tour combines beautiful scenery with the history of the park.
As you ride along in the wagon, it is easy to imagine how the park was long ago. The guide provides interesting history and stories.
This is also an excellent tour for children. Sissy loved it. I thought it was both relaxing and interesting.
Adventure Tip: Arrive early and you may be able to watch the handlers care for and hitch the horses to the wagon.
Pro Tip: Reserve your carriage ride tour as soon as possible. There are only a few tours each day and they fill up fast.
Go Biking Acadia National Park Carriage Roads
The Acadia Carriage Roads span 45 beautiful miles. It is lovely to enjoy the scenery without having to worry about cars or traffic.
The crushed rock roads are mostly flat and great for bike riding. Didn’t bring your bike along? No worries! You can rent a bike in Bar Harbor which is right outside of the park.
The free Island Explorer bus also has bike racks so you can hop on and off of the park shuttle even if you have your bike.
Adventure Tip: Acadia recently revised its policy on e-bike use on the carriage roads. Some pedal-assist e-bikes (Class 1) are now allowed. No e-bikes are allowed on the shuttle bus though due to weight. Check with the park before bringing your e-bike.
Hike The Carriage Roads In Acadia
Acadia’s Carriage Roads are also open to hikers. Many of the park’s amazing hikes end up crossing the carriage roads at some point, and you can sometimes plan your hike to loop back on the carriage roads.
Acadia has so many great hikes that I honestly wouldn’t choose to hike just the carriage roads. However, adding the carriage roads as an add-on to a hiking trail is a nice bonus.
Keep reading to find out about one of our favorite hikes in the park.
2) Enjoy A Jordan Pond House Popover – Must Do In Acadia National Park
What is a popover you ask? I had no idea either before we went. It is the most delicious treat in Acadia!
A popover is a warm eggy pastry that is somewhere between a roll and a croissant. It is hard to describe, but you just have to try it.
In the late 1800s, the Jordan Pond House started serving tea and popovers at lunch to vacationers on the lawn next to the scenic Jordan Pond. There was also inside dining in a birch bark dining room with huge stone fireplaces.
The restaurant became part of the national park in the 1940s. Sadly the original building burnt down in the 1970s but has since been rebuilt. There are many photos on the walls of what the place looked like in its heyday.
Today you can still have lunch on the lawn or inside with a great view of Jordan Pond. There is also a full menu if you are starving from exploring.
If the lawn is open during your visit, then give sitting outside a try. You can imagine what it was like dining on tea and popovers in the late 1800s.
Adventure Tip: There is a scenic flat trail that runs along the rim of the Jordan Pond. It is also an excellent place to view one of the stone arch bridges or connect to the carriage road system.
Pro Tip: Note that the Jordan Pond House closes really early. The shuttle also stops running to this location early. Check the hours before your visit.
Also, be sure to make a reservation. It is a very popular place.
3) Take A Hike On A Ladder Trail Acadia – Best Acadia National Park Hikes
Acadia National Park has a hiking experience not available in any other national park. It offers a hybrid to hiking and rock climbing called ladder trails.
The Beehive trail takes you up the side of the mountain by hiking narrow rock ledges and climbing up iron rungs anchored into the rock. If you aren’t afraid of heights, this is nature’s playground at its best!
It’s called The Beehive because of the rounded shape of the granite dome. Tourists may seem like bees on the hive in peak season too because this is a very popular hike.
The hike is short but strenuous. The excitement of climbing the iron rungs and the ocean view from the top makes it all completely worth it.
The Acadia Beehive Trail – Know Before You Go
This hike has some serious fall risks involved due to the narrow ledges and climbing the iron rungs. People have died hiking ladder trails in Acadia. There is a warning sign at the trailhead.
The sign almost says it all, but here are a few more things to know:
The Beehive Acadia Hike Is One-Way
This is designed to be a one-way trail. There isn’t room for people to turn around and go back the other way, especially when the trail is crowded. So commit to the trail and go for it.
The Acadia Beehive Trail Is Not A Trail For Young Children
This isn’t a great hiking trail for young kids. Not only is the fall risk a problem, but the spans of length between ledges and rungs are sometimes a challenge even for shorter adults. Just something to consider.
Pick The Right Shoes For Acadia National Park Hikes
Wear hiking shoes with great traction. Loose rock and slick metal can really work against you if you don’t have the right shoes.
If conditions are wet, there are other amazing hiking options to explore in Acadia instead.
Adventure Tip: The Precipice Trail in Acadia is another unusual thrilling ladder trail. It is longer and more challenging than The Beehive.
The Precipice Trail is closed from late spring until mid-August to protect the endangered nesting peregrine falcons. If you visit during the fall, definitely check out this unique trail.
4) Take A Bar Harbor Boat Tour – Best Acadia National Park Things To Do
I know this guide was supposed to be 3 unique Acadia experiences, but let’s throw in a bonus experience. Take a tour to view Acadia from the water.
There are many boat tours to choose from that leave from Bar Harbor. Seeing Acadia from the water is a completely different experience.
The most popular tour for kids is Diver Ed’s Dive-In Theater. On this tour, the guide dives down with a camera that projects what he sees onto a screen so the kids can view what the diver sees underwater.
Then he brings sea creatures that he finds up onto the boat for the kids to explore. This tour is a fun and educational way to explore Maine.
Another great boat tour explores nearby lighthouses. We were with my parents on our trip so we choose this tour.
The adults enjoyed seeing all of the lighthouses and cliffside mansions. While the adults all loved the tour, Sissy got a little bored. The tour was a little too long for kids.
Adventure Tip: It is really cold out on the water in Maine. Bring plenty of warm clothing along just in case. A stocking cap or hood is super helpful. You will be so glad you did!
Depending on the day, the water can also be super choppy. Consider using motion sickness medicine or acupressure bands.
Acadia National Park Reservations
Park entrance reservations are not required for the 2023 season.
If you plan to visit the summit of Cadillac Mountain during your trip, you will need a park reservation for this experience.
A reservation for Cadillac Summit Road is required for all vehicles from May 24th through October 22nd any time of day.
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Frequently Asked Questions Things To Do In Acadia National Park
How much time do you need for Acadia National Park?
We would recommend at least 2-3 days for exploring Acadia National Park. This allows time to drive the park loop, see the pullouts, experience sunset or sunrise from Cadillac Mountain, watch the waves at Thunder Hole, do some hiking or take a boat tour, swim at one of the swim beaches, eat a popover at the Jordan Pond House, and explore Bar Harbor.
What activities are available at Acadia National Park?
Acadia is full of amazing things to do in the park. Here are some park experiences: hiking, rock climbing, swimming, beach, horseback riding, camping, carriage tours, boat tours, biking, tide pooling, and ranger programs. Having a popover at the Jordan Pond House, hiking ladder trails, and taking a carriage ride are one-of-a-kind park experiences.
What should I do in Acadia National Park for a week?
A week-long visit gives you enough time to really experience Acadia National Park. Here are some can’t miss things to do: drive the park loop, see the pullouts, experience sunset or sunrise from Cadillac Mountain, watch the waves at thunder hole, do some hiking or take a boat tour, swim at one of the swim beaches, eat a popover at the Jordan Pond House, and explore Bar Harbor.
Also, make sure to check out the Schoodic Peninsula. This less-visited part of Acadia National Park is just as beautiful as the main part of the park without all of the crowds. You can drive to this area or take the ferry from Bar Harbor to Winter Harbor and then hop on the shuttle.
Is Acadia National Park Worth Visiting?
Acadia is absolutely worth visiting! This park is incredibly beautiful with so much to see and do. The amazing rocky cliffs, beautiful lakes, tasty Maine food, unique Maine culture, and the adorable base camp town of Bar Harbor, all make this park truly special. It’s one of our family’s favorite national parks.
Can you see the Northern Lights from Acadia National Park?
Yes, Acadia National Park is a great park to stargaze and view the Northern Lights. It helps to download an app to see when the Northern Lights are most likely in this area. Seeing the Northern Lights is rare but the stargazing is fantastic year-round.
Do I need a car in Acadia National Park?
No, a car is not needed to explore Acadia National Park. You can fly into Bangor, Maine. Then take a Downeast Transportation bus from Bangor to Bar Harbor, Maine. Once in Bar Harbor, you can use the shuttle system to explore Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, and all of Mount Desert Island.
How long does it take to drive the Acadia Park Loop?
Allow at least 3-4 hours to drive the Acadia National Park Loop Road depending on how much you want to stop and look around. The Acadia Loop Road is 27 miles long. This scenic road has many pullouts to stop and explore. A portion of this road is also one-way.
Looking for other amazing things to see and do in Acadia National Park?
The Schoodic Peninsula is just as beautiful as the main area of Acadia but without the crowds! Check out this complete guide to Exploring The Quiet Side Of Acadia: Schoodic Peninsula.
Want to enjoy Acadia like the locals do? Check out this guide for Secret Spots To Avoid Crowds In Acadia National Park.
Have you tried any of these unique things to do in Acadia? Have any other ideas to add to the list? Please leave me a comment! I would love to hear about your experiences.
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Enjoy your adventure detour!
Scott and Van of The Adventure Detour are travel writers focusing on RV travel, family outdoor travel, national parks travel, and hiking. They have been full-time RV living and traveling across the US since 2015. In 8 years of full-time RVing, they have visited 38 national parks so far with the ultimate goal to see them all. They work as digital nomads while roadschooling their daughter nicknamed Sissy. On the way to all 50 states, they have visited and hiked through 42 states so far. The travel bucket list is forever growing!